I am horrible at haggling.
It’s true. The rule of thumb in Guatemala, if the guidebooks have it right, is: Ask a price, offer something at half that amount, wait to hear what they offer in return, go from there, and be gracious, always realizing that the goods in the markets are often those the merchant or her family has made, and from which they make their livelihood.
It also assumes one has basic math skills. And can figure out the exchange rate of Quetzals to dollars (about 8:1, or 6:1 after you get ripped off by the airport currency exchange), AND isn’t trying to think through all this while translating the conversation from Spanish to English for the benefit of her ten year old.
Tonight the kids are happily gathering their electronic devices and books, extra batteries, packs of gum, and knicknacks they think will keep them entertained on the airplane. Earlier this month, though, they were expressing some anxiety about our upcoming trip.
We’re traveling to Guatemala for a tour of Rotary projects produced by Semilla Nueva, a nonprofit founded by Boise native Curt Bowen, that helps rural communities gain economic independence and rejuvenate their land through hands-on education and collaborative sustainable agriculture projects. We’ll have about four days to explore rural communities and talk to farmers, then a few days on Lake Atitlan, exploring the Guatemalan rain forest and Mayan villages.