Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our Guatemalan Family

Its amazing that in a little more than 24 hours, we feel like we have extended our family so much. First, my cousin Naomi, who I am so proud to be related to. She is continually doing whatever she can for the children of the world. I adore her and look forward to spending more time with her to catch up on time that I never even knew that she existed. She has been busy this weekend dealing with paperwork which has left us time to get to know our other new Guatemalan family.

Gustavo, Ody, Amanda and Gustavito have truly become our new family. They have been so welcoming and we already feel a strong bond with them. Although they speak very little English and our Spanish is so limited, we have found ways to communicate. I dont feel like my Spanish is better but it must be improving because there are moments when it doesnt feel like there is a language barrier at all. Ody and Gustavo are the parents, Amanda is Gustavo's mother and Gustavito is their much loved son. Tragically, Gustavito has cancer but he is an amazingly sweet kid (18 years old). Of course, Gustavito and I have bonded over nintendo and computers. Rob and he have already friended each other on Facebook. This evening he showed us his lego men collection (no bricks, just the men). There are at least 200 of them. Actually Gustavo (the dad) and Rob spent the most time going playing with them all.

Gustavo is a volunteer firefighter (bombero). We have already learned a lot about the volunteer firefighters here. Everything they do is funded themselves. They are more medics than firefighters and actually have to supply everything themselves down to the gauze and bandaids. On the way to the school, we stopped at the volunteer fire station in the town that the school was built in and they showed us their ambulance which contains only a stretcher. Thankfully, Gustavo and Naomi are able to scrounge up some medical supplies to help fill their medic bags.

Ody and Amanda have kept us extremely well fed and we are grateful to be eating real home cooked food. As fun as it is to eat at restaurants at home, we are realizing that the "Guatemalan" restaurant food doesnt compare at all to the real thing. We have eaten foods that we have never seen in the whole time we have been here. For example, tonight we had some things resembling tamales but different and delicious. Plantains, beans and homemade cheese with every meal. Delicious hot sauce. Homemade tamarindo juice.

Yesterday, I happened to ask about the Semana Santa celebrations here and Gustavito, proudly told us that he would be marching in today's procession. Of course, we couldnt miss it. It felt way more huge than the one we saw last week in Antigua..probably because Guatemala City is so much more densely populated. I felt so proud that my new "cousin" helped carry the huge float. He told us that 154 men carried the float at a time, switching out a few times. That means that the parade had hundreds and hundreds of participants.

I cant say enough, how happy we are to be here. This is so different from traveling on the "Gringo" trail. Lots of travelers talk about how Antigua is not the "real" Guatemala but I wonder how many of them have really experienced what we are experiencing.

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