The end of my time as a Young Adult Volunteer in Guatemala is rapidly approaching and I haven't kept up with my blog, but before I forget I'd like to share a few more of the lessons I've learned during my time here.
Lesson 13: A SIMPLE perdón WILL SUFFICEAnyone who's been around me for more than five minutes will tell you that I'm an accident-prone person. I can't get through a meal without spilling something and I'm always tripping. Because my little blunders often involve others, apologizing is a part of my daily life. Say, for example, I'm walking down the street not looking straight ahead and I run right into another pedestrian; in the U.S. I would stop and apologize (profusely if my victim looked mad or hurt). Here in Guatemala, however, the more I apologize, the angrier/more afraid my victims get. At first I thought it was because I'm a gringa, but after talking to quite a few Guatemalans about it, I realized that most Guatemalans aren't used to having people stop what they're doing and apologize for their blunders. I've observed many Guatemalan-on-Guatemalan accidents, and even the painful and/or messy mixups result with the guilty party muttering, "perdón" and going about their day.
When you accidently clothesline a tiny elderly woman in the bus, "perdón." When you trip and spill half of your large blackberry smoothie on a businessman in the park, "perdón." When you smack into another cyclist, causing him to go careening head-first into the pavement, "perdón." When your child full-on smashes a dripping ice cream cone into the hair of the woman sitting in front of you on the bus, "perdón."Based on my observations, the accidents I've been a victim of, and the innumerable blunders I've caused, I've learned: It's better for everyone if you just mutter, "perdón" and keep walking.
Lesson 14: AMOEBAS ARE MEAN
Before amoebas had four huge fiestas in my body, I heard the term "amoeba" and thought of the tiny little specks, only barely visible when held under a microscope, that I had to draw in my high school biology class. If I had experienced amoebas back then I would have known to draw horns and fangs instead of smiles on their horrible little blobby faces. Amoebas are not my amigas. Amoebas are not harmless little specks. No Sir. Amoebas are evil spirits. I'm serious. They hide inside of mangos and other delicious food and, just when you least expect it, they possess you. I don't know how they do it, but they settle their barely-visible blobby little selves in and turn the life of their host into hell on earth. Dante would have done well to include amoebas as a punishment for the dwellers of the ninth circle, the very center of the inferno. They're that treacherous. I won't get into the nitty-gritty details, but you can rest assured that you want to avoid the little devils at all costs.
For the first few months I was here I was understandably in a perpetual state of confusion because I didn't get much outside of the bounds of simple conversation. However, when it came to conversations about food--a topic I had plenty of practice with--the more Spanish I understood, the more confused I became.
One night Dora asked me if I wanted some pan dulce (sweet bread). We eat pan dulce almost every night with our coffee and I was in the mood for something different, so I brought out our leftover fresas con crema (strawberries with cream) instead. Now I thought my suggestion was perfectly acceptable, so you can imagine my surprise when Dora--who I should add is a very calm and soft-spoken woman--leaped up from the table, grabbed the bowl out of my hands, and yelled, "NOOOOOOOOOOO." It was like one of those slow motion scenes out of an overly dramatic movie. When I asked her why we couldn't have the strawberries, she looked at me like I had three heads and replied in an exasperated voice, "iAy, Raquel! Ya sabes que la fresa es fria. Es MALISIMO comer comidas frias en la noche." (Oh, Rachel! You know that strawberry is cold. It's HORRIBLE to eat cold food at night.) At the time the urge to laugh was bubbling in my throat and I had to bite my lip to hold it in. "What in the world is she talking about? This woman gone crazy" I thought to myself.
Here are a few comidas frias that shouldn't be eaten at night (no matter their physical temperature):
- red beans
- cow's milk
- cacao (chocolate)
- rosa de jamica (hibiscus flower used for tea and juice)
- camomile tea
- goat's milk
- grilled meat (aside from pork)