OK OK... Obviously I knew that Guatemala isn't Chile before I came here. I understand that Latin America is not one big country. In fact I've had to explain numerous times to other people that I in fact did NOT drink lots of tequila and eat burritos everyday while living in Chile. But after having a successful "living abroad" experience in Santiago, I naively assumed that living in Guatemala would be a snap.
I feel bad constantly complaining about this country so I want to say that everything I'm about to write is totally based on my personal and limited experience living in Guatemala City for four months. So take from this what you will and judge me as a wimpy gringa if you so wish.
Never ever ever in my entire life have I had so many stomach illness than I have had in the past four months. I have had four CRUCIAL (what up DC slang?) cases of food poisoning. And by crucial I mean curl up in the fetal position, feel like I'm going die, and getting to know the porcelain god waaay better than I ever wanted kind of super duper crucial food poisoning. Don't worry, I won't elaborate further. I think you got the point.
I never had these issues in Chile. I got mild food poisoning ONCE from a sandwich with bad mayo. My stomach was a little queasy while adjusting to the tap water, but nothing that painful. I ate street food constantly and never had an issue. Dear Chile, Despite your rather bland and not so interesting food, I love and absolutely miss all of it at this very moment.
I severely miss my independence. Due largely to the safety issues here, I cannot go anywhere alone. And since I don't know a ton of people here, I rely heavily on the man to escort me everywhere. So if the man is working, I am a prisoner of my house. I miss walking around outside!! (and feeling relaxed while doing so). I miss being able to do normal errands, shopping, taking the bus, etc etc ALONE! I want to be able to hail a taxi on the street and not worry if the driver will try to mug me (not try to rip me off - THAT I can handle. I'm talking about gun totting cabbies). I seriously dream about wandering the streets of Santiago by myself.
I feel as though people here walk out the door in the morning and think "I wonder if I'm going to get mugged today?" Whenever I talk to a Guatemalan they are talking about the shooting that happened down the block yesterday, how their friend/aunt/cousin was mugged recently, their past robbing experiences, and warning me not to go ANYWHERE without someone (preferably male and Guatemala ... muscles wouldn't hurt either).
Although nothing (knock on wood) has happened to me, I've heard so much about crime and violence in this country that I am legitimately terrified to walk ONE block by myself. When I started to work at the Academy I was happy to learn that there is a mall one block away. Malls are the safest place to walk around and I thought oh good! I can go window shop if I have a break in classes during the day. Nope. Wrong wrong wrong. One of my co-workers told me a story of being robbed at gunpoint as he walked to the mall to grab some lunch (male, guatemalan... not muscle-y, but not wimpy looking either. So how would a gringa do? I don't even want to know). Needless to say, I've never walked the one block from my work to the mall ... I was sufficiently scared by the story.
Maybe I am a wimp. Maybe I am taking all of these stories too seriously. Who knows? All I know is that I live everyday scared of doing anything and everything. This is not mentally healthy.
I know that going back to the US is an option. And it's one that I'm considering. But oddly enough I find myself day-dreaming about that skinny little country at the end of the world: Chile. I know it's nowhere near perfect... but I've realized that I feel safe there and that is a very big deal, believe you me.
I still have a lot of soul-searching to do before I decide where to plant myself for a good long while (i'm starting to feel the urge to settle down... am I getting old?). But this is just a small glimpse of where my head is at right now.