It has been awhile since I have made a post and as I finish up my time in Guatemala there are a few things I need to share. This post will take the style of many little posts. Here we go:
A few weeks ago, I attended a soccer game of Xela (the town I’m in) versus another Guatemalan town, San Marco. The game was exciting! I felt like I was back in Australia where they lit off fireworks every time the home team scored. Only in Guatemala, they lit of fireworks for everything. The game itself was actually not the best soccer I have ever seen. I hold firm that my high school soccer team could have beaten both teams. Xela has a reputation in the quality of their soccer team. They have a saying, “Jugar como nunca pero perder como siempre.” It’s an ironic statement that basically means they always play amazing, but never win. The game ended in a tie.
Xela is surrounded by a mountain range including a volcano, Santa Maria. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to climb Santa Maria. Santa Maria is known for its full moon hikes that happen once a month. There was one the second week I was here, that I wasn’t aware of at the time, and the next one will happen 3 days after I return to the United States. However, I set out on my own mountain climbing experience. Baul is a small mountain just outside the city center. It has a beautiful park and patio with a giant cross at the top that is visible from most places in the city. I have an ex-marine friend down here who runs up it every morning at 4:30am. She invited me to join here sometime and my initial reaction was, “yeah… bring it on.” Then after more consideration I decided to make sure I can hike the thing before I attempt to run up it. So one Saturday with the idea in my head that if she can run up it every morning I should easily be able to hike it. True and false. After following some not so good directions from a lady at a convenience store I found myself lost and “free hiking” the side of this mountain. So, by the time I was muddy and frustrated I found the road. A paved road. I can only conclude the lady was having a laugh with me because she sent me in the complete opposite direction. Oh well. I shrug it off and continue my hike. As I
walk up this winding paved road I still feel like I’m not where I want to be, I was expecting a trail after all. So I stop to ask a nice police officer if I’m headed the right direction. He assured me the road would take me to the top, but if I wanted to take a trail, here is one that goes straight up. So up I went. At this moment I realized I should have been more specific because as you can see from the photo the park is not at the top and I underestimated how far from the top it actually was. I had made it to the top, which had nothing but a fire ring and I proceeded to start hiking down the other side attempting to find the park. Just when I was about to give up, all of this work and I still can’t find the giant cross and the stupid park, is when the trail opened up into a camp ground that lead to the park where the cross was. Miraculously my ex-marine friend was at the top. She runs up it and prays at the cross every morning and this particular Saturday she decided to sleep in a bit before she ran.
The Basics of Xela
My school is a five story building that has a patio at the top that you can see a majority of the city from, its beautiful and every once in awhile my teacher lets me have class up there. This is a rare event though because my attention span become shorter with a panoramic view.
There are a few things I want to reflect on that I have learned in my cultural moments in Guatemala. The first is the streets. They are slightly confusing because they are all numbered and certain directions are Aviendas (avenues) and the other directions are Calles (streets) and just to shake it up they add in Diagonals ( I bet you can guess what directions those streets run in.) However, each city is also split into zones. And if you enter a new zone the numbering of the streets starts over again. And of course, they are rarely labeled so it doesn’t really matter what street it is anyways. Walking down the streets of Guatemala is like the game Frogger. The sidewalks are not very walkable as they are not continuous, different levels, and usually more dirty than the street. So most people walk in the street. Many of the streets are one way, however if you feel the need to drive the other direction you merely put on your hazard signals and drive the opposite direction. There are also many dogs in the streets, then add in the street venders and random parked cars and you have the game Frogger. Oh, and don’t forget the bicycles.
Guatemala in its own unique was is a beautiful country. However, they do (as much of Central America does) have a problem with pollution. In one of my lessons, my teacher made me read an article (in Spanish of course) about the UN’s last meeting on pollution and how they created laws to control pollution world wide. Central America is exempt from these laws until December 31, 2012. I told him they have a lot of work to do in a year and he reminded me that laws in Guatemala are relative.
The “Alright” Moment
The same way that I had an “Oh Shit” moment upon arriving in Guatemala, I had another epiphany moment in my journey. For many weeks, I hadn’t decided how I felt about Guatemala. Between the streets, the Chicken buses, and the general humor and lifestyle all surrounded by a beautiful scenery, it just didn’t make sense. Then as I was sitting on a chicken bus this past weekend there was a lady in the front of the bus giving her faith witness to the passengers meanwhile the guy in the seat next to me is taking pulls from a liquor bottle and intently listening to her. As she starts to cry, I’m thinking, “This is absolutely ridiculous.” At that moment I felt like I was going to laugh and cry at the same time, I realized how much I love this country and that I absolutely believe Guatemala is beautiful in its own way. I want to say it was in my head, but I said it out loud, I nodded my head and said, “Alright. Hello Guatemala.”
My Last Week
This week is my last week in Guatemala and I cannot believe it. I can’t believe the time has gone by so fast, but you know what they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” This week I will read my first chapter book in Spanish! Reading a few chapters every day I should finish El Principito by Thursday. If this name sounds familiar to any of you that’s because it is a famous French book entitled Le Petit Prince. After this week, I will have read The Little Prince in French, English, and Spanish. It has been four years since I have read it in both French and English, so it’s as if I am reading it for the first time.
Tomorrow night I am cooking Chili and S’mores for my family. Many people cook for their family as a sign of gratitude for their hospitality. I’m cooking as a sign of gratitude for their patience with me. Just Kidding. Chili is a tradition in my family and my chili is not as good as my Dad’s, but as soon as I add s’mores, it makes it the most American meal I can think of. Wish me luck!
The Spanish Language
I have enjoyed learning the Spanish language over the last six weeks and still can’t believe how much information I was able to retain. I still speak slowly because my brain needs time to re-structure the sense into one that can be understood in Spanish. The Spanish language is complex, but in all actuality, I have learned it is simple. You can take the stem of any verb infinitive and make it into 12 more words. A billion versions of the verb, an adjective, maybe an adverb, and some nouns; all you have to do is change the ending. Tada! What I really learned is that English is a complex language.
Wish me luck as I travel home and repack (because who ever packed my suitcase the first time did an awful job) and even more luck as I head off to Chicago for training, then to Mexico to start my real journey!