Living in Guatemala these past couple of weeks has showed me how important the little things are in life. This past weekend we hiked Tajumulco, the tallest mountain in Central America. It was by far the most straining physical activity I have ever done. Not only did we have thirty-pound backpacks on our backs, but the weather was also atrocious. Once I reached the bottom, I promised myself I would always be happy as long as I was warm, dry, healthy, and had access to food/water. I now know this is not a simple request. Many people in Guatemala don’t have these simple luxuries, and I have realized how much I have taken these things for granted. I have a new found appreciation for the simple things that would have never crossed my mind in the States.
It was a culture shock to learn that many people do not frequently bathe and brush their teeth in Guatemala. Last week during “Parvulos”, a health and environment class for preschoolers, we taught a lesson on dental hygiene. We provided toothbrushes and toothpaste, and taught the kids how to brush their teeth. This is a skill that is as innate to me as walking so it was hard to believe that some of these kids had never brushed their teeth before. While kids in the States usually look at brushing their teeth as a chore, these kids were eager and excited as we passed out the toothbrushes and toothpaste. A couple days after this lesson we saw the kids brushing their teeth during school. It was reassuring to see that the kids were continuing to brush their teeth, because we hope that they will continue to use what we have taught them long after we are gone.