Who's Eduardo? Well he is our Spanish teacher if you are speaking technically, but right now he is actually our guide to everything Guatemalan. He is our resource for language, culture, and sometimes techincal traning, he is our savior when we are confused about family situations, and he often performs life saving feats during many of our weekly outings together. Basically, he is our Guatemalan hero.
So on Friday we went to San Andres Itzapa to see the shrine of Maximon. The whole experience in the town and at the shrine was very interesting, but the adventurous part of the whole trip turned out to be the camioneta (bus) rides we had to take to get there.
The first bus we took was from Antigua to a place called Aposentos to catch a camioneta to San Andres. The camioneta was REALLY REALLY full (like 3 people to a seat with the aisles jammed full) which means a lot of people in Guatemala. It turned out that some girls from another town were taking the same bus to another town to go to the market. So, instead of being our normal spectacle we were a whole gang of strange people travelling around. I couldn't remember the name for the stop so I remembered that Eduardo had said that it was in Parramos, so I paid the Ayudante (the man who tells you to squeeze in tighter and then rolls through to collect fares) to Parramos (Q3.00). The trouble was, Apostentos was a little past Parramos and actually cost Q4.50. So after Parramos the man came through again to collect more fares and I totally pannicked. I couldn't think of how to say "I'm sorry, I forgot the name of the stop and I really want to go to Aposentos but I wasn't trying to cheat you" in Spanish and I couldn't see Eduardo through the crowd to ask what I should do. So the Ayudante came through and when he got to my row he stopped and looked at me and all I could think to do was smile my most innocent smile and shrug my shoulders like I had NO idea what was going on. I was lucky, he decided to avoid the confrontation and move on. So when we finally got to the correct stop we had to struggle to get out the back of the bus through the crowd (really difficult) and someone yelled "Mas tiempo para las gringas grandes" which translates roughly into "more time for the big white girls!" which may sound offensive but we are all atleast a foot taller than everyone here. I was grateful because it meant the driver didn't continue going which would have resulted in us being thrown out the back onto the street.
So the next bus to San Andres was even more full. Since we got on last, we were stuck riding in the front of the bus near the door. I was lucky enough to get on first so I was right next to the driver (basically sitting on his shoulders which was quite awkward). The other girls were on the stairs which meant the only space for valiant Eduardo was one foot on the step and the rest of him hanging on for dear life to the bars next to the door on the OUTSIDE of the bus. I couldn't see well enough to know how he was holding on and I was honestly afraid he would fall out of the bus. There is no clear Peace Corps protocol for what you do if your Spanish teacher falls out of a moving vehicle on the way to see a shrine.
However, we made it to San Andres in one piece. We saw the shrine of Maximon as well as the Catholic church and then we got back on a bus to return to Antigua. The ride to Aposentos was relatively uneventful thank goodness. However, the bus that arrived to take us to Antigua was just as full as the previous camionetas. There was enough room to all get on safely, but then we realized that it was the same driver and ayudante who we underpaid the first ride! When I handed the man my Q5 note he smiled at me and asked me how many I was paying for. It was a joke because the fare is Q4.50. Very funny. In Parramos, the head of the Spanish Department, Patti, joined us and we were having a crowded but pleasant ride. However, Melanie was standing next to the driver and when we stopped alittle bit suddenly, she fell and cracked the rearview mirror! The driver didn't say anything, I'm not sure he noticed. That is, until the mirror fell out of the frame and came crashing down ontop of his head while he was driving! The funny thing is, our theme this week has been superstitions...I'm not sure is Mel or the driver is getting the 7 years of bad luck, but she has been ok so far.
Fortunately, we made it home in one piece. Eduardo gave me some lemons from his lemon tree and I made a refresco of strawberried and lemons for when the group from San Miguel came to visit us on Saturday. On Sunday we watched the superbowl at Melanie's house and played some football with kids in the street. It was lots of fun and nice to see the Giants win. It was a great game even though the announcers were in Spanish.
I will add a few more picture of my fabulous life. Keep writing me, I need lots of support at this point. Life is moving really fast here...its been almost a month already. I love you all and miss you!