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.


6 Responses to “Guatemala: The first post”

  1. Mary on September 24, 2012 7:03 pm

    I just laugh out loud at you, Syl. Your drunken toddler Spanish is priceless.

  2. Dorothy on September 24, 2012 7:27 pm

    The tp thing threw me at first too. It really makes the bathrooms start to stink fast, especially in public restrooms where people don’t aim too well.
    I’m very impressed with your guts for doing this. My little dose of not understanding the local language and people talking way too fast has been incredibly humbling and grateful for being fluent in the most widespread language in the world. That means at least someone nearby probably speaks at least a little English for me. Good luck with fluency!

  3. John Cooper on September 24, 2012 8:45 pm

    Your house looks lovely. It reminds me of my in-laws former place in Guadalajara, which also had a central atrium. It’s so nice to be surrounded by growing things, inside and out. But yes, it does get chilly in the mornings. When I visited, I thought the fresh air made up for that.

  4. Anna on September 24, 2012 10:38 pm

    Do you really, actually, literally have a list of things to write about with 47 items on it?

    Just teasing…

  5. Amber Taylor on September 29, 2012 10:31 am

    Love it. Can’t wait (dare I hope) to see it! You do have a very unique ability with words and descriptions and I love it! May I just ask, what is a b-school?

  6. fishiefishies on December 31, 2012 8:13 pm

    Anna, sorry for not replying earlier–I only just found this comment! Yes, I really, actually, literally had a list with exactly 47 items on it. I counted them. You of all people should know I would NEVER misuse the word “literally”!

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