So here I am comfortably renting a room in the house of English-speaking friends from Portland, among an English-speaking expat community, wondering if I need to be more pro-active about the objectives of this journey (whatever those are), or if I need to learn not to be pro-active and let happen what happens.  So far, things are happening because it’s impossible while you’re alive for nothing to happen.  Small things, but things.

My former Habitat co-leader, Wayne Hess, with whom I have participated on three Habitat builds in Guatemala, worked with a family in a village near Pana some years ago, where I was not involved.  Wayne gave me a letter and some money to carry to this family, and last week I contacted Juan and he came to Pana to meet me and receive the stuff. He traveled about a half hour from the village of San Antonio Palopo in a pickup truck that serves as a bus. Juan said his family wanted to meet me.  I tried to say I would come to San Antonio rather than all of them traveling to Pana, but neither one of us has good communication skills in Spanish (I think his native language is Kaqchiquel), and the whole family ended up coming to meet me – Juan and Juanita and their three children, two nieces, and a nephew.  We were standing in the street, so I herded them all into a cafe and bought them all coffee.  I tried to comment that I could have come to see them rather than all of them traveling to Pana in the pickup, which they interpreted to mean that I wanted to come visit them, so we eventually agreed that I will come visit them tomorrow.  Juan said he would come into Pana to meet me and take me to their house, and I was finally able to communicate that I could get myself to San Antonio in the pickup, he doesn’t have to come all the way here to take me there. Juan and I agreed that he will meet me in front of the church in San Antonio Palopo at 9:00 AM tomorrow and take me to their house.  So that’s what I’m doing tomorrow morning.  I will see their house, I will take photos of the family, and I may buy some of the weavings and clothing that they make.

This morning, all eight of them were beautifully dressed in colorful woven Mayan clothing that they manufacture.  Even Juan was wearing traditional clothing, including a skirt.  Around here, most of the women wear the traditional woven clothing, and most of the men tend to wear jeans and T shirts.  Here in Pana I have seen more men in traditional clothing than anywhere else I’ve been.

The writing of this blog entry was interrupted in real time by a phone call from my brother in San Diego. It turns out that musical events of importance to his career took place in San Lucas Toliman, across the lake from where I am sitting, and in Santiago Atitlan, where I have an engagement to play on the 16th! There are connections, however tangential, between those Guatemalan towns and Yiddish music.  This is too long and too good a story to get into right now.  It will be told in its own dedicated blog entry, in due time.

I mentioned that Juan and Juanita came to see me with their three children and nieces/nephew.  Juan’s sister and her three children live with them because the sister’s husband was killed in an accident about 10 months ago.  A Habitat for Humanity house is about 400 square feet, so I’ll be interested to see if that’s the space the eight of them are living and working in.

 

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