You guys, adjustment is hard. And, I know, I’ve already told you about some of the things that I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around, but the list just keeps growing. So here we go, round two!
Female Style in the Oriente
In the months leading up to departure I often consulted the Peace Corps provided packing list for Guatemala and it stated, in no uncertain terms, that this is a very conservative culture and the clothing I was to pack should reflect these social norms. Well, they clearly were only addressing the west, where women wear floor length skirts and shoulders are always hiding under a guipil (traditional mayan top) because the east is a whole other story.
A large portion of the women and almost all of the teenage girls look like they are on their way to the club. Tight jeans, heels, and the sparkliest, tightest, lowest cuts bits of fabric you’ve ever seen. All topped off with some amazing shades of eye-shadow. It almost makes me feel like I’m back home in Vegas. And I’m not dressed for the occasion.
The bugs are relentless. Fleas, mosquitoes, spiders… They are all making me their bitch. I’ve gone through three tubes of hydrocortizone and handfuls of calamine packets in the first three months and I fear my current stash won’t last me until I head back to the Peace Corps office in February. I think I would be able to handle it better if they ever actually healed, but I have bites from the first week that STILL ITCH. So I have an ever increasing percentage of my body that begs to be scratched all day, every day. That can’t be normal.
Yeah, I get it.
Guatemala, in general, has a very indirect culture. If someone has a problem with you they will tell all of your friends and family, but avoid any confrontation with you personally. (Case in point: During training one of the other host mothers complained to my host mom about the trainee that was living with them. My host mom told me and I think I was expected to relay the message to the trainee.) A lot of energy goes into saving face and “Fijese que”s abound. But this kind of courtesy does not extend indefinitely. Guatemalans (and most Latin Americans, from what I hear) will tell you, and remind you often, of your physical attributes. Particularly if you are fat.
“Oh, you aren’t going to bring a sweater? Well, you probably don’t need one because you’re fat.”
“I try not to eat tortillas because then I’d get fat, like you.”
“How fat was she? Oh, like the volunteer? I see.”
Where’d All the Toilet Seats Go?
For some reason, all of the toilets I have come across in my site lack toilet seats. Including the one in my home. And it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but toilets just seem to look so much more imposing without the seat.
However, all is not lost as there are some things just seem to come a little more naturally to me here in Guat. So, to be fair, here are a few of the things that I have come to love:
We work 8-12. And then take two hours for lunch. And then come back from 2-4. Six hour workdays? It probably goes against the tenets of my municipal development program, but I’ll take it!
Male Style in the Oriente
They’ve got cowboy hats. They’ve got boots. They sometimes rock pistols. I’ve landed in some sort of Wild Wild West scenario and all I can say is “Yee-Haw!”
Cilantro. In. Everything.
It’s in the things you would expect, like salsa. But it’s also in your soup and even in the macaroni salad. And I have yet to find a cilantro combination I don’t like.
Chuchos in the Office
I’ve already mentioned my love of the chuchos that roam the streets, but I particularly love the ones that wander into the office. They come in like they own the place, check for food scraps and eventually saunter out. The few attempts I’ve witnessed of people to try to shoo them out have been meek at best. My coworkers must love the chuchos too.
So, I guess all I can do is enjoy the things in the latter category and trust that poco a poco (little by little) the rest will all start to make sense.