I realize that I have complained a lot lately about how slow things have been and how frustrating it is to deal with Guatemalan bureaucracy and the red tape. But really, there are many reasons why I can’t complain, you can’t have it all.
If I love that most rules aren’t enforced and you can pretty much do what you please, I can’t complain when the rare directive applies to me and I am asked to comply.
If I love that taxes are so low, I can’t complain about the state of the roads or the absence of public services.
If I loved building my little house without asking anyone for a permit, I can’t complain that the neighbor did the same and his house makes my eyes sore.
If I love that you can climb a Maya ruin when in Europe you would have to see it from the distance, I can’t complain that they are not in perfect shape and with proper explanations or a map of the compound.
If I love that order is not the first word that comes to mouth in my region, I can’t complain when someone gets into a shop after me, yet is being served first.
If I love to park my car right in front of the arrival door at the airport, when the parking lot is 50 meters away, I can’t complain that sometimes someone is blocking my car when I park.
If I love that you can drive almost as you please, I can’t complain when people do not drive in an orderly manner or 50cc motorcycles use the left lane and I have to pass them on the right.
If I love that the police almost never stops my car, and when they do they never point speed but barely check the registration papers, I can’t complain that they are not around when one needs them.
If I love that everything is dirt cheap, I can’t complain when things aren’t high quality.
If I love to get a bargain, I can’t complain that sometimes I have to haggle for some time to get it instead of paying asking price.
If I love some parts of the macho culture, like never letting a woman pay for a date or men always carrying the bags and opening doors, I can’t complain when they make comments about women not being as strong or whatever adjective they have to consider themselves superior.
If I love to live in a country where the sun shines almost all year round, I can’t complain when it is unbearably hot.
If I love the abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables, I can’t complain when I don’t find an item no one eats here.
If I love the low cost of labor, I can’t complain when I give peanuts and get monkeys.
If I love to consider the lake as my private swimming pool, I can’t complain when the neighbors do it too and use loud jet skis for hours.
In Europe the process to split one’s land may be more straightforward because the system is well greased but they would ask for many more requirements than they do here. In France if you want to do an extension over 200 sqft to your house, you have to apply for a permit. Depending on the council, you can’t build on more than X% of your land. In the South, it can be as little as 30% so your extension may be denied if you already have a 1,500 sqft house on a 4,500 sqft plot. You have to build a house that will fit harmoniously into the landscape, or renovate like it was in 1900 if you are in a historical village, and so on. They would give you a list of paint shades that you can use but you can’t paint the house bright pink if you feel like it and that is not on the list, your windows will have to be a certain way, the electric wiring has to follow European norms of safety, and the list goes on and on.
Freedom here means everyone takes advantage of the lack of rules, not only your little person.
Have you ever wanted to do one thing that benefits you, while not wanting people to do something that would benefit them? Or tried to get both ends of a stick? You can’t have it all, and for many advantages that this little paradise has, there is a counterpart, for which really, I can’t complain.