The Things I Overlooked.

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I’m relearning, and it is happening slowly, but it is happening.  The hours spent writing and revising are now free and finding their way to the people around me.  I didn’t realize how much I was missing when my nose was stuck in my laptop.  I mean, I did.  It is no fun watching people play and feeling like the one sitting on the fence at recess, but you get what I’m saying.

Surprisingly, my camera has surfaced very little in the past few weeks.  With all of this time on my hands, I’ve been practicing harmonica and reading and staying up past my bedtime for late night discussions.  (A side note about the harmonica: you should know before you begin playing that with all of the inhaling and exhaling that you’ll get unbelievably lightheaded and maybe pass out.  I haven’t exactly figured out how to get around this, and I’m generally terrible at this instrument, but time is my friend, right?)

I took the photos above in San Andreas Xecul, a little city not too far from Xela a couple months ago.  We spent an afternoon walking the streets, chatting with little kids who squealed at having their photos taken and demanded to see them immediately after.  The spontaneous giggles and snorts that the kids couldn’t hold in reminded me that there are things I’ve missed in the last year.  Oh, the things I overlooked while being so singly focused on school.  It is embarrassing to admit, and I hate to imagine all the times I kept walking or internally sighed when a child wanted my attention- or a friend.  I never ignored anyone intentionally, but I wonder, who did I not see?  Where was I blind?  What opportunities to love did I miss?  It feels like a failing of sorts, not being present enough to embrace those around me.  There’s nothing to be done, except move forward with resolution.

And so, I begin again- committed to seeing and searching and loving.

El Dia de los Muertos: El Cementerio

You'd think that the cemetery would be the last place you'd want to spend a beautiful morning, but no, it was full of life.  There were vendors selling snacks, and there was music and kite flying.  Family members were stacked on one another to reach to place flowers, laughing when they nearly toppled over.  Tombs were cleaned, and there was laughing and crying.  Some families had clear traditions, it was evident in the way they moved, others took naps in the grass while the young in the family hummed a tune.  I felt like there was just so much identity and belonging displayed in the simple act of visiting loved ones.  To me, it was a celebration of what was lost, but what is also present in what remains.

El Dia de los Muertos: Las Flores

On Friday we had the day off to celebrate el Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead).  My morning was spent in the Calvario neighborhood where for blocks around the cemetery, vendors were selling flowers and making wreaths.  We arrived before eight, but the streets were already packed.  Case in point, on my way home, my neck started itching and I felt some strange bumps the spanned down my shoulder.  I couldn't figure out where the rash came from, when my friend reminded me that in the course of the morning, we'd both been hit in the face with bouquets at least ten times.  About four of those times the carrier realized it was happening and we had a good laugh, the other six flower slaps in the face, not so much.  I know I was whacked with one bouquet three times as the man turned around when he heard someone call his name.  But then again, all things considered, I'm sure I bumped into people without realizing- it was a zoo.

These are the times, honestly, when I pinch myself and wonder if life can get any better.  The Day of the Dead sounds morbid, but it is really a celebration of the things that we love and miss about those who aren't with us anymore.   In Guatemala, they are brought bright flowers and greenery that is alive and fresh, and people hang out with family, cleaning tombs, and I imagine, telling stories. 

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San Franciso el Alto

When meeting locals and expats, my first question always regards their opinions of what we must see or do to fully experience the western highlands of Guatemala.  We heard about market day at San Francisco el Alto from some local friends and subsecuently arranged a full blown excursion with our teachers.  After experiencing Chicicastenango, the largest market, we thought the rest may feel repetitive.  Not so.  San Francisco el Alto had something the others did not- animals.  Imagine women walking through the market balancing baskets on their heads of baby turkeys squaking in protest.  I was tempted to purchase a goat (which is not carried in a basket on the head, but moreso dragged by a rope), but thought better and instead spent most of my energy searching out a place to purchase freshly squeezed orange juice in a bag.  Drinking juice out of a sandwich bag through a collapsing straw doesn't sound amazing, but it is.

I was Skyping with my mom yesterday or the day before, and telling her about the things I do at school- you know, writing essays in Spanish and reading dissertations on self esteem- also in Spanish.  Then I told her about Sara and how much fun she is having and my mom immediately wanted to know more about the funny things Sara says and learns not to say.  Examples are in the works, rest assured.

In the meantime, I wanted to prove that I do more than just read and write.  On Thursday, Salvador, Pablo, John, and I went to a little town just thirty minutes from Quetzaltenango.  We spoke about architecture and the construction of the homes, and the damage that can come from heavy rain.  There are times when damage can happen so quickly.  We visited a church and upon leaving, found ourselves in the pouring rain.  Instead of pausing until the rain passed, we ran across the tiny plaza and down a little side street, where we came upon a cafe that would serve soggy viajeros chocolate con leche.  The two little girls you see belong to the owners and kept us company while we waited out the rain.  It was one of those perfect momens that should have been frozen in time- the sound of the rain as it fell, creating a rhythm with the laughter of the little girls as they marveled at the novelty drinking hot chocolate in front of them.  May I never forget moments like these as long as I live.