Tag Archives: adapting to third-world living

Modern Day Marias–Kim, a virtuous wife

How did Maria and Jose’s relationship change throughout their marriage? Was he supportive of Maria in their exile in Egypt? Did returning to Nazareth and the addition of in-laws put more pressure on the young family? Was Maria a safe haven that Jose and her family could turn to?

Of today’s Modern Day Maria, Kim, it can be said that “the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:11, 12)

I grew up just outside of Washington DC, on the Maryland side, in one of the coolest melting pots in the country.My husband and I met while I was working a second job as the Front-end night manager at a local grocery store; he cleaned the floors in the store and, after asking him to teach me Spanish, it’s all history. Carlos was deported in June 2013. I followed him to Guatemala after his deportation. Two weeks after he was deported, I went for a month-long visit; I visited again several months later for 10 days and it was then that I decided to move here. I currently reside in Guatemala, outside of Antigua with my husband.

Of course, my relationship with my daughters changed tremendously since I am not longer there to see them often. The oldest just turned 24 and is studying to be a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Pediatric Oncology and the youngest is 22, ready to graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering. At the time when I moved, I had few real friends, only acquaintances through work, and since I don’t work with them anymore, I keep in touch with only a few of them. Moving to another country certainly helps you determine who is a real friend and who is not. I will say, though, that through social media, I’ve found a whole network of people I consider to be my friends – better friends than I had in real life.

That picture was taken about an hour after we reunited after his deportation.

That picture was taken about an hour after we reunited after his deportation.

My husband changed drastically since returning to Guatemala. It was one of the biggest reasons why I decided to move here. He turned into someone I didn’t recognize and didn’t really want to know. He became someone I didn’t like because he was doing everything I was against. However, I could tell that his deportation had a lot to do with it because he would often tell me he was going back to his country, meaning he was going to go back to the US the same way he went the first time which probably would not have ended well. For the first year and a half after he was deported, I believe he was depressed and emotionally traumatized because he was drinking himself into oblivion almost every night. However, through the use of boundaries and prayer, I was able to help him through the rough times and now he’s a changed man, almost back to being the way he was in the States. Also, in the States, he worked 7 days a week and brought in really good money but here jobs are scarce. It depresses him. I can say now though we are closer now that before. He is secure in the fact that I will not leave him and go back to the US and I’m secure in the fact that he values me more than anything.

However, I am now the “breadwinner” because I have jobs and he is still struggling with finding a permanent job. Jobs here are scarce and often employers make the employees work and pay them very little – or just stop paying them at all (which happened to Carlos). At times it makes things difficult because Guatemala is a very macho society, believing that the man should “wear the pants” and make the decisions in the family including financial decisions. Yet Carlos feels if he isn’t earning the money, he has no right to say what to do with it. I have very little free time here because I teach 4th grade at an international school full-time and then I teach English part-time to corporate clients in Russia and Japan. But when I do have free time, I go shopping in the city or just hang out with friends.

with my mother-in-law

with my mother-in-law

My relationship with my in-laws was rough in the beginning. His sister was used to being the one in control of the family and when my husband was deported, he lived with his mother. Since she lived next to his sister and allowed his sister to control every aspect of his mother’s life, his sister thought that meant she would be controlling every aspect of his life. His sister and I got into a very heated argument one night about a month after I moved there and I made it very clear that she would not be controlling my life nor Carlos’. She and I didn’t speak for a few months, but we’ve since patched it up and have come to an understanding.

Also, like so many others, his family saw me as a bank. I had to create boundaries for that also. I don’t give out money randomly for every little thing they want. They know better than to ask me for money for most things, as the answer will be given after I’ve asked many questions, usually starting with, “What have you tried to do to make money for yourself?” Carlos’ father, whom he’s never really had a relationship with and whom I’ve met for about 45 seconds exactly one time since I’ve been living here, once asked his mother to ask me for money. She simply told him that she already knew what my answer was but that she’d ask me anyway; turns out she was right in what she thought my answer was.

In many ways, the family members who go to the States to send money back to their family actually hurt them in the long run because the family members become dependent on the money and stop trying to work for it, like some people in the US who are on government assistance. Carlos sent home at least $400 a month to his mother – for 16 years – yet she has nothing to show for it except an enlarged liver. I believe it is another reason for Carlos’ depression when he returned.

