This is the final part of a true story written by Marina Villatoro who writes the travel blog Travel Experta about everything you need to know about Central America. Catch up with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10 in case you missed them. I’d like to thank Marina very much for sharing her story here, it’s been something great to look forward to each Friday.

light at the end of the tunnel

I’ve had a few run-ins with recluses before. Low-budget hotels are inviting for all sorts. The gait and mannerisms for this special group doesn’t vary much from one to the other: mysteriously, they always have funds, although I can’t imagine any of them keeping a job. They indulge in long showers once a month; treat themselves to mammoth-nutritious meals; and stock up on provisions before they recoil back into their shells.  However, on a special night, they expand their world-of-one and let their fellow man inside.  Never straying from their comfort zone, they indulge us with stories of wild adventures: train hopping, feral hitchhikes, animal attacks, people attacks, or other heroisms. But the minute a personal or sensitive question is hurled in their direction they become defensive, edgy, and so riled up that you wish they would return to their cave.

I knew we have outstayed our welcome.

panorama of lake

Without further questions I quickly rummaged around in the trunk.  To my shock, the extra clothes she referred to the other day were not at all what I expected. I was prepared to leave her home in wear-me-downs: outstretched, torn, or stained shirts and pants. Instead, my fingers flipped through brand-new designer garments: Donna Karan silk tops, T-shirts and underwear; Calvin Klein casual pants, skirts and matching blouses; Betsy Johnson summer dresses (my favorite).  Like a deliriously hungry vulture, I attacked the trunk.  This was one of those moments when you forgo the unexplained and accept things for what they were: A first-class (free) shopping spree in an Indian village of Guatemala.

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Responding to my excitement, she seemed to relax once again.

“Thank you so much! Are you sure I can have these, they’re so new and expensive,” I bit my lip, hoping she wouldn’t change her mind.

She laughed, “They’re all yours.  They’re too small for me. I want you to have them.”

“How can I repay you?” I pleaded.  “It’s not only the clothes I’m referring to.  I’ve been feeling disheartened, bitter, reevaluating my faith in humankind.  But thanks to you I’ve restored some of my hatred. I want to show you my gratitude.”

She took my hand in hers, looked directly into my eyes and said, “There are two ways you can thank me.  One: don’t tell any one who I am and where I live.  Two:  next time you meet someone who’s in trouble or down on their luck, don’t turn your back on them.”  With that she hugged us and led us out.

the endSusanna’s kindness was contagious.  Janka volunteered to pay for both of our fares back to Pana, where I received the money sent to me from my parents, hugged Janka goodbye, and took a bus to Guatemala City.

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Susanna reminded me of the genuine goodness that we all have.  Mine was lost long before I was robbed.  As the days and months pass I allowed a little of my compassion to surface and reveal itself.  I stopped filtering the world through tainted glasses and appreciated all the little miracles I would’ve normally taken for granted.

Last I heard Susanna had to move back to her native land to care for her sick father. I didn’t break my promise and tell you what her real name is or where she lived.  But before she left, she wrote me that the ‘Chico-problem’ was resolved. No one has the full story, although, the most popular rumor circulating was: he was stabbed in the chest by a non-cooperating, fed-up victim.  But we will never know the truth, and it’s not important. I’m glad to know that the village did not lay down to his antics and managed to fight back.

[photos by: federicogori, Galia & Yoav, damaradeaella]


Marina has been living in Central America for over 7 years and her site Travel Experta is all about traveling in Central America. Marina loves to help people plan the perfect vacation to this amazing part of the world! You can sign up for her RSS feed and join the fun on her Facebook fan page and follow her on Twitter at @MarinaVillatoro.