9-5-09 (I’m just no good at titles.)

5 09 2009

Something clicked yesterday and today, and I think I can take the “maybe” out of my settling in.  At least, comparatively speaking.  This is just a pretty different experience from last time.  I’m staying with an American family – it’s kind of like trying to figure out how to fit in at an aunt and uncle’s house for two months, when I’ve never met them before.  I’m not company, but I don’t know the ropes either. 

At first it felt too isolated – or rather insulated – from the world of Jalapa outside.  But last night the lady who comes in once or twice a week to help them clean ended up staying to supper, with five youngsters.  I assume they were all hers, but she hardly looked old enough!  I am uploading pictures to Flickr right now of them.  They picked some ripe mandarin oranges out of a tree in the back yard, and everyone minus Lee sat down to eat them.  Then they started playing a game which for all I know was unique to them, though I doubt it.  It had to do with stretching an elastic strip between two people at ever-increasing heights, and jumping up to step on it, and jumping off again … just the sort of game that children play.  Then they insisted that Maria and I take our turns at it, and of course the atmosphere entirely loosened up as we started having fun with one another.  After supper everyone was telling riddles.  I confess I shamelessly borrowed about the only Spanish riddle I know, which I learned from a certain Mexican named Juan, adapted it to Guatemala, and was rewarded in like coin with a pun just a little bit better, which I have now stored away.

The children surprised – rather, were surprised by – a mother cat carrying a kitten along the wall of the yard, and she dropped it when the girl screamed.  (Hey, I was trying to figure out what that noise was … it’s raining, for the first time since I got here.  Out of a halfway-sunny sky.)  So after Much Ado about Nothing, they finally consented to leave it in a safe place on the other side of the wall.  To my unspeakable relief, the mother cat retrieved it during the night.  I love kittens, and I may be known as an orphan kitten near-“expert,” but taking on a 2-3 week old orphan with an eye dropper and home-made cat milk substitute was not on my list of things I wanted to spend the next month doing! 


Day before yesterday, I enjoyed watching a little drama at the school.  It is inside this “compound-like” area with a few other families, presumibly connected with the church, opening onto it.  They are building a little bathroom addition to one of the buildings, for when guests come, and I’ve enjoyed watching the two Guatemalan men working at it. 

Mixing mortar by hand

Mixing mortar by hand

My first day there, they had dug out a footing and were mixing mortar to lay several rows of concrete blocks.  My second day, they put forms on top of that and mixed concrete to pour maybe an 18-inch footing, and yesterday they were doing mortar and putting up concrete-block walls.  All of it is without power tools, and the younger man mixes up the concrete or mortar with a hoe and shovel, in a pile on top of the ground, until it looks right to him (I guess).  I think it looks a little wet, but it’s none of my business! 

I looked out of the window once, and I would guess that this little boy had been tormenting him, because he had taken the hose – it’s pretty long range – and was squirting him with it several times as he ran across the yard.  It was all quite good-natured.  I’d guess the little boy for about 12, and the young man around maybe 20.  So that was all fine and good, until the man shouldered his bucket of concrete and carried it over to the form.  As he stood up from pouring it in, his older friend just nodded over at the cement pile. 

Working on the room addition

Working on the room addition

He looked around, and the little boy, being no dummy, had got the hose.  He wasn’t sure whether he dared or not.  But as the worker got closer, it was now or never, and he let him have it!  Everyone out there was laughing, and I was just trying to stay quiet at my window.  The little guy stuck it out as long as he could, surrendered the hose, and took off on the run.  But he was caught before he got to the gate, and got a good drenching. 

As he was leaning against the wall laughing (punish an American 12-year-old like that and see how much he laughs), Hermano Jaime (James) was sent out onto the second-story balcony by his wife, to see what was going on.  He couldn’t deny the justice in “he did it to me because I did it to him, but I only did it to him because he was doing it to me” or however the explanation must have gone.  But he did admonish the boy to have “compasión” on the mortar worker.  So the little drama, mostly in wordless pantomime with laughter for sound effects, ended.




One response

5 09 2009
Jerry Smartt

Another wonderful, funny story!!! Estoy muy, muy enferma. No sé lo que pasa…fiebre y tos…No es muy bonito. Espero poder asistir a clases el martes; mientras tanto, estoy cancelando todo lo que pueda para la próxima semana. Al doctor, el martes, por cietto..

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