Have you ever received help from a total stranger in a foreign country?
The Power of a Good Samaritan
By Wade Turner
Every year on November 1st, the people of Santiago Sacatepéquez, Guatemala, fly round 30-meter high kites as part of the All Saints Day Kite Festival. The colorfully designed kites are made of cloth and paper with bamboo frames and depict religious, political, or folkloric themes. The locals gather at the cemetery in vibrant clothing to fly the kites, clean the graves, decorate them with marigolds and other flowers, and have a picnic right next to their departed family members.
Our family had recently moved to Guatemala City and were eager to see this cultural experience. So we joined two other families and drove the 30 kilometers from the city and arrived in a small town, complete with cobblestone streets and brightly painted houses. As we turned down the increasingly narrow streets that were obviously not designed for anything bigger than a tuk-tuk, we began to think "How the heck are we going to get out of here?" We continued to follow behind our friend Shelly who was slowly descending a hill that would make the steepest in San Francisco jealous.
As others had started parking their cars at the bottom of the hill, it became obvious we were not going to get through as Shelly squeezed her VW Polo between a parked car and a cement wall with less than an inch on each side to spare. Although she made it through with only some minor scrapes, there was no way our car would make it. The only way out was backing out the way we came. A maze of women, children and teen-agers with 3-meter diameter kites perched on their heads awaited us as we took a couple thousand miles of life out of our transmissions. What would have been a challenge going forward on a wide smooth and level road now had to be accomplished in reverse, up one mother of a hill littered with speed bumps, the random porch step and several parked cars.
A man dressed in a simple white cap, jeans, and a green shirt started advising us in Spanish how we might get back up the hill. To get our friend Shelly’s car back up the hill, our good Samaritan suggested that we literally picked up a parked car that was blocking the path and moved it out of the way. We all bailed out of our cars and with his guidance uno, dos, tres… the car was moved 10-15 cm. closer to the curb, close enough that Shelly’s car could come back up the hill and not scrape the wall or the other car.
Then our Samaritan found a place about 400 meters up the hill where we could turn around (at least after a 10 point turn) and we were on our way. Sort of. Our new friend and guide ran ahead of us checking for a street that would lead us back to the main caretera mostly to no avail.
Finally he found a small gap between some street vendors who were getting set up for the festival. The wonderful Mayan women in their beautiful huipiles graciously moved their tortilla stand so that we could squeeze through. They gave us no mean looks or rude gestures for being the stupid gringos dumb enough to try to drive down the back streets. They refused our attempt to pay them for their troubles and we were once again guided by our Samaritan who has now run over a mile up and down brutal hills trying to find our way out of town. Once on the main road, he tipped his hat to us and left us not wanting anything but our sincere thanks.
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