Jan 16 2012


Published by at 5:27 pm under Mothers & Daughters,Travel

You know what’s a pretty word? Madrugada. (It means dawn.)

Poor Eleni. Every time we video chat, I give her a cursory greeting and then it’s Where’s Emmy? I want to talk to my baby! The good girl that she is, Eleni produces for the camera one perfect grandchild. I open my mouth as wide as I can. So does Emmy. Emmy wiggles her two index fingers at me, redrum style, and I do the same. Emmy and I talk about dogs and big babies and feet and other feet. We do bora bora and Emmy laughs when I tickle her virtual stomach. Poor Eleni tries to get in the occasional word, but really, I have so many games to play that I just don’t have time. I hope Eleni realizes how much I adore her, and how I acted as stupid with her 32 years ago, and how pretty I think she always looks, and what a good job she’s doing. Does she know that when I look at Emmy, I often see her, particularly when Emmy gets Mischief Face? Does she know that I’m every bit as proud of the life she’s forging as I am of Molly’s choices? I hope so.

Redrum Fingers

I should tell you about what’s going on in Guatemala these days, but I’m embarrassingly ignorant. I do know this: Last time I was here, Álvaro Colom was coming into office as president. Last week he stepped down to his rival in the last election, Otto Pérez Molina. As I wrote back then, Pérez Molina—la mano dura, or strong hand—is closely associated with atrocities committed during the civil war. Guate now has one of the highest crime rates in the world (Honduras is the highest of all, by a wide margin), but then again, the U.S. isn’t many countries behind.

Still (or maybe in consequence) you always see Guatemalans laughing and joking. I don’t know if road rage exists as it does in the U.S. During one of my trips, there was a terrible driver who kept cutting in front of our van dangerously. All our driver did was laugh lightheartedly each time; not worth getting worked up about.

Today was a nothing day. There’s a nice museum (La Azotea) in Jocotenango with displays about Maya music, clothing and more. I sat in Antigua’s Parque Central to wait for the shuttle. Since we’re on Guatemalan time, it was half an hour late. When we arrived, I wanted only to go to the little gift shop because there was something I wanted to get Emmy. I convinced the ticket guy to let me in without paying the large entry fee, but I was allowed to stay just eight minutes, until the next van departed. I shopped fast.

Every day I buy fresh cookies at Doña Luisa panaderia, and a bag of chips and a diet Coke at La Bodogona. All that walking doesn’t counteract the dietary impact of my purchases. This is the first time I’ve gained weight on a trip to a developing country.

The last few days I haven’t gotten lost. Well, hardly ever. I tried to lose myself in the vast market today. I just started walking without even attempting to keep my bearings. As I’ve said before, I don’t like to document the market photographically, but it is a rich place for the senses. Hundreds of vendors chant loudly about what they’re purveying, and there’s music, and kids squawking, and buses roaring, and who knows whatall. People in bright clothing move among colors and shapes and textures of vegetables and legumes and ground spices. And the smell: some good, some not. I decided to amble down a row of meat, its guardians casually swatting away the persistent flies. Above the entry of the stalls, bloody carcasses are suspended in a row like beaded curtains. The smell started to get to me. I tried not to breathe as I made my way for the end of the long row. It reminded me of my youth when we kids would try to hold our breath all the way through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (7,650 feet, as I recall). Each time we all lied that we had. Anyway, I don’t have that much breath any more so I was pretty much gasping as I bustled past massive bloody livers and spines and tongues and to better air.

Still, I like it there. And the strangest thing was that, despite my having reached the darkest bowels of the place without paying attention, I walked straight back out that maze as though I’d built it.

Before heading home, I went through the artisans’ mercado again. I bought two things for Emmy, and by mistake something for myself, and one other thing for Emmy.

I look one of my Livingston braids out. Here’s the other.

I made a reservation to spend the last of my money going horseback riding tomorrow for two hours, in the hills above Antigua. Then there’s the day after that. Then the day after that I head home. I wish I knew what classes I’m to start teaching on Monday.

I never cease to amaze myself. How can I produce so much verbiage to describe a day in which I was bored because I didn’t do anything?

One response so far

One Response to “Madrugada”

  1. Molly says:

    I have a song called La Madrugada. Shall I send it to you?

    Humor in the face of tragedy (gallows humor?) is a vital survival tactic, I say. I think I’ve written papers about it.

    Good thing you didn’t come to Chile. I haven’t seen a scale, but I am convinced I weigh 300 pounds now. It seems to be the norm for Chileans: to be in a healthy weight range, but to have just a few extra pounds. The tradeoff is that we get to eat millions of avocados. Fair, I’d say.

    But what have you bought for ME?

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