So I recently had a surreal experience in the local community. A local woman had died and I was invited to the funeral (which is huge: people recognize us and feel comfortable with an outsider at a personal event). And so I went, morbidly curious and attempting to gain a deeper understanding of the culture. I arrived at the house where the body was being kept (embalming is not a thing here) and the plan was for the body to be carried from this house to another, then to the local chapel, before being finally taken to the grave. The men would be carrying the coffin the entire way as a sign of respect.
But, as so often happens in Guatemala, expectations don’t always meet reality and amidst the local mourners, children ran and played, and sitting in the center was the local drunk, thoroughly inebriated. I was shocked. My past taught me that funerals were a serious, somber affair that deserved the utmost respect. Certainly they’re not the place for laughing children and drunks… right? During the procession, while the women cried, the men chuckled at the stumbling and incoherent talk of the drunk man. It was accepted or tolerated or something. He was not forced away as I expected to happen at any moment. Eventually I moved him away from the pallbearers in fear that his stumbling would cause the coffin to be dropped.
Weeks after the event I still don’t know what to think. The contradictions baffle me. I thought I was well adjusted to this community and that I was close to a deeper understanding. Instead it served as a reminder to always be open to differences, to misunderstandings, and to the inexplicable. It also reinforces why FTF operates like it does: we are here as servants to gain insight and understanding. To be told how things work here, not be telling. This way, we might better help those that we serve.