Article Title

Too Tall for Guatemala


I was clearly out of place. I came to the highlands of Guatemala during my fourth year of medical school to study Spanish, work in a rural clinic, and experience a different way of life. For a month, I lived with a Guatemalan family, ate plantains with every meal, and generally tried to immerse myself in the rich Mayan culture surrounding me. Almost a year later, my Spanish is fading fast. The handful of days I spent in volunteer clinic is a distant memory at this point. Why did I go there again?

I was the epitome of an outsider. I came down with Montezuma’s revenge, just like all of my American classmates who traveled there with me. Despite its location in tropical Central America, Guatemala is an exceptionally mountainous country and despite all the warnings from the program’s director about the cool climate, I severely under packed. That left me living, eating, and sleeping in my one Patagonia fleece. As a tall American, I towered over the local people and fit very poorly in nearly all things Guatemalan. I rode buses with my knees under my chin and my head on the ceiling.