Monday, October 8, 2018

At Home in Guatemala

The neighborhood rooster starts crowing as early as 4:30 a.m. every morning. Sometimes he will wait until 5:30 a.m. (first light) for which I am thankful. Even with the window closed I can hear him. I lie in bed thinking that the next time I spot him when I'm out walking I will catch him and strangle him.
I took this photo in Hawaii; I have not seen any roosters this handsome here yet.
If it's not the rooster it is fireworks. Yes, at 5:30 in the morning! Apparently it is a tradition here to set off firecrackers in front of a home when it is someone's birthday. This can happen at any hour of the day or night and often does. Any cause for celebration, not just a birthday, is an excuse to light a few fireworks, so it is a daily occurrence that I have had to get used to, even in the small village of Linda Vista where I am living.

I usually try to stay in bed until around 8:00 a.m. Once I am up and dressed, the first thing I do is open up the house. Most houses here are made of cinder block with a corrugated metal roof. The house I am living in is well-built and has a solid, concrete roof. If a house has glass windows, most do not have screens. There is no air conditioning, so in order to get air to flow through the house, I have to open doors and windows in the front and back to create a draft.
standing on the roof looking west - Volcan Agua is on the right obscured by clouds
It is still the rainy season here, which starts in May and usually tapers off by the end of October. Some days it's just party cloudy with no rain at all, but most of the time it rains off and on throughout the day. The overcast skies keep the temperature lower (around 65-70 F) which is perfect for me. On the days that it is sunny, it is typically at least 80 F with little or no breeze to cool things off.

After opening up the house, I fill a large measuring cup with water from a five gallon plastic bottle and then make coffee or tea using the purified water. The water here is unsafe to drink or to cook with due to high levels of bacteria from contaminated sources. Some newer homes and most upscale hotels and restaurants have their own purification systems, but the average residence does not. Thankfully you can purchase five gallon jugs of water at most grocery stores for just over $2 and there is also a home delivery service for convenience.
buying bottled water at Walmart
While the coffee is brewing I check email and social media and glance at my calendar and To Do list in Google Docs to make sure there isn't anything time-sensitive I need to address. Around 9:00 a.m. I am ready for breakfast which alternates between a bowl of yogurt with granola or some combination of an egg, cheese or fresh avocado, a slice of ham, toast or tortilla, and fresh fruit. I hand-wash all of the dishes immediately to decrease the likelihood of attracting insects into the house.

By now it is 10:00 a.m. and time to settle into my writing routine. My goal is to write and publish either one blog post every other day (at minimum on Monday, Wednesday and Friday), or generate at least 2,000 words of content for the book I am writing.

After a few hours of writing, I take a break for a light lunch which is usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a piece of fresh fruit.

Now it is around 2:00 p.m. and, if I've accomplished my writing tasks for the day, then I switch to Spanish lessons. I studied Spanish for less than a year in college because, even though I wanted to master two foreign languages by the time I graduated, I was majoring in French (with a minor in English writing) and found that my brain could not handle three different linguistics studies at the same time. Since I will be traveling in Spanish-speaking countries for the next year, it makes sense to increase my vocabulary and listening comprehension and to improve my conversational skills.

I had thought it would be fun to attend language classes for non-native speakers, but there are no language schools near the town where I am living. So I am teaching myself using a variety of methods: using free apps like Duolingo; reading books like Fluent Forever or Spanish Short Stories for Beginners; doing free online lessons like Transparent Language or Living Language; watching free YouTube videos like the series from Professor Jason; watching or listening to Spanish-language movies, TV shows or music; and by conversing with locals whenever possible.
one of the hardest things to learn in Spanish
Around 5:00 p.m. I take a short break to close up the house. It begins to get dark then, and the inside lights attract insects, particularly mosquitoes.

Sometime between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. I have finished my studies for the day and am ready for dinner. I love to cook and am trying to make typical Guatemalan foods. For now I'm sticking with simple dishes: black beans, rice, fried plantains, sauteed chard. Last week I made a big batch of each dish and have been enjoying the leftovers every night along with some type of meat (most recently, pan-seared pork steak).
a delicious homemade meal
There is no TV or cable here at the house so at night I usually stream a YouTube video of a Spanish-language TV show or movie with or without subtitles. It's a great way to immerse myself in the language and get a dose of the culture, too. After I take a shower and retire to my bedroom I read on my Kindle Paperwhite. Mostly I read travel literature (fiction or nonfiction) or Americas history; think Eat Pray Love or Jungle of Stone.

Around 10:00 -11:00 p.m. I drift off to sleep to the sound of barking dogs or caterwauling cats. This word, caterwauling, is one I don't think I've ever used before in my writing, but it is the only appropriate word in this situation. The first time I heard it I couldn't decide it it was a wounded animal or a baby crying. As it escalated from continuous low and high pitch yowls to hissing, growling and, eventually, a definitive and insistent MEOW, I realized it was definitely a feline(s). This caterwauling can easily go on for 20 or more minutes, or until a neighbor ventures outside and claps their hands loudly to shoo away the cats. It seems that no one ever tries to quiet the dogs, so that is another sound I have had to get used to or else wear earplugs if I want to get a good night's sleep.
an innocent-looking cat in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

No comments:

Post a Comment