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Archive for the ‘Guatemala’ Category

Frijoles, Otra Vez

As I looked down at my plate this evening, I knew we were in for another fun night in the Cobell-Silva room.  !Frijoles, otra vez! (Beans, again!)  Like many Latin American countries, rice and beans tend to adorn the table quite often, and Guatemala is no exception.  With almost two weeks here under our belts, we have likely eaten an average of two meals per day with beans as the main event.  Frijoles para desayuno (breakfast).  Frijoles para almuerzo (lunch).  And almost a requirement here in Guatemala, is a bowl of sopa de frijoles negro para la cena cada noche (black bean soup for dinner, every night).  Don’t get me wrong, the food here is actually quite lovely, and our homestay family spoils us with fabulous meals.  However, there is a reason why they call ‘em a “musical fruit,” and to be honest, our stomachs are just plain tired.

– We had the privilege of riding the infamous “chicken bus” yesterday.  You may wonder what exactly this could be.  Imagine a bunch of U.S. retired high school buses, repainted with bright colors and strong religious reminders across the sides (think red flaming letters with the phrase “God is the only way”), with large black clouds of diesel smoke farting out the back (hmmm…must’ve had beans for dinner), and a short Guatemalan man yelling out “Guate”  “Guate”.  For both of us, it was like going back in time.  Our many years taking the bus to school came rushing back, but for some reason, the seats on the bus seemed much smaller.

– Our last day of school was today.  We tried to be very American, and blow off all the work we needed to do (I mean, geez, it IS the last day of school and all) but our maestros (professors) were not about to let us off.  So we studied more, and then took them out for a café and shared some of our RTW photos with them – all narrated in Spanish of course.  It has been such a highlight for me to watch my husband learn Spanish on this trip.  He never ceases to amaze me.  I mean, even in his broken basic Spanish my husband can light up any room.  And I can’t take my eyes off of him.  He has learned so much in such a short time – wonderful.

Maestros Jorge y Lorena

– We leave Guatemala tomorrow.  I have made sure to add frijoles to my repertoire along with my new Spanish skills as we return home.  I guess you know now what to expect when you get invited to our house for dinner!

Views from Antigua

Views from Antigua

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Cara in traditional Mayan wedding dress

Casey in his traditional Mayan marriage attire

The happy couple

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...

Time to get to work...

...and off to church.

Taking tortilla lessons from a master

Our ride back to Antigua

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The “Mo” Nod

Cara outside our house in Antigua

We are in Antigua, Guatemala and loving the temperate climate, mountains that embrace us from all sides, warm and intriguing people, hot showers, greater purchasing power, a wonderful host family, and a good school experience that is propelling us down the road towards a solid command of the Spanish language.  Well, for Cara at least.  As for me, I still heavily lean on the technique we’ve coined “The Mo Nod.”

The “Mo Nod” is a deflection (some would say self defense) technique when presented with a situation where you don’t fully understand what the other person is saying but can marginally follow it because you weakly grasp the context.  I have employed this technique for many years.  It’s only now that I have an adequate name for it.  It goes without saying that I employ the Mo Nod often here in Latin America, most notably with my very patient Spanish teacher.

Some of our neighbors who aren't going to school today

The name “Mo Nod” comes from our friend Mo Glass.  Mo coined the phrase some years ago while on one of his adventures in a foreign country where he was, most likely, destitute and living in someone’s barn.  Getting there, no less, by giving the farmer the Mo Nod when confronted while trespassing.  But nonetheless it works and I’ll be the first one to admit that with Spanish I need all the help I can get.

Today Cara told me she thinks it’s cute watching me speak Spanish.  That’s wife-speak for my Spanish is still in the early development stage.  But she will be the first one to acknowledge: I’m actually speaking the language.  And native speakers can actually understand (sort of) what I am trying to say.  This is a huge departure from where I’ve been all these years I thought I was communicating in Spanish.  All those times – college trips, weddings, motorcycle adventures – I was brutalizing the language.  Now I understand why I always got the kind smile followed with a confused “Como?”

My beautiful wife

Learning Spanish here in Latin America has been much more enjoyable – and inspiring – than I expected it to be.  I would say that learning a language in an immersion experience is the best way (maybe only way) to really get it to sink in.  Tonight I fumbled through a complete sentence while talking with our host family and they actually understood what I said – they even replied with an enthusiastic “muy bien!”  That wouldn’t have happened in three weeks of Spanish classes in the States.  Being forced to speak a language you are just learning is a great way to incentivize the memorization process.  Unintentionally ordering cow tongue soup once is too many.

So I’m happy to say the Mo Nod is slowly being replaced with a look of recognition and the ability to communicate with more than grunts and hand gestures.  I have my wife to thank for this, and we plan to speak Spanish at home and even bring our kids up speaking Spanish.  But the Mo Nod still has a place in my life.  I plan to learn French next.

One of the many beautiful doors in Antigua

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