This is at a park in Antigua Guatemala called Cerro de La Cruz. It overlooks the city of Antigua which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its old Spanish Colonial architecture and ruins from the earthquake in 1773.

This is at a park in Antigua Guatemala called Cerro de La Cruz. It overlooks the city of Antigua which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its old Spanish Colonial architecture and ruins from the earthquake in 1773.

Also, his family lives in a dangerous city so I won’t go there anymore due to not feeling safe there. Sometimes it causes problems but most of the time it’s okay because they just come to our house to visit.  Both Carlos and I would love to move to Mexico, but even Mexico won’t accept him due to his deportation from the US.

Everything in my life has changed and mostly for the better. I am a better person because of it. Although I don’t have as much as I had in the States, I am happier. My belief in God has gotten stronger, as has my belief in myself. I know that no matter what happens or where I end up, I will be okay. My belief in my country has diminished to the point where I am both angry and scared at what my country has done in the past, what it is currently doing, and what it will do in the future. Immigration is a huge part of my life now and I am sickened by the knowledge of what the US does every day in its human rights’ violations.

I am more cynical than I was before although in many ways I am more relaxed. I don’t feel the materialistic pressure I did in the US (and when I was there I didn’t even know there was such a thing). I value family and relationships more than I value stuff. I have learned to live with less. I have also learned to let go of many expectations. I can now deal with the banks here without raising my blood pressure. That’s quite an accomplishment.

There are still challenges to face. I have C-PTSD from terrible childhood abuse and here there are not many mental health facilities nor counselors available; the ones that are here charge too much for me to afford. I struggle almost daily with its effects and, although I feel like I’ve explained it to Carlos, I don’t think he really understands. I still have fear. All. The. Time. It is mainly rooted in my C-PTSD and I’m not sure it’ll ever go away. I have other health issues also and, while good health care is available here, my health issues are not easily understood in the US, so finding someone here to understand them and treat them is almost impossible. I also struggle with learning Spanish due, in part to what I believe are effects from the C-PTSD. Poco a poco, I am learning. I have learned how to listen more intently so I can understand the gist of a conversation, even though I don’t completely understand the language.

I have always been a fighter and it’s no different now. I’ve been through a lot in my life – so much so that I’ve been told I should write a book (but I hesitate because it’s so much that I don’t think anyone would believe all that I’ve been through) – and this is just one more chapter. I see life as an adventure and honestly, I’m not ready to stop that adventure. I have learned to go with the flow.

I see life differently now. I see life through a different culture. I understand how immigrants in the US must feel because, to a degree, there is racism here towards people like me because we are outsiders. I am more patient and am learning to deal with surprises as they come. I know I can’t control things here, so I just deal with it. I find it difficult at times to let go of my independence, my freedom. Here, In Guatemala, I am dependent on Carlos for so many things.

My goal is to learn Spanish and encourage my husband to take a chance on starting his own business. Not sure how I’m going to do it – through perseverance, I suppose. It’ll all fall into place the way it’s supposed to. If anyone knows anyone in Guatemala who might have a job for my husband, please let me know. It’ll save my sanity and his.

I’d also like to start some sort of group that helps those who have been deported back to Guatemala. Right now the government doesn’t do much for them except take them to the bus station an hour or so after they are returned. There is no job training for most of them, as the few job training programs limit attendance to people 28 years old or younger. This is one of the reasons why most of the deportees try to go back to the US; some make it and are caught (usually resulting in a federal charge of Felony Re-entry and time in Federal prison before being deported again), some make it and aren’t caught, and sadly, some never make it. Having a program to help them make a living, however meager it may be, could go a long way in helping them feel valued and worth something. However, neither my husband nor I know how to start something like this.

If I could do it all again, I would not do anything differently. I believe everything I’ve gone through in life has been for a reason. God put me in these situations for a reason, although I’m not sure of it yet.





Filed under Guest Blogger Adventures

Redefining Simplicity–Living within our needs

Welcome to the February edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival – New Beginnings cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month’s topic, our writers consider where they are with their New Year’s Resolutions or new ventures of 2013. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.



