After crossing hundreds of miles on an 18-hour flight from London, I set my foot on a new continent for the first time. Arriving only a couple of days before the workshop start, I barely had the time to recover from jet lag and pick up few basic phrases in Spanish, when I had to find a story to work on.
Guatemala is incredibly colourful and diverse, so my attention kept leaping from one topic to another, constantly wondering: “What’s this?” and “What’s that?”… However, fascinated by the new experience, I felt reluctant to make any comments on the local state of affairs, unable to get over the acute feeling that I am a foreigner (a Westerner, for that matter), pointing a critical lens on something I have little understanding and no experience of.
Fascinated, but lost in the foreign culture, I wanted to create a story that embraces this feeling (since there was no way of overcoming it in such a short space of time, the only alternative would be glancing over it). I explored various ideas centred around communication with strangers, looking at Richard Rinaldi‘s project Touching Strangers, Bieke Depoorter amazing brave work Ou Menya and many others, but nothing seemed quite rights…
The eureka moment came when, frustrated with the fruitless search, I ordered a beer in a local bar and a waiter, who spoke as much English, as I do Spanish (=none), said, pointing at my glass, “my favourite”. Strangely, I felt immediate connection with that man whose life, probably, couldn’t be more different from my own, apart from the one thing we had in common…
What followed, was one of the most joyful weeks of my life and I carried on working on the project after the workshop was over and for the rest of my time in Guatemala. I had some incredibly personal, educational and inspiring conversations with complete strangers and learned as much about Antigua and its inhabitant, as I did about myself.
By the time I was packing my bags to fly back to the UK a month later, Guatemala felt like the second (third? fifth?…) home. It always will.
See more images from What do we have in common? the project on my website.