I don't see myself as a highly vocal person. I don't speak out on a lot of issues. Sure, I have opinions, and sure, I'm pretty set on them. However, I typically believe everyone is entitled to their opinions and don't try overly hard to convince them that I'm right. I think to some extent this is more pronounced in Guatemala than it was before, but at the same time, I think that sometimes I do try to influence people more here. (After all, I'm a missionary, right?) However, in a matter of about 10 minutes, one person managed to hit two of my three big issues by doing something which I felt was not correct. What are my three big issues, you may ask? In no specific order they are racism (bad), littering (bad), and education (good).
As a white person in the States, you don't really know what racism is. Sure, it's this thing that happened to black people a long, long time ago. No, it really wasn't...er, isn't. Yes, in the US there is still lots of racism against black people and also hispanic people. I actually find this theme of racism really interesting because in the US it is the upper classes (or at least the white upper classes) with their racism against the poor, blacks, and hispanics. (Yeah, it's not just a color line being crossed there.) Here in Guatemala, I can only speak as a white foreign person who has roughly assimilated into the culture. There are people who charge me more money for products because of the color of my hair (or skin or eyes). And when they tell me the price, I kind of just look at them and wonder how much they think I can sell each strand of hair for because I certainly don't have that kind of money to spend lavishly. So, I typically do without or have one of my Guatemalan friends buy for me. (Yes, trusting someone else's judgement since I obviously can't window shop with them either...) How do I know that this is happening? Well, quite simply put, I speak Spanish and I understand Spanish. So, when I've already asked you about the price on something and someone else comes along and asks for the price on the same thing and you give them a lower price (even though your body language and form of speech shows that you don't know them), well, I'm kind of guessing it's a white person thing there. So, through the years, I've stopped shopping with those people. I get the haggling thing, I really do; however, your starting price should be about the same if you're dealing fairly with people.
I'm not really an environmentalist. I burn things; sometimes I accidentally burn plastic. I've got about the blackest thumb I know. (Admittedly, my cats do a great job of killing anything I don't manage to kill. I'm not taking all the blame on this one.) I sometimes eat tuna which doesn't have "dolphin safe" on the can. However, I cannot stand people littering. Now, I get it, their parents and grandparents threw wrappers on the ground...but their parents' and grandparents' wrappers were leaves and paper, not aluminum and plastic. So, when the times changed, they just kept throwing the wrappers on the ground without realizing this bit about biodegradable materials. And I hate this. When I was teaching at the school, I'd be very frank with my students. "Your country is not a trashcan. If you throw trash on the ground, you are making it a trashcan. You are giving permission to every other country to throw trash in Guatemala. [translated, of course]" I don't know if you've ever seen pictures of dumps, but that's what I imagine the entire country of Guatemala turning into if someone doesn't stop these people from littering. I hope in some small way I'm making a difference by helping every kid I deal with on a personal level with their littering habit.
Finally, I believe that education is the best way to escape poverty. I don't believe it's so much knowing things as it is knowing how to think. With logic and reasoning, I can learn a whole lot of things on my own without anyone actually teaching them to me. If I know how to read, my knowledge base is pretty much limitless. Uneducated people are taken advantage of every day. Perhaps in some way it's related to the racism: "If we can keep x group illiterate and stupid, it is easier to subjugate and take advantage of them." I feel that no person or group of people is better than any other person or group of people, and I feel that no one has a right to try to make anyone feel otherwise. (Of course, if what I just said makes you feel like I'm saying I'm better than you, you may want to reconsider how you treat people.)
So, today, less than 3 minutes after leaving the bus stop (where the bus stops for about 10 minutes and there are trashcans and stores and whatnot), the ayudante threw one wrapper and two bottles out of the bus (LITTERING!!!), and then as he went through to collect bus fare, he tried to not give me my change of Q2 which, considering the correct fare is Q3.50, was more than half of my fare back home (RACISM...he gave change to everyone else from the moment they paid). So, since it seems that the buses are no longer numbered, I'll be boycotting the entire Brisas bus line. (Not a big deal since there is Rutas Santa Fe [the largest], Lillian, and Ruiz as well as maybe one more I'm not thinking of right now.) You all can do what you want with your money, but I'm not going to give money to someone who is against two of the three things which I feel most strongly about (or even someone who hires people who act that way).