Big News in the Family

This weekend one of Paulina’s daughters (Paulina is mi abuela or grandmother, here) flew to Canada for a 4 month internship. She will be working with a program in Saskatchewan that provides services to rural communities. She’s pretty good at English (about as good as I am at Spanish, I guess), but she’ll be getting quite a lot more practice in Canada, that’s for sure! She will be in Vancouver the first week for some kind of orientation, then she will move to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for the duration of her visit.

She normally lives and studies in Xela. She’s one of several kids Paulina has in Xela. Last time I was here I noticed her making way more tortillas than even I eat and asked why. Turns out once a week she sends a batch of tortillas to Xela on a chicken bus unattended. At the other end, one of the kids picks up the tortillas and distributes them. She says she does it because corn is cheaper here in San Pedro. Also, I suspect it’s a matter of time, and motherly love. She’s got the time to do the work here, and her kids don’t (so the would have to eat machine made tortillas, which are more expensive since you have to pay for the shop, the equipment, the labor, the profit, etc).

Finally, in Latin American cultures, it’s always worth considering the gender aspect. At least one of her children in Xela is a man, and men don’t cook. In fact, when I express interest in what’s going on in the kitchen the women here are a little surprised (but not too much, as they have had gringos living with them for years now). Time and again I wonder what life would be like here if I were a woman traveler. I suspect there are some walls between me and the mothers who feed me that would fall away after a bit.

This is the first person in the family to travel outside of Central America. In honor of her trip, the entire family traveled with her to Guatemala City to send her off. They all got up at 2 am this morning and took the bus in, then returned this afternoon. I think there were at least 6 people traveling with her to the Guatemala airport.

It was heartwarming to see the same kind of excitement, sadness, and fear before a big trip in this family that I see in my own. Paulina washed her daughter’s backpack for her (just like my Mom helped me do earlier this year!) and all the women worked together in the kitchen preparing snacks to take on the bus with them.

After dinner tonight, Paulina asked me, “Are the taxi drivers in Canada dangerous?” She was worried because with layovers and whatnot, her daughter will not arrive in Vancouver until 8 pm. Arriving in a strange city at 8 pm in Guatemala is a big no-no. When I am traveling here, I always aim to be indoors in a safe place (like my hotel or family) by sunset. Once I know a city a bit more, I may stay out after dark, but only after getting a feel for it during the day. So, you can understand this Guatemalan mother’s concern. I reassured her that Canada is a much safer country than Guatemala is, and that in particular the taxis are safe.

The other thing Paulina probably does not know about Canada is how long the summer days are up there. Something that I really miss about summer in the tropics is that the days are still about 12 hours long, instead of the amazing 16 hour days we get up north. According to sunset comes at 8:15 pm this time of year in Vancouver, whereas it comes at 6 pm down here.

It has been much rainer recently. Towards the end of the week the weather changed from spring-like days with afternoon and evening thunderstorms to slow, consistent rain with short breaks of clouds but no rain. At least the mornings start out nice, but that can be a problem because it is easy to get caught out with shorts and no jacket as the rain starts for another 12 hours. It was quite cold this evening, as a result of the afternoon of rain. When I got back to my room the first thing I did was put on some socks! Tomorrow I think I will leave the house wearing my boots instead of my sandals.

I was hoping to go to Santiago Atitlan this weekend for a day trip, but I stayed indoors today instead. Perhaps tomorrow will be better weather, and I can go then.

Whoa! As I was writing this a giant green cricket-like thing came flying in my room and landed on the wall, narrowly missing my head. I got Paulina to show her, and she said “It’s Delores.” As I stood there, stunned, trying to understand how it was that I had lived in this house almost a month and not met the family pet, Delores the Cricket, she clarified: “In Tz’utujil, it’s called a
delores”. (I suspect I have the spelling wrong on the Mayan word for cricket, but it sure sounded like Delores.) I explained why I was confused, and they thought it was pretty funny.

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