“Lost in Translation”

I’d like to start by apologizing to all the parents who have been keeping up with this blog and have been left hanging (hi mom!!!). It’s been a busy couple weeks and updates have been few and far between. Better late than never though, am I right? 

This post will roughly cover January 17th through 28th. We’ve been living in San Juan Del Obispo, a 20 minutes chicken-bus ride from Antigua. Each student is staying with a different host family. 

My family consists of a mom, a dad, a sister (16), a brother (13), and a small curly white haired dog. Weirdly enough, this is identical to my Canadian family, even down to the dog (I function as the 19 year old Outtatown student in both families). Other people have different family setups including, but not limited too, the addition of cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all living under the same roof. 

For the most part, our host families don’t speak any English. We are learning Spanish, but it is a slow process and often we make mistakes. Sometimes things just get lost in translation:

“We got a tour of San Juan and visited a few mini businesses, one being a chocolate shop. As I went home that evening I explained to my host mom what we all did. I tried to explain how we went to a chocolate shop and had hot chocolate. We went our separate ways and a few minutes later she comes and gets me saying that the hot water is ready to make hot chocolate. Being very confused, I realized that I probably said that I had chocolate to make hot chocolate instead of saying that I had a sample of hot chocolate. Trying my best to apologize she said “Don’t worry” and took me down the street to a different chocolate shop. In the end we had a cute date sipping hot chocolate.” (Nina Dyck)

Guatemalans are very family oriented. They love asking about your relationship status as a way of finding out who you’re connected to. Sometimes students will accidentally volunteer (mis)information on the topic without prompting:

“One day I was eating with my host family. It was a long day and as much as I love practicing my Spanish with them (which mainly consists of us looking up common words in the dictionary and laughing) I was very tired. So the Spanish word for tired is “cansado”, but as I tried to tell them this, I ended up saying “I am casado” instead. Cue all the surprised, and confused looks from my host family. To respond my host mom starts playing with her wedding band and pointing at me. It was only after my host sister looked at my notes that they all realized I wanted to say “cansado”. For you see “casado” is the Spanish word for married..” (Keefe Spence)

The food here is different; Fresh tortillas, papayas, avocados, plantains, ketchup/mayo on every sandwich, and just the sheer volume of bread consumed is fantastic. Some of us are loving it. Others of us are finding the transition a little more challenging:

“Breaking the barriers of politeness has been quite the trial of having a host family. Food, in my experience, has been the height of this. Don’t get me wrong, the food has been delicious. However there are two reasons why meals make me a bit paranoid. One: my host grandma sits, not even eating herself, and watches me (just to make sure I like her food). Two: because of cultural reasons, I need to finish whatever is on my plate. One fateful day, I was served a fairly simple dish of green beans, hot dog, and a sauce. I was going through it and I found a limp and stringy herb in the sauce, which I pushed to the side a bit. When I looked up, I became aware once again that my Grandma was watching my every move, and saw me push it to the side. And so I just scooped it up onto my fork, and ate. It was in that moment, a moment when it was too late to turn back, that I realized the extent of my mistake. I had just eaten a massive dead spider. I can’t begin to explain my disgust, but it didn’t make it better when I realized that my Grandma just watched me do it. She sat there, looking shocked, but silent. She knew. I knew. But in the midst, I guess I was still polite?” (Kelsey Bonney)

Fun Guatemala facts: Fireworks. Guatemalans love their fireworks. They set them off for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers.. you name it. Plus they love music. Exceptionally loud music. Why exactly they feel the need to combine the two at 3 in the AM everyday of the week is beyond me, but I appreciate that they like to have a good time. 

– Emma McCallum