This morning started off with an amazing breakfast from Marie, followed by a trip to the famous Antigua Mercado that happens 3 days per week. I walked alone for the first time in this town and I felt surprisingly comfortable, particularly since I don’t ever walk alone in the States. I found a gorgeous handmade shoulder bag with embroidered flowers and a matching woven wallet which I purchased for a total of 100 Quetzals (about $12 US).
After my morning walk, I headed to my professor’s homestay which is literally located inside of a carwash. You have to walk through the main gate of the carwash (which is where they actually hose down the cars) and through a little hobbit type door which opens into a beautiful courtyard with doors to rooms surrounding it. Once inside, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a carwash because the home is so beautiful.
Today, we continued our look into the history of Guatemala by watching the film “Voices from the Mountain.” It retold the story of the civil war, US involvement, and then it went over the aftermath. Essentially, when the Peace Accords were signed, the indigenous population (the largest percentage of indigenous people in the Americas) was promised that labor and land rights would be improved for them. However, nothing seems to have changed. Most of the population lives on less than $2 per day, many less than $1. We were told the average weekly salary for a farm worker (the predominant industry for the Mayans) is $7 per week, however the bus fare in 50 cents each way. Does that make any sense? Why even work? And who made up these bus prices when people make so little?
I used my 4 hour Spanish lesson to explore this more with my professor Sylvia, a woman my age who lives in a nearby pueblo. She told me the men in her town are boot makers and the women pick coffee for additional income. Men make Q25 per pair of boots, and can make up to 12 pairs per week (2 pr per day, 6 day workweek), which is Q300/wk, or about $35. Women who pick coffee are given a row of trees to harvest, and they pick the red coffee beans each day from their row during the month. They’re paid Q25 per 100lbs, and Sylvia said the average income at the end of the month is about Q1200, or $150 for the month, however this is with the help of either the woman’s children or a friend who then gets a portion of the money. Work at the coffee plantation is seasonal and at most generates income only 6 months of the year, the rest of which the women spend at home, taking care of the household. It seems like a lot of work for not a lot of payoff.
After Spanish, my housemate Erika and I, arrived home for dinner and a fiesta. Brittney and Fiona, two girls in our homestay are headed home to San Diego tomorrow, so Marie painted a sign for them made a beautiful meal of empanadas, black beans, pink and blue champagne, a cake, and chocolate covered strawberries. To both my and Erika’s surprise, Marie also made us a sign and decorated a second cake for us, since we’ll be moving on Sunday. At dinner, Jorge said a lot of nice things to all of us in Spanish, and then had each of the children thank us for spending time with them. This family is so amazingly caring and genuine, and I can’t believe I have to say goodbye to them after only a week.