Scott's Journal Entry #3

"Mission House"

The following story is laced with language that reeks of American "spoiled-ness."  Guatemala is a truly amazing place with inspiring people.  After 10 days, we are quickly seeing how coddled we were back in our home sweet home in Texas.  The adjustment is difficult, but the incredible generosity, character and integrity of the people (who often have far less than some "charity cases" in the U.S.) is beyond compare.  Though we have only spent a few days here, there have been many times where we have felt humbled beyond words. Enjoy the ride with us.

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Esperanza picked us up from language school at 12:00 on Sunday.  She's our host mom for the next five weeks. 

She's dark-skinned...about 4'8" tall... 5'0" if you count her hair, which is a very poofy, wavy do.  We had our two big backpacks with us, as well as a small bag and a small rolling suitcase. 

"Caminamos?" she asked.  (We walk?)  "No Problemo" we replied (Translate that one for yourself, Einstein)  Our backpacks weigh over 50 pounds each.  It is 80 degrees outside.  The extra bag is a good 25 pounds, and the rolling suitcase is plenty heavy as well.  We figured that the walk would be a short one.

We figured wrong.

Esperanza and Gabby At Our Kitchen Table

We hauled our gringo selves over cobbled streets and muddy walkways for a good mile and a half.  Esperanza carried our small suitcase and we picked up the rest of the tab.  At the end of our walk, I felt like I needed a cold shower and a cortisone shot.  Esperanza was tired but incredibly hospitable.

We walked through an old, worn wooden door that used to be painted blue.  Now, the paint has faded and it looks like something you would pay $1200 for at an antique shop in Austin.  Through the door is a small, patio area where families (this is a multi-family home) store firewood.  Past the patio and through a small iron gate is a courtyard.

My Hippie Wife At The Front Door

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

 

The courtyard is essentially what Americans would call the "utility room."  It's in the open air, so a few plants are growing (a tree or two and a plant that has some orange-colored fruit on it... haven't sampled yet).  In the center is the "washing machine and dishwasher" called a pila.  It's a large concrete reservoir that holds water.  On either corner are three-inch deep concrete "sinks" with a drain.  One of the sink bottoms is flat and smooth.  It's for washing dishes.  The other has ridges all over the concrete for scrubbing clothes.  No... there's not a "delicates" cycle, unless you have one of the five year old kids do your wash.  

We just did our laundry this morning.  After only 5 days of dirty clothes, it took us 90 minutes to do our laundry.  Now... I know what you're thinking.  "BIG DEAL!"  Well... that 90 minutes was nothing but scrubbing, hunched over the pila made for 4'6" Mayan women.  How do you say "Chiropractor" in espanol?  Gabby did most of the soaping and scrubbing, while I tried in vain to wring out the clothes with my arthritic hands and find places to hang all of our stuff to dry.  Our host mom looked at us like we were stupid gringos and said, "Mucha Ropa!"  Meaning... "Holy Cannoli you guys have a lot of clothes!"  Needless to say, we learned alot about how fortunate we are that God invented washing machines and that we can afford one.  These women work night and day to do the basic things that take us 5-10 minutes.  It's truly inspiring.  Anyhow... what was once Scott's "necessity" to wear an undershirt everyday is now a major pain in the pila.

 

Gabby Scrubbin' In The Pila

Scott Scrubbin' His Undershirts (Not Happy)

The Pila (with all of our gringo clothes)

On one side of the courtyard is a bathroom shared by the families.  It has a small wooden door, one stool, and one shower.  The water in the shower might be warm or it might be cold.  It depends on the day and the temperature outside.  About ten steps across the courtyard is our home.
Esperanza earns her living by hosting students for the language school.  Our room is an add-on...  in one corner of the courtyard... up against the existing house, they put up two thin plywood walls on top of a foot-high concrete barrier and covered it with a wood/plastic roof.  They cut a 4' hole for a window (which is nice) and added a light  bulb and an electrical outlet.  The room is about 8' x 7' with a concrete floor.  It has a full bed with a thin mattress and enough shelves and nail-hooks to store our belongings.  It's a tidy and comfortable space.

Finish Carpentry In Our Room
(located across room from door)

Scott's feet are touching the other wall

Our Storage "Space"

The courtyard is also the stomping grounds for a multitude of animals.  Esperanza has two pet dogs (Peque and Foster) several cats, and some birds.  They pretty much have the run of the place.  Last night I learned a valuable lesson - ALWAYS CARRY A FLASHLIGHT.  My bladder didn't have a full-night's capacity, so I was forced to leave the comfort of our room to trudge across the courtyard at 2am.  As I plodded toward the bathroom, I noticed that one step with my left foot was much softer than the previous.  Every left foot fall thereafter was also soft.  As you might guess, much to my chagrin, Foster left a "night deposit" and I was there to collect.  Since then, Peque has munched my ankles once, just for good measure.

Foster and Peque

Still, this is a simple inconvenience.  Our host mom is great cook, providing EVERY meal for us.  She knows gringo stomachs, and prepares accordingly.  Lots of rice and beans and fresh corn tortillas as thick as the Sunday Paper.  I even mentioned one morning at breakfast how my morning showers have been FREEZING (the air temp is about 50 degrees and the water is even colder).  Overhearing me, Esperanza put a couple of extra logs on the fire late that night (water is heated the old fashioned way) so her belly-aching  houseguest could have his warm water in the morning.  It was a unexpected gesture, which we have now come to expect from these people.  

We're settling in... learning Spanish day-in-and-day-out.. and enjoying the experience.  At this point, it is hard to see that we will ever be "productive" in the American sense of the word, but we know that this is definitely where we should be.

So... welcome to Guatemala... home sweet home.