Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Home Stay in Atitlan

Jay and I spent the night apart, as we are staying with different families here in San Pedro on Atitlan Lake. We’re going to spend four hours each morning studying Spanish. The family that we’re staying with provides the meals and lodging. My host is a woman who is called Alexandra. The x is pronounced like an h. She’s very kind and seems infinitely patient with my Spanish. She also doesn’t mind correcting me when my Spanish needs it.

I met a fellow motorcyclist yesterday who explained the ins and outs of my carburetor. His name is Victor and he is on an around the world trip on his KTM 990 which is a big bike.
I also met a motorcycle mechanic who is going to help me true my rear wheel which has a little wobble in it. I’m going to try to have him get me a new sprocket and chain set and perhaps a new rear tire.

I’m seeing a different side of Guatemalan culture, the behind the front street culture. It is common practice to ask for permission to pass while walking through a narrow street by someone’s house. This seems to be a courtesy acknowledging the other person and their private space. Also on these smaller streets, people acknowledge each other while walking. There does not seem to be the same type of communications between pedestrians and vehicle traffic.

There are also some street vendors who are pushy with tourists, but who respect the locals. There are also a few beggars here. In Mexico, it seemed permissible and without shame for people with physical birth defects and other disabilities to ask for qualms. This was not directed towards tourists, but general vehicle traffic. The begging here in San Pedro is directed towards the tourists exclusively, and the beggars seem to be older people without physical defects. I suspect that this may be a byproduct of the large tourist population here. I’ve also seen a little public drunkenness, and this seems to be met with disapproval and looks of disgust by local families. I’m going to ask Alexandra if it is appropriate to give to beggars here.

It’s nice to be in a home and not in a hotel. It’s also nice to have my own private space for a while. I’m looking forward to learning more Spanish and connecting with the people here.
I’ve come to understand that being recognized, respected and acknowledged are basic human needs. This need seems to be attended to constantly in the Latin American cultures that I’ve visited so far. I suspect that attending to these needs helps support a stable and healthy society.

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