Volcan del Fuego

Last night was the first night in my new host family’s house and I slept so good. No roosters (gallos), no firecrackers, no church music, no footsteps from the floors above me. Nothing. I woke up at 7:30 on my own clock and the first thing I saw when I looked outside was smoke coming out of a volcano! This is normal and also really neat, because I’ve never seen an active volcano. I took a few photographs but then everybody sat down for breakfast. I ate two more tamales for breakfast. After, I helped a little with some cooking, but in the middle of cooking my host mother asked me if I wanted to go with her (where? I didn’t know, but I said yes anyway). She put a huge bucket of corn granules, that had been soaked in water and boiled over a fire for an hour, on her head and we walked downstairs and down a few blocks. We came to a small room with a large machine called a “molino” which is used to grind the granules into corn-mush called “masa“. We dumped our bucket of granules into the feeder and then something that rotates pretty fast ground them and deposited them into a receptacle. The old woman managing the machine felt the masa with her hand as it came out and kept adjusting the amount of water being added. We packed the masa back into the bucket and she put it back on her head as we walked back to the house.

After I returned and started cooking a little more, I was invited out for a walk with my host sister Miriam about the town. We met two friends of the family, sisters, who both sell hand-made traditional Mayan clothing and other woven goods in the Artisan center in town. All the things sold there are so beautiful! So many colors and types of clothing and table cloths and purses and wallets. If it is made out of cloth there is probably somebody in that center that sells it. There is also a small museum with around 15-20 wooden manikins dressed up in traditional clothing of different parts of Guatemala. I liked reading the paragraph-ish captions that a few of them had, because reading things in Spanish is sooooo much easier for me than listening. After the tour of the museum we walked a few more blocks to buy some more meat for other things the family would be making and selling later that day. Miriam also took me by the cemetery and “cancha”, or sports field, where people play basketball and fútbol.

We returned to the house and continued cooking a few more things. I also sat downstairs for a half hour or so watching the women make tortillas to sell. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day for them so it makes sense that lunchtime is when they sell the most tortillas. The tortillas made here are simply corn and water (masa) rolled into a sphere and flattened by patting the ball between the two palms of the hand, and cooked on a flat surface called a “comal” underneath which is a wood fire. I try and limit myself now to two tortillas per meal (the diameter of one tortilla is about the length of a normal iPod), but I’m sure in a few months when I’m so tired of tortillas it will be much easier. There’s just something so delicious about eating food that is fresh and handmade and warm.

After lunch, which was “sopa de arroz” y “guisado con pollo”, I met up with one other trainee from my town. I showed him around the Artisan building and down a few other streets as we talked in English for the first time in 24 hours. We happened to run into two other trainees from the neighboring town crashing our territory with their host brothers. We six walked around with nothing particular in mind for the next half hour or so and then all went to our respective homes.

I got another chance to go out even after I got back from that voyage, because I needed to buy a towel and a couple books, and an aunt in the family has a store in town. All the stores in town sell a little bit of everything, so if you need toothpaste, crayons, firecrackers, baby clothing, gum, and lettuce, you could pretty much walk in to any one store and be done for the day. I bought a towel, a blank cuaderno for drawing, and a littler libreta (“little book“) to make my own little personal dictionary. Cost, Q55.50, or, about US $7 at 8 Quetzals per U.S. dollar.

In the evening, we set up a stand outside the house with a gas-powered stove to sell food for dinner. We had tostadas with a variety of toppings, “dobladas” which are tortillas folded over with potato in the middle then sealed and deep-fried, and “pupusas” which is a tortilla, only before it’s cooked, it gets cheese put in the middle. All with a variety of toppings. My favorite was the doblada with a scoop of avocado on top. There was also atoll, which is a sweet rice-milk drink served hot. I don’t like that so much, but maybe if I have another type that is not so sweet it will be better. By the time everybody was done selling the food and packing up it was around 9:30 at night and everybody was ready to descansar and go to bed. Como yo. Ahora.

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