Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Los Fines de las Semanas (Weekends)

I wrote most of this Sunday night, so when I say "today" or "yesterday," I'm referring to Sunday and Saturday.  This weekend was our fifth one here in Guaimaca.  So far, the weekends have been restful and interesting, but also somewhat slow.  Usually I get up on Saturday morning, meditate and think in my room for an hour or so, cook and eat breakfast, and then start washing my clothes from the week.  Doing laundry here usually takes about least two hours because we have to carry our clothes to the pila out back, soak them in the basin, streak them with soap using the cylinder of pink soap we buy at the grocery store, then scrub the clothes by hand on the washboard on top of the basin.  At some point I will try to post some pictures of the pila and a description of its many other uses--just like almost everything else here, it has multiple uses.
After I finish laundry, we usually bike out to the supermarket and the market to pick up food for the weekend.  We really only have to buy food on the weekends because we eat almost every meal during the week at the school, but that also means that we can’t usually buy and save much food because it goes bad during the week.  Every time I go to the market, it’s one way for me to check up on my Spanish because, that first weekend here, it was kind of difficult to move around and buy what we needed, especially since we always have to check the store owner’s math.  If it’s wrong, most of the time they just mess up the simple subtraction needed to figure out how much change I need, but sometimes I get the feeling that it’s part of the process with Americans...see how much you can get away with because they (we) don’t know Spanish numbers that well.  However, I can now comfortably navigate my way through situations like the market, which feels good because I know that I’m at least able to take care of my necessities.  
One Saturday we were invited to a wedding held at the church, which was a pretty cool experience.  It was, of course, simpler than our weddings, and there were a lot of people there who didn’t necessarily know the couple, like us.  The church was full, but it surprised me that there weren’t more people there because everyone here has at least 50 cousins, and is related to many other people through more distant relationships.  There were a lot of similarities between our weddings and theirs, but I’m not sure if that is because the church, with a priest from the US, and the Center, with nuns from several other countries, have such strong international influences.  
More common here is that two people just run away together, or get “paired,” or simply just get pregnant.  Don’t read that the wrong way--there are certainly circumstances, here and in the States, where two people who love each other have been paired and lived together for many years in a stable, loving relationship without marriage.  However, when I mention pairings, running away together, and getting pregnant, keep in mind that the people involved are usually about 15 and either drop out of school or have just finished sixth or seventh grade.  A lot of the work of the mission is to try to change this mentality and make marriage a more common occurrence, which so far has been showing some success.  Last year the parish had a record high of eleven marriages, and more people are using the family planning center they staff at the parish center.
Usually, on Sunday, I get up and again spend some time alone with my thoughts before starting the day, then there’s usually something random going on that I have been able to do.  One week, I went to Norlan’s soccer game with him, which was really cool because I not only got to watch a good game, but I sat by myself with the other spectators, who were mostly all guys from Guaimaca, aficionados of the sport.  I expected to feel a little nervous, but instead, felt like another member of the community because the spectators and players all seemed to accept me more than the first game we went to.  I don’t know if it was because they had already seen me at a game, or if it was because I arrived alone with Norlan instead of biking there with my roommates and was seen as Norlan’s friend instead of a random white person trying to get culture.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that everyone loves Norlan.
Almost every weekend, we have also met up with some of our neighbors for lunch or dinner either at their house or ours.  After Norlan and I returned from his soccer game, I hung out in his house and saw his (three week old) puppies, and then my roommates also came over to eat lunch with him.  The night of the wedding, we had dinner with Emilio and his family, which, funny story, almost didn’t happen because someone right after the mass threw their car into the wrong gear and reversed right into the front end of his truck.  Fortunately he had a grill, so there wasn’t much damage, and even more fortunately, ten seconds before I had decided to wait for everyone else before walking in front of his car and around to the back.  
The week before that, we had Emilio over for dinner, which had a strange ending because a cousin he had never met before showed up at his house, and they had to run out with barely having finished.  In the beginning of that night I tried to teach him and Sonia, his wife, how to play Rummy, but they have a similar game here, with slightly different rules, which they started playing when it benefitted them.  One other Sunday afternoon, Digna, the cook at the Center, came over and swapped recipes with Cassie.  Her son came with her, so we also played with him, and since then he has been popping out of nowhere all over town and catching me off guard with “Tic!” which means that, if I don’t have my fingers crossed, I have to freeze in place until he releases me by saying “Tac.”  If I move, he gets to pinch me.  This is somehow a game that all the children we meet play, so my skin has been getting pretty tough from the pinches.  When they came over our house, we tried to teach them BS (renamed Mentirosa), which did not work well (but was hilarious), and Go Fish, which worked slightly better.
