Life in San Andrés

I have more time to write today, so here is a better description of my new life for the next few weeks.

First, a look at how my day goes. At 5 am or so, the roosters start making noise, which in turn wakes up the pigs who make snuffling noises in the street. In some parts of town, diesel powered corn grinders start up to grind the corn for the morning torillas. One gringa friend of mine here has one next door, and cheerfully uses it as an alarm clock. There are happily none near me, so I can sleep in. (I think my mama gets her tortillas from a tortilleria down the road.)

At 6 am, my alarm goes off. I get up, get dressed (t-shirt, shorts, Chacos) and wash my face. I have a private bedroom which is big enough, but probably a bit smaller than the one I lived in growing up. My window looks east, so I see the sunrise over the forest beyond the lake each morning. I’m not making this up. When I saw it the first morning I suspected I as just still dreaming. The bathroom is across the hall, and is quite a bit nicer than the one at Laye’s sister’s house in Senegal: the electrical doesn’t shock me, the toilet flushes without the use of a bucket, and the shower has a curtain.

(All that, and it’s still nicer than Karl’s bathroom. When are you going to finish stripping that paint, Karl?)

I head into the living room, and Lubia, mi madre is making pancakes. She gave me three the first day, but I couldn’t finish them, so now she gives me two, which is just fine. I’m a little worried she’s going to fatten me up; she’s probably thinking the same thing. Sometimes I run into Herman, mi padre, unless he’s already gone to work at the lumber mill. I study a bit after breakfast then start off down the hill to school.

San Andrés is built on a hill overlooking the lake. That means virtually all of the houses have an amazing view, but walking around town is tough. Perhaps that’s why Lubia gives me so much food. The walk to school is uno kilometre, mas o minus. The vertical elevation change has got to be at least 300 feet, maybe more. Mom and Nan, your knees would never be able to handle it. But maybe you could request a family on the same street at the school; the administration is very flexible.

I get to school in time for my 7 am lesson. My teacher is Esdras, who is also an administrator at the school. He is a very experienced teacher. I suspect maybe they put him with me because I was so clueless coming in to the program, and because I’ve announced my intention to study for many weeks and a goal of getting proficient in Spanish. I think maybe they are trying to give me a leg up so that a week or so from now I’ll get another teacher who can take me to the next stage. The first three lessons have been the normal getting-up-to-speed stuff. Lots and lots of irregular, but common verbs. Dates, numbers, months. Bits of grammar, mostly when I doggedly ask why a los instead of a las, etc. My homework consists of memorizing irregular verbs. I did great the first day and not so great the second day. I’m going to a fiesta again tonight, so I guess I won’t do quite so well tomorrow either. Perhaps I’ll surprise Esdras and have all the verbs memorized on Monday!

We get a 30 minute break at 10 or so, and I head across the street to see my nueva amiga, Rachel. She’s hanging out in San Andrés for a few weeks running the library in the morning for kids who go to school in the afternoon. They come in and play games, watch videos (when Rachel can sweet-talk an extension cord out of the policia next door), or have her read them books in Spanish. I speak English to Rachel to give my mind a rest, and to give her a break from los niños. Sometimes we play a game with the kids, sometimes just chat.

School gets out at noon, and I make the hike back to my family’s house. Lubia has lunch ready, which is about the same kind of food and size as dinner. It’s usually stewed meat (super tender!), rice with carrots in it (¡bonita!), and vegetables like salad or cucumbers. All the men of the family (the father, son, son in law, and grandson) drop in and out of the house during lunch. The women (daughter, daughter in law, grandchild) are around too (I don’t know if they have jobs, I haven’t figured that out yet). I eat with whoever is there when Lubia calls me to the table. They do not seem to make any attempt to have lunch as one big family.

After lunch I laze around a bit, then do whatever is on the todo list for the afternoon. Sometimes the school puts on events, sometimes it’s chores like going into Flores for banking and Internet, sometimes it’s swimming in the lake, and increasingly the todo list includes a siesta, if I have time! I tend to shower in the afternoon, because the shower is cold water only, and by the afternoon a cold shower is exactly what you want. Of course, I’m supposed to be memorizing verbs in there somewhere too.

Dinner is around 6 or 7, and is like lunch. Different parts of the family are around at different times for dinner. The family hangs around the house in the evening. I do too, unless the gringos in town have invited me out for something, like the fiesta in the next town over.

There are no classes on the weekend. This weekend I’m going on a trip to the southwest with a group of gringos in town that have rented a van and driver and needed more people. It sounds like it is going to be a blast, with a gringo-friendly hostel, water pools and a cave tour by candle light. I’ll tell you all more about it next week. The next weekend is Easter weekend, which is a very big deal here. I haven’t figured out what to do for that. Perhaps Rachel will have a good idea, and I can tag along with her. She’s heading south about then, so perhaps we’ll head south together then I’ll return to San Andrés while she continues on toward El Salvador.

There’s a thousand other things I wanted to write about, but it is time to head home. I’ll keep a list of stuff to write about over the next few days and send out another big update next week. Have a good weekend, everyone! I will!

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