Sunday, July 20, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala -- 19 July 2008

hola lovelies.

there are things that look an awful like guatemalan passports for sale in the market. i think i could get one pretty cheap, but i kind of like my passport.

there´s also a part of the market that´s all used clothes. it´s HUGE. you can get lost there, like actually lost and not know which direction is the relative civilization of the produce section. it´s like going into the wild, because while every vendor does have a well-kept collection of special clothes on hangers, each also guards a mountain of unfolded, unsorted clothes. clothes from the piles are at a set price, all from about 75 US cents down, depending on the vendor. the brands are: donna karan, american eagle, calvin klein, gap, levi strauss, mossimo, talbot´s, loft, etc. ad infinitum. the most expensive price i heard quoted, which was a vendor´s absurdly inflated starting price, was about 20 US dollars. there are evening gowns, and purple velvet pants, and black, thigh-height go-go boots. i wandered around in it, pretending to shop, for two hours today. my favorite part was watching the matrons sorting madly through the cheap piles, and learning all the different combinations of the words/phrases: cheap, good, clothes, really really really cheap, come see, and pass in, my friend. mostly the vendors kept up running yells, kind of like the ¨who will buy¨ song in Oliver!, except all about clothes and way less tuneful.

i realized one of the things that seems so strange about la bodegona (remember, the big supermarket in town) to me: it´s their package deals. they have so many, and they can be so strange. today, it was VO5 shampoo and tube socks.

we did another monthly letter on thursday, although this time it was a much smaller undertaking because the printers included the signature instead of being fickle and leaving it for us volunteers to fake. so we didn´t have to open, sign, and refold the letters before stuffing them. whew. i actually didn´t have to do any of the carta mensual work this month, because my english classes were a legitimate excuse, but i actually really like doing it, which apparently makes me a bit odd, and so i got victor to talk to profe cesia for me, and my parvulos class got cancelled so i had an hour and a half free to stuff. i was so happy!

i love the parvulos as kids, but i´m really starting to struggle with teaching them. the thing is that they really can´t learn any english yet, they´re too little. some of the really eager ones will repeat words, but most of them won´t. my classes are best when they´re just activities like for nursery-age kids, coloring and reading stories. and i´m running out of ideas of stuff to do with them that has some pretense of teaching them english. and also, it´s too big a group for one person to be attentive to everyone, so i have to pray for random volunteers to be assigned to help me on parvulos and prepa days.

i´m turning into quite the random volunteer receptacle, too. i´ve become a regular stop on the new-at-el-proyecto tour, like kitchen cleaning with doña maria and doña ana, and food collecting with diego. now there´s also teaching english with ruth. and then, if the volunteer is still here (meaning, for more than a couple weeks), he or she gets their own job.

i´m done with my week at christian spanish academy. it was good. i´m glad i did it. if nothing else, it was a great self-esteem booster, because after acing out of grade A (did i tell you this already? a student i talked to in grade A has taken 3 years of high school spanish), my teacher started giving me homework not from my grade B books, but from grade C. happy happy happy. and there was lots of good conversation.

i went with a big group of short-term volunteers to visit the malnutrition center that el proyecto is currently supporting (not the new one that it´s building, and will run as a new arm of itself). it reminded me a lot of hippotherapy. tiny, tiny ankles and wrists, listless babies. a lot of the kids (they went from babies up to, they said, seven years old, though none of them looked it) had really hot skin, too, i don´t know why. we played and held and sang, and helped feed. there were two feeding times in the three or so hours that we were there.


my rolls of film are supposed to have 24 pictures each, but my camera has so far taken 25 with the first roll i put in it, and i get the feeling that if i kept pressing the button, the counter would just keep on counting up. i can´t figure out how to get the film out -- when i opened the back of the camera, part of it was still stretched across the aperture, so at least that picture is ruined, and possibly the whole roll, i don´t know. any ideas?

guatemala´s answer to mcdonald´s is called El Pollo Campero. maybe it´s more like KFC, actually. in any case, it´s got big photo montages of sulky looking guatemalan kids in traditional dress as decorations. muahahaha.

the cathedrals here are way more functional than the ones in europe ever were. every time they´re open, there are people praying in them, or lighting candles. the catholics light fat candles with stickers of the virgin on them, and the maya light tall, thin candles that have something to do with their traditional religion. apparently, the cathedrals are a fine place for their worship, because they´re all part of mother earth. why should it matter who the statues are of? what´s funny to me about the cathedrals -- and i´ve actually been hanging out in them a lot -- is that during the week, a lot of the time they have muzak playing over the sound system. nobody laughs except me... it´s just part of the calmer, non-street atmosphere.

another person asked me if i´m a stanford student... she is. at least i have the excuse of sam, and aisha, and devney, and jasmine, and whoever that relative of ours was, and aunt kathryn, and having almost decided to go there myself. that girl at el proyecto wearing a harvard shirt had no connection to harvard whatsoever. pshh. i´m just wanting to meet harvard people, i guess.

i definitely want to send you guys my list of things to do, to compress my post-senior-year-relaxing-fun-summer into two weeks, but i keep thinking that i´ll come up with more stuff to add to it. so... here´s a start? and this is the stuff that i want to do, not the stuff that i need to do,
  • like buy closed-toed shoes.
  • go to the beach. a lot, if possible.
  • eat dessert with the whole family. like ice cream how we always used to do before NL where the ice cream was no good, or dad´s milkshakes, or root beer floats or something. or if emma likes baking, that works, too. actually, i want to bake stuff with emma. that mint frosting sounded good a while back. so,
  • bake stuff with emma.
  • go running by myself in the morning. some volunteer and i were talking about this, and she said something like, ¨wide streets, smooth streets, no dog poop... i love america.¨ i would also like to point out the relative scarcity of huge guns.
  • have jam sessions
  • maybe go to a béisbol game?
  • maybe go to the zoo and draw animals, preferably with isaac?
  • help make dinner, and help set the table, two privileges denied me here. maybe we could make red beans and rice. i am newly appreciative of beans.
  • drive places, so that i won´t forget how.

here´s an interesting thing: we all know what red lights mean in the netherlands (and, according to sridar, it´s the same in switzerland... is betz from switzerland? you know, that one college friend? well, sridar has something in common with her in occasionally, innocently, using words that no polite english conversation ever contained), but here in guatemala, or at least in antigua, they mean ¨tamales for sale¨. which makes me laugh.

much, much, much love,


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