The first weekend in June, I had to choose my destiny for where to live in my aldea. After visiting the two options available to me, I settled on one and we arranged for them to build a new room on the end of their house where I could live. The Peace Corps fronted the money for the construction, and I will deduct that for my rent until the loan is paid back. That’s not a very common solution, but in the case of my site there are no homes with extra rooms that meet the requirements for the Peace Corps, and the families don’t tend to have enough capital to construct a room on their own.
Once I had settled on my future host family, I began going to their house to eat breakfast and dinner. Cooking often would have been difficult with my belongings scattered across the cooperative, mostly still in boxes. Plus, I saw this as an opportunity to start getting to know the family right away.
My new “host father,” Mariano, is a little younger than me. He turned 26 at the end of July, and is a kind, shy man, who does speak Spanish but lacks confidence and uses confusing grammar. Still, he is good natured about it and we make it work, chuckling and giggling when we run out of ways to explain things and get lost in our own conversations.
My “host mother,” Clementina, is 23. She is extremely quiet and speaks no Spanish, but has a sweet smile and a talent for cooking tasty things with a pretty limited range of ingredients. She makes the best tortillas (and nearly the biggest ones) I’ve encountered in Guatemala.
I have three host siblings: Freddie, 6; Heidi, 4; and Gladys, 2. They didn’t have much of a shy period, and moved into play with me pretty quickly. While I was still commuting to eat with them I would become a human drum set before and after meals. What started as my attempts at patty-cake turned into simply banging on me in various places to see what sounds I made. At the time they spoke no Spanish and I spoke no Q’eqchi’, so basic smiling and patting one another was enough to build a friendship.
My favorite moment during June with my host family has to be when Wendy and I goaded Mariano into trying to tortillar (shape the tortillas with his hands). He had been observing Wendy and my mediocre attempts at copying Clementina, and felt free to teasingly criticize our technique. When we realized he’d never done it in his life, we returned the teasing mercilessly until he crossed the gender divide to prove his mettle.
In some ways our triumph in getting him to try it was marred by the fact that he seems to have much more natural talent for it than either of us do.
Freddie got in on the fun, too.
Although living with a host family again after such a long amount of solitude in Sololá inevitably involves adjustment, I was and am pleased as punch that this is the new family I get to live with.
The three kiddos. Their mom is camera shy, so no picture of her for now.