Today, while using the washboard and brush to scrub the towels, I thought of how our lives have changed since moving to México. Not only our lives, but our needs had become pared down from our middle-income suburban past.

Immigration reform deprived my family of a life in the U.S. and so 6 years ago, we came to México to start a new life. Many of the things we painstakingly packed and brought were essentially useless and we have divested ourselves of most of the excess baggage along the way. Don’t think it has been easy. Possessions have a way of feeling important even if they are not used. The washer and dryer set just took up space in a house that had no running water or electricity, but I was loathed to part with it for quite some time.

Living without electricity has also eliminated a refrigerator. We buy fresh food daily and only what we will eat in a day. Anything in excess of our daily bread goes to waste. We enjoy fresh organic goat’s milk and eggs, sometimes in quantities that we have difficulty in finishing in a day, but hey, who’s complaining?

We have a stove, however, there are days when we can’t afford the gas to cook with, so we gather up sticks and build an impromptu stacked brick oven outside. Flame-cooked beans have a flavor all their own.

We’ve divested ourselves of the TV, lamps, electric piano, blender, toaster, radio and crock pot. We use a rechargeable flashlight, cell phone, portable DVD player, laptop, and solar lights. When these items could no longer be recharged we replaced them or not depending on if we felt the cost worth it. For instance, we use candles now, no flashlights or solar lights. They work just as well and are more easily obtainable.

My wardrobe has also changed. In the life we lived prior to this one, I had a full closet, multiple pairs of shoes for every outfit and occasion, and coats and jackets that truthfully saw the light of day two or 3 times a year. I used to have beautiful silk dresses and angora sweaters, but they just aren’t practical wear for minding the goats. Now I have 2 pairs of pants, a handful of shirts and sweaters, one jacket, one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, and one pair of boots. Don’t think that sometimes I don’t look back longingly, like Lot’s wife, but my needs have changed, and I have to change along with them.

We have also changed our spending habits. Not having electricity or running water means we have been unable to establish credit. And without credit, no credit cards or buying on credit. So for us, it’s cash on the barrel, or it doesn’t get bought. This has meant that materials for our house are carefully budgeted items, not something we can run to Home Depot and buy now to pay later. We are moving towards a finished house, but haven’t arrived there yet.

We have found that we need less to be content than we thought we did. Our preconceived priorities have been altered. Yes, we still need food, shelter, water, and clothing, but not what we thought we needed.

I have had one heck of an education, moving from a first-world country to a third-world country on what a person needs to be happy. Safe in our middle-income suburban life, I might have said that the conglomerate of things we had amassed was essential to living. And I would have been mistaken.

I have found that difficult though some days may be, there is a sense of freedom in our new life, a sense of purpose in what we do every day, that has nothing to do with what we own. As if all the extra frivolousness has been stripped away, leaving only the basics and a sense of gratitude.



Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating simple living into their lives via new beginnings. We hope you will join us next month, as the Simply Living Blog Carnival focuses on Clearing the Clutter!
  • Using Special Time to Simply Connect – Amber at Heart Wanderings begins to focus on simply connecting with each of her children for a few minutes of Special Time each day. A deeper connection and sense of joy, softening of emotional outbursts, and less sibling rivalry have resulted from this practice.
  • Redefining Simplicity – Living within our needs – Survivor from Surviving Mexico talks about how moving from a first-world country to a third world country has changed her family’s perception of simplicity. Adapting to this new life has not been easy, but can be done with an attitude of gratitude.
  • Changes – Sustainable mom writes about how she is bringing back a beat to a rhythm that has been falling apart.
  • Listening to my Kids – Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs is seeking peace and freedom after over-scheduling her daughters.
  • Thankful to Begin Again – Mercedes @ Project Procastinot learns a lesson from her twins.
  • Changes for a New Year – Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children is concentrating on making small changes this year in an effort to make better habits.
  • Parenting Two: A Fresh Start – Joella at Fine and Fair embraces the transition as her family grows as a new beginning by being gentle with herself and realistic with her expectations.
  • Finding Balance – At Authentic Parenting, Laura looks at where she’s gotten fighting depression and aspiring to a more harmonious life.


Filed under Carnival posts, La Yacata Revolution, Water issues