2010–2023 Writings
by Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Read the full post on Elephant Journal

My daily life in rural Guatemala is grounded in wonder, balance, awareness, gratitude, and nature. Verdant visual delights surround me here at one of the most gorgeous lakes on the planet. 

I’ve lived on Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala for nearly a decade; it’s the place I feel most at home. Each day, I gaze upon her sparkling blue waters and three volcanoes along the opposite shore. The sky is a spectacle of distinctive sunrises, cloud formations, bright or faded blue skies, and sunsets. 

Initially, my motivations for moving to Guatemala were a new job, a different experience, and a way to improve my Spanish. Because I had a comfortable and relatively pleasant life in the United States, I didn’t realize at the time what I was running from—or even that I was running away. I didn’t realize the extent to which capitalist consumerism (that is, “the rat race”) and dating mediocre men had come to define my identity.

Moving to Central America was a form of personal decolonization, as it turns out. I worked fewer hours and had gobs of free time as never before in my adult life. As a longtime yoga practitioner and teacher, I find it natural to integrate mindfulness into my daily life in rural Guatemala. I’m awestruck by the stunning natural beauty everywhere I turn and the heart-centered wisdom of my Mayan neighbors.

My Spanish is still far from perfect, but I’ve come a long way. I’m proud to have reconnected to the language of my maternal Mexican ancestry, especially since that chain was broken in my mother’s generation. I speak fluent Spanish as a second language, and my eight-year-old daughter is fully bilingual.

Living here has taught me countless lessons, the most relatable of which I’ll share with you today.

1. The Value of Immersion in Wonder and Contentment 

Guatemala is called the land of eternal spring due to its year-round temperate climate, gorgeous tropical flora, and amazing biodiversity. I live with my family in a cabin on a wooded hillside, surrounded by birdsong, vivid flowers, and lots of greenery. Our closest neighbor is a woodpecker. Hummingbirds, vultures, and whippoorwills swoop all around us. These splendid surroundings invite wonder into the mundane. 

So do the people. Guatemalans are generally kind and content folks. Many of them are downright jovial with bright and genuine smiles. Even people whose living conditions are meager and whose work is crushing physical labor tend to be friendly and warm. 

When passing people on the street in rural Guatemala, it’s customary to greet each other with eye contact, a smile, and a genuine buenos días (or buenas tardes or buenas noches, depending on the time of day). Life in rural Guatemala—with its lush gardens, idyllic scenery, kind people, and never-ending learning opportunities—is a life of wonder and contentment.

Where do you find wonder and contentment? Go there.

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