27 May 2011

things not to do when you´re sick in Guatemala

Well I've been sick for the past week and a half, world, and I've come to some conclusions based on my host mom's actions and reactions during my recovery.

NOTE: My host mom has been REALLY sweet in taking care of me, and I'm super thankful for her, but there are definitely some things about being sick in a different context that just don't translate...

- Do not help a friend move and therefore sweep a lot of dust and dog hair-- it will infect your throat
- Do not eat watermelon at night- it's "too heavy" to eat before bed
- Do not ever dream of drinking something cold while eating something hot
- Do not turn down salad and/or tamales (even if you're nauseous)
- Requesting just soup is strange
- Do not ever be barefoot even for a second
- Do not ever leave the house, ESPECIALLY if it's night time (even if it's 7:30pm, 70degrees outside and you're wearing a sweatshirt)
- Do not drink anything chilled, and God forbid anything that has ice in it
- DO NOT even dream of going out when it is raining, drizzling, misting, or looks like any of the above might happen. (Haven´t determined how this rule affects her views on showering while sick...)

I´ve been to 2 doctors now with extremely different diagnoses... and am hoping that this new medicine (an evil antibiotic) will knock out whatever my throat problem might be. Seriously can´t take it any more.

Here's to quick recoveries and opportunities for shared learning...
bendiciones, juli

17 May 2011

bus etiquette

So many people might wonder how I make the 15-30min journey from Ciudad Vieja into town to go to work each day... Well I take the camioneta, aka chicken bus (which is a semi-offensive name, so I choose not to use it) aka school buses from the US that were probably deemed unfit to carry children... So they get sent here to carry me around. Once they get here, they get painted all colors of the rainbow and totally "pimped out" (as my dad called it) with Jesus slogans and decals of semi-naked ladies.

Though it might seem straight-forward, there's actually quite a lot of etiquette necessary when riding a camioneta.

First, to get on the bus. You stand on the side of the road at a "bus stop" (which you just have to know exists where it is, because there are no signs.) Sometimes you can flag one down any old place, but this has very mixed success, so I wouldn't recommend it. So you stand on the side of the road at a "bus stop," and once you see (or hear) (or smell) your bus coming, you stick your hand out and flop it up and down. Hopefully the bus will slow and pull over and call out where they're headed and you get on. Step one: success.

Once you're on, scan the bus for open seats. If you have a gigantic basket of anything (chickens, vegetables, whatever), you can either leave it at the front or give it to the ayudante to strap on to the top of the bus. Otherwise, proceed to a seat.

It's 3-to-a-seat on camionetas, so try to find somewhere to sit as near to the front as possible. It's likely that there are a TON of people, so one is ever mindful of their purse as they squeeeeeze through lots and lots of bodies to try to get a seat. If you find a seat- Yay! Keep in mind, though, that only people over 7yr pay-- so those under 7 do not count in the 3-to-a-seat rule. That means that a woman is quite likely to have a baby strapped to their back, and one sitting on their lap, and count as 1 person. Also, it isn't too uncommon to see a lady with a box of live chickens sitting on her lap (hence the name "chicken bus). Just try to act casual and sit where you can.

So if you found a seat, congrats! If not, better luck next time. Just do your best to hold on for dear life. Usually you're so wedged in between people that there's really not even a need to hold on!

After a few minutes, the ayudante ("helper") will come around to collect your money. Always best to pay in exact change, because he is not above giving you your change in 10 and 5cent coins.

Once you start approaching your destination (which again, is not marked by a "bus stop," you just have to know where the bus is going to stop), start making your way towards the front again, squeeeezing back through all the people (or, if you're feeling really adventurous, you can hop out the back emergency exit), and off you go! After a few bumpy roads, some sharp turns, very loud music, and multiple semi-illegal passings-on-blind-corners, you arrive to your destination!

Way to go, you rode a camioneta!

Buen Viaje!
bendiciones, juli

14 May 2011

a franciscan benediction

"May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and explotation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done."

bendiciones, juli

07 May 2011

Another trip to ¨The Coast¨ (and still no ocean)

So I have long-since learned that ¨the coast¨ means anywhere that is not in the mountains vaguely in the direction of the ocean… So last Sunday, when my host family said they were taking me to ¨the coast,¨ I figured there would be no ocean involved. That was correct.

We left at ¨5 en punto¨ (aka 5:40am) and drove 2 hours towards La Democracia, but not without stopping at a gas station to fill up and see their 2 ostriches- Of course! Only in Guatemala.

So we got to my family´s friends´ house, which is pretttttty much in the middle of nowhere where electricity and running water do not go. It was so pretty! There were sugar cane fields all around and SOOO many wild fruit trees (mangos, limes, nonnis, nances, bananas, coconuts, plantains, avocados, and more mangos…)

We ate breakfast there around 7:30 or 8 (eggs and beans, in case you were wondering), and then went for a bicycle ride to the nearby ¨river¨ to cool off. Note: Riding a semi-broken bike on roads made of sand with a belly full of beans when its 20148 degrees—not the best choice. Anyway, we got to the ¨river¨ (a creek) and it was deemed too dirty to get into, so we rode into town to get some air in the tired of Flor´s bike and then rode back home—hotter than ever. At this point, I got to take a beautiful though sweaty nap in a hammock, so I was a happy camper, though wishing they´d had a fridge for a cold beverage.

I woke up to lunch preparations, which meant 2 bleeding chickens were brought out from the back to be plucked and cooked. Yep. No, I did not help pluck; but yes, I did watch, because, as my fellow YAV Laura said- If I can´t watch the complete preparation of my food, I have no business eating it. Anyway, I didn´t throw up (though I thought I might) and lunch was made. Nothing like hot chicken soup when it´s a million degrees out. Yummy.

After lunch, we rested and chatted for a while, and then the young folk took another bike ride to the river, and this time didn´t really care how dirty it was – we were dying of heat, so we got in. Everything was going well until 9year old Emiliano started splashing… An all-out water war ensued, and we eventually rode our bikes back to the house, sopping wet. It felt SO good!

I don´t know if people just instinctively carry around a change of clothes, or if it was just for this particular occasion, but when we got back, everyone else pulled out their spare outfits. Wellllll, I did not get that memo, and so was loaned a pair of very bright, very mesh Hammer pants from my host sister Claudia (40ish years old). It was very nice of her, and I was glad to be able to get out of my sopping wet skirt for the ride home.

About that time, we piled back into the cars to go home, but wait! There was a parting gift! Not only did we go and pick literally over 100 mangos on the way home, but the friends also gave us a bag of limes, a bag of nonni fruits, about 30 plantains, 3 chickens, 2 ducks, and some other random stuff. Score!
All in all, it was such a sweet day to have rest and relaxation, and a little glimpse of why God has me here in Guatemala this year.

Bendiciones a todos, and a special shout-out to my mom; Happy Mother´s Day tomorrow!

04 May 2011

Smiths in Guatemala

So as I briefly posted, my parents and Erica visited Guatemala! We had a great trip-- My host sister picked up the 4 giants in her quite small car from the airport, and we stayed in Antigua for several days for Semana Santa and Easter (and walked approx 10 miles a day, and rode in a little tuk tuk when the feets got too tired). We got to see loads of beautiful alfombras and processions, and it was a really awesome display of God's glory. We also went to the longest Mass ever on Saturday night- which we were able to sit through 2.5 hours of, but seeing as my parents couldn't understand a word, we left at 10:30pm before communion.

Then, on Sunday, we rode in the back of my host dad's pickup truck to stay at my host family's house for the night in Ciudad Vieja, and had a marathon of eating! I pretty much made them fast all afternoon, and it's a good thing because when we got to my house around 3, there was a huge pot of pepián (very traditional Guatemalan dish for celebrations) with chicken AND pork, and then delicious cake that the Smiths brought. After eating, we wandered Ciudad Vieja for a while with my host parents, ending up at the park where we were made to eat more! The 4 of us shared two glasses of atól, the first sweet corn atól and the second savory white bean atól. We did not like the white kind... but it had to disappear, and so it did between the 4 of us. Then we went home to rest for a bit before we were summoned to eat again! We had delicious beans and tortillas for our second dinner at my host sister Claudia's house, and then finally went back to sleep. We awoke to a huge breakfast of eggs, beans, tortillas, and chuchitos (kind of like Mexican tamales)-- needless to say, we were treated like kings (and didn't need to eat all day Monday).

Monday, we headed in a shuttle to Lake Atitlán for several nights where we rode a ferry boat across the river. We stayed in San Marcos La Laguna, which just happened to be having their festival the nights we were there, so luckily, we got to hear the blaring music of some local talent each night! I can't say that they were good singers, but they sure were loud!

Wednesday we headed west to Xela for 2 nights, where they got to ride a public bus to meet my old host family, see the market, and eat a lot of Xelapan.

Finally, We came back to Antigua the night before their (very long) journey home (which unfortunately included a night in Miami!) and they left on Saturday.

It was a really really great chance to see them, to give them a glimpse into my life here, to eat a lot of food, and then (when they left) gorge on the American junk food that they brought me (which includes but is not limited to Chex Mix, Rice Krispie's Treats, Cadbury Eggs, and Reese's cups. Mmmmm, The United States.)

I hope that everyone else was able to have a wonderful Lenten season, and that you could reflect on what Jesus did for us on Good Friday- and then the ultimate victory of the resurrection on Sunday! Hallelujia!

Thanks for visiting, Smiths! Only a few more months until I'm back in the US of A!

bendiciones, juli