a safe space for me to share and heal
I will start with the raw. At around 10pm on Saturday 21st January, whilst changing a tyre on the side of a remote highway near Puerto San Jose, we were the victims of an armed robbery. 6 men, 4 of whom had guns, forced us through thick vegetation and down onto a dirt road. We were made to lie on the ground with guns against our heads as they sexually assaulted me and proceeded to take everything we had on us. We were left with nothing but scratches from the jungle and fear in our hearts.
The first policemen we told did nothing. One had his hand on his gun as we spoke, as if a small, shoeless canchi with scratches on her legs and dirt on her face was of some kind of threat to him. When we finally made it to the city at around 2am, the police there told us we had to report everything as lost unless we went back to the district it happened it – something we were not willing to do.
When this took place I was with local people. A man from the city, who I have a never-ending amount of love for. He has shown me his country, cared for me and even risked his life for me, putting himself between me and a loaded gun. He has shown me true bravery and I will hold him in my heart for always. We were also with a Guatemalan family (including 3 children), who ended up being our angels, quite literally saving our lives and doing everything in their power to get us to saftey.
My point is, Guatemala is not only dangerous for tourists. It is dangerous for everyone, and I experienced first hand that dangers that the people of this beautiful country face on a daily basis. My heart broke for them.
The more I thought and reflected on what had happened, the more I realsied that the violence and crime here is almost justified. With corruption rife through the police force and a promient gang culture, the people have to learn from young how to protect themselves – creating a dangerous yet attractive cycle of guns, gangs and crime. When I told my love that this was the first time I had seen a gun ready to kill, he told me in shock that I was a princess, gently reminding me that he had become a man when he was just a child, growing up around gang warfare.
Imagine you lived in a place where your own police force – the people assigned to protect you – would kill you if it meant that they gained something from it.
A place you knew was definied as a “third world country”.
A place were a plane ticket anywhere “safe” costs 2 months worth of wages. Providing you had a job. that was well paid. and they approved your visa… Not to mention the exchange rate working 10x against you.
How would you feel?
I am not saying that the violence is right, but I am saying that in a country that is a breeding ground of corruption and anger, how could you expect anything else?
Dont get me wrong, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I have without a doubt fallen in love with its dusty cities, old towns, magic lakes and mind-blowingly beautiful landscapes. For the most part, the people are warm, loving and friendly. I have first hand experience of this warm-hearted and selfless genourisity, primarily from the family who rescued us and secondly from the family who took me in when I had nothing; who fed me, clothed me and prayed for me, making me feel safe and cared for when I was so far away from home. I will always be grateful to them for their kindness.
Because in this experience the only options we have are be strong or suffer, each day we can learn again how to shine through all circumstances, or we can allow our light to be dimmed
I have loved my time in this country, and I am thankful for all my experiences, both bad and good. I have seen a side of Guatemala that many other tourists do not get to see, which was exactly what I entended to do. I have been reminded that you cannot plan for anything and living in the now is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Anything can happen – and it will happen. You will get what your soul calls for and what your soul needs to see to continue on your path.
My soul calls for adventure and experience, it calls for me to be pushed to my limits again and again, to be strong or suffer, to continue to chose love when the easiest option would be to cower in fear. Because in this experience the only options we have are be strong or suffer, each day we can learn again how to shine through all circumstances, or we can allow our light to be dimmed. I make my choice everyday. Each experience helps to build me as a person, each experience helps me to view the world a little differently.
Most importantly, I have learnt to regonise the position I was born into. I did not want to travel through countries in a semi-alcoholic haze that I see so much of here, taking a few photos, paying for a few thrills, and then moving on. I wanted to have moving conversations, real experiences. I wanted to learn from the people and equally I wanted them to learn from me. I wanted to change and be changed, to inspire and be inspired, to love and be loved.
And so I reflect on my time here. Definitely different, I come away a little stronger, a little wiser and a little more at peace. I will be back in this part of the world, not allowing fear to stop my adventures. And I will continue to use my time in this life to speak the truth about my experiences, and enable others with the ability to shine through all circumstances.
If you do not like my words it is because you are still trapped,
my darling, you were born with wings too.