I was in the microbus on the way back from my weekly shopping trip. I was not the only one. There were 23 other people in that microbus, all laden down with bags. And even though the van was originally designed for probably 15 people, it was comfortable. In fact, I was wondering where everyone was as I’ve ridden in the exact same van at the same hour with upwards of 30 people (the final total with children in laps probably being close to 40). It was then that it hit me, once more, how differently I view things now. I remember the first few weeks in country when I couldn’t figure out just how they thought it was a good idea to have people sitting on each other and hanging out the doors of moving vehicles. But now, if there isn’t at least one person with their butt in my face or basically riding on the outside of the bus, it just doesn’t feel right.
I’ve been here now for all the major holidays and when they come back around I find myself thinking “Oh yeah, I remember this.” The ten minute national anthem over and over for Independence Day activities, canchuleros dancing through the streets on Todos Santos, the screechy christmas music playing from countless strings of lights at the market… they’re all things I know now. The novelty of being here has worn off and my camera gets a lot less use nowadays. And part of me misses that constant feeling of bewilderment and excitement I had during the first months, the Carmen that said to herself “Oh my goodness, I live in Guatemala now!” every day.
It’s not an entirely sad thing though. Because I would not want to have to go back and relive those first few months either. The constant confusion, the frustration, the fear. I like that I know how to get things now (the water truck passes midday on Wednesdays, baking soda is only sold at the pharmacy, the bread I like is found at that one tienda on the way out of town) and I like that I now know more people than just my counterpart and my host family (I get greeted by name constantly when I walk places). I won’t be winning Señorita Santa Cruz anytime soon, but I still feel like a part of this town.
And I’ve already started mentally listing things I know I’ll miss when I finally bid this place adios:
- Snack size bags of prepared fresh fruit (pineapple, mango, watermelon depending on what’s in season) sold on the street for a mere 1 or 2 Q
- The beauty of my municipality. I haven’t posted pictures because they wouldn’t do the scenery justice.
- The way you are supposed to greet everyone with at least a “buenos dias” and with a kiss on the cheek and pat on the arm for those you are more acquainted with.
- Tamalitos (specifically de frijol or chipilin), tostadas and pupusas.
- “Saaaaaaaber”, “Puchica!” and other fun guate sayings.
And I’ve also started noticing, like with my trip on the not quite “full” microbus, things that I didn’t think I would ever get used to but finally did:
- Horchata. I actually enjoy drinking it now.
- Bolos. One followed me on my walk home today and I wasn’t horrified.
- The loud music, particularly from my next door neighbors. I can sleep through it now! Actually, I can sleep through lots of things now… roosters, bombas, barking dogs….
- Hora Chapina. I don’t know what I am going to do when I get home and people actually show up to things on time.
- People telling me I’m going to get married and never leave Guatemala. Rather than getting really awkward like before, I just enlist them in helping to find me my future Chapin boyfriend. No luck yet.
I guess I’m finally starting to understand why people are truly sad to leave at the end of their two years. As different as it is and as difficult as it can be, it does become your home after time… your loud, hot, ridiculous home.