Guatemala: Daily rhythms

Last Thursday, I woke up early and stepped outside into a gorgeous, sunny, Guatemala morning. It was our first day at CASAS. After a long day of airplane rides and a late night arrival, it was refreshing to finally begin the second part of our journey. The group was surprisingly animated for a short night’s sleep, probably due to anxieties surrounding our upcoming events: our first day of Spanish classes and the introduction to our host families. A walk through the beautiful flora and fauna of the CASAS courtyard helped to put our minds at ease.

It has now been week since we first arrived. The excitement and anxiety surrounding our recent arrival has subsided, replaced by the comfortable consistency of routine. Every day, I wake up around 6 a.m. to quickly take a shower before my host brother, Jacobo (35), gets out of bed. My breakfast, a bowl of cereal and a cup of instant coffee, is waiting for me on the table thanks to the hospitality of mi madre, Gladys. My sister, Andrea (25), left the house before I got up and won’t return until I am already asleep since she works during the day and goes to the university at night. She barely sleeps.

Jacobo takes my two friends, Anali and Elizabeth, and me to CASAS every morning. We arrive about an hour early so we have plenty of time to relax in the courtyard, drink some coffee, do some homework and talk with the rest of the group members as they slowly trickle in. Spanish classes start at 8:30 and go until 12:30 when we have an hour break for lunch. The afternoon activities vary depending on the day. Early this week we visited the city dump where hundreds of people dig through the trash to find things to recycle for a paycheck of 10 quetzales a day (about $1.40). It’s the 4th generation of workers that has been born and raised in the dump. We also visited a gorgeous outdoor mall that would rival some of the nicest malls in the U.S. which was a stark contrast from the dump we had been the day before.

After school, Elizabeth, Anali and I are either picked up by one of our family members or ride the bus back home. I knock on the big metal door that guards the entrance to my family’s house and mi madre greets me at the door. I sit for a while and converse with her and the family friend Narda about our days. My siblings arrive at various times throughout the night. Monica (32) comes home from her job as an architect around 6:30 and Jacobo comes home around 8:00. My other brother Manolo (34), gets home on his motorcycle around 8:45 and we spend some time together conversing, playing games or watching T.V. I crawl into bed around 10:30, exhausted from a long day of dual language conversation.

Despite the lack of sleep, I look forward to waking up every day to watch the group grow closer, understand the language more clearly, and encounter new experiences in unfamiliar contexts.

-Sol Brenneman


Guatemala & Cuba 2018