22 octubre 2010-viernes
It’s 4:50am and my mind is too awake to allow sleep, so I will satisfy its demand to process all that has happened in the past few days. Wednesday was a national holiday celebrating the Revolution, so governmental offices were closed. I spent the day with my host family in a neighboring village, at the home of my host father’s cousin. Many hands were put to work harvesting, sorting, and shucking the purple corn which would become tortillas. As the “Gringa” without much farm knowledge, I was sent off to play with the four kids, so we wandered the dirt streets exploring the school, church, and park.
Two children, ages 5 and 9, wanted to learn some English words…which sounded so strange aloud after conversing in Spanish. I know that I’m likely to be involved in teaching some English classes at some point. During lunch, various family members complained how all of the medicine bottles are written in English, so they seek the prescription name supplied by the doctor but know little else. Such potential for problems if people can’t read dosages or side effects!
News flash! I am now Teresa (or Doña Teresa), having adopted a new name. The harsh ‘j’ of my name is too difficult for Guatemalans to pronounce, and I didn’t want to be “yanet” for 2 years nor did I like “Juana or “Juanita”, the Spanish equivalent. Of course, my lovely daughter has already teased me: Madre Teresa (Mother Theresa), but hey, that’s not such a bad role model! My host dad has already shortened my name to Tere (Terray) to be more cariñosa (friendly). It is difficult to answer to a new name, so it is a mental effort to perk up my ears at my name….so I shall now be Teresa, Teresita, Tere, or Terry (to fellow Peace Corps volunteers)…a sign of my ongoing metamorphosis.
My camera at home, I had to just mentally capture the scene of this Mayan family sitting on the concrete floor…shucking corn industriously while they conversed in K’iché, with the tiny 79 year old great grandma working alongside quickly and silently, bent over in body and work. During lunch, there was curiosity as to my presence here, and my eventual work. Mention of baking brought out interest in learning to make pizza and cakes, so baking classes are likely to be on the horizon.
The reward for the day’s labor was a trip to the local thermal baths. My host parents assumed that I would want privacy, so I had a large 5 x 8 ft concrete tub all to myself in a room, while they had the adjacent room. Price was 10 Quetzales or $1.20 for an hour. Two spigots allowed me to control the temperature of the water as it poured in. I delighted in back floating in my watery bed, although I found myself wanting some company. There are 5 larger pools for public use (lower cost) and 15+ individual rooms for those who want more privacy. Many times it has been pointed out to us how conservative are Guatemalans, especially the indigenous population; however, obviously the opportunity for warm baths at the low cost of 1 quetzal ($.15) helped them to shed some inhibitions. Men did have on shorts or swim trunks, but openly soaped up inside them, and some women were topless as they scrubbed themselves, children, and spouses. Not too surprising since breastfeeding is very open in this culture. So it was very much a family scene as all ages enjoyed the earth’s warming waters. After an hour of thermal soaking, I was deliciously exhausted and headed to bed after a light dinner.