Guatemalan Experiences

January 29, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

I know I just wrote but it is one of those days that we have been boat bound so I am in the mood to write and I have a back log of things to tell you about. The sun is up now but it has been raining hard most of the day as well as most of last night. It looks like we may still have some more rain in store by the look of the clouds in the direction the weather usually comes from. The good news is we have a full tank of water from our rain catcher.

We were supposed to go sailing on someone else’s boat this afternoon but that was canceled. It was a group from here, though Chris would not have been able to join us. He has been asked to do a delivery of a very large trawler. He is assembling the crew of three others to take the boat back to the owner in Florida. Before that is done, he had to have it hauled at RAM and the bottom painted. Like everything else with boats and boat yards, they ran in to some glitches so he has had to work on it through the weekend. It is possible he may get out of here on his delivery to Florida before we leave for Honduras. We will see.

We went to a big party last night. It was a 15th birthday party for a young girl in the village. This is really a big birthday year for girls and is like a sweet 16 and coming out party all in one. It marks the transition between being a girl and a woman and here, that happens at 15. Kelli told me that now she will be allowed to date though that probably means something less than in the U.S.

I mentioned in the last letter that people here struggle financially. That is true but this family really put on a big party last night. There were at least 200 people there, including lots of children. They have been saving for this event for over a year. The family has two older boys and this one daughter, so a smaller size family. The father cannot read or write but works as a security guard for a gringo family here and also is a manager for construction jobs. In his many years, he has been able to do well by his family but I am sure this had to set them back a bit!

Not everyone gets such a party but there is usually at least a small family dinner to celebrate this special day for girls. Boys don’t get anything special in this way.

We arrived at the school, which is the only place able to hold a crowd. Because the community pays for the school building, it is used free by anyone in the community as long as they clean things up afterward.

When we arrived, we saw the center open court yard filled with tables and chairs as well as all the desks from inside the classrooms. On one side, one of the buildings has a covered porch area. In the middle of that sat our birthday girl. You were asked to walk up a decorated path lined with flowers and pink material to designate the path. There were rose petals on the cement. At the end of the path was an arch made of balloons. On a throne like chair sat our “Princess” in a satiny and lace pink ball gown out of an oversized Barbie closet. She wore a crown of “diamonds” in her hair. She was surrounded by three little girls, also dressed in matching pink gowns holding pink heart pillows and sitting on little chairs. As you came to pay your respects, you gave her your gift and an “attendant” also dressed in pink satin, took them on her behalf.

Then you could go sit down. A man came around with a bucket filled with an assortment of soft drinks and someone else came with a Styrofoam plate with your food. They had a small piece of fried chicken with yellow rice, potato salad with peas and two corn tortillas.

After enough time had passed for everyone to arrive, pay their respects, and have dinner, the birthday girl gave her thanks to everyone. Then she sat back down and her father became the prince charming and took off her white flat slippers and replaced them with spike heeled very high silver shoes. This is to represent her climb in to womanhood. I got to thinking that the shoe industry would really love this. We saw other more fashion forward women in very high fancy heels as well, though most people were casually dressed if not part of the family throwing the party.

After the shoes were in place, the birthday girl was presented with a very special large doll dressed in a full skirted pink gown with a diamond crown. Even the hair on the doll was similar to the birthday girl. I guess she will have this doll the rest of her life to remember this special day.

Then the girl danced with her dad, who was now shorter than she was because of the high heels. She danced with her brothers and some other friends of the family. Group pictures were taken as well. Unfortunately, because there is no roof over this area, the party was stopped periodically for rain showers when everyone took cover until it blew over. After some dancing was done, primarily by the birthday girl and her little attendants, cake was served. There was a big cake display of 5 very large size round layers decorated in pink frosting with roses on them. One cake had a doll dressed in a pink dress and another had a big candle shaped like a 15.

It was at this point that Kelli and Rob and I took our leave. Unfortunately, Chris was not able to come because of getting the boat ready in town. On the way back, we barely got started out in the dinghy when it started to rain and rain hard. It is about a 10 minutes or more ride back and we were all drenched and chilly by the time we got home. We were both worried about our cameras but I held them with my back to the rain and they didn’t get wet, just a little damp, and are both working today. It rained very hard several more times that night and has been raining most of the morning. I am afraid that the rain may have ended the party sooner than it should have. Kelli said that this event was a good advertisement for how important it is to put a roof over the courtyard. It will certainly make the space more useable for the school and events such as this.

When I see this event, it is almost like a wedding without the groom. In a country where people often don’t get married because it costs more than they can afford just to buy the license, I don’t know if they would do this again for a wedding. I guess it depends on the means of the family.

Carlos, Chris and Kelli’s partner and friend, didn’t go because he would feel he had to bring a gift and they just can’t pay out any extra money right now as they are working on building a house.

We were very happy to be invited and attend but from our perspective, it is hard to understand how a young girl can be told she is a princess and then the life she lives is nothing at all close to that. I am too practical I guess. Hopefully, she appreciated it. She seemed to be pleased.

We have some good news on the scholarship fund. Senora Hortensia, who is the head of the village council told us at the wedding party. Kelli had been wrong about the cost of the tuition and they figured that with another contribution that came in from another boating couple that has been here for awhile, they will have enough to fund 5 students out of the 12. I met one of the students already. He was in class in his second year but has a brother who is in his first year of Jr. High. The parents were thinking they would have to take the older one out because of money. It would have been such a shame because he is so bright and personable. In Kelli’s English class, he knew every answer right away and could say things very well. Kelli said that in any regular school, he would be in advanced classes. We are both delighted that he will be able to continue, at least one more year. They had not told the students yet but I hope they were able to do that today, though traveling around to do so in this rain would not be fun.

With pictures, this will be another long log so will write about some other excursions we are taking later. We have not done as much as we had hoped for several reasons. We had work done on the dinghy which tied it up for a couple of days. Now Carlos is doing some interior wood finishing for us on some of the trim that had started to look bad and so we are on the boat while he is working. We have not had great weather for being out, getting caught in the rain frequently. Lastly, both Kelli and Chris have been working very hard and have not had the time to take us around as they had hoped. Being self employed is a mixed blessing. You do the work when it comes up and it is hard to say no. Kelli does a lot of printing of materials for the classes and that takes a lot of time to put it all together. Basically she is printing her own text book for 70 students.

Rob has actually been using the time to do work on the boat and still has some things he wants to take care of before we leave. We are hoping to have a weather window some time in the next week. It had been our goal to leave around February 1, so we are trying to make it not much later than that if we can get going. Hope you enjoy the pictures. Get ready for lots of PINK!

Hoping to see the sun!

Rