Guatemala City, and, my experience with Sarcasm

Guatemala City has everything you may ever need in three places walking-distance of each other: Hyper-Paiz, a Wal-Mart type of store, Tikal Futura, a mall, and Mira Flores, another mall. Yes, there are two incredibly large malls right next door to each other. Why? I’m not sure that question really came up during the entire construction process. I’m not quite sure Guatemalans understand that question at all most of the time, or at least, think of it as a worthy question to be asking. Why are you feeding your three-year-old son coffee for breakfast? Why are you building a second artisan market in town when you first one isn’t getting any business? Why do you blast out-of-key music from the church loudspeakers at three o’clock in the morning? Why do you always cook food for 50 people when you know you’re only going to sell it to 20? These are just a handful of the many why questions I would like to have answered in the next two years. Anyway, the mall was just a mall, the food wasn’t that great, and the whole trip to Guate was a huge energy-vacuum for me. Luckily, I arrived home relatively early and had some time to recharge before watching the Blue guys and Red guys fight on horseback once again.

I feel extremely lucky that I get along with my family members so well, and that they are some of the very, very few Guatemalans who know what sarcasm is and are willing to have that kind of fun with me. I’m also glad that my Spanish is finally at that level where I can understand more of the jokes that are going on at my expense and can come up with some type of intelligent retort. I think they find it even funnier that I can give it back. I bond much more quickly with people who have my sense of humor; it’s feels more natural to have a good time with them and just plain easier for us to understand each other.

This is how I feel about my host-sister Miriam. She’s 30, so a bit older than I am, but isn’t married (yet, but she will be in December) and doesn’t have any kids so she’s the closest I have to a peer in the household to hang out with. I think she likes having me around too. I get the feeling that usually when she’s at home she has work to do, as do all the other women of the house, and there isn’t so much time for chit-chat as they’re all doing different things at different times. When I’m home, the only thing I can contribute fairly well to is the cooking of the dinner, which is usually what Miriam does. I’m not much help at making tortillas (yet), which is usually what Doña Esperanza and her daughter-in-law Sophia are doing in the evenings. So, I think that I’m one of her main outlets for friendly chatting which I really like. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, she’s really patient with me and my attempt at Spanish, speaks slowly and annunciates which makes all the difference, and has interesting stories to share and likes to hear the stories that I have, too.

I was talking to a person in my group today about what type of two-year site we would prefer: isolated, big city, small pueblo, no electricity or running water, or the works. I realized that the things I like most about this town I’m in now are the friendships and the proximity to everything. I hang out with the people in my group in my spare time because we have fun together. I like the fact that I can walk down the block to buy a dozen eggs, walk the other direction another block and buy fresh cheese, or walk down four blocks to buy meats and fresh veggies. All I really want in my two-year site is the ability to make those kinds of friends that I like hanging out with, and the proximity to all my necessities. I can deal without hot water. I could probably deal without electricity. But I think without a local support system I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

This is why I’m trying so hard to improve my Spanish. I know that it will come naturally in time just by living here, but the more comfortable I am speaking the more outgoing I know I’ll be able to be and the more easily I’ll be able to converse with the locals and form relationships. I also think that it’s important to have a meaningful conversation with somebody in order to really get to know their personality, and I’ll never be able to have a meaningful conversation without a much more advanced grasp on the language. And at two weeks in, with nine more to go in the training process, truthfully I’m feeling pretty good. Except for that time that I ate cheese before bed, I’m all-in-all feeling really good.

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