Continuing with my 2009 blog posts…..
Monday, 09 February 2009 00:00 Tracesea Slater
It is my third day in Guatemala and I finally have an opportunity to find the internet. Right now I am in a internet cafe, minus the cafe. There are lots of computers and maybe ten people, all of whom look like they live here. The keyboard has stickers for the letters and I´m having some technical difficulties with the keys sticking, but here goes…
I arrived in Guatemala City on Saturday afternoon. I was struck by the rusting metal roofs on tiny buildings along dirt streets as I flew in, right next door were the large green spaces of what appeared to be a very nice golf course. Affluence juxtaposed with poverty. The airport was like any smallish airport. I quickly made it through customs and outside to a sea of people waiting for travelers. Many had signs with names on them and others were just taxis looking for customers. I didn´t see my name anywhere so I moved to the side to wait. After turning down several eager taxi drivers, including a very nice man who offered to let me use his phone, I saw Marco. I could see the paper in his hand with “Tracy” written on it and as soon as he looked at me, he knew I was to be his passenger. I imagine that I looked like an out of place gringa with my big backpack and the confused look on my face. Marco immediately started speaking to me in Spanish and I understood about 50 percent of what he said.
He took me on an exciting car ride through the city, which for the most part looked like what we would commonly refer to in the US as the ghetto. At one point he pulled over to a market and negotiated with a young man over a car radio. He explained that his radio was stolen from his car one time when he forgot to lock it. He insisted that he needed a radio, which was evidenced by his frequent singing during our voyage. The price was too high and so we moved on, but now I also understood his obsession with checking all the car doors each time we stopped. He took me to see a Cathedral and a museum, which I took very quick pictures of as he was stopped in traffic. Then he took me to his church. We parked this time and went inside. The church was beautiful and large. It had many statues inside, of Jesus, Mary and Saints.
I was later to see the photos that Marco takes of the statues and that his son makes into posters and other materials in his job as a graphic designer. The posters can be seen at different locations around the city, including the bus station I would visit the next day.
We arrived in his house later that afternoon and he showed me around. In order to get into his neighboorhood we had to go through a gate and show a pass. He explained that the area outside was dangerous and full of gangs. Unlike gated communities in the US, this community looked very similar to the one on the outside. After seeing some of the city and then going to Marco´s house it was clear that he is better off than many in Guatemala and I suppose would be considered middle class. In comparison to the US, his house was very similar to a working class style and reminded me of many houses I have been in . He had lots of pictures of his family and decorations that many middle class Americans would consider tacky. I found his house and his company delightful! His family was very friendly and I had good opportunities to practice my Spanish.
That night I ate delicious tamales and took an extremely cold shower, which was really just a trickle of water. I watched a funny movie in Spanish with Marco´s son Oliver and learned why everyone laughed at something I had said at dinner. Apparently, instead of saying the sauce was spicy, I referred to it as a certain body part that is not supposed to be part of polite conversation. I´m sure that won´t be the last faux pas I commit here!
The next morning, I left with Marco and my coworker Nichole, who had arrived late the night before, to pick up another student at the airport. The other student, Clayton, was from Canada and his lack of sleep mixed with questionable Spanish skills kept us laughing for the whole ride to the bus station. Marco bought our tickets for Xela and then we hung out in the convenience store across the street where we drank coffee and laughed about how Clayton thought ´bebidas frescas´meant free babies, instead of cold drinks.