Back when I was 17 (in 1983), I spent the summer in Guatemala working with a missionary. One of the perks of such a trip was that I would occasionally have a few days to explore the countryside and on one of my excursions, I found myself in Antigua, the old capital. It was spectacular, with its ruins, old colonial churches, street vendors, and beautiful city square. It was there that I met the hordes of locals vying to be my “guia” or guide to the city. Having spent two years studying the Spanish language and discovering that few families conjugate verbs around the dinner table, I was thrilled when one man strode to the front of the group and introduced himself in near perfect English.
“My name is Ramon, sir, and of all the excellent guides here, I alone can speak to you in your native tongue.” He certainly had my attention. My first thought was, do I look that obvious? He went on to explain that he would guide me around the city, showing me its secrets and at the end of the 2 hour tour, I could pay him whatever I thought reasonable. Sounded good to me! I took him up on his offer and we began a great city tour, seeing the monasteries, the convents, and the beautiful Mudejar-influenced Baroque style architecture.
After about two hours, he said, “This is the end of my tour. If you enjoyed yourself, you can pay me whatever you think my services were worth.” I really did enjoy myself and after checking with my host who had accompanied me, I decided to pay him $6 (US). That was a LOT of money in the central Guatemalan highlands in 1983 for two hours of work! But when I looked in my wallet, all I had were twenties. He didn’t appear to be the sort that carried change and the embarrassment of trying to find someone to break a twenty wasn’t anything I looked forward to, so … I just gave him a $20.
He was stunned.