In my Junior year in college, I went on a trip to Guatemala. That country, more than any other that I have ever visited, truly was a different world.
Everything was strange, as though we had entered a different dimension. There was a spicy smell in the air. Colors were different - brighter, more lush. The bright statues in the churches, the clothes and the markets, they all struck my vision in a new range that I hadn't experienced before.
Radio was different. The one station seemed to play nothing but political propaganda - military marches continuously interrupted by a commanding voice proclaiming the newest government victory.
The blankets in the bed were damp. My sister and I curled up on top of the bed and wrapped ourselves in the Guatemalan rugs we bought at the market and ignored the gunfire from the streets outside.
Weeks later we heard that fifty indigenous Guatemalans had been beheaded at that same market.
The roads curled up mountainsides, rising higher and higher into the clouds. Our driver drove at speeds that made us gasp, especially when there was a chunk missing from the lane. The road had fallen down the cliff, leaving a huge gap in the road. The driver merely veered into the other lane to avoid it. He turned up the government propaganda, seemingly bored by it all.
We went to visit Mayan ruins. We had to cross a border, and our truck was fumigated there with a large smoke machine. I still have no idea what the purpose was or the content of the foul-smelling smoke.
In the ruins, we could crawl over the piles of rubble, covered with vines. I descended into the catacombs below one pyramid and hastily withdrew; it was dark as sin.
That was a strange trip to a strange world. I think I was in the country in a very difficult point in its history. Still, it was like going back in time at least a century, on a strange planet.