Today, we had Margarita and her family over for lunch.  Margarita is another neighbor, and the woman we pay to wash some of the clothes we don’t have the time (or patience) for, like our sheets and jeans.  Just the things that are pretty large and would be very difficult for us, although this was not communicated well in the beginning, and the first week when she saw that I had washed my other clothes, we had an awkward time of explaining that we weren’t snubbing her.  
Anyway, today we had them over for lunch, and pity the poor gringos, that started off pretty awkwardly as well.  We had told them, as recently as 11:15 am, that we would see them at 12 pm, so we had everything all ready and hot at noon, expecting them to be a little late (Honduran time is very different from our sense of time).  However, it was getting pretty late, later than is normally expected, and we could clearly see that they were home.  At some point, Margarita’s husband came out when Cassie was outside, so Cassie waved at him, but he still didn’t come over.  Ten minutes later, he got his bike out and rode slowly past our house towards town, kind of peering in our door and whistling, then turned around a little ways up the street and rode back to his house as if he forgot something.  He went back inside, got something trivial to put in the basket of his bike, and then rode slowly back up towards our house.  This time he stopped at our gate, looked in and obviously whistled at us.  So, I went outside and asked him if he was ready for lunch, to which he replied, “Yes of course we are, we were waiting for you to call us.”  We were pretty embarrassed, but so were they because they realized that we had no idea that was the norm here, and we all laughed about it afterwards when we were inside.  
So, apparently, while we were sitting inside expecting them to be late like every other person here, they were sitting inside waiting for our call, but they were also giving us extra time because the power in the town was out today, and they weren’t sure if our oven/stove would work without it.   Then, both them and us started to get antsy right around the same time, hence the awkward dance of waves and slow bike trips.  
Finally, yesterday morning we went to and helped out at the parish’s tele-radio-maraton, which was an all day event to raise money for repairs and upkeep that the church desperately needs.  I headed over there at 8, and met up with Andrea, one of the other tutors at the center who is also extremely involved in the parish.  I think she tried to tell me to do something with collecting money with a group of people at the entrance/exit to the town, but I ended up walking around town with her to collect donation envelopes from certain families.  I’m not sure if that happened because I didn’t understand what she was saying and I just ended up following her around, or if she actually meant me to come with her, but it was a good way to see the town in a way I hadn’t before.  
I have definitely seen all those streets and stores, but while we were walking she told me a lot about things that I could never have learned another way, like how one of the women we saw used to be the mayor of the town, and then Andrea answered a lot of answers to questions I had about how that process works.  She also told me more about herself and her family, about how families work here; for example, her grandmother had 24 children, and she is therefore related to many people in town, many of whom she doesn’t even know.  Talking with her is good for me because she not only teaches me a lot of information, she has also started to correct some of the errors I make in Spanish.  I think she feels more comfortable doing so now because last week I started teaching her some English during some of our free time, which I am excited to keep doing throughout the year.
After we finished up our rounds, we went over to the Center to collect some of the girls in my class and the juniors who were going to dance some traditional dances at the TRM.  Half of them were dressed as men, and the other half, their partners, wore beautiful traditional dresses and head garb.  Andrea has been working with them on these dances several days a week this year, but they are also dances that they have been learning for years and years.  You can tell that they have put a lot of time into it just by watching their feet move in time to the music...when us Americans dance we bob our head to a bass line or tap our foot in time like a metronome, but when I watched the dance Saturday morning, it was pretty obvious that every little note played had an accompanying movement.  It really was very cool to watch, and is just one more thing that I will have to try to post pictures of.  
In all, our weekends have been relaxing and fun, with a splash of culture.  It’s nice to come home on Friday afternoon and have dinner plans with neighbors, soccer games to go to, church activities to help out with, and church to go to on Sunday night because, by the end of the week, we definitely want to do something other than school work.

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