Strangers to Neighbors



Quick Note:  Time has flown as I have continued to learn how to live on purpose, to be present as I listen to the stories of those I encounter, and to breathe in deep the Spirit’s activity here in Santiago Atitlán.  I have kept busy splitting my time between serving at Sharing the Dream’s Casa de Abuelitos (Elders’ Center) and offering English classes to Sharing the Dream’s scholarship students in the area.  The last month has been full of delight:  weekend trips to the surrounding communities of Lake Atitlán, accepting invitations to perform as a guest musician at a church in a neighboring village, making friends with a mother and daughter who sell the most delicious papusas, creating new tasty and adventurous dishes with the mystery ingredients I find at the market, managing to navigate through a conversation in Tz’utujil, visiting several Santiago congregations, and meeting with local artists and musicians who are committed to preserving the Maya story.  Check back soon for an upcoming post featuring my interview with local Tz’utujil rapper, Tzutu Baktun Kan!

October 5, 2013  San Marcos La Laguna & San Pablo La Laguna, Lago Atitlán, Sololá, Guatemala

As I check into Hostal del Lago in the Kaqchikel-speaking town of San Marcos, a young woman walks up to the counter balancing a basket of apples on her head and holding her toddler daughter in her arm.  “Hola, Dominga,” the hostel owner says to her.  He introduces me to the apple saleswoman and we begin talking about how this is my first visit to San Marcos and that I am here to experience a live hip-hop concert in Tz’utujil.  She tells me that she is from the neighboring town, San Pablo, where they speak Tz’utujil and asks me if I have visited San Pablo.  I tell her that I have not but that I would like to.  She removes the basket of apples from on top of her head and places it on the hostel kitchen counter.  “Well, I can come back by here at 3pm and show you San Pablo if you want!”  I cheerfully agree.

At 2pm Dominga shows up early with an empty basket and says she is ready if I am.  I quickly gobble down the last of my gourmet grilled cheese with pesto freshly made by the Canadian chef in del Lago’s kitchen and hop off the barstool.  We squeeze into a tiny tuktuk – Dominga, her daughter, me…and the enormous apple basket – and head towards San Pablo.  We walk up the incredibly steep and narrow streets to her home and she offers me one of three chairs in her one-room house.  I am introduced to her whole family and am poured a glass of agua pura as they all ask me many questions about why I am living in Guatemala, what life is like in the United States, how have I liked my trip so far, do I like San Pablo, etc.  We laugh together as Dominga’s younger sister futilely attempts to keep their chickens from running in and out of the room. 

Our visit is concluded as I sip the last of my water and Dominga scurries us along the streets of San Pablo.  She shows me the local soccer field, the best view from the top of the colina, the decorated basketball court, and the Catholic church.  As Dominga stops to rest her feet, I join in with children playing a game of street soccer and some others who are flying kites.  Dominga stands to snap a picture of me with Lake Atitlán positioned far behind us at the bottom of the hill.  We begin our trek back to San Marcos and as we near the hostel, I buy us all choco-bananos.  I thank Dominga for her time and give her some money for her journey back and for a meal when she arrives.    She thanks me and holds up her daughter for me to hug.  I kiss the little one’s cheek and she flinches and then grins.

“Miltiox chawa,” I say, thanking her one last time.

“Manaq’ shuben,” she says back to me.  She turns away towards San Pablo and helps her daughter eat the last of her choco-banano before getting into a tuk-tuk.

Perhaps it is that simple. 

Strangers turned into neighbors. 

Neighbors into friends. 

Friends into family.

All bound together by the Spirit’s breath that renews us with fellowship, with laughter, with hope, with delight.

Dominga, her daughter (Kimberly), her brother (Johnny), her mother (Marcela), and her younger sister (Elena).

ominga snapped this picture of me at the top of the colina

Kimberly, Dominga’s daughter, takes the lead as we wind through side streets in San Pablo.

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