The conversation between Sol and I drifted off as a hailstorm rolled into town. Watching from our table by the window, we saw hail start to fall. A few excitable young kids ran outside, screaming “snow!”
I followed them to the door of the lodge. It was frigid outside, but the hail was interesting to watch. I stood under the eave. Sol’s female trekking guide came and joined me. We stood in silence for a few moments, watching the children playing in the hail. They were trying to scoop it up into snowballs, without much success.
Sol poked her head out for a second, asked her guide a question, declared it too cold “hace frio!” and retreated inside.
It was enough of an icebreaker to get the guide and I talking.
I asked her why she was working as a guide, when her society looked down on it.
“I had no choice,” she said. “My village was totally destroyed in the earthquake. Many of my family were killed. We need money to rebuild, and this is the best way to make money.”
“Didn’t the government give you any money to rebuild?” I asked.
“The government?!” she scoffed. “You know how much the government give? $300! Enough to rebuild one, maybe two houses. Whole village destroyed. $300 is nothing.”
“What about international aid?” I asked. “I know a lot of people in the US gave a lot of money to help rebuild.”
“International aid?” she asked with a blank look. “Three hundred dollars,” she repeated. “Whole village,” she repeated, as if I didn’t understand. “Dozens of houses. Hundreds of people.” She shook her head. “I trek because I must.”
She thrust her hand back at the lodge in a gesture of disgust. “What do I care what they think of me?”