We spent the first week in a home stay with a Guatemalan family, Noami and Carlos Ramirez and their grown children and their grandchildren, Carlitos (young Carlos), Sophia and Fernanda. Fernanda and Della are both ten and hit it right off. Carlitos and Lewis spent most their time trying to annoy the girls.
A typical day goes something like this. We wake up around 7am and get ready for school. Breakfast is served at 7:30 and is very simple but fortifying. We might have mushy mushy, which is similar to oatmeal, arroz con leche, pancakes, or beans and eggs.There is usually also a fruit, either papaya or boiled plantain and a pot of what I am affectionately calling coffee tea. Noami (pronounced No-ah-me) is a very good cook. She makes the most of very simple ingredients and everything is made from scratch. There is a wood fired stove in the tiny kitchen and on tortilla day, she soaks a huge bucket of dried corn, which she then grinds and makes in the best tortillas I’ve ever had, thick and chewy and filling. She also makes an odd corn concoction, very much like the our version of a tamales without any filling. These are served with every meal.
We walk the four blocks to school and begin our day. School starts at 8:00. The learning is very intense. We learn in one week what you would learn in a full school year. We have homework. We have to write and orate and speak only in Spanish while at school. If I take my eyes off the teacher for even five seconds I’m lost. It’s fascinating. Lewis sits beside me and soaks it all, no problema. It is so dang easy for him and I'm envious and proud! We took a test on Friday and I had to cheat off his paper. And then he told on me! Aye yi yi!
At 10:30 we get a break. We walk down the street a half block and sit on the sunny steps of the Claro building and wait for the fruit lady. And this is why a love to travel! For 5 quetzals (or a paltry fifty cents) we get a little fruit feast. The fruit is fresh and beautiful. If you like, and I like, she shakes salt and chili pepper into the bag and then squeezes half of a lime into it. It's the perfect morning snack! Next week, I'm going for the radish, cucumber, cabbage mix.
We all go back to school, work till noon and then head 'home'. Lunch is the big meal in Guatemala and the whole family is there.
We set up a piece of sheet metal on saw horses and cover it with table clothes. At night the table is broken down because the family car moves into the living room.
We eat at 1;00 and it's a simple but festive affair. Pasta with vegetables, spaghetti, potatoes, rice, beans, sometimes a vegetable salad and always bread and tortillas..Dinner is much more basic....eggs and beans, toast with eggs, ramen with black beans, alphabet soup, or tostadas with beans or a picante salsa. Dessert is always a frozen banana dipped in chocolate.
Our family has been hosting students for twenty years. They speak slowly and correct with kindness. We ask questions about their lives and customs and have learned more in one week than we could have any other way.
After lunch we relax and study for a bit. The kids do what kids do, play games, run around, go up on the roof and shoot off firecrackers and make numerous trips back and forth to the tienda down the street for bon bon bums and intensos. In Della's words, a bon bon bum is a lollipop inside a package. The package is full of crushed up sour pop rocks and you lick the pop and dip it. Inside the lollipop is a big ball of bubblegum and inside the package is a sticker. It's the perfect candy. It cost 1 quetzales which equals about a dime. Intensos are backwards oreos, but better.
On most days we have a school activity in the afternoon. We almost always walk.
On this particular day we walked to a nearby business making artisanal chocolate. The Guatemalans love their sweets, and they are typically much sweeter than we are used to. Cacao nut grows naturally here and we saw the process, from pod to chocolate bar. The ingredients are simple....cacao nut and sugar. The roasted beans are put through a heated grinder into a small mountain of sugar. Mix and repeat. That's it!
They are patted into little trays, which then dry overnight and are packaged. We sampled the raw cacao, the warm processed cacao and sugar, a cup of chocolate liquado, and then the ubiquitous frozen banana dipped in chocolate.
We go home, study some more, eat dinner at 7 on the dot and wind down for the night. Max watches Guatemalan netflix. The kids play till bedtime (Carlos will never stop moving for a photo!) and then we go to sleep.
It's amazing how quickly your life can make a sea change, if you want it to....that's the take away for today! Big Love from beautiful Guatemala!