President’s Message – February 2019
Celebrating my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday in Antigua, Guatemala, was a perfectly natural choice for our family. The Newton story began in Guatemala City where my in-laws met at the Engel Apartments while both were launching their careers; she a biology teacher and he a Coca-Cola executive. Not unlike my mother-in-law, Central America holds a very special place in my heart, and I cherish the days spent wandering the colonial streets, eating freshly made tortillas, or simply watching the locals live their lives. Joe and I, along with our children, spent a short time living in Mexico City. As wonderful as Latin America is, it was during our time in Mexico City that I came to fully appreciate our life in the United States.
No matter where I travel abroad, I am immediately caught up in the ambiance of that country, I dive head first into the “when in Rome attitude” and, full disclosure, I always wonder why can’t we live as simply and wonderfully in the United States? Why do we have to have so many laws and regulations? Why is our lifestyle so competitive, so stressful?
Arriving in the beautiful city of Antigua was no exception. Straight away I was taken in by the cobblestone streets, the simplicity of men playing chess in the park in the middle of the day and shopping in the local outdoor market. I was especially struck by how free from regulation the Guatemalans were compared to the United States. I witnessed a mother driving a motorcycle holding her infant son, animated goats being herded down a crowded city street, and unregulated street food. Ah, the good life. Unfortunately, it came to a shrieking halt that evening when the beautiful, picturesque, bougainvillea lined cobblestone streets got the best me; heels and cobblestones and pot holes don’t mix and I had the bruises to prove it. Oh, and our five-star, boutique hotel turned off the hot water heater during the day to save energy so hot showers after 11:00 AM were not an option.
Traveling is the best way to appreciate and learn about other cultures, but it is also the best way to fully appreciate living in the United States. Who can argue that sipping coffee on a sidewalk café, shopping for dinner in open air markets, riding your bike, and walking doesn’t capture the simple life? Visiting other countries allows you to see the romantic side but not necessarily the reality, and I am not just talking about Latin American. It is precisely the moment when reality hits that you thank God you live in the United States. The reality that gas is so expensive in other countries that walking is economically more sensible. Utilities are not always reliable; I happen like hot showers on demand. How about appliances that work? Sorry Europe, but you all have the worst environmentally friendly washing machines and toilets on the planet. Don’t even get me started on healthcare and unemployment rates.
I could write a book on why “safety first” is a good thing and not to be taken lightly. I may complain in the U.S. about some over-reaching safety laws, but they are in place to protect those of us who cannot make good decisions, like holding your infant child while driving a motorcycle on the Pan American Highway. We definitely have laws and regulations on the books that need to be abolished but for the most part our laws and regulations are what make the United States great.
On our next adventure, I will undoubtedly question our lifestyle in the United States and wonder why can’t we live the Dolce Vita? And, undoubtedly, I will be walking down a beautiful cobblestone street and be forced back into reality.
Karen C. Newton, President