Thursday, October 06, 2005

On the Secular Side

Dear Friends and Family,

While I spend roughly 9 hours a day in the office, a lot of time remains to experience Guatemala outside of Potter’s House. So, this letter is dedicated to those moments. As always, let us begin with a few statistics/facts. The median income of Guatemala is roughly $1400 annually. Almost the entire upper/middle class has a maid, and you might too if it only cost you 110$ a month for 25 hours a week of maid service. Apparently political correctness hasn’t struck yet as anyone even the least bit overweight picks up the nickname “Gordito/a” (Fatty), which apparently is a nice thing to say. The far and away majority of Guatemala is Catholic and birth control is avoided like the plague.

Case and point, I play soccer on Saturday’s at 4:30 with a family…1 family. This extended family can create an entire team out of their male family members. They pretty much fit the stereotypical Guatemalan family to a t. A few years back they moved from one of the villages in the country to the city. Not because they wanted to, but to follow the money. The father of the family has 11 brothers and sisters including himself. Five have gone to the United States in search of better jobs (often just the husband will go to the states, in the hopes of working a few years, and sending whatever they can back to their family). Only two or three remain in their hometown hamlet.

Last week this family invited me to their village because there was a festival and a “cuadrangular” which means a four team soccer tournament. San Marcos is high in the mountains (even higher than Denver) and adjacent to the Mexico border near the west side. Believe it or not, the altitude is high enough to make the temperature downright chilly, and also makes walking a draining workout due to lack of oxygen. While located in the mountains, that doesn’t prevent the primary occupation from being farming. No, the land isn’t flat, but you should see these people’s calf muscles. I guess working a farm at a 45 degree angle will do that for you. Of course all the really flat pieces of land are reserved for soccer pitches, the one we will be playing on rests on the top of a mountain. Really beautiful but you’d better not kick the ball far off the field or you have to run down a mountain to retrieve it. Also, I have to imagine that the view was spectacular, unfortunately a cloud decided to perch on top of the peak and I couldn’t see the other side of the field, much less the surrounding view.

Well after a 5 ½ hour drive in a car where the most English anyone knew other than myself was how to count to three, we arrived. We donned our jerseys and the father gave a prep talk. Even though I only understood the half of it, I was pretty pumped to play. It was a full 90 minute game and we won 3 to zero, luckily I scored 2 goals and so they let me stay.

Back at Eleodoro’s (the father) brother’s house, we dined on this absolutely bland tasting bread, potatoes with nothing to go on them, a vegetable called ava’s which seem to be related to peas, and coffee, this meal was repeated for dinner and breakfast the next day. I actually like coffee now and have started electing it when offered. There was a bit more verity including chicken (which was excellent) and some corn (not sweet corn and not good corn) as well as some pineapple (AMAZING) for dinner. The next morning Eleodoro took me for a tour through his family’s land, we went to Eleodoro’s house (which he still owns), and went inside, it was almost straight out of a movie, I felt like a little boy following the futbol guru around. Anyways, inside the house with virtually no belongings was a dresser COVERED in trophies and medals. The bed had a man sized trophy sleeping on it. Not wanting to disturb the trophy’s slumber, we quickly exited. Outside was a honeybee farm ran wild, a few pigs, a dozen cats, a pair of dogs, a chicken tied to a board and a picturesque soccer pitch lying in the valley surrounded by the houses of Eleodoro’s brothers. The pitch only had one entrance from the south, every other side was walled by cliffs that went straight up from the pitch and one cliff on the west side that went down into these gorgeous green pastures spotted by cows, horses, and empty Gatorade bottles (yeah, even the Guatemalan country side could learn a thing or two about garbage cans and littering). Needless to say, the weekend was a magical one. We ended up winning the championship 2 to 1. The game ended in a mini-fight and everyone started running onto the field which I guess meant the game was over. On the economic side, for lunch we stopped at a little stand, my lunch of a chuchito, two tostadas and a glass of rice milk cost me about 67 cents. We splurged on dinner, fried chicken, beans rice and of course, coffee. Total cost: $1.50. I returned from my adventure, arriving back at the Riveras Thursday night with an additional trophy for Eleodoro’s room, a sack of potatoes, (those that didn’t roll all the way down the hill and off the cliff while we were harvesting them), A bruise on my right side from 5 hours in a car packed way too full of people, and a lifetime memory of San Marcos.

Life is good.

Love and Blessings

-Enoch Hill

No comments: