Sunday, February 22, 2009

Leaves Anew

The wind is delicately provoking the floral print curtains that drape across the open window of the room that I share with two other women. A tree continuously hits the roof of our abode with the rhythmic tunes of the winds' nighttime music. A movie is being watched downstairs. Two girls are smoking cigarettes with the ease and class of 1940s movie stars. The dorky history majors of the group are gathered in their respective rooms reading the optional articles about revolutions in the 1970s. Ants are crawling across the floor in search of substance, probably the chocolate from one of my roommates' open luggage. I am drinking pineapple juice. Herein lies the next leg of my journey: El Salvador.

With El Salvador comes the much anticipated study of Liberation Theology. A new focus on economics. The fourth Harry Potter book. Rural weekend homestays. One house for 18 people. Early morning jogs. Hot weather. The continuous lack of middle class. An attempt at conquering more of the Spanish language. The Pacific beach. The Catholic Church. Numerous insects, illnesses, laughter and ice cream.

Four weeks and oh so much to learn.

Alright, so at this moment I am struggling with this whole blogging world. I say that often, but I feel it much moreso down here in Central America. I wish I could write better. I wish I could come up with a new word for adventure. Or a new word for new. I wish I could adequately, or at least accurately, describe the beauty and struggle of this small section of the world. I would like to be able to fluidly discuss the string that connects the politics, culture, language and beliefs of Central America. I would like to have funnier stories and richer descriptions. But for some reason, I feel a great sense of lacking. I do not have the words to illustrate the faces of so many who have been influential in my time here. I cannot form the sentences that would make up the paragraphs about the sights and aromas of these countries. For that, I apologize because these countries deserve some fine writing. They deserve to be known in their most raw and real states. They deserve, at the very least, for people to care. For people to become aware of their struggles and their attempts at a decent livelihood. Start reading the newspapers, the BBC and history books about revolutions. It will astound you and make your cringe, but maybe just maybe, you will see a little sliver of why we should care about these fascinating and strong people.

Thoughts from a girl who has not slept in a while and whose thirst for knowledge only continues to grow...

Friday, February 13, 2009

One Month Down...

Spanish classes are over. Las clases de espanol son fin. Three weeks of preterit, imperfect, future and that damned subjunctive are finished. How is that possible? I spent 75 hours in class with my spectacularly witty and sassy teacher, Ana; and yesterday as I sat back down in my chair in a post-presentation glaze, I glanced at Ana across the room to gather some type of hint about the level of failure from my last Spanish public speaking engagement of the semester. And she smiled a big smile, gave me a thumbs up and then made the face we like to make each other that consists of crossing our eyes and sticking out our tongues. I will receive a B+ in this intensive Spanish class, and although I am slightly disappointed in that grade, the fact that Ana told me that she is proud of my improvement and she wants to be my friend makes up for the few remaining points I lack in an A+. Starting on Sunday, Ana and I will spend our last week together in a rural village where we will undoubtedly make snide comments about our friends, discuss the politics of Guatemala and give each other beauty tips; more so, she will give me beauty tips, but I will act as though I am deeply interested in how to put on eye shadow that I do not, nor will I ever, own. And when we must finally say our goodbyes, I will have my proper Spanish grammar to remind me of our good times together and she will have a coffee mug with my face plastered across it.

Guatemala, to me, has been Ana and our incessant coffee drinking, our humor at each others languages, the way I pronounce “c├ímara” and she pronounces “whose,” soaking up sun on the terrace together and commenting on the unsuspecting people below. But Guatemala has also been my home stay here in Quetzaltenango. Each morning I wake up ten minutes before breakfast, leisurely walk to the kitchen where my host mom, Lisseth, comments on how cold my feet must be without shoes and then we sit down to our first meal of the day. We listen to a political radio show, she makes disgusted noises at the news of the day and then explains the disconnect between the politics of Guatemala and the real life of Guatemalans. We drink tea. We converse in Spanish. I nod my head a lot, but unlike the first two weeks in Xela, now I actually know why I am nodding. I understand her, in a way beyond language. We keep each other from being lonely in the afternoons and we play with Peggy, the lazy but well loved dog of the house. She makes me extra plantains to celebrate good grades.

My host dad is a less frequent but very vital aspect of my life in Xela. We only spend time with each in the afternoons. At around 1:20 each day you could find us sitting on the couch watching the news. Sometimes he switches channels and lands on explicit music videos of Shakira and then I blush and we have conversations like this (it has been translated into English to better suit my audience):

Dad: Molly, do you like McDonald’s?
Molly thinking ‘absolutely not’ but saying: Umm, yes, of course. knowing that we need something in common, and I can clearly see it in his eyes and in the way he asked the question that he is a big fan of the Golden Arches
Dad: What do you like to eat there?
Molly desperate for something: Chocolate milkshakes.
Dad: Really?
Molly: And French fries. What do you like?
Dad: Meekree?
Molly: Meekree? What is meekree?
Dad: You know, a meekree. They used to have it but now they do not.
Molly: I do not think I know what meekree is. What is it made of?
Dad: You know, cow. It is the ree of the cow.
Molly: McRib! You like McRib!
Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.
Dad: Yes! Cow! McRib!

Yesterday afternoon we had another bonding moment when I tried hot pepper at lunch, and then I asked for some more, understanding that I was putting my already sensitive intestines in more undue stress than necessary. However, my dad thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I liked spicy food. Then when my host mom said it was cold, as she does at least once every five minutes, he said that she should eat some pepper and then he smiled and winked at me. I think we might have an inside joke that I am not clear on, but one thing I am sure, he did not take it personally that I went the whole day not knowing it was his birthday.

With the pierced and scabbed hands of the one who sacrificed all for us all,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Buen Provecho!

I confidently walked down the streets of Xela this afternoon, the sun warming my recently tanned face. Merely thirty minutes prior to my walk, I had successfully bought tamales for my host family and made a semi-delicious Guatemalan lunch complete with that tinge of spicy-ness. I was wearing clean clothes, a colorful scarf and my hair, recently bathed in hot spring water directly from a waterfall, was behaving moderately well. The stars were aligning. The air was clean. And then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large white horse approaching me as I can only assume would be described as a canter. Why was there a large horse running behind me? And then I realized, it was not in fact a white horse but a large white truck. It nipped my shoulder. Yes, my friends, for the first time this trip, I had near brush with death. For several weeks I have been told that I am too bold when crossing the street, but in order to get from one place to another in Guatemalan cities, its necessary to be a little bold. Today I was humbled.

To reward myself for escaping death, I met friends at a cafe and ordered a crepe which is a surprisngly Guatemalan specialty. In a few minutes, I am going to go put a picture of my face on a mug for my teacher. I have to tell her goodbye soon, and we're pretty much in love with each other (except for the fact that she's married and we're both into men). I feel like I am courting her because I bought her a heart shaped brownie, flowers and now this mug- my mug on a mug! Puns!- but Ana is so worth it. She's a sassafrass for sure. We get along well.

On Sunday I move to the rural village of Cantel. There will be no running water, internet or electricity so I probably won't be blogging anytime in the next week, not that I have been exceptionally good at posting at any point in Guatemala. In a little over a week, I move to San Salvador which I will call home for somewhere between five and six weeks. I will study Liberation Theology and live in a house with 18 other people. I am excited to continue this journey, although leaving Guatemala is going to be very, very sad.

Also, my host dad said that it is snowing in Miami, Florida. Truth or fiction? Lost in translation?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Guatemala: Primera Vez

Welcome to me being completely awful at communication. I knew that my track record for blogging would soon take a drastic decline; I just never knew it would happen during a very exciting time in my life. So I will make a concerted effort to reverse the affects of my laziness. I would like to mention, however, that I am pretty sure I’ve lost the blogging touch. My English is becoming increasingly less eloquent and I find myself have trouble expressing myself in any language. It’s a problem that has frustration and comedy surrounding it at all times. So here's to the first Guatemala blog- one of many, if I play my cards right and find the time to catch some free internet time.

I have found that the more time I spend engulfed in lifestyles and cultures altogether unlike my own Midwest upbringing, the more I realize how much I do not know. To say that a culture is complex is an absolute understatement- and that is precisely what makes cultures so attractive to me. They are deeper and richer and more complicated than one can ever really grasp. It is history, politics, food, economics, religion, tradition, ancestry, environment- and million other aspects- wrapped into the lifestyle of hundreds and thousands and millions of people. Outsiders can study it, poke it and attempt to deconstruct each aspect only to reconstruct an image that will never truly capture the beauty that encompasses cultures and peoples. It is a blatant mystery set out before me each day as I breathe the Xela air and walk down the road to school. I see a land and people that can never be captured in study- much less by these words on these pages- and I relax in that impossibility to fully understand why they do what they do. Because if I comprehend it all, the mystery would be gone along with some of the beauty. The excitement of sharing meals and stories in Spanish with my host parents would be lessened. It is comfortable to feel like one is understood, in fact, it seems almost crucial for one’s own sanity at times. It is comfortable to be surrounded by people similar and familiar, but I feel like my life is not truly being lived if I am not making an effort to search for humanity and familiarity in others who not at first appear like myself. I guess in the last few days I have just accepted that there will be great times of loneliness and sadness, but that is not a bad thing. It stretches me and forces me to reach beyond my selfish sadness and toward humanity. If I work to move past these emotions that are quite honestly a barrier to really loving people, then and only then, will I truly be living.

Also, last weekend I went zip lining on the longest zip line in Central America. And I met two men named Jorge and Carlos who strapped me to the cables and let me go. Ay yi yi!