Guatemala: The first post

September 24th, 2012

So I have a list of literally 47 things to write about—topics abound when pretty much everything about one’s life is completely new and unfamiliar (and will be to most of one’s audience). Methinks I’ll start with the basics.

My house (the green one):

It has a two-story tree growing in the living room. Because the living room is outside. The rooms surround an outdoor central area—to get to the bathroom, or the kitchen, or anywhere else, one goes outdoors. (You’re looking at the door to the kitchen.)

I’m fine with this now; not sure how I’ll feel in December, because…

Homes aren’t heated. (Schools aren’t either.) Installing and using heat is expensive; ’tis much cheaper to don another pair of socks or just wear a coat. Which one has to do upon awakening, because…

Mornings are cold! But the weather is kind of schizophrenic. After two weeks I’ve figured out that it’s cold in the morning, and warm-bordering-on-(and sometimes achieving)-hot from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Then the clouds roll in and everything cools way down again. Dressing in layers is essential, as I’ve found out the hard way more than once.

Other things that are essential: Throwing TP into the trash can instead of the toilet. We’re told that Bad Things Will Happen should we forget this basic instruction, and I believe it—especially if the pipes are as tiny as the streets. I live in Zona 1, the old part of the city, and streets are accordingly almost undriveably narrow, and also made of stone.

Sometimes the stone is even; usually it’s not. I dare you to try running on this:

Which is hard enough given the material. (Really, this picture doesn’t show the depth of the crevasses between each stone.) When one considers that the sidewalks are wide enough for one skinny person (usually) and the streets are wide enough for one skinny car, AND the drivers have no qualms about mowing one down, one realizes that one should probably go running somewhere else next time.

But running is pretty important (despite the whistles, comments, and gestures [from others, not me]), because it warms one up, and in the shower, one must choose between water that occasionally makes it to more-or-less-lukewarm (heroic effort, this) and water pressure. One cannot have both.

As far as the language goes (remember? My whole purpose for being here?): Ay me. Seventeen whole days and I’m not fluent. I’m understanding more, and in church I get about 90% of talks and lessons (dependingonhowrapidlythespeakeristalking)… but when I talk I sound like a drunken three-year-old. “I having much good time. I go to be here three month and half. I studying the Spanish. Also I working like editor. He send me the things and I corrects and to send back.” Sigh. At least I’m told my accent is very good. What’s entertaining is that another student lives here too—a Sami girl from Norway (she and her family are traditional reindeer herders [!!!!])—and she just started learning Spanish last week, and the family doesn’t speak English, so I do a lot of translating. Which makes me feel smart—until people start talking about things that aren’t completely basic, and I’m reminded that my patriarchal blessing says, concerning other languages, that they’ll be difficult to learn initially “but with that difficulty will come humility.” Huzzah (she says unconvincingly).

More in my next. Now must I do the homeworks. Every night I write a story incorporating the day’s vocabulary and grammar. It ain’t literature; one story in particular is as subtle as Ayn Rand. But at least I’m starting to switch between indicative and subjunctive correctly, which thing I once thought was going to kill me.

Bermuda: Things that rocked

September 5th, 2012

About six weeks ago my roommates and I, on a whim, bought tickets to Bermuda for Labor Day weekend. (They had visited a beach with un-swimmably cold [read: typical New England] water the day before and were determined to find someplace warm to swim.) So, last weekend, we went.

(This island getaway-style vacation was a first for me; the one thing my travels usually aren’t is relaxing [had some fun with verbs there], and I’m not entirely convinced that relaxation is actually possible for one so high-strung as myself. However:)

Bermuda is gorgeous. And riding scooters is fun.

So, things that rocked:

1. The water. Pure turquoise. AMAZING:

2. The sand. On the more coral-heavy beaches, it looked like candy canes blown to smithereens:

3. Rock formations that create natural jacuzzis:

KME enjoying the impromptu hot tub:

4. Flowers, flowers everywhere (at least until the tropical storm hits this weekend):

The camera didn’t really capture the haunting dusky purple of this plant:

5. The Horseshoe Bay sand sculpture contest:

6. A conversation with a native Bermudian, part of which went as follows:

Native Bermudian to me, with concern: Have you put on sunblock? Because you’re really white.

(Thanks, Danish/English progenitors!)

(My roommate may have used the PicMonkey “spray tan” effect on this picture–I think I look darker than I really was.) (This was the first day; I do now have some respectable color.)

6.  The Swizzle Inn, where portion sizes are extravagant, to say the least. Here’s KJS’s veritable vat of pasta:

And KME’s giant plate of nachos (this was the JUNIOR size; the poor girl needed help eating them [sigh]):

7. The sunset over Elbow Bay (the colors in this picture have not been modified [as far as I know]):

8. Playing in the rough surf until the lifeguards made everyone get out (the one I talked to said they’d already done a dozen rescues that day). (The video of this is too big to upload; as I’m technologically declined I’ll have to get KME to fix it.) It was fantastic. I had to really dig in several times to avoid being sucked out into the ocean (don’t worry, Mom and Grandma; there wasn’t any real danger), and every time a wave came in it would push me forward several steps, despite sincere efforts on my part to stay planted. At times I was standing in delicious waist-deep swirling turbulence; the water felt like a living force. SO. FREAKING. COOL.

(I told KME and KJS how much I loved this part; their answer: “You would.”)

9. Riding scooters up and down the island:

10. The random swing we found hanging from a tree (and we all tried out):

There were a few things that didn’t go so well; look for stories about those, most likely with (only semi-)disguised swear words (you’ve been warned), very soon. But altogether it was a lovely vacation, and I did manage to relax a little bit, and if you ever have the chance, and you can talk yourself out of thinking it frivolous (I’m such a freaking ISFJ sometimes), and you have some good sunblock, you should TOTALLY go.