Guatemala visits me

Published: July 30th 2016
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Differences in neighborhoods and mindsets

This blog isn't really about my trek back to Guatemala with more stuff but about one of the teachers I work with at UPAVIM who came to visit me.

About a year and a half ago, I bought a house and posted pictures of it online. As things go on Facebook, Dina saw the post and messaged me say how happy she was for me that I bought a home. I told her she was welcome to visit, but I doubted that would ever come to pass.

When I arrived in Guatemala last summer some of the volunteers told me that for the previous six months Dina had been excitedly telling everyone that she was going to my house in the USA. We joked about how she would get there because a plane ticket costs more than two months pay, but she is a determined woman. I told her that if she was going to visit me in my home, I wanted to visit her in her home. For the previous three years I never tried to imagine her home. I had seen some of the homes in the area and I thought they were not so bad. Many of the people in La Esperanza have managed to build blockhouses brick by brick.

I realized my arrogance and ignorance when I went to see her home. Her home is comprised of corrugated steel walls and roof. There is an alcove of a kitchen with a small stove and small refrigerator. For water there is a pila (Guatemalan sink used for dishes and laundry), shower, and toilet. There are three bedrooms and no living room. Three daughters, one son, and several grandchildren live with her totaling 10 people in all in a space the size of half, maybe a third, of my modest home. There is no heating or air conditioning and precious little light.

I know in comparison to hers, my home is a large and modern. In comparison to the people I know in the US my home is not that big or modern. Still there would be no way to convince her that I am very far from being rich. Thus we have two different worlds colliding and neither never really able to understand the other fully.

As I said, Dina is a determined woman. She said someone gave her the money for the flight and she wanted to come for Christmas, but it was nowhere near enough and so I kicked in half so that she could observe in a Montessori school.

Dina Visits

I’m pretty sure that neither of us knew what to expect in this visit. It was a learning experience for both of us. Dina saw things she had never seen before. I had to explain the garbage disposal and she looked at me amazed. I realized I take everything for granted such as the bathtub, a yard, a nice neighborhood, and the ability to have a pampered, well-fed dog.

She stayed two weeks and we did several things. At first, since I had to work, she observed the classroom in the Montessori school where I worked.

One of the things I like to do when someone visits me is become a tourist myself. We went on an airboat tour to the Everglades, which is something I had wanted to do for a while. Dina had no idea that such a place even existed. She was fascinated,
Gambling timeGambling timeGambling time

We gambled $2.00 and got away with $1.50. That was fun!
which made the trip especially fun for me. We saw alligators, all sorts of birds, and everglades as far as the eye could see.

We also went to see the Miccosukee traditional cultural village. Dina took a special interest in this because her parents were from the Mam people from the western highlands of Guatemala. She said never felt indigenous because she didn't speak Mam or really know the culture, but I could see she felt a connection when we went to this cultural village. She told me that it was more appropriate to call the Indians indigenous people instead of Indians. As she was saying this, we drove up to a casino that said in big letters Miccosukee Indian Casino. Ah, we have differences as to how the native peoples call themselves in our two countries. We gambled $1 each and managed to get out of there with $1.50. It was silly, but fun and worth the $0.50 for the experience.

Once vacation began, we made the trip to my home in Gulfport. We went to St. Pete beach for sunset, walked downtown Gulfport, the Dali Museum, and
Dina cooks dinnerDina cooks dinnerDina cooks dinner

- and it was a fantastic meal!
to Anna Maria Island to have lunch with my sister, Lori, and her kids at the City Pier – one of my favorite spots. Every stop for her was a new experience.

Dinner and Christmas

I had invited my family and a neighbor over for dinner to see my house. Dina and I spent a day shopping for all the ingredients for a Guatemalan feast (minus the meat). Dina made refried black beans, rice, yucca, soup, those wonderful Guatemalan style tortillas, fresh lemonade, and I can’t remember what else. It was a huge hit and a meal that I will never forget. What a fantastic cook! This meal had an effect on my neighbor far more than imagined! (More in a future blog)

Dina stayed until early Christmas Day. In a graciousness I took for granted, she had wanted to spend her Christmas with me. I did not know that in Guatemala, people stay up until midnight Christmas Eve barbequing. People coming to visit all night and dance to music. At midnight, everyone gives each other a hug and opens small gifts. It sounds very warm and exciting.
Christmas EveChristmas EveChristmas Eve

Building a gingerbread house with my family
What a surprise it must have been to sit with us at our rather tranquil dinner and singing Christmas carols afterward. I think she kept waiting for the party to get started. She got a hug from me at mid-night, but I’m sure she missed home that night.

Traditions and cultures meeting is a wonderful thing. Dina taught me a thousand things I never knew about Guatemala and I’m sure her world was broadened as well. That’s what travel is all about. Thanks for your visit, Dina.

There are a lot of photos waaaaay do at the bottom of this page... Just keep scrolling down

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 26


On the airboatOn the airboat
On the airboat

I'm still trying to figure out how to embed the video
On the river walk in Ft. LauderdaleOn the river walk in Ft. Lauderdale
On the river walk in Ft. Lauderdale

We took my dog for a walk along the New River in Ft. Lauderdale so Dina could see the sights. It's a favorite area for me in Ft. Lauderdale.
Large yachtsLarge yachts
Large yachts

I'm not sure you can really call some of these private boats yachts. They really are more in the small ship category. People dock their ships downtown and stay a while. Some probably stay in the huge luxury condo buildings that line the river.
Ft. Lauderdale skyline.Ft. Lauderdale skyline.
Ft. Lauderdale skyline.

Nothing like Dina's OR my hometowns.
Water ferryWater ferry
Water ferry

There's a free water ferry that rides the river. Dina and I had a great time!
At my schoolAt my school
At my school

Dina observed in a Montessori class for a whole week.
Dina plays tourist with the copsDina plays tourist with the cops
Dina plays tourist with the cops

We went to a cool dog park with a boardwalk over a swampy area. Before we got to the entrance some police told me that my dog was beautiful and asked what what breed she was. Then he pulls out his cell phone and shows a picture of his dog. In the meantime, Dina quietly moves in between them and asks for a picture.
Lunch with my sister and her kids at the City PierLunch with my sister and her kids at the City Pier
Lunch with my sister and her kids at the City Pier

Anna Maria Island. This is one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

30th July 2016

Dad was right, you can write!
Wonderful story, Natanya. I so enjoyed meeting Dina, and eating her wonderful food! Sharing Christmas with her was also a joy, thanks! You are so right about seeing our world in perspective. Looking forward to your next entry. No pressure. :)
31st July 2016

Cultural exchanges
Beautiful story Natanya. I can totally relate with all the cultural exchanges I have been doing with my Nigerian relatives as many have been coming to the states and will continue to do so.....I have been getting closer to all of them particularly this visit over here. Lots of tears and lots of laughs!!!!

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