My parents came down this June and spent some time traveling around Belize. I was able to meet up with them a few times, at first to celebrate my birthday, and then just to enjoy a day with them here or there. At the end of their trip, my Dad returned back to the states, leaving my Mom here to experience a week in the village. I asked her to write some thoughts about her time with me in my other home. It is long, but I love it, so I'm sharing it all :)
Highlights of my week in the village with Megan:
Going to a wedding party three days after the wedding in which all the family and friends help the bride and groom open their presents, then take down the decorations, and then feed you. Food is always a part of any get together in a Mayan village, so we had fresh tortillas and duck caldo.
Meeting the wonderful people who have taken Megan into their community and their hearts.
Attending the promotion ceremony at the school in which three more students will be going to high school next year.
Going to the school and seeing proof that kids can learn in a hot classroom without electricity and technology.
Seeing the “World Map Project” that Megan and the kids painted on the wall of their school.
Because it had rained, my first bath was a bucket bath, in which the water was so cold it literally took my breath away, but not before I let out a squeal, for which Megan reprimanded me for making so much noise late at night. It was also dark, and something landed on my foot. I don’t know which time I squealed the most when the cold water hit me or the frog jumped on my foot and decided to take a bath with me! By the way, I learned how to say frog in K’ekchi, but I can’t spell it (k'oopopo').
Learning to wash my clothes in the river, with my favorite three year old friend, Nicelia, to teach me. She kept taking my shirt away from me, saying,” No, like this!”, then giving the shirt back to me to wash; all the while leaning over and watching me like she was going to smack my knuckles with a ruler if I didn’t do it right. It is amazing how incompetent one can feel when a three year old is teaching you how to wash your clothes! Again, Megan and I shared a lot of laughter to the point of tears. I think we even helped raise the river a few inches.
Most memorable experience:
The high school graduation celebration for Manuel. Everyone in the village was invited to a celebration with music and food; all important events in a person’s life are celebrated by inviting the villagers and feeding them. Manuel began by speaking to his friends and family in K’ekchi and telling them about his school and experience; then he spoke directly to me in English, in which he described the kind of high school from which he graduated. As soon as he finished, a tub was placed in the center of the floor so you could wash your hands before eating and a 5 gallon bucket that was filled with fresh tortillas the women had finished baking. A man walked up to me and gave me a bowl of caldo, which is a soup made from spices, wild cilantro, onions, and sometimes cabbage or a vegetable in it. Today’s caldo was pork. Of course you don’t eat your soup with a spoon, you use your tortilla, and it is ok to drink from your bowl. To eat the meat and vegetables, you just use your fingers.
I was enjoying my caldo, listening to the chatter all around me, and talking with Megan. The pork was delicious it came right off the bone when you pulled it. I turned to ask Megan a question, and while doing so, I flipped the piece of pork over, so I could get some more of the meat. When I turned back around, pulled the bowl to my face, I had to stop and put the bowl in my lap. I couldn’t decide what I had just seen, but I was trying to convince myself it was just a bone or a joint. I raised the bowl about half way up and looked down and realized it wasn’t. I was trying desperately not to embarrass Megan by gagging or throwing up. I tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. I raised my bowl, and asked, “Megan, is this what I think it is?” She just began laughing, and I mean laughing hysterically. She didn’t have to tell me because I knew that I had been fortunate enough to receive the “pig snout”. Yes, the snout; the wrinkled pig nose with the full nostrils and all; it was just starring at me! Anyone who knows me, knows that I am the pickiest eater in the world, and if I don’t like it, it doesn’t stay in my mouth. Well, believe you me, this never touched my mouth again. I think the only thing that saved me from getting sick right there in front of the villagers was the fact that Megan was laughing so hard she was crying, and her laughter was contagious. I can’t believe no one asked what was so funny about “caldo”!
By the way, the Mayan people don’t want a guest to go home hungry, so they make sure you have plenty to eat. It is common that you won’t eat all the meal, so they provide banana leaves for you to place the meat and vegetables in as a Mayan version of a “to go box”. The soup is then fed to the animals. The idea of having to carry that pig snout home in a “to go box” was not appealing either!
What I miss:
Sitting in the doorway of Megan’s house watching the kids play and listening to them argue in K'ekchi and realizing no matter the language, the kids and the arguments are the same all over the world.
Singing songs with Anaya, who is 4 and was singing in a mixture of English and K’ekchi with me singing in English. I would get confused sometimes! But she did learn her ABC song; sometimes had trouble remembering “H”, though.
Talking and playing with Nicelia, my three year old friend, but not understanding most of what she says because she knows only a few English words, but we laughed and played together anyways. She taught me a lot.
A night sky filled with more stars than I ever realized there were in the universe
The sound of the laughing gecko’s, which I heard every night, and enjoyed watching them play.
The lizard that took up residence under my “bug hut” bed.
The fresh tortillas we made each meal. I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made from fresh tortillas, which I can’t seem to make as well at home.
The fresh fruit and fruit juices.
Sitting in the doorway talking with Megan and having random people stopping just to say hello, especially all the kids.
Playing with Megan’s puppy, Bayli aka Bobblehead, and watching her sit and wiggle her little butt waiting for her food. When you put your hand over her food, she will even sit back down, wiggle that little butt backwards until you take your hand off the food so she can eat.
Spending time Megan.
What I won’t miss:
The Doctor Fly’s and why anyone would name a fly that inflicted so much pain, itching, and scarring a “Doctor” Fly?
The big, big spiders, the hairy ones and the not hairy ones!
Going to sleep at night in the heat with the doors and windows shut and the only way to cool down was to sprinkle water from my water bottle on me.
You know how in some languages, you can start to pick out words and guess what they mean? Well, in K'ekchi, you can’t! For instance, when Megan deleted a fuzzy picture from her camera, my three year old friend, Nicelia, said, “You camera, kissed!” Kissed in K’ekchi means “farted”. I don’t have a clue how it is spelled in K’ekchi, but it is pronounced kissed.
It’s ok to go to someone’s house to “visit” and sit in “silence” for several minutes. Silence is common when you visit. I am not sure I got used to that!
The villagers would look at me weird when I played with a puppy, petted or talked to a dog. Evidently, dogs are not a pet or a part of the Mayan family unit.
It was weird having someone ask a question about you or talk about you in your own language to another person as if you weren’t there. But the Mayan people speak to the person they know and are comfortable with. Even if they were speaking in English, they wouldn’t ask me any questions or speak directly to me. They would say, “Megan, I like your mother’s skirt.” Or…they would ask Megan the question they wanted answered about me; such as, “Megan, how old is your mother?”
Children and adults like curly hair and want to touch it! I just got used to saying, its ok if you want to touch it, and Megan would translate when necessary.
I had the time of my life in an environment and a culture that I would never have had the chance to experience without my daughter and her adventures. Memories I will treasure and never forget; pig snout included!
My daughter, who I already knew is an amazing young woman, but I learned she can also adapt to anything! And, I mean anything!
Thanks Mom for being adventurous enough to spend a whole week living in my little house full of critters, without anything to keep you cool, and no light switches within several miles. I enjoyed it, and am very thankful you were able to come and experience the place I have been calling home for so long.