Monday, February 11, 2013

La vida diaria

Here are some random things that everyone needs to know about my life in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala:

Everyone here has great spatial reasoning skills. Mine are getting to be superb (and it was definitely an underdeveloped portion of my brain). When I first got here, just walking on the sidewalks was terrifying because they are extremely narrow and cars whiz by going like 60 through downtown. (Stopping for traffic lights, people, and other cars is entirely optional. The only incentive is the rarity of insurance). I inched along close to the buildings my first week. Now I let trucks whiz by three inches from my toes and hardly notice. Every once in awhile a side view mirror will love tap my backpack. (Okay, I’m exaggerating there.)

There’s also a nice code of sidewalk chivalry. I usually just naturally stay to the right, whether that puts me hugging the building or at the mercy of the road when someone needs to pass going the other direction. However, usually a man will look really offended if you step off the road for him rather than letting him take on the peril. So that’s always a nice gesture.

There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE. All different kinds, and they are all super cute. I feed them bread a lot. I know bread isn’t even nutritious to dogs, but I can’t help it and they like it!

My professor is a riot. Today in class we heard one of the students was out sick, so she jumped up and asked if I was allergic to smoke. Puzzled, I said no. She then pulled out a stash of eucalyptus leaves and a clay dish from the corner of the room. We then proceeded to have a small eucalyptus leaf campfire to purify the air from germs and bad spirits as per tradition. She also is VERY sensitive to the cold (granted it was also NEGATIVE FOUR CENTIGRADOS this morning, and our building is in the open air!!!). She wears a shirt, a sweatshirt, a vest, another sweatshirt, and a winter coat every day with a scarf and hat. She has a different hat for every day of the week. She is obsessed with Xela’s fĂștbol team and loves chocolate and bread, so we get along pretty well. On Friday during class we walked across the city to the Mennonite Bake Shop. I ate a glazed chocolate covered donut that was filled with peanut butter. Best idea ever. So when I say Spanish class is really difficult, I suppose I concede that it comes with an equal number of perks.

My host family is also still really great. My host mom is SUPER smart and I’m pretty sure she knows everything about everything (I’m 98% sure she’s hiding the fact that she’s nearly fluent in English). In corners all over the house and on every available shelf there are books about every subject available, including very extensive literature on medicine! My host brother is studying to be at optometrist. Nacho, their Chihuahua, is not my biggest fan and only recent stopped attacking me when I walk in the door. The two birds have cured me of any desire to have pet birds in my life, ever.

I see the downside to moving around so much. I am just now getting really comfortable with the city and feeling at home here and it is almost time to leave. I think it will take me much less time in San Salvador and Managua though. I have never traveled by myself or to anywhere truly foreign before, so I spent the first few weeks paying so much attention and being hyper-aware that I missed a lot of the finer points of the city. I notice new bakeries, landscaping, people, and scenery every day that I missed before just trying to make it to where I was going without getting lost. I definitely love Xela though and would come back here in a heartbeat. The fact that people walk everywhere means that even with a fairly large population people tend to walk the same places daily, so I am constantly running into familiar faces. It’s crazy to think that walking around Xela for the day I would easily run into probably ten people I know, but touring Round Rock it would be quite a coincidence to see more than 2 or 3.

Apparently I missed a little earthquake on Friday while we were traveling. My host mom said the hanging plants were swinging away during lunch. I'm a little upset I missed it, I've never felt an earthquake! I looked it up, it was a 4.7 with an epicenter a little ways across the Mexican border.

The only picture this time is a flower at my host family’s house. My host mom made a point to show it to me because apparently the plant only produces flowers a few times a year and the flower only lives for a few hours. But it is really beautiful!

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