Saturday, May 5, 2012

First tepid shower!

Oh my goodness, so many things to write about. Nothing earth-shattering, just a lot of small things happened today that have brightened my mood considerably. The first thing is that I asked Senora Rodriguez if I could change rooms within the house. My room had been a mosquito-repellant smelling dump and I was also really down on the bathroom I had to use. Dark, dank and I never looked forward to taking a cold shower. Yes, no hot water. The room I moved into is in the main house and I get to use the central bathroom, which is much nicer (clean and bright bathrooms make such a big difference for me because I can’t cath by feel so need to use a mirror). I just took my first tepid shower since I arrived in Antigua and it feels so fucking good.
My Spanish lesson this morning went okay, but I think that my teacher must be very frustrated at how awful and slow I am in picking up the language. I guess I don’t have a lot of opportunity to practice outside of class because I don’t go out much (the cobblestone streets and rough terrain make walking challenging), and I’m not doing any meaningful work with Transiciones. The latter has been getting me down. I don’t want to be stuck writing grants for three months; I don’t think that is a great use of my time. I think even just getting to explore the rehabilitative situation in Guatemala will be invaluable. I’m going to try and get to the hospital. I need to prepare myself for a depressing sight. Antigua isn’t interesting enough on its own to keep me here if I don’t find a good project to work on. The problem is that there are lots of projects I could create and work on but they wouldn’t be that useful for Transiciones. Jon, has been wonderfully helpful and so eager to make me feel welcome and give me tips on where to go in Antigua and Guatemala. He is a super-impressive fellow and has accomplished so much at such a young age (he is 22 – makes me feel so old). His company is using Guatemala as a testing ground for a below the elbow prosthetic. I am particularly impressed by his Spanish which he learned in three months – he sounds pretty damn fluent to me.
I watched the guys from Transciones play wheelchair basketball this afternoon and I tried it out myself. Man, I suck so bad. Being in a wheelchair with such a camber felt really strange and also being so tightly strapped in felt weird, but it allows you to use your hips for the game. You need a lot of upper-body strength because you are having to shoot from a lower position. I suppose it isn’t a contact sport, technically, but these guys really get at each other. People fall over all the time and either get back up by themselves or wait for someone to help them up. The Transiciones team has some of the best players in Guatemala. 

Ruins by the basketball court. This was when players only just started to arrive.

Jon told me that Antigua is a bubble and the rest of Guatemala is much much poorer. Even though I’ve been to third-world countries, such as Burma, I still find it hard to imagine worse conditions.  I know my homestay is a pretty nice house by Guatemalan standards. They have a Sony flat-screen television, kitchen appliances like a fridge and microwave. And still, I was finding living conditions here almost unbearable until I changed rooms.
I had my first moderately scary experience this afternoon. After the game I thought I would walk around, explore the town a bit more. How lost could I get in a city arranged as a grid? Apparently, very. Every building is one-storey tall so there are no landmarks. It was a hot, smoggy day so I could not see the mountains which help tell me the cardinal points (the larger mountains are north). I ended up walking in a lot of narrow streets that don’t get many tourists, I suspect. It was getting quite late in the afternoon and I started to worry about getting stuck in a dark street, completely lost, being a prime target for whatever thieves are lurking around. My limited “Donde esta…” didn’t get me very far because different people gave me different directions. I live in a quieter part of town, kind of on the edge of the main town so I guess my street is not that well known. Fortunately, a tuk-tuk showed up just in time! I think he overcharged me (15 Q) for the ride but I didn’t care too much I was just so thankful to be in familiar surroundings again.
Maria, the cook, is the best. She is the person I talk with the most and she is so patient and nice. She is only 49 years old. She looks much older than her years. She's lived a hard life :( I would love to take a picture of her one of these days but am a bit hesitant to ask. She is also the first illiterate person (that I know of) I have met. When my Spanish gets better I would love to be able to go home with her and see how she lives.
 Okay, just asked…Puedo sacar una foto de tu? No idea if that is correct or not.  I don’t think the photos are an accurate representation of Maria; she is usually smiling. (Note to self: Develop picture and send to Maria).
All 4' nothing of her. .

 I’m watching an ad for Google on TV…they’re really targeting Latin American users. It’s kind of funny to watch television here. There are a ton of English language shows with Spanish subtitles, there is the Simpsons dubbed in Spanish. Watching Mr. Burns do a maniacal dance while singing in Spanish is kinda weird.
Have a shitload of studying to do this weekend :( But the faster I become more facile with the language, the happier I’ll be.

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