So - I’m currently living in a small village near Antigua, which is nestled on the hillsides of a couple mountains and at least one volcano (there’s another one I can see from my host family’s rooftop). In the mornings, when the view is clear and mist isn’t wisping over the mountain tops, I can see how full the valley is, gorgeous green, verdant, patchworked with plots of land farmed with corn and vegetables and other crops I have yet to learn about. The edges of my new little town creep upwards on the hillsides as far as possible, and the land seems taken advantage of in a well-settled and ancient way. I like it here, but mostly because of my new host family.
There are 11 of us under this roof, counting me and not counting mi abuelo, who lives next door, or my great aunt and uncle, who live two doors down. This extended family is huge, I understand, something like 40-odd grandkids? It might even be more. Anyway, the centerpiece of this experience, for me anyway, is my host mom: a jolly, friendly, no-nonsense business woman and homemaker who is constantly smiling through her two missing front teeth. She’s awesome. Here’s some of the great stuff I’ve been both witness to and participant in since I got here just a few days ago:
- tamale making (I tied the tamales! also eating ‘em later, which were delicious in both pork and picante versions)
- street food vending (I hauled the ingredients! although I didn’t eat any cause I was already sick from other stuff I’d eaten – my fault)
- tapestry weaving (she finishes both sides, as is customary in this area, not just leaving strings hanging about on the other side – the extra effort makes a piece, as big as a full-sized Atlas, take 9 hour workdays for 2 whole months (!!)
Anyway, so she and her husband have six kids:
boy of seven
teenager of fourteen (another boy)
advanced teenager of….nineteen or twenty? (also male)
fourth male at around twenty four I think, while
the oldest male is late twenties, but he’s a special mention because his wife and son live in the room next to mine (we’re up to 10 people now, which brings us to the
eldest child, a woman of thirty (who’s not married)
So! It’s a full house, but I like it – people are always coming or going. Good Spanish practice, lots of jokes, and good times all around.
It is….pretty rustic. Open fires in the kitchen area, dirt floor in the toilet shack ( it sure looks like dirt) and the shower sure as hell doesn’t have warm water. My room is a concrete box, which is ok, but it seems a little damp thus far, given the current rainy season which will last until November I’m told. But whatevs! The people are nice here, so I’m happy.
They have chickens, which smell sort of bad, and also a pet rabbit! He gets wet when it rains though, poor thing, but they’re going to eat him at some point and that’s life in a cage I suppose more or less.
I need to sign off – it’s late and I have Spanish classes at 8 in the morning (but only until midday, and then I think we’re going to go get cell phones! I guess it only costs like 15 bucks to get a phone here)
Also – I got a haircut yesterday and it cost me less than 2 dollars. Yeah my hair is short again (the longer hair just wasn’t going to work out here in Guatemala)