Many of my posts share the same theme of the peaceful beauty of Lake Atitlan, and its beauty deserves every word. It is easiest to blog about the lake, because it is the one time of the day, on the lake traveling to and from work, when I am alone with my thoughts. No children asking me to perform card tricks, no ladies smacking there hands together to make tortillas, and not trying to figure out what interest rate we must charge so that all the costs that go into the program break-even with the monthly payments on the loans of the artisans.
The boat ride home the other day was one I will never forget. As the mountains and volcanoes surrounding this lake create a climate that would even keep Bill Nye guessing, its mystery brings natural beauty. This day, however, was a special day as I call it the "Seasons of the Sky." I refrained from taking a picture as I fear it may not do justice to this experience, but hopefully my words will be able to fill your blank slate. As I stood up on the boat I found that each cardinal direction of the sky was displaying, in my mind, a different season. To the south I saw what looked like to me as fall, a clear dark blue, partly cloudy setting which gave me a chilly feeling. To the North, winter, as I saw headed straight for my boat a rain cloud that in the right temperature would make Whistler look like a shaved ice machine at a carnival. To the East, Spring, and to the West, Summer, which brought up one of the greatest myths? I know that the sun sets in the West, however; at this moment I could not tell where the sun was in the sky. I have never been anywhere on this planet where the weather was so mysterious (except in Prague when in the winter the sun sets at 2:30 pm), and it is so beautiful. I felt like I was playing Truman in the movie The Truman Show, and Ed Harris (actor who plays God) has created a mini-globe for me.
Within the beauty I get frustrated. As I exit the boat the poverty stains my mind. One of the main sources of poverty is geographical location. Some countries are blessed with natural resources that can only be controlled by the location of the country. Whether it is oil, gold, or an environment perfect for agricultural production, location can be a main determinant in the outcome of a country long before “Columbus” even arrived. But I have begun to think, Lake Atitlan may not have the natural resources to sell on the futures markets and exchanges, but they have another natural resource; its natural beauty. As the Seasons of the Sky put a smile on my face, I cannot help but look on this lake and realize that at any point in time there will be no more than two boats on its surface. Atitlan is home to many tourists, and I wonder how well a jet-ski, or water sport business would do on this lake. A water sports industry could possibly provide jobs for hundreds of Guatemaltecans. The true question remains: is beauty something to capitalize on?
Trying to picture this lake with jet ski’s and another hundred speedboats, I can’t help but think that the lake will loose some of its beauty. What is the cost of beauty, and is it worth loosing some to earn profits? One of the reasons the lake is so beautiful is because when I am on it I know that I am the only one. I get frustrated because I see what potential this lake has, but I get frustrated when I think about the effects of that potential.
What is more important, income or happiness? I know that industrializing this lake will bring hoards of cash to Atitlan, but I also believe that the hoards of tourists that it will take may decrease the happiness of the natives. In the country of Bhutan, they measure GNH (gross national happiness) as opposed to GDP (Gross Domestic Product). They believe that the happiness of the people should be the focus, and not the size of their wallets.
If hoards of tourists are not wanted by the Atitlan natives, I have another answer for the economy, the film industry. Tell George Lucas that if he wants to make another Star Wars film that I have a great location for his next planet. He has used Hoth, Tatooine, and everyone’s favorite Endor (home of the Eewok’s), well I think Atitlan with its towering volcanoes, and mysterious climate would make a great setting for the next “In a galaxy Far Far Away…”