Staying with a Guatemalan family

Antigua Travel Blog

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Sat, 6 Jun 2009 18:58

I've finished reading "La ciudad de las Bestias" by Isabela Allende and am starting “Cien anos de soledad” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, stepping up my reading in some ways. My classes are 5 hours. I go to meals; I get tired; the day just goes, and I love it so far.

 

On Wed I moved into a room in a house that is extremely reminiscent of a lower middle (or even middle) class home in old Delhi. As one walks in from the street of cobblestones there is a small tienda where they sell abarrotes, and make tortillas (by hand) there on the spot. There is a laundry room off of the tienda. Walking into the back opens up onto a fairly long (50 foot?) walkway which is open on one side to an 8 foot wide cement courtyard. Over the courtyard are hanging two clothes lines full of clothes. Along the walkway opposite the courtyard are four rooms for tenants, and along the back wall are two more rooms. There are two bathrooms at the back. The kitchen is on the right just after passing through the door from the tienda.

 

The house is obviously old with walls sometimes three feet thick, and less often they are just a thin piece of plywood. All of the electricity is strung on the walls with what looks like common extension cord wires. In the bathrooms the electricity looks very shabby, especially the wire that goes to some kind of magic heating apparatus out of which the lukewarm water flows. No, I don't touch it.

 

The floors seem to have years of wax that has turned grey. The walls need paint and are chipped and damaged in various places--often. There is a small piece of dried gum stuck on the wall near my bed. I have two Spartan tables, a bed, a metal rack of shelves for clothes, and no chairs. There is a small light in the room opposite from where I read, and my request for a lamp was met with polite confusion, but effusive proposals to borrow one from a friend. Lamp? Oh my God, nobody has ever asked for such a thing, but we like you, so we'll try.

 

In contrast to the surroundings, the people are great. The guests comprise a young, attractive couple from Holland, who are studying Spanish and doing volunteer work for a village school 5 miles away, a man from Arizona and his daughter who are both studying Spanish, and a young Guatemalan woman from a village who is in town attending college.

 

During the day there are children running around--two young daughters, one of whom is the spitting image of her mother, a precocious boy of 3, a cook, laundry/cleaning woman, the woman of the house, and in the evening the man comes home. There are young adults who attend the tiny store in the front in shifts, but I'm not sure who they are.

 

During and in between meals we only speak Spanish in the house. This journal entry is by far the most comprehensive English I've spoken, written, or thought in several days. Even the Hollanders and the Americans speak only Spanish in the house. When I walk through the streets I pass many schools and there are many Americans already here for the summer attending them. They hang out on the streets in front of the schools, speaking English and sometimes flirting with each other. I'm very happy to be in such an immersed situation.

 

The woman of the house, Sylvia, has arranged for a private tutor. Mine is great. I've had her for two days. We study in the afternoons from 1-6, and yesterday we didn't even take a break, not to go to the bathroom--nothing. We speak during the whole time. She knows I need help with past tense and fluency, so we focus on that. She speaks more or less normally (normal speed) so I have to listen carefully. Yesterday's topic was my discussion and analysis of the film, Laberinto del fauno. Of course, the story took place in the past, so I had to describe it. My teacher is sometimes delightfully sarcastic, cynical, (more than I would have thought for a Guatemalan woman) and funny. For homework I translate stuff from English to Spanish as a basis for discussion for the next class. I also go to the market to purchase small stuff for Sylvia as a kind of homework.

 

Well, enough of this epistle. The room and board (three meals a day, six days a week) are $70 and the teacher is $100. That places her at $4 per hour.

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Not the hippest, but inexpensive, nice, and hip enough for some
El Hostal is on 1ra. Avenida Sur No. 8, which means it's on 1ra (Primera or First) Ave. The Avenues in the downtown area run 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. north… read entire review
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