Gabby's Journal Entry #2

"In The Beginning.. there was much nose hair"

So I bet you're thinking I'm going to tell some bizarre story about a Guatemalan with lots of hair - but you would be wrong for two reasons.  One, because Guatemalans don't have much hair and second, because my beginning is about adjustments not gross body hair, although, that may come later, who knows.

There are many things one has to adjust to when moving to and living in another country.  First, of course, is the fact that I have a 1st grader's level of espanol. No surprises for anyone there but except for me, but more on that later.  So we arrived in Xela (the indigenas' name for Quezaltenango) on Thursday after spending the night in Guatemala City.  The trip here was uneventful. Customs did not include any harassment or nervous spanish like some of us had dreamed it might.  Instead, the only thing that happened of interest was Scott dropping one of his official documents and smiling and chuckling and scaring the little Guatemalan woman that was waiting patiently for the paper he dropped.

So, here we are, in our new home.  It's not what I expected but it's also much more than I thought it would be.  Our welcome was beyond description.   The PRESGOV Committee, the group we are working for/with PC USA, all came to greet us.  They traveled as far as 4 hours from their homes to be there.  Now, I ask you, who in the US would do that for a job that you do for free?  So their presence was humbling enough and then they start speaking.  Spanish yes, but slow enough for me to understand most of it and Joe translated also.  They spoke of love for us, their country and God.  I have to admit, I was moved to tears.

I know, I know, I haven't clued you into the whole nose hair thing. I'll skip to that so as not to lose some of you.  So, you know how you have things that you take for granted?  Like carpet in the house, flushing toilet paper, or even a house with a ceiling?  Yeah, well, me?  Nada mas (no more)! 

As Scott and I were walking a mile to school this morning uphill (I'm not making this up), I was really glad to have nose hair.  Yep.  Those tiny little guys in there are working overtime.  This morning and every morning, they will be there, en mi nariz (in my nose) to keep the diesel fuel, dirt, smoke and such out of my lungs.  Think back to when we were all younger and we went to clubs past 11pm.  Remember that?  And when you got home, you'd blow your nose and black stuff would come out.  Same thing.  Only it's during the day.  The number one reason for death of children here is respiratory problems.  So, there you go, hence, the title.

Walking  To School

Don't get me wrong, I think Xela is a beautiful place.  It just requires different things from me and my body.  Scott and I have likened it to the U.S. in the 50s and the 60s combined.  When women stayed home and didn't feel (maybe) like they had options other than to stand by their man because they'd never worked outside the home and an environment where equal rights and a non-discriminatory world, just didn't exist completely.  The difference though, with these women and the people in general is the grace and humility with which they live their lives everyday.  While I'm rambling on to you, many of the people we know here are up working a second job to put their kids through school - and it's 9pm here. 


The average work week in Guatemala amongst the people we know is about, oh, 60 hours minimum.  As any example, our host-dad, Martin, will work all day driving for PRESGOV or taking us around the city and then goes home to MAKE denim jackets and book bags and purses to sell.  And every day, he makes us laugh with his wit and patience with our broken spanglish.

Another thing I didn't expect was the water situation.  I was never clear before we left, how it was going to be possible for us to always have access to clean drinking water.  Well, now I know.  Most people pay for water to be delivered each week.  Sheesh, we didn't bottled water when we don't even have to.  Crazy.  That's what the Guatemalans would probably say about us if they weren't so kind.

Oh yeah, so back to our current home.  We are living with our language school host family for five weeks.  The house, from the street has a brightish-lightish blue wooden door and is made of cement.  Inside we are greeted by Peque (like pequeno = small) and Foster - perros.  The first thing is that this is a middle-class if not better-off family.  But what strikes me isn't the dogs, or the canaries or the pila in the center but the fact that when I looked up, there was no ceiling in the middle of the house!  The entire house is a cluster of rooms surrounding a courtyard with the pila (cement sink for washing dishes and clothes) in the middle and clothes lines all around.  It's a colorful scene but also potentially dangerous for someone like Scott who is much taller than the average Guatemalan.  

The Door To Our Room

Scott On The Bed

Our room is 8' x 7' or so with room for a double bed (cama matrimonial), a bookshelf and a small side table.  It's constructed of cement on two sides, as though it was built onto the outside of the existing home with wanes coating (wood paneling) on the other two sides.  It has a wooden door and latch lock and a padlock on the outside for when we're not here.  No AC, NO central heat.  Just a cement floor to welcome us in.  But it's cozy and we're together which is more than the other 58 people in this program have.

The Pila In The Courtyard

Well, I'd better run, something just ran across our roof and Scott and I have to race to the bathroom again to see who gets to go first.  Ah, the simple things in life.  It's a big dose of reality at one time, but we're happy.  We have much to learn and all the time in the world to do it -  at least for the next five weeks.

Adios and Dios le bediga!

Bible Verse

Romans 5: 1-4 - Hope for a better world
Therefore, since we have been justified in faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.