A Mujer Kind of Day

Tuesday 3.30.10

Today I was the epitome of a mujer (woman): I made tortillas, I carried stuff on my head without it falling for a large distance (two times, one was groceries, one was four chairs), I wore a skirt and sandals into the wilderness, I diagnosed the ill (chicken pox, which apparently is very uncommon here), I went to church and started helping to make an alfombra (literally, rug). I mujered it out.

An alfombra is basically a rug made up of flowers, fruits, colored sawdust, or other things of that small and plentiful sort that one can find and make into a rectangular piece of art on the street. During Semana Santa, the holy week of Easter, people dressed in purple carry big statues of Jesus and sometimes other cool dudes and ladies through the streets very slowly over these alfombras. Yes, that’s it. If you’re thinking that alfombras are not very cool than you are right, but all of Guatemala seems to go crazy over them and I have to pretend that I’m crazy about them too. It’s okay, I can hang. All we did today was collect sawdust, sift it (because, don’t you know, only the finest sawdust in the land is good enough for a plastic replica of Jesus), and then dye it different colors to make a picture or a pattern in the church tomorrow.

On a downer note, when I arrived yesterday I was informed that the place where I was storing my things had been broken into and my baggage had been rummaged through. I brought as much stuff as possible with my on my site visit so I wouldn’t have that much to bring the second trip, and I left it in the “hotelito” where I stayed those four nights because that’s what I was told to do. I was never given a key nor told that I should lock the door when I left. I was never told that the window was unlocked and open nor that it even had the capability of being open. I was shocked when my counterpart called me on Thursday telling me that it looked like someone or something (he imagined it was a dog because it looked like things had gotten eaten) had gotten into the room and went through my stuff. I found out yesterday that it was in fact a couple of small children, and we know who they are, who had crawled through the window and started eating my stuff. Weird stuff.

They opened about a dozen of my tampons. They ate some of my shampoo. They took and/or ate all of the packets of instant hot chocolate that I had. They ate their way through some of the standard issue medicine the Peace Corps office gives us. They took my dozen sharpies and all 12-15 of my favorite favorite pens in all colors. They opened up both glasses cases, removed the glasses, and only took one of the cases; the glasses were left strewn about on the floor in the midst of hot chocolate powder. They took my Oakleys, my best pair of sunglasses that I have had for 5 1//2 years without losing. So much for that. I brought a little extra of everything bathroom: deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, chapstick, etc… There ain’t nuttin’ left but one tube of toothpaste. They took my deet. They got into my makeup too, took some and left some. I don’t get it.

I was told that they were eating stuff. I don’t know if I believe that. I didn’t see what the room looked like after they were done destroying it, but I really wish I had because maybe I could have figured out what they were actually doing. I was also told that it was two really young kids, maybe 4-6 years old. I don’t know if I believe that either. Part of me realizes that I really should have asked for a key, should have asked if the place is secure and safe. Most of me didn’t want to be a confianza-killer. I don’t want to blame anybody, but I really didn’t know what else I could have done to prevent this from happening. My counterpart told me how worried he was and I really wanted to tell him “well, you should be worried. This is your fault. Why didn’t you lock the door or bother to tell me the window was unlocked?” But of course I can’t do that. I can’t do or say a lot of things that I’ll be wanting to for the next few years.

On an upside, I did go for a beautiful 2 or 3 hour walk today with my host sister. Here the mujeres wear their traje, traditional skirts blouses and sandals, everywhere. Into the field, to church, on hikes, even playing basketball. So we went with our skirts and sandals and completely inappropriate clothing for a hike mostly on a dirt trail but partly through horse pasture, over and under barbed wire fences, through wilderness and in mud puddles. It was great. It was beautiful. I want to be able to do this everyday, and as long as I can convince someone to go with me I think I can. They just don’t let women do those kinds of things by themselves - at least not me, or not yet.

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