In Between Days

In school news, we are currently in the midst of a lice epidemic. Piojos, we meet again. Other than that, all continues to go well. This week the students had exams, so only half were at school on any given day, which made for a nice test run for the library. I still have not tired of helping the kids check out books. Their faces literally light up when they find the one they want, and then they will actually skip with glee out of the library, clutching their new books to their chests. Gets me every time.

Little chiclets, enjoying their new books

A new volunteer at the school, Adam, told me that the American dream is to work hard, doing work that is worthwhile. I forgot which famous person he was quoting (Franklin?), but here I definitely feel like I am living it. However, it might be time to relax a bit. While I’ve been working hard and really enjoying every minute, I realized just how exhausted I was the other day when I managed to make the 40 minute door-to-door commute to school and work for about an hour before I noticed my shirt was inside out, and backwards.

Now, are here some musings on my rediscovery of Xela:

Things I’d Missed:

  • Meeting people from all over the world. People come to Xela from all over the place to learn Spanish, and as a result you meet all different kinds of people. I like to pretend I’m living in a mini United Nations.
  • Speaking/ hearing Spanish again. And it is so much easier to understand without the Spain accent! I never did master the accent in Spain, but it made understanding Guatemalan Spanish a piece of cake.
Lazy Sundays
  • Eating on the cheap. Last Sunday I had a three course meal, followed by a coffee, followed by a large milkshake. For $8. And pupusas! For .75 cents! These El Salvadorean delicacies are still everywhere, and my favorite pupuseria hadn’t changed, thank god. Thick corn tortillas, fried, with cheese, beans and your choice of meat in the middle. Like a really fresh hot pocket, except on top you smother it in salsa, pickled cabbage, and jalapenos. Do you understand? 75 cents!!! Pupusas. All day. Everyday.
  • While I’m thinking about food, also, it is currently mango season. Yes.
  • In addition, tamales. Nom. They are like a little treasure hunt. You unwrap your banana leaf, to discover if your tamale is made from rice or potatoes. From there, every bite is a surprise, as an olive, a pepper, a bite of meat, and a dried cherry are interspersed throughout each tamale. It works.
  • Mayan traditional dress. I never cease to be impressed by the grace with which they balance their giant bundles on their heads. I always assumed that whatever was in the bundles was light, but the other day I saw an older woman carrying a sack of potatoes on her head and talking on her cell phone, all with apparent ease.
  • Having every building painted a different color. Houses, stores, and churches all mesh together in one great cacophony of color. Such a welcome change from the block housing that is so popular in San Diego.
View out my front door.
  • Volcanoes and mountains doting the skyline in every direction. I step out my door every morning, greeted by a view of the still active Santa Maria volcano. Tough life, I know.
  • The sound in the morning of women patting tortillas, quietly chatting in K’iche.
High fashion.
  • Being real fashionable, all the time. Who ever said socks and tevas aren’t a great look?

Things I Hadn’t Missed:

  • Men cat-calling. Cat-calling here can range from clicking sounds, hisses, name-calling, a few suggestive phrases, or literally full-on serenades. This unwanted attention began before I even got on the bus to get to Xela. While stuck in traffic on my way to the bus station, a man on the motorcycle next to me had just finished making out with his girlfriend. He then proceeded immediately afterwards to peer in at me through the window, licking his lips and making kissing sounds. It continues much like this in Xela, and never ceases to make me extremely uncomfortable and enraged. I have an angry, shame-inducing tirade all rehearsed out in my head, one of these days I will get brave enough to actually use it.
  • The trash cluttering the streets. I’m going to have to get on the kids about littering. And the sand!  They call it polvo, and it is unavoidable this time of the year. People are constantly trying to wet the sidewalks to keep it under control, but it doesn’t help much, and it always seems to manage to blow up in big gusts, right into my eyes.
  • Roosters. Why must they crow all of the day and all of the night? Knock it off already.
  • The uneven sidewalks. Narrow, cobblestoned, pot-holed… I was clumsy enough without all those obstacles.
  • Sunburns. Try as I might, I still managed to get slightly sunburned every day. Skin cancer!Wrinkles! I’m doomed.
  • Putting toilet paper in a bin, rather than flushing it down the toilet. Enough said.

Things I Meh’d:

  • Guatemalan food. Meals in my homestay tend to be pretty repetitive. Eggs. Refried black beans. Potatoes. Plantains. Rice.  Always with a side of tortillas and XelaPan. Not bad. Not great. Just meh.
  • Staring. People here love to stare. I mean reallllly check you out. It maybe makes me feel a little weirded out, but I usually also feel equally as curious, so I consider it a free pass to stare right on back.
  • Hills. I walk everywhere, and somehow it always seems to be an uphill trek. As a result, I usually arrive slightly sweaty and out of breath. I feel okay about it though, because I like being outside, and my booty should be singin’ in time for summer.

Things that have changed:

  • Men driving delivery trucks now carry giant shot guns. It’s entirely possible I just never noticed this last time around, but it is impressive and intimidating.
I spy…
  • Two Mormon churches and a Mormon temple. Those Mormons, they really are everywhere.
  • There are now a plethora of Mexican restaurants. I am sure I would have noticed these last time, since anyone who knows me knows that I talk about food roughly 75% of the time. Now every few blocks there is a Mexican place, all decked out in the colors of the Mexican flag, usually blasting banda music over the loudspeaker. I still haven’t had a chance to eat at any, but most advertise these tacos called ‘gringas’, I have a feeling that they’re going to be my new thang.
  • Had my first baby earthquake here in Guatemala! Delia said she knew it was going to happen, because she heard a rooster crow between 9am-12pm. Also the next day we had a power outage. For nearly 14 hours. Two unrelated events really, but both were two firsts for me in Xela.
Pineapple and oreo milkshake, anyone?
  • McDonalds is now offering oreo and pineapple milkshakes. Apparently it is the flavor of the summer. I am intrigued.

3 thoughts on “In Between Days

  1. Hey. I’m in Xela right now too. I like your Missed – Didn’t Miss – Meh’d list. I have pretty much the same sentiments even though this is my first time here. I might link back to you from my blog ( so I don’t have to retype your list for my friends.

    And hooray for mango season!

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