My time so far in Guatemala has been enjoyable and I am experiencing a lot. My host family is really wonderful! My host brother is actually getting married next weekend and I was invited to his fiancee’s bridal shower. This was a new experience for me because I have never been to a bridal shower in the United States let alone one in Guatemala. I wasn’t sure what to wear but I saw how my host family was dressed and just wore church clothes. I was glad that I did because the bridal shower was more like a formal dinner party. It took place in the really fancy hotel and it was set up like we were at a conference. This was not what I was expecting when I was told that I was invited; I was expecting us to sit around someone’s living room and talk about the wedding and give gifts.
The first thing that happened was a few people got up and gave short speeches about love in and with Christ and love within a relationship. I didn’t quite understand what they were talking about because it was all in Spanish, but I got the main idea. We then played a game where you match up the description of the person with the person’s name, like for example your aunt’s brother and your answer would be your uncle; certain prizes were handed out for the right answers. We then were given a sheet of paper and you were supposed to give advice to the bride and the best advice got a prize. The prize thing was different for me because I thought that at a bridal shower you gave gifts that were supposed to go to the bride. We then had a fancy dinner that was delicious and during our meal the bride handed out most of her invitations. This was something I wasn’t expecting because in the United States most people I know have sent their invitations in the mail. The future bride got around to every table to say hello and chat with everyone throughout the evening, which was something I enjoyed because she really wanted everyone to be comfortable.
Even though I couldn’t understand what was going on most of the time I enjoyed myself. And no, I am not going to be able to make it to the wedding, but I had a wonderful experience at the bridal shower.
Weekend trips are an oasis that we look forward to each week; a break from the routine of morning Spanish classes and Spanish immersion within our host families. They mean shortened Friday Spanish classes, long bus rides full of “get to know you questions” (usually courtesy of Brent), plenty of exciting photo ops, and more opportunities to practice our bartering skills. This weekend we all piled in a big van and headed out to Santiago de Atitlan. On the way we stopped at a coffee cooperative where they produce fair trade coffee that smells absolutely amazing. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t get to sample the coffee, but that didn’t stop us from purchasing a bunch of it to bring back to the U.S. In Santiago de Atitlan we stayed in a cute, little, semi-sketchy hotel with two levels and a little open air courtyard in the middle, complete with hammock and shrubbery.
On Saturday we visited the Cathedral in Atitlan and got a personal tour of the surrounding towns by a local man, Antonio, who explained to us the problems faced there during the civil war, as well as the negative impact of a massive mudslide that was caused by hurricane Katrina. After the tour we had lunch at the ANADESA cooperative where we had the opportunity to purchase beautiful beaded jewelry made by the indigenous women there. Then, in the afternoon we had free time, which basically means we got to explore Santiago de Atitlan, shop for souvenirs, take pictures and generally goof off.
The group I was with decided to shop, since by now we are basically pros at bartering. We found beautiful handmade duffel bags for a whopping Q300each, and were able to barter the price down to Q100 per bag. The first time most of us had to barter was in Chichicastenango and we were basically terrified. The thought of refusing to pay the price someone told us for their products was so foreign that we had a hard time wrapping our heads around it. Now however, most of us think we will want to barter at the shopping malls back in the states as well… “What do you mean I have to pay $30 for that pair of jeans? I’ll give you $10 for them…” We’re thinking that probably won’t go over too well. However, just in case you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to barter here are some tips from the experts.
1. Don’t be timid. If you seem unsure of yourself they’ll pick up on it right away and you’ll end up paying more. Be confident.
2. Start by offering to pay about 50% LOWER than their asking price. You can’t start too low. The lower you start the lower the final price is likely to be.
3. Don’t appear to be too interested. Increase the dollar amount in small increments; this makes you seem more hesitant which is good if you want a low price.
4. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you aren’t loving the price they are saying! Sometimes walking away means getting the best deal. If not, you will probably find a better deal somewhere else.
Follow these four easy steps and you may be lucky enough to score a great deal like decreasing the price of a Q300 hammock to Q180, or a Q220 jacket to Q100. You will also feel a wonderful surge of pride at your ability to snag a great deal, because who doesn’t love saving money?
Now, back to Atitlan for a second. After a day of tours, walking, and shopping we relaxed before our Sunday trip across the lake to Panajachel where we got to shop some more before the long ride back to Guatemala City. In case there was any doubt in your mind, Lake Atitlan is stunning. We all loved our lancha ride across the sparkling lake surrounded by majestic volcanoes. It was the perfect end to our weekend trip in Santiago de Atitlan.