Today I attended the 1st birthday party of my neighbor’s daughter, Anayeli. My neighbor, Maria, is one of the 12 children of my “host family” (host neighbors really). First, I must say she is one of the few people in town I can call a “friend.” Here it is next to impossible to form meaningful relationships with friends in town as I would in the States. Women my age usually have at least two children, stay home and work in the house and do not aspire to more in life. This is a generalization because I have also met some amazing female movers and shakers that break this stereotype. However, in my small Mayan village, most women fall into the stereotype. Maria is 22 years old, has her two children and a husband who is working in the States. I was drawn to her initially because she loves my dog Lubu which is a rarity here. Most Guatemalans treat their pets horribly. Maria loves Lubu and has even learned a few commands in English to use with Lubu. She also stops by every single day just to see how I am. I feel that she understands why I am here and genuinely believes it is a worthy cause.
Her second daughter, Anayeli, turned 1 today. About 20-25 people came to her house and there was a feast. For birthdays here the entire family gathers and eats (my kind of party, eh?!). We had two types of soups and all the tamalitos I could consume. Also, there was an adorable pink cake. The whole party tried to get me to sing Happy Birthday in English but I had way too much verguenza so I opted out. I said I would teach all the little kids so next time we can all sing it. I also had my camera at this festivity and they had me take soooooo many pictures. I found it amusing because I had to take a picture with every single adult holding the little birthday girl. You can imagine a one year-old would not be too happy by the end of this photo session. I diligently shot all the pictures they wanted and we enjoyed the cake. After, we all went outside and they wanted me to take more pictures. They also wanted me to be in the pictures with them. I knew that I am “tall” here but until I saw those pictures I never realized how much of a difference there is. It is a nice change from being the short one to being the tall one. They cannot understand that in the States I am NOT tall at all. They just laugh when I say this. The whole afternoon was quite lovely and I had a very good time spending this special day with this family.
On the work front, I actually have something to do this week (whoa crazy, I know). Tomorrow Becca, Cathaleen and I are giving an HIV/AIDS workshop to the Health Post employees. Wednesday is my first community charla. This charla has been rescheduled and pushed back for months now. I am ready to get the show on the road and start real work. I also talked with Magdalena, another of the 12 children, about being my translator. She is 23 (with 2 kids) and studying to be the equivalent of a certified nursing assistant here. She also has to give charlas/health talks and does not know how. I told her I will help her and go with her if she helps me by translating. I think this is a very mutually beneficial agreement. She is the one person who I know understands completely why I am here. We discuss my job and health care a lot so I know she is a knowledgeable woman. She is the older sister of Maria and also another “friend” I have here. It feels good to finally feel like I am making progress with integration and work. I have really been down in the dumps lately and feeling like I am wasting time here but then I have days like today that re-energize me and help me continue on!
My Guatemalan version of rice crispy treat that I brought to the party
One of the four Grandmas cooking
Anayeli and her mom, Maria
Abuela (which just means grandma in Spanish but everyone calls her Abuela instead of her name) who lives next door with Anayeli
One of the grandpas...this is about picture number 40 for this poor little girl. She is NOT having fun anymore
Michi trying to sneak some frosting while all the adults are distracted
Leti (who is studying to be a teacher in Chimaltenango about 9 hours away and just arrived back home for "summer break), Magdalena and me
Estefani looking adorable as usual
Magdalena and her two kids, Estefani and Tico
Lucia, me and Anna (I am soooo tall haha)
Lucia, Maria, Leti
Leti, Magdalena and Estafani