One noise I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get out of my head, long after I leave Guatemala, will be the pat-pat of tortilla making. You can hear the noise come from every household at intervals throughout the day. In the morning, it signals the first bowl of beans of the day, the madre making sure the kids are ready for school, and the murmur of plans being made for the rest of the day. Later in the evening, they’re patted out for the nightly bowl of beans, while the madre and daughters gossip about the days events, catch up on telenovelas, and sweat around the fire. Even though we don’t make tortillas in the US, the sound makes me homesick. I think of hectic mornings, with all of us getting ready for school, family dinners, and chatting about the mundane things in life with people that are vitally interested, for no other reason than they’re your family. One of the things I enjoy and admire most about Guatemala is the sense of family here. To us, it may seem odd that children live at home right up until they’re married, or that everybody has the time to sit down to not just dinner, but all 3 meals together, but out here they wouldn’t have it any other way.
This weekend I went to a baby shower for the sister-in-law of my host family’s oldest daughter who lives in a nearby aldea. Since I’d never been to a baby shower, I didn’t really realize until about half-way through how intimate and emotional it could be! After we did the mandatory embarrassing party games (I won at being fed babyfood the fastest while both the feeder and I were blindfolded) we got to the advice for the mother, and wishes for good health. I was the only non-mother there, so I’m sure I don’t fully understand, but it was so sweet to see these women reflect back on their times as a scared new mom. The only advice I could give was to spank the kid hard and often, just like my parents did to me. (Just kiddinggggggg, Mom and Dad!!! I didn’t say that!) After the party, as I sat with some of the ladies and talked about what I was doing in Guatemala and how things were going, I had nearly all the women in tears! One of the women asked me “But how can you do it all alone, without any family? What happens if you need help?” Another wanted to know “How can you do all the men’s and women’s chores, all alone in your house? Don’t you want someone to kill the bugs and dig up the soil for you?” I told them that of course it’s tiring living alone, especially when I can’t run to get fast food if I don’t want to cook, or just toss my clothes in a washer, but I get by every day and have constant support from people nearby. They all of course immediately pledged their help, and the help of their sons, cousins, neighbors, pets, uncles, and whoever else was around. It’s funny what I consider tough, and what they do. Having to do all the chores at my house is hard, sure, but I’m only doing them for one person. I would much rather do the man’s and woman’s chores at my house for 1 person than do just the woman’s chores for the entire family. That’s a lot of clothes to handwash. It was a delightful party overall, with a delicious spice cake with some marshmallow-type frosting and pulled-pork sandwiches.
Anywayyyyyy, the countdown is still in effect. Mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen, because in T-34 days, I will be touching down in Atlanta.