The People

This is a series of posts about Belize and Guatemala that starts here.

Here’s the demographic run down on who was on this trip in Belize. There was Mark, who I’ve introduced as the trip leader, who was probably 28 years old.  He had a man bun, wore braided leather bracelets, and had very, very dark brown eyes.  A few times I found him staring intensely at me, like he was trying to read my mind, but then I realized he was just spaced out.

This is where it gets tricky.  I’ve used Mark’s real name because he’s on the Wilderness Inquiry website so you could figure out who he was if you had nothing better to do.

I’ve changed everyone else’s names.  I told the group I write a travel blog and that I would be writing about the trip, including about them. After all, isn’t it often the people you meet that make the most interesting stories?

When I whipped out my notebook to jot down place names and such, people would ask, “Is that for your blog?” and I would answer yes.  None of them asked how to get to the blog, but if any of them ever find their way here I wouldn’t want them to feel trashed.  We were all being ourselves, even if some of our selves were more irritating than others.

Even though I write things down, this blog would never pass a fact-checker’s muster.  So you can take the following as generally correct information.

Our group ranged from 45 to 75 years old, so I wonder if Mark felt like a baby boomer baby sitter.  There were two married couples from Minnesota. Inga’s family was Latvian and she had lived there before moving to the Pacific Northwest where she met Jesse, who was Native American and worked for some tribal concern.  They had moved to Minnesota when he got a job at a big foundation.  That had ended now, so they were in a life stage of trying to decide what next.

Mike and Joan were suburbanites and newly empty nesters.  They had a daughter with autism, and it had been an exhausting journey helping her to become independent. They were “reconnecting,” as they put it, on this trip.  Mike did something in IT and Joan was a stay-at-home mom.

There were two married people whose spouses would have hated this kind of travel.  Bugs?  Heat?  Hiking?  No way!  So they came by themselves.

Stan was a soft-spoken retired postal worker from Pittsburgh.  “I’m taking my wife on one of those Viking River Cruises in Europe next fall,” he told us.  “That’s her kind of travel—white linen table clothes, shopping, and museums.”

Stacy was a retired band teacher from New Jersey.  She and I were both Jewish, and we joked how about how it’s unusual to have 20% Jewish representation on a tour.

The last member of the group was a never-married woman my age named Liz.  She was from Columbus, Ohio and had worked in the mortgage department at a giant bank for 30 years.

So that was us—pretty homogeneous—mostly white, middle class, and middle aged.  When you think about it, it’s people like us who have the time and funds to do things like this.

Trudy’s interpreter, Emily, was the youngest among us at 45.  She lived a few blocks from me, was married to a guy from Zanzibar, and had four kids.

If you’ve ever been on a group trip, maybe you’ve experienced this—you are immediately drawn to one person, feel repelled by another, feel neutral about a third, and so on.  Emily and I hit it off right away, probably because we had both lived abroad.  While others on the trip had traveled internationally, there’s a big difference between that and living or working abroad.

Which brings me to some current news: I’m going to Ethiopia for work!  I’ve always wanted to write a sentence like that, and now I can.  It will be sometime in the next six weeks, so on top of planning my three months in Europe and the UK, this will give me writing fodder for years.

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