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A Change of Environment
By Luke S.
age: 18

ďGreedy people donít poop too much, and generous people canít stop.Ē I was talking about greedy people with a seventy-year-old British guide while riding horses, English-style, through the volcanic mountains of Guatemala. He had the classic image of a British settler in South Africa, ready for safari during the early 1800ís. He was wearing matching khaki pants and shirt, a pith helmet with leather band, and brown leather boots ending just below his knees. He had traveled all over the world before landing here in Guatemala, but the ugliest thing he had seen was my post while I trotted my horse. Off in the distance a volcano smoked lazily, like an old man resting in the city square.

I was wandering through the main square of Antigua accompanied by an older gentleman, a Honduran and one of the nicest men Iíve met. He had moved to Guatemala 30 years before; now he was my teacher. I was enrolled in a five-day Spanish-immersion course. Class size: one. Classroom: a desk and two chairs under a lean-to. Only about two hours each day were spent in the ďclassroomĒ working on my Spanish. The rest of the time, my teacher and I walked through town, conversing in Spanish about the culture in Central America. He told me about his life, about how he grew up, about five-mile walks up a mountain to work each day. He told me about his joy when he first got a bike at the age of twenty. He appreciated the little things in life, and he helped me do the same.

The next stone step was huge, coming up to my knee. I was climbing an ancient pyramid in the rain-forest town of Tikal, Guatemala. I was there to learn about Mayan culture, the most advanced ancient Mesomerican civilization. I stayed in an eight-by-ten-foot hut with electricity that worked for only three hours each day. With my sensitive American stomach, I was only able to eat half of the food available. The water was untouchable.

Iím not the first person to experience the exotic unknowns of a foreign country, but I did discover things I had not known before. I learned that I am generous, I made friends with an older gentleman from Honduras, and I learned of a culture many people donít know about. Had I stayed at home, comfortable in the same surroundings I was used to, I would have missed these things. Iíve learned that a diverse environment is not only good for learning, it is learning.

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