Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 2

After a chilly night on the air mattress, we woke up at 6:30. I stuck my head under the cold shower, got dressed, and ate a breakfast of coffee, toast and nutella. We went up on the roof to see Guatemala City in the morning, and some of our hostel friends were up there, about to go to bed after a long night of bar hopping. Manuel took us to the bus stop; we bought our tickets to Queztaltenango, or Xela; and had an hour to wait around. At 8:30 the bus arrived, and we boarded. It started out about half full. We left the station, drove for maybe six minutes, and then stopped. The driver disappeared, lots of people came on, and lots of vendors came through selling tamales, key chains and sodas. After about 20 or 25 minutes, the driver reappeared and we got on our way. We stopped several more times in Guatemala city to pick people up and to host beggars and vendors. After we left the city, we started heading up. We drove through towns, through farm lands, and up lots of mountains. It was stunning. About three hours into the drive, I picked up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me, and had my first real conversation in Spanish of the trip. Though my grammar is awful, we managed to have a good chat, and as she got off the bus I felt much more prepared for my homestay. Though we were strongly advised to do this trip during the day time, there were parts that I wished it had been dark, places where the road just fell into the cliff below or where the cliff above had just toppled onto the road. About five hours after we boarded the bus, we arrived at the bus stop in Xela. Maggie’s host father and adorable little brother picked her up first, and my host mom and sister picked Daniel and I up about ten minutes later. It was not a long drive to our first stop, Daniel’s home stay. He is staying with my host mother’s mother, father, and nephew, Jose, who is eleven. We then drove about three blocks more and got to my family’s home. It is beautiful. It is two stories, with a third story terrace, a view of most of the city and a volcano or two, and it is very roomy. I put my stuff down in my room, and took a tour of the house. By this time, everything was in Spanish. My host family consists of my mother, Sonya, my father, Manuel, and my sister, Gabby. They spent fifteen years living in Jersey City, so my sister actually learned to read and write in English first. She is an English teacher at a high school in the city. However, her mother insisted right from the beginning that she was to speak no English to me, so everything was in Spanish. After the tour, Gabby and Sonya prepared lunch alone, despite all of my offers to help. I stood in the kitchen and we talked about where I’m from, their stories, etc. Manuel then joined us, and we ate lunch. They are all so kind, excited for me to learn Spanish, patient, and funny. After lunch, Daniel and Jose came to retrieve me. Jose is very talkative, very patient with us speaking Spanish, and a great eleven-year-old kid. It did not take him more than a few minutes to start treating us like older brothers. He took us to the cancho and we played soccer for a long time with just the three of us, and were then joined by another kid for a while. We shot around, played some basketball, and talked for a few hours.

When we were worn out, we walked back to Jose’s house, and drank some water. We then played in the street with nerf airsoft guns for a while. Since Maggie had my host mother’s number and we didn’t have hers, we walked back to my house, but my family was not home. Jose showed us his bunny and the chickens that live in a little walled in space next to our house. When we tried to get out, we realized that we had shut the door, and were completely locked in with eight or ten foot tall walls all around us. After trying the doors, I hoisted Daniel up over the wall, and he let us out.

We went back to Daniel and Jose’s house, had tea and bread that we picked up on the way and played go fish and spoons. I asked Jose’s grandma if I should call my mother to see where I should eat dinner, and she insisted that I eat at her house, so I didn’t even call. We ate dinner, just the Daniel, Jose and me, while Jose’s grandma sat with us and talked about the volcanoes around among other things. Dinner was exactly what I had hoped for a first homestay dinner: beans, tortillas, and plantains. After dinner, we played some more cards, and then I walked home.

When I got home, my mother was preparing dinner. I explained to her that I had already eaten, and then the entire family proceeded to have a long conversation in the kitchen. After talking in the kitchen for at least a half hour, we went into the dining room for dinner. I did not eat, but we sat there for at least two hours, talking about racism in Guatemala and the US, about the Maya and the American Indians, about Obama, Baltimore, and how to deal with classism and racism. After dinner, everyone went to bed, I wrote this entry, and now I get to sleep after a long and wonderful first full day.

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