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Dirt, Dogs, Bathrooms and Bedrooms

Wednesday, 11 February 2009 00:00 Tracesea Slater


El Nahual is located at the edge of the city as it goes into the rural area. The main road to the school is dirt and rocks. It is also very much uphill. By the time I almost get to the school I am out of breath. The dust here is pretty bad from the streets also there is pollution from the vehicles that often emit black smoke, in addition, the nearby volcano erupts and there is smoke from that. Each day I clean out my nose at night and the tissue is black.

the hill going back into town from school

There are dogs everywhere here in the streets all of which are very pitiful looking and many seem on the verge of death. Some follow you for a while, presumably looking for food. Apparently some of the dogs are rabid and we are recommended to not touch the dogs or approach them. If they start to growl or chase us we are told to pick up a rock and make a motion of throwing it. If a growling rabid pack of dogs starts to chase me I will have no problem actually throwing rocks at them. Luckily, so far I have not had this problem. Usually dogs will just follow me for little bit and then go away when I don´t give them anything.

dog tired

Everyday when as I walk the streets, I see women carrying large things on their heads. Sometimes they are not holding onto the the packages on their heads but balancing them. Often they have other things in their hands like bags, baskets or even chairs! I am amazed by this because the roads are so uneven and rocky and I have to be careful so I don´t trip and fall.


When you go to the bathroom here you cannot put the paper in the toilet. There is always a garbage can and you put the toilet paper in there. It is hard to remember to do this because it is such a habit to put the paper in the toilet. If you don´t remember the toilet can get clogged up. So far this hasn´t happened to me and I hope it doesn´t…

school bathroom

The sinks here often have two knobs, one for hot and one for cold, but only one works…the cold. At my house, they don´t do dishes in the morning because the water is so cold from the night before. The shower automatically has cold water and if you want luke warm water you have to flip a switch that is outside of the shower and looks like the switches on a circuit breaker. If you want a cold shower you can have a large trickle of water and if you want a warm shower you get a small trickle. I never realized how luxurious the shower at my house in the US is!

chilly shower

Before I left for Guatemala, my husband joked with me that I would be in a family where there were lots of children who were all sharing a room to sleep and I would have my own room. We joked about how the children might look in my room enviously as I had the whole room to myself. Well, we really weren´t too far off. Last night I realized that all three children and the grandmother shared a room. Tony and Maria Jose share one bed and Sonia and Jennifer share the other one. This is very different from the US where we usually all have our own room. Also, it would be rare for a brother and sister to share a room and even rarer a bed. After seeing that they were all sharing the room, I felt pretty guilty about having a room all to myself.

mi cuarto

Well, I  have to go now, look for gloves and start some manual labor. Later I can look forward to my warm trickle to wash away all the dirt. I think I will sleep well tonight.


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