This week I started taking Spanish classes in the afternoon with my new favorite Guatemalteca, Mileni. She is actually the coolest, and I am happy that I can pay her to be my friend. According to Mileni, Guatemalan winter is right around the corner, which means sheets of rain in Xela, for weeks at a time. I got a little preview of the upcoming months on Saturday, and I was not very happy about it. I spent most of the day inside, staring out the window while listening to Silvio Rodriguez and pouting, which in retrospect was probably a much needed respite, since last week was pretty exhausting.
Xela is divided into 12 ‘zonas’, although as far as I can tell most people only hang out in the first three. I continue spending a lot of time in Zona 3, an area that last trip I only visited a handful of times. I really like it, it feels much less touristy, gives me more opportunities to practice Spanish, and is a lot cheaper as well. I even take the microbuses every day, like a real chapina.
As far as I can tell, anyone who wants to can buy one of those giant molester vans, paint them fun new colors, and rearrange the seats so as to fit in a couple extra rows. The most rows I’ve seen, including the front seat, was six, which is not an ideal situation if you’re taller than 4’7″. From there people pile in, five in a row, and once the seats are full, people continue cramming in, standing pressed up against the sides or hanging out the open door. It never ceases to surprise me that this is legal, but I am trying to get used to a whole host of things that could never happen in California. Today I saw someone selling ceviche out of their trunk, and it actually didn’t look half bad.
I am not making as many Spanish mistakes as before, and I actually get a decent amount of practice between school, my homestay, classes, and some new acquaintances. This leaves me without hilarious anecdotes involving me confusing the words for pineapple and penis, or the time I earnestly explained how I was impregnated by a group of loud Americans (for the record, I was trying to explain that they were embarrassing). Now when I make a mistake, usually it involves me using a word that I picked up in Spain, that has a different significance in Guatemala.
For example, when I was giving a library orientation to the teachers, I decided to use the verb ‘coger.’ Coger in Spain is used all the time, ‘cogeme un libro’ is roughly equivalent to ‘could you grab me a book?’. I was explaining that if the teachers wanted, I could ‘coger’ their students one by one for personalized attention (like teaching them how to use the new laptops, or tutoring for the ones that are struggling to keep up). I forgot that coger here, in Guatemala, means ‘to f***’. Ugh. You should have seen their faces.
This weekend for the first time since I’ve been here actually felt like a rest, and it was nice. Not that I’m complaining, I’ve been enjoying being busy. Last weekend I went with Paula and her whole family to hike up the mountain to the nearest National Park, El Cerro del Baul. At the top there is an incredible view of all of Xela and the surrounding mountains. The rest of the afternoon we had a picnic and played with the dogs, and every once in a while Freddy and I would run over and race down the giant slide built into the hillside. That weekend also involved renting bikes to explore around town, a delicious home-made Vietnamese meal, and one of Guatemala’s never-ending dance parties.
The only other news that I have is that in a week I will be moving into the Yoga House. My new bedroom is literally six feet away from a yoga studio. While I am sad to be leaving my homestay, I am looking forward to living closer to people my own age, foraging for food in the various markets around town, and becoming very bendy.