During our service week in Panajachel(a post about that adventure is about to come!) we had an opportunity for a cultural event. As a whole group we ventured off down the streets of Panajachel and we went to a little restaurant called Jose Pinguino´s, a family run, interactive restaurant that entertains their guests by taking them on a journey through Mayan and Spanish culture.
When we arrived and took our seats, the evening started with four young ladies playing the Mirimba, an xylophone instrument that is significant to Spanish culture. Throughout the evening we were taken through Mayan history, and why tortillas are such an integral part of the Mayan diet. We got the opportunity to make our own tortillas, and the task is not for the faint of heart. Of course things are not that fun unless you make it a competition. So the challenge was who could make the perfect tortilla. Well it seems like Melodie and Travis have some Spanish/Mayan decent in their blood because these two succeeded.
The evening continued as we enjoyed our dinner, learning about Mayan languages, the significance of Mayan headdress and how to tune a Mirimba.
I find it is moments like these that make Outtatown really special. Not only are we able to travel to a new country and learn a new language but we get the opportunity to dive into a different culture and have our eyes open to God’s diverse creation. As this semester continues we will have more opportunities to experience the rich culture that Guatemala has, so keep following us, and join in the adventure.
Finally it’s come! The day we get to meet our host families. When we first arrived in Guatemala we all had been having small Spanish lessons trying to learn common words or small phrases. We tried to nail these down as we rode the bus into San Juan del Obispo. We arrived at the school and under the eye of all the families we unloaded all our bags and tried to “mingle”. The whole experience was a little nerve-wracking when most of us only had a vocabulary of less than thirteen words. The organizers of the school introduced themselves and welcomed us to San Juan del Obispo. Then one by one they called our names and our host families and we walked off with them to what would be our new home for six weeks of this semester.
After my name was called, my family helped me grab my things, and then we walked over to their home. They showed me my room, the bathroom and the kitchen. I was surprised to find out that most of the house was outdoors. The middle of my house is filled with avocado and mango trees and various other plants. The rest of the house surrounds the backyard with all doors leading directly outside.
My family and I made small talk over supper about Canada, the cold and the Outtatown group. Most of the families have hosted Outtatown students before, so even with my limited Spanish and a mini game of charades, they could understand what I was trying to say. When I was mentally exhausted of my Spanish vocabulary, I called it a night and settled into my new home.
By 8:00am the next day my host mom walked me to school where my friends were already in wild conversation about their evenings.
Kim K. had been introduced to her family as well as ALL the extended relatives. Tara and Kimchi realized that their families were really good friends and went to the park with their siblings. Other went out with their families to the local tiendas(corner stores) to buy food or just run errands. Other spent the evening in their homes getting to know their families and settle in. No matter what happened it was an intense experience for all of us.
The next morning was our first day of Spanish school.. Our classes are made up of 3-4 students each with one teacher. All our teachers speak Spanish and are from Guatemala, and they speak Spanish ALL THE TIME. We intently follow along with words written on the white boards or Spanish work books that they gave us. Our schedule for Spanish school while we’re here in San Juan del Obispo is 8-12, Monday-Thursday, with a half and hour break in the middle.
Even after four days our Spanish had improved so much. I find it crazy how fast we could pick up and understand what our teachers were saying. Now we could have simple conversations with our families, but yes, they still include a lot of wild hand gestures and awkward silences.
We got the opportunity to get a tour of San Juan and Antigua to get a little familiar with the places we were going to be living in. We’ve learned so much in this week and it has felt like a month in Guatemala instead of the 7 days we’ve been here.
We wish you all a good week in Canada!