After a unexpectedly eventful bus ride, I finally made it all in one piece back to Xela. About an hour into what was supposed to be a four hour bus ride, we had a breakdown. Nearly two hours later, the bus finally started running again, and the driver decided it would be a good idea to make up time by going 80mph on a one lane mountain road. An older Mayan woman I’d been seated next to on the airplane also happened to be on the same bus, and we made sad faces at each other, while her five family members seated around her puked into grocery bags for the remainder of the journey.
It is hard to believe I have only been here a week, so much has happened already. I moved into my homestay, met a wonderful group of volunteers, started hanging out with the little punkins at school, we successfully opened a brand new library, and I, in turn, became the school’s brand new librarian. I even already got a parasite (at least I’m pretty sure I did), seeing how I ate everything foreigners aren’t supposed to eat at the going away party thrown by the school for the other volunteers.
The first new friend I made at EDELAC was a student named Dulce, and like her name suggests, she is actually the sweetest. We quickly found out that we have lots in common; for example, we both love wearing headbands, and we both like the color pink. The day I met Dulce was also the day we celebrated International Women’s Day. All the maestras were thrown a surprise party by the male teachers, where we were given flowers, candy, and a meal. While we ate, each man went up and recited a poem or gave a speech about why they value women. It was actually the best, and we definitely need to start celebrating this day back in California.
I got pretty lucky with the family I am living with. Delia is about 65, and reminds me a lot of my Grandmother that I was living with prior to coming here. Her two teenage grandchildren Karol and Jorge are currently living with her, and it’s pretty good entertainment watching them interact. She’s got a wicked sense of humor, and has no trouble sassing them back into place. Delia’s son, his wife, and their always neatly dressed dog, Duke, are frequent visitors, along with her daughter, Paula. They all love to laugh and tease each other, and I try my best to participate. I think we all get along pretty well- sometimes I can’t tell if they are laughing at me or with me, but either way, at least everyone is laughing. They even gave me a new nickname, which I hope means I’m in.
As far as I can tell, Guatemalans love nicknames. Last time I was here, everyone called me La Flaquita. Since this time around I am not quite so skinny, my new given name is La Coquetta. I was kind of mad about it, because gross, did they think I was flirting with Jorgito? They had to explain to me that they meant it with lots of affection, a flirt being someone that they find appealing to be around. I felt okay about it after that.
When I arrived Dianne was still living with Delia, so the first five days here I was living around the corner with Paula, her husband Freddy, their three sons, and the world’s cutest pair of boxers. Paula and Freddy were absolutely wonderful, they told me they had always wanted a daughter, and then proceeded to more or less adopt me. Initially I was intimidated by Freddy, he seems very serious and tough, but once he warmed up to me, he turned out to be quite the jokester. I also loved seeing how sweet he was with Paula, he was always doing thoughtful things like carrying her purse, or half-heartedly watching her telenovelas so they could talk about it. I love when I get to see men’s doughy centers.
Yesterday my substitute parents took me on a little tour of Zunil, in the province Almolonga. ‘Pura verduras en cada parte’ was how Freddy described Almolonga, and he was perfectly right. Throughout the drive all you saw in every direction were gently sloping hills, covered in patchworks of different vegetables. I guess from Almolonga vegetables are shipped throughout Central America and the United States… and yet somehow I have yet to eat a vegetable here. Instead, it’s all carbs and protein, all the time.
After a brief stop in Zunil, we drove up the mountain to see the Fuentes Georginas. Because I had a cold, I was told I wasn’t allowed to bathe in these natural hotsprings; instead, we decided to go on a walk. This walk turned into a hike up a ridiculously steep mountain, and while the trail was lush and green and beautiful, it was also killer. In fact, Paula and I called it quits about an hour into it. Next Saturday we are supposed to hike El Baul, and I will be sure to be better prepared.
After our failed hike, we went to one of the pools now not in use, where I was encouraged to drink the water. Obliging, I did. It was not good. Really terrible actually. I didn’t realize until I turned around and saw Paula and Freddy doubled over laughing that they were messing with me, and had even taken my camera in the hopes of capturing the expression on my face afterwards.
So, so far, so good! It actually hasn’t even been a full week, and it’s crazy to think that these past 6 days are just the first 1/16th of my time in Guatemala.