“What is your favorite word or phrase in Spanish?” – Tanya
I studied Spanish in high school and then again in college and have always been amused by certain words. Rascacielos (skyscrapers) and sacapuntes (pencil sharpener) come to mind immediately just because they’re so fun to say.
Since coming to country I have found more fun translations, my favorite being pavo real (which literally means royal turkey) for peacock. Also, people who are really charismatic and motivated are also often called “pilas” which (though I might be missing something there) literally translates to “batteries”. I’ve also become a huge fan of using the interjection “Saber!” (literally “to know”) which, depending on delivery, can mean simply “Who knows?” or “Fuck if I know!”. Similarly, “Cabal!” is pretty great too and can be used to mean “Exactly!”.
Finally, I’m a fan of the phrase “¿Qué onda , vos?” as a greeting. It literally asks “What’s the wave, dude?” which brings an image of a Guatemalan surfer to mind.
“Have you been out dancing with new Guatemalan friends?” – Jessica
First of all, I’m still trying to make Guatemalan friends. My mayor has been in office for the last ten years (an anomaly in Guatemalan politics) and most of his staff have been here since the beginning. This means that unlike most of the coworkers of other volunteers, mine are mainly older individuals with families who have little time and interest in hanging out with me. My host sibling aren’t much younger than me, but young enough to make really close friendships and “going out” impossible. And, in general, people my age that I can relate to seem to be scarce in my community. The students or young professionals spend most of their time in the capital and the ones that remain are often married and starting families. Plus, that language barrier is still an issue.
However, when I do make friends (or build up the confidence to check one out alone) dances happen in the municipal salon about once a month. And, based on the fact that the blasting music keeps me up late into the night, I think it should be quite fun. If I want to class it up and go to a real club or something though? I’d have to head to a larger tourist destination like Antigua.
“What do you do about the bugs? What do locals think? What do they do?” – Alisa
Really, I think this is a problem that only I am dealing with as no one seems to be itching nearly as much as I am… or at all. Maybe their skin has built up a resistance to the bites? Maybe the bugs just don’t find them as delicious as they find me? SABER! But I have an unending supply of calamine and hydrocortisone from the Peace Corps so I’ll make do.
Besides not being bothered by the bites, Chapines also seem to have very little problem with bugs being in their homes in general. I’ve watched in horror as a giant spider crawled along a wall at a party and no one seemed to care and am continually impressed by how ants are tolerated all over the kitchen. In fact, in the first five months, the only bug I’ve seen a Guatemalan take the initiative to kill was a scorpion my host brother attacked with a shoe. You know, after he called me outside to look at (and be horrified by) it.
But, besides the scorpion episode and the bites, I’m not suffering as much as I had feared. Bugs were part of my biggest worry coming into Peace Corps. I hate them, hate them, hate them and was convinced they’d be hairy and terrifying and as big as my head and crawling into my bed and laying eggs on my face. This hasn’t happened… yet. So bugs are simply a minor annoyance and not the constant horror I had envisioned.