As we were ending our stay in Mexico, we had some time to reflect on our experiences, and lots more on our ride back to Tucson. The time in Douglas/Agua Prieta really put things into perspective for all of us. Seeing all that was going on was both eye-opening and grounding for us. From meeting Border Patrol to talking with deported immigrants about their situations, we gained an immense amount of knowledge in only one week of travel, and it took a long time for a lot of us to process. This made the weekend of free time in Tucson all the more enjoyable. Having a full two days to relax and catch up on sleep felt amazing, especially the hotel’s hot tub.
After catching flights from Tucson to Dallas and Dallas to Guatemala City, we took a bus ride that showed us a little bit of the craziness of Guatemalan traffic and finally arrived at CASAS. Arriving at CASAS, we got a pinch of the beauty of Guatemala. CASAS has an incredible garden-courtyard area. The next day we got slapped in the face when we went to la clase de espanol where our teachers speak only in Spanish. On Thursday evening, we got to meet our host families. We got lined up like we were getting given away to people we didn’t know, and this is exactly what happened. I hope you don’t get the wrong impression though, the host families are awesome. In every host family, there is a unique aspect that opened us up to the culture of Guatemalans, Guatemalteca.
My family is very, very nice, like many of the families that are with the program. They are really good at correcting my Spanish when I mess up or there is a saying that relates specifically to Guatemala. They also have begun to slow down when talking to me, which makes it easier to understand what they are trying to tell me. My Guatemalan mom is a very religious person and is all about making me as happy as I can be, and making sure I don’t do things I don’t want to. She is always asking me what I want to do. I have found it easy to relate to my family, especially my brothers, who are into soccer and work with technology. The food here is different and delicious, and Pollo Campero is a big deal. Coca-cola is drunk more often than water and beans and eggs are at almost every meal. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish what they are saying because it is so fast and together. Looking at it, it is not too much different in English. I was fortunate enough to have another group member’s host family close to me. In fact, Lucas and I are neighbors. Our families are incredibly close and do a lot of things together.
We have begun to get immersed in the culture apart from our host families as well, which has been nice. Guatemalans tend to dress very nicely, eat late, have little care of the time, and have different styles of greeting, including handshakes, hugs, and kisses. Along with getting immersed in the culture we visited the FEGUA museum on Friday and went on a “plunge activity” on Saturday. The FEGUA museum was all about the history of Guatemala and their struggles throughout the years, especially with the civil war dating from 1960 to 1996. The plunge activity was all about being able to get around Guatemala City without a guide or translator. We were given a map and places to go in the city, and we had to navigate our way to find the answers to the questions we had been given. Most everyone we encountered was very helpful with showing us where we needed to go or answering our questions, although there was one group that got yelled at by an old man for being American.
The majority of us are beginning to fit in and assimilate into the Guatemalan culture. Our limits are being tested, whether it is our level of Spanish, nerves, or sleep needed.
-Ben Nyce a.k.a. “Mincho