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Point Of View

I just moved the modem that serves my room so that it no longer has to pass through seven meters of adobe to reach my computer.  Voila!  everything works better now.  Line of sight, perspective and point of view are powerful things.

I’ve been walking up the hill most days for exercise.  The first day, I made it as far as the main road above town, stopping three times to catch my breath.  The streets here are steep, and I am about 1000 meters higher in elevation than I am used to.  The second day, I made it a bit farther, to the lavadora,  the public washing space for clothing.  That became my regular for a while.  After a week or so, I was able to make it there without resting.  This photo is taken on the only flat part of that walk.

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A couple of days ago, Daniela, (my adopted Guatemalan nieta) and I actually ran up the last and steepest part, which comes not long after this.  We have also extended the regular hike to the football (soccer) field about twice as far up the hill.  Today, we went even farther, to the Mirador, which is the starting point if you plan to hike the volcano, and at least that distance again.  You can see the football field below in this next photo, and a good but of San Pedro as well.  Our starting point is by the lake.

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A little elevation gives one a broader perspective.  One can see the towns of San Pablo and San Marcos on the other side of the lake, and while one can see most of San Pedro, it feels smaller and less significant compared to everything around it.

It is easy when all one knows is one’s own immediate vicinity, to see it as the center of everything.  It is only when one ventures outside of one’s comfort zone that one can come to appreciate the breadth and diversity of the world, as well as the interconnected nature of it.  The internet was supposed to make the world smaller, by connecting us all, and, to some extent, it did, for a time.  What we are finding now, though, is that the algorithms of social media are separating us into comfort zones again.  The buzzword is “polarization,” although that implies only two viewpoints.  I would say “balkanization” would be more accurate.  We are being divided into as many focus groups as possible, to facilitate the marketing of both products and politicians.

I was 45 when I traveled more than 100 miles from the US border for the first time as an adult.  Even so, I had traveled more than the majority of Americans who don’t even have passports, and the large percentage who never leave their home state or even town.  It was an eye opening experience for me.  Suddenly, I was immersed in another culture, where people spoke another language, where the climate, the flora, and fauna were all alien and beautiful.  I was 100% tourist, but still it changed my point of view about many things.  It also made me thirst to explore and experience still more of our fascinating planet and its people.

So I did.  Aided in part by a nice gig with McGraw Hill Education, I visited almost 20 countries, from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, to South America.  Now I am here in Guatemala for the sixth time, and I am discovering that narrowing ones perspective can be equally eye opening and mind blowing.  I have gone from the broad brush of a three week photographic whirlwind through a country to a months long experience in a country whose language I speak, visiting the homes of people with decades of experience completely different from my own, hearing their stories, even though they speak yet another language I do not understand, making physical and emotional contact with them, learning from them.

It is another view of the breadth and diversity of the world, but also of the similarity in many ways of its people.  The only thing I lack now is the ability to speak yet another language.  It is so often that which divides us.  So, after the book is finished and at the printer, I will be taking a month of immersion classes in Tzutujil, the predominant Mayan dialect.  I anticipate that it will be much harder than Spanish, but maybe I’ll get to the proficiency of a child.

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Don Domingo Cruz Puac, 79

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