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.
Esperanza picked us up from language
school at 12:00 on Sunday. She's our host mom for the next
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.
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.
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
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
My Hippie Wife At
The Front Door
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.
In The Pila
Scott Scrubbin' His Undershirts
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
In Our Room
(located across room from door)
Scott's feet are touching the
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
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.