Dual Entry #6

"All In The Family"

It’s been six months since we met our host family.  We are now a part of the clan, to be sure.  It’s been a cool experience.  So, like any proud family member, we’d like to give you an update as to how they are doing.
School has started and Marlon, 11, and Eduardo, 9, got free medical check-ups at school this week.  Since the clinic couldn’t take all the kids in one day, they were both happy to have a few extra days off.  Eduardo had a cold so they gave him 4 different medicines which is great but two of them, the instructions were in English.  Thank God for the gringos in residence to help with that.  Then we noticed two bags of unmarked pills.  I asked what they were for and Graciela couldn’t remember.  She has the number to call the doctor so we can find out.  I guess Guatemalan doctors are no different from those in the US, they just tell you what you need and send you on your way expecting you to remember everything they said.  Yeah right.  Eduardo also had several warts frozen from his hands.  He was really excited about it and for the first time talked about them and said they were ugly.   

Here in Guatemala even elementary school (Primera) has fees associated with it.  Each boy paid $3 for “inscripción” (registration).  They also must pay for books and materials.  They both attend school from 8:30am – 1:00pm.



Yadi, our 16-year-old sister, started her first year at a colegio.  This is basically middle school but is called “colegio” because it’s a private school.  Why is she attending a private school?  Let me assure you it’s not for prestige.  It’s out of necessity.  There were 1000 students applying to the local “free” public escuela and only 300 slots.  I say “free” because, of course, you have to pay an inscripción there as well.  The family pays $25 per month for her to attend.  She is in a class with 98 other students and only one teacher!  Here instead of the students changing classes the teachers do.

Yadira And Her Birthday Burger-Fest

She is allowed to wear her traditional traje (see story on fashion in Guatemala) but her huipil has to be white and she has to wear the school sweater.  She wanted to wear a uniform but Martín said no.  Not sure if this was a question of money or tradition but as you can imagine, teenagers don’t agree with their parents here either.  The difference is that disagreements are usually silent or with little protest.  I think Yadi was just so happy to be allowed to continue her schooling, she knew better than to complain.  If she hadn’t been accepted into this or another school, she would have been working with her Aunt in her shop sewing huipiles.  That would make for one boring year for a teenager as I see it, so we are so happy she’s still in school.  She attends her classes from 1:30pm to 6pm each day and cooks and cleans at the house in the mornings.  

Francisco, 22, is interning as a teacher at a local school.  He is teaching 3rd graders and recently gave them a test to see what they retained over their 2 month break.  Some scored as low as 30% out of 100%.  The questions were related to science, like what are the 5 senses, what are the names of the seasons, etc. In Guatemala, there are no A’s and B’s.  Everything is pass/fail.  I think this is related to a cultural value in that Guatemalans are not competitive.  Anyway, from grade school all the way through university, it is structured this way here.  The only time I have heard grades making a difference was getting into the public schools.  The higher your grades, the more likely you were to be accepted.

He still has the same girlfriend but we don’t see her much.

Fransisco Tries Out Yadira's Headband

Edwin, 20, got a job as an auto mechanic in Xela in January.  He works six days a week, with half days on Saturdays.  Since he was finally bringing in some income, we figured he would start buying CD’s, clothes, and stereo equipment like any good 20-year old would. 
Instead, with his first paycheck, he bought his mom a new pair of shoes.  With his second paycheck, he bought his sister a new pair of shoes.  The rest he is using to fulfill his dream.  He recently passed the entrance exam to register at the local public university (Universidad de San Carlos).   He’s now fully enrolled and is seeking a degree in business administration.  The rest of his paycheck goes to fund his tuition, books, fees, and transportation. So his new schedule is to leave the house by 7:30am to arrive for work at 8:30am.  He works until 5pm and then goes to the University from 6pm – 10pm each day.  His only real day off is Sunday.  We don’t get to see him too much these days but he seems really happy and as far as we know, he’s still a swingin’ single.  

Edwin At Christmas

Josesito, two and a half, is still as cute as a button.  He recently fell off of a chair and somehow landed on his left thumb.  Graciela and Martin took him to una mujer (a women) who fixed the dislocation and told them to wrap it up.  So Josesito has been walking around with this huge wrapped paw.  It doesn’t seem to hurt him but they want his finger to be straight so they are keeping it on for a few weeks.  He is talking a lot more and is even learning some English.  Now, every time we leave the house, he yells, “Abby, Tot, GOOOOOD BYE!”.  You could just eat him he’s so cute.  He is also enjoying chasing our four new baby chicks all around the yard.

As any good American Aunt would, I got pictures of him getting a bath in the pila.  Scott was on one side doing laundry and Graciela was washing Jose laughing because I was taking picture of him “desnudo” (naked).  Josesito was really mad for some reason and that made it even funnier.  

Josesito with Bandaged Hand

The Combo Bath/Laundry Area Makes For Some Embarrassing Moments For Jose

Besides bathing two-year-olds, Graciela (mom) is still cooking for ten and cleaning and laundering for seven.  Yadi does her own laundry and helps clean some too.  WE recently invited Graciela to join us for a mission trip with our church from Austin, but she still hasn’t said yes yet.  She doesn’t want to leave the kids.  Of course, Josesito would go with us but she doesn’t think they can cook for themselves.  The kids are all encouraging her to go, saying “Mom, just buy us a bunch of eggs and we’ll be fine!   You need to go!”  We’ll see.  She has also been sewing cortes and huipils (traditional skirts and blouses) for some neighbors as a side business.  

Martin and Graciela

Martin With Another Satisfied Customer
(Cool Shirt, eh?)

Martín, dad, has been traveling a lot with groups and selling his wares along the way.  He is a really talented tailor.  He makes jackets out of blue jean fabric or traditional Guatemalan cloth, pants, bags, bible covers, shirts, bookmarks and anything else you want.  He just needs a picture and your measurements.  He is making me a new skirt and Scott some pants.  Our only complaint is that he put McGregor, Levi’s, or Lee Jeans labels on everything.  Here, you can buy the labels by the hundreds in the market.  So, we are working on a new logo for his company “Confecciones Martin” so when he puts tags in his clothing, it will show that it’s all custom-made.


In other news, we cooked dinner for Yadi’s 16th birthday, cheeseburgers, at her request.  We cooked out on the homemade grill and bought Kraft American cheese (yum!).  It was really fun and the whole family came outside to watch the gringos cooking and take pictures of us using the disposable cameras we gave them for Christmas that Kerri brought down from Tami.  At times, we are still such a novelty to them.  In fact, Yadi said next time we cook, she wants her Aunts to be there to watch too.  It’s like a freak show for them, I think.  A man cooking?  What!   

Scott Tending "The Grill"

"Thank You God For This Wacky Food That My Gringos Cooked"

But the best part of this night was when the family surprised us with a thank you on the local radio station.  It went something like this, “This goes out to our North American friends, the Guzmans, in Cantel.  Thanks for cooking dinner for us.”  Who are the Guzman’s?  They immediately called back and told them they had to do it again because they got our names wrong.  It was too funny.  Every time there was a pause, everyone would stop what they were doing and listen closely to see if it was our turn again.  We laughed a lot that night.

So, that’s the latest.  Keep us all in your prayers.  Oh… and take good care of yourselves.  We want our “U.S. family” to be in good shape when we finally get home.