I can already tell what a challenge this trip is going to be. I hope that by keeping up with my blog, the rest of you are encouraged to do something like this, despite the times it sounds hard. I am wanting to write about the difficult times as well as the good times so that you can get a real life feel for what it would be like. The truth is that life is always going to throw us curveballs. It’s how we handle them is what’s in question. I feel like any trip such as this is a great way to learn how to overcome curveballs with positivism. You have no choice here but to live with the things that are given to you.
Yesterday I mentioned that I have a cute little house to stay in. It is a middle class Guatemalan family home. Middle class here, in my opinion, probably equates to upper lower class in the US (although I am not sure what defines upper lower class there, so I can’t say for sure). There are no glass windows in the house that I have seen. At least… not the glass I’m used to. It almost seems like plexi-glass to me. In my room, you can swing this little wooden/plexi-glass thing open to get fresh air, but it doesn’t really fit it’s frame properly so it is kind of open all the time anyways. And it most definitely does not block out noise. And we are right on the street. Suffice to say, being a light sleeper, I did not get a good night’s rest last night. Cars and wobbly trucks tumbling over the uneven cobblestone right past my window. People talking and walking around as late as 1 AM and getting up talking as early as 5 AM. Neighbors talking. Dogs barking forever. Roosters that crow at every moment of the day and night. And church bells that ring at ungodly hours of the morning. It’s a noisy place. Additionally, it’s an adjustment to get used to no A/C. It wasn’t terribly bad, perhaps like a hot night in GA when the A/C just can’t beat the heat, so I think I will adjust quickly to that problem. The beds are rather hard, as well as the pillows. So the house is very interesting. I will try to get pictures up as soon as I have a chance to do some photography around here. It will be hard to get used to the noise and lack of comforts with my sleeping issues, but as I said- There’s no choice. I WILL get used to it. Earlier, I actually was having trouble finding an outlet in my room and had to charge my phone in the bathroom last night. When my laptop died today, I finally found one behind one of the beds in my room. Outlets are definitely something we take for granted. I was rather shocked when I was under the impression that my room didn’t have one!
The “hot water” they told us that all middle-class Guatemalan families have is powered ELECTRICALLY right above you in the shower. We are NOT to touch the little white thing, as it supposedly gets really hot. Well… electrically powered things such as these CAN create hot water, but only with very low water pressure or gets hot by the time you’re done showering. So it’s a choice between warm showers with no water pressure and cold showers with better pressure. HA! Apparently ours is finicky though so we will get hot showers sometimes and not other times. They also said I did not bring too much luggage and that there is plenty of space for luggage, but I would beg to differ. I have one dresser in my room and it is poorly constructed. It hurts your hands to open it and makes a god-awful-lot of noise. So I am storing my things that I don’t need often in there. Even so, it would not fit much of my stuff and I don’t have a lot of space to put things conveniently. I forgot my fold-up shower caddy and that would definitely be something good to have, as there is no storage space in the shower for the amount of people staying here. So my suitcases are currently displayed on 2 of my 3 twin beds and I will be basically living right out of a suitcase for 6 months.
Last night I was in the bathroom when I heard “POW POW POW” and my first instinct was “OMG A GUN!” Since the toilet doesn’t have a window I had to wait to see what happened, but it stopped before I could see. While I was in there, it did it over and over and I eventually heard the familiar crackle of a firework following the POW. I learned today in orientation that “if you hear something that sounds like a gun, it’s fireworks.” They love fireworks here apparently and set them off for everything from Guatemalan holidays to US holidays to everybody’s holidays. They also set them outside your door on your birthday. SURPRISE! I hope to see some from my lovely rooftop.
Also with orientation, I had a Spanish placement test. To my surprise, I met the people I will be working for AND also had my first Spanish class. I thought those would be the day after orientation, but nope. More on those later. I found out I will be working at a shelter for abused girls around the teenage years, so I am no longer sure what I will do with all these balloon animals that I brought. Again, another lesson in going with the flow. Everything. EVERYTHING here is completely out of my control. I can at least use the balloons with the niños that live in the house with me. And since I have six months, I could always switch halfway through if I so choose. So I will go for it and give it a try. 8:00 am – 12pm. And Spanish classes (By the way- they won’t speak ANY English durante these classes) are 4-6pm. I had hoped I had spanish in the morning 8-10 and placement 11-2/3 so that I could have a few hours before the sun goes down at 6/7 pm each day, but I did not get what I wanted.
I was shocked to find out that my “pre-intermediate” level of Spanish is only a .5/1 out of 4 scoring level. I have so much to learn. They said Antigua had a lot of people that understand English, but I haven’t met any yet. It’s intimidating. And I started my classes today. I thought I would get a nap today, but nope. I had orientation followed by lunch followed by meeting the place where I will be working followed by Spanish classes followed by dinner. But, everything ends so early here that I think I should not have a problem catching up on sleep later. Once I get used to all the noise, that is.
Although in comparison to the US, I am living in an awful situation right now, I very much think I am quite well off for this trip. I have super fun housemates (although most of them will be gone despues de 2 weeks.) One member of our house is a Spanish major so she has been helpful in translating the host parents for the rest of us. The kids are impossible to understand though (I can’t even understand some English speaking kids). I get filtered water to drink for free at the house and all my meals provided. I get a bed and I get to live a block away from my Spanish classes and the internet. I have my own room and get to choose which one I want after all the other girls leave. I have a rooftop view of the surrounding volcanoes and I have my own 3-pronged outlet in my current room. And, at least it seems so far, the Guatemalans aren’t as bad about time as the Costa Ricans were. I’m not sure if I could ever get used to a 1:00 lunch being at 3:00. Our host mom is usually within 30 minutes of when she says.
So far, for food I have had 2 US-like meals and one Guatemalan meal. I had spaghetti tacos por la cena last night. I had FRUIT LOOPS and a banana for crying out loud por desayuno this morning. What is this? It’s okay. It’s nice to have some familiar things towards the beginning so that I don’t feel overwhelmed with all the things I have to get used to. Then for almuerzo this afternoon, I had “Pepian de Pollo.” It was very good. It had potatoes, grean beans, red peppers, and “Guisquil” which looked like a green potato (when cooked), but I’m not sure how to describe the flavor of it. Not too complex, but that’s good for my picky tastebuds. It was served with tortillas which they roll and dip in the sauce (just like a curry). We also had limonada. It was muy bien. Maybe we’ll have another típico Guatemalan meal tonight!
The place where I am working we call “Rosa’s” and it is a 45 minute ride by Chicken bus. That is, a painted school bus that they pack so much that there may be up to 6 people across, plus people standing going around curvy roads. Hold on!! No one speaks english at these projects except for other volunteers. At least for this week, there is only one other volunteer working with me and tomorrow he may still be laying out sick with his stomach issues. Which would mean I have to find my own way on my first day! EEK! (They showed us the way today and gave us directions, but I haven’t quite caught on yet to feel comfortable enough to do this! Too bad for me. It will happen anyways if he is still sick!) And apparently they need help teaching the girls to clean better. Just when I thought I was done housekeeping. Oi vay.