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 “cámara” 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.
Molly: And French fries. What do you like?
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,