Friday, August 30, 2013

Rainy Season!

Did you know this is the rainy season in Guatemala? We didn’t. It clears up for a little while in the morning, but then it clouds over and usually rains. This is our second vacation this year where it was cool and rained. In a way it’s kind of nice to not be tromping around all day in the blazing heat! They don’t know the true meaning of the words ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ here. Joe and I have a joke about Gualtemaltecos; If the temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit they all put on their down parkas, if it rises above 80 degrees they wear bikinis!

Its always fun walking home in the dark, in pouring down rain, wading through puddles. Elaina, the grandma, and woman of the house, welcomes us as we stand dripping in the entryway. The barking poodle greets us. Josua, the ninth-grader helps me make tea to warm me up. How odd we still haven’t met the owner of the house, Luis. I’ve heard his voice tell the son that we had to pay to use his WiFi, but that’s it. There is a picture of a beautiful woman in the hallway with candles and a crucifix. She was his late wife. Abuela Elaina told us the tragic story of how her husband and daughter died around the same time three years ago.
We rediscovered our favorite terrace bar/restaurant, La Serena. To get to the terrace you have to go up stone steps through a tunnel of plants and flowers. It has a majestic view of the main volcanos; Volcan Agua and Volcan Fuego, and the flowers surrounding the terrace are gorgeous.
Ana, my teacher, is very nice. We get along great with long relaxing talks, and gentle corrections of my Spanish. Joe’s teacher, Jeni, is a riot. We can hear their laughter across the school courtyard (our school is a giant garden). I overheard another instructor tell Jeni that her student was hilarious. You know the saying; “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls*#t!” No matter how much he messes up, they all think he’s wonderful J I should’ve explained we are going to a total immersion language school. By the way, the five minute walk to school has changed to ten minutes. They moved the school. It’s in a garden used for school and events on the weekends. Very pretty. They have some vendors selling local food from carts out front.

I finally saw the owner of the house last night through lacey curtains, talking to his son. Apparently he works 12 hour shifts. 
I have two pairs of shoes and a pair of flip-flops. Both of my shoes are soaking wet and show no signs of drying. We’re stuck in the house for the moment. We went out after lunch, but only made it about fifty feet before a torrential downpour got us. Yesterday we ended up sitting in a bar for a couple of hours waiting out the storm. Joe watched soccer and I wrote in my book.

The big day is tomorrow. Marvin and Evelyn are getting married at four o’clock. He’s asked us to give a little speech (translate=Heidi will give a little speech). I will tell you all about it next week.

Random thoughts;
How the TV goes constantly with American programs in English. Though Elaina and the teenagers speak Spanish only.

How sad the dog in front of school is with his fur missing from his muzzle, and sores around his eyes. It breaks my heart. The students feed him, but he is shy.
Chicken in a rich pepper sauce, a traditional dish here like mole is to Mexico. How they provide hot sauce to us because we’re American, though they believe it’s really bad for you.

How busy everyone is! The ninth grader is taking eleven classes and playing soccer for school and a semi-pro team. The college age son works full time and goes to university . . . he leaves at 4:30 and gets home around 9:00pm. As I said, I’ve never even seen the dad. Elaina works all day cooking, cleaning, washing clothes (in a machine), hanging them to dry on the roof, and ironing. Today she was in a rush to meet some friends who are all retired. Joe said, “But you’re not retired . . . you work all day”. She just laughed as she rushed out the door.
The American couple who move from one country to another every six months. The young foreigners who stick their little noses up in the air, and say they live here when they’ve only been here for 3 weeks. Most of them dressed like hippies from a by-gone era. The family at school whose two sons speak several languages because the parents are international teachers and move every few years to a different country.

How obsessed the locals are with Ronald McDonald

Monday, August 26, 2013

Arrival in Guatemala City

Welcome to our latest adventure! Marvin and his fiancĂ© picked us up from the Guatemala City Airport at six in the morning. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be met at the airport. For some reason I’ve never thought it important to meet people at the airport. Gianluca and Egle in Milan, and now Marvin and Evelyn have changed my attitude.

We first met Marvin when he needed a place to live for six months. We gave him our guest room and he’s been like a brother (or a son at times) to us. He announced he’d found the love-of-his-life, was getting married, and wanted us to be in the wedding as his Godparents. At first we thought it would be an inconvenient time of the year to go on a month long vacation, however Marvin convinced us. He is relentless when he wants something.

So here we sit in a cafĂ© in La Antigua! Guatemaltecos know their coffee. This little courtyard is filled with potted plants, local arts and crafts, a silver cat (named Misha), who likes my lap (and drools), and the cacophony of foreign accents trying to master Spanish. My second novel (3/4s done) takes place here. I’m super excited to be writing here.

Marvin drove us straight to his home where we had a traditional breakfast of tortillas, black beans, eggs and coffee. We were in a fog of exhaustion, but it was pleasant. Finally got to meet the elusive brother who is a pediatrician. Got my hugs from Mom, Dad, and Sister. We both fell asleep for a couple of hours. When we woke up they said it’s time to prepare for lunch. Okay. So off to the market for a chicken, avocados, and chips (we brought the spices from California—Marvin’s favorite food, guacamole). The market was an experience of its own. Jam packed with people, children, hawkers, mud, dogs, and anything you could possibly want to buy.
They drove us to Antigua, and we dropped off Evelyn for her bachelorette party. We found our school and checked in. We had two choices of homes to stay in. The first was next door to the school. I’d requested a private bathroom, but this one didn’t have one. The bathroom isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but the bedroom the size of a closet with no window was. We went to the second house. Perfect. A large room with a window, and a private bathroom. It’s a pretty five minute walk to school. 180 bucks for a week, includes three meals a day and private Spanish instructor for 4 hours/day. The bonus is the stairs, I won’t need a Stairmaster.

We wandered around town last night until we found my favorite wine bar, Sangre. Isn’t that a cool, kinda creepy name? Marvin has become a bit of wine connoisseur. Then we went out to dinner at  . . . McDonalds. I’m not kidding. This McDonalds is absolutely gorgeous! An open courtyard, massive garden, luxurious cushy chairs and of course the giant plastic Ronald McDonald with ten kids climbing on him. We passed on the chocolate cake and mocha at their McCafe, though it looked delicious.
Back home we were greeted by their ferocious poodle and a teenager, Joshua. We unpacked and passed out. Today we are refreshed after a nerve-wracking shower with the infamous “widow maker” showerhead (with live electricity running through it to heat the water!). I made Joe go first.

Random thoughts;
Driving through Guatemala listening to the beach boys singing  “I wish they all could be California girls”, hearing “Hotel California” at Sangre.
The weird feral cat sitting on top of the pile of shirts for sale at the market. It was snarling, meowing in its deep croaky voice, and drooling frothy slobber all over the pile of clothes. Another foreigner was watching it with equal horror, but when I brought it to the attention of the shop girl she just smiled . . . “Yes it’s a cat,” like it was a teddy-bear or something! Yuck.
The wine bar with more people speaking English than Spanish. The crepe restaurant full of locals with the sign “Worst Terrace in Town”. A different terrace with the great view and hammocks, but no patrons. Frida’s bar where Joe was told that he looked and acted like a former president of Guatemala.
The jam-packed artist indoor market which was like a labyrinth . . . where a salesman told me I was from California. I asked how he knew that, and he just shrugged and made a tall figure in the air with his hands “You look Californian,” and asked “Are you from Texas?” to Joe. It’s the cowboy hat.
How giant I feel here, with big feet . . . kinda like Fiona. Maybe I should roar. A lady was walking in front of me this morning whose legs were barely taller than my knees.