Ugh, I’m terrible at this blogging thing. It’s only because I caught a nasty cold that I am now taking today to try and update. Where do I even begin, there is so much packed into every single day, it’s hard to find a good starting point. Just a disclaimer, any information I put in here, now or in the future, might be incorrect, since usually people are telling me things in Spanish, and it is very likely that I misunderstood.
Right now Xela for me is a city of noises. The constant cars and chicken buses, children in their uniforms running out of school, the man ringing a bell while pushing his ice cream cart, reggaeton, the wind that shakes the roofs of the houses, Wilma blending the ingredients for her homemade popsicles that she sells out of the house, and always the sound of fireworks, any time of day or night, for any and every occasion.
One of my favorite things about Xela so far are the omnipresent chicken buses. They took buses from the U.S. that were no longer in use, painted them all kinds of different colors, and gave them names of their own. Kind of like the Guatemalan equivalent of yachts. The driver and his ayudante are always a little bit crazy, but probably you have to be to compete with all the other crazy drivers, and they pack them full, usually three or four people a seat. My first journey on a chicken bus was to a little town called Salcaja, where we saw what I was told was the oldest church in Central America.
I also really love the traditional Mayan dress, they take these beautiful handmade blouses that are embellished with a design usually representing the town they come from, and tuck it into these really heavy pieces of fabric that they wrap to make skirts, and then tie an apron over the top of those. Only the indigenous women wear them, so Xela, where I’m living, probably has about 40% of the population who dress like this, but when you visit other towns, like San Andres Xecul, almost everyone will be dressed like this and speaking Quiche. The women also balance incredible amounts of stuff on their heads, and manage to look cool and graceful while doing so.
Probably my favorite night so far was Fat Tuesday, Carnaval. All that day people throw cascarones at each other, and gringos are especially targeted, so just being out on the street was exciting. Oh, cascarones are eggs filled with pica pica, or confetti. Anyways, that night, we had a costume contest at our school, Julia and I bought masks, but some people got really creative, one guy Calvin dressed up as a volcano, meaning that he took four sticks and made a sort of teepee that he wrapped a green sheet around, and then he would shake and throw an orange scarf out of the top to show that he was erupting. I think my favorite costume was one of the maestros who everyone calls Gato. He dressed up like Casandra for the night, with a full face of makeup, tight purple dress that he stuffed in the front and back, a long black wig, and heels. He kept dancing salsa all around the school, and when someone would try to grab his butt he would say things in a falsetto like ‘No es posible, es privado,’ or ‘No me gusta esa discoteca, es tan peligrosa.’ Afterwards we had an epic cascarones battle, and there was picapica everrrywhere, even in places on my body you wouldn’t think you would find picapica.
This past weekend a group of 13 of us took a camioneta out to a beach town on the Pacific Coast called Monterrico. It was very mellow, a nice escape after my somewhat stressful first week of classes. The waves there were the strongest I’ve ever seen, so I spent most of my time on the sand or in the pool at the hotel.
Which I guess brings me to this week. I was lucky enough to have Gato/ Cassandra as my teacher, he was great, he forced me to speak a lot and always was joking about something. He has this very distinctive laugh that you can hear no matter where you are in the school, and he likes to laugh, a lot. When I was trying to tell him that this really loud group of Americans in a cafe made me feel embarrassed, but said that the loud group of Americans made me pregnant, he just about died. He told me that another student of his was talking about catching a taxi, which I guess in Spain is coger un coche, but in Guatemala means literally fucking a pig. So at least I don’t have to make that mistake now.
Things also are going well with my family, since I started getting sick Wilma has been giving me all these crazy home remedies, I’m not sure how much they are actually helping but I guess they cant hurt. One night I came home at the same time as my Guatemalan brother, Kevin, and he ran upstairs saying he had something for me, and turns out he bought me a tube of chapstick. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, but I thought it was nice, and I hope that it was some Guatemalan ritual that I don’t know about that means we are now officially friends.
Honestly, my favorite discovery so far in Xela is this place called the Bake Shop, only open Tuesdays and Fridays. It is run by a group of Mennonite folks, and they make the most amazing baked goods, cheese, and yogurt. That being said, I’m going to cut this short, because I desperately need to run over there and stuff my face before they close. Hasta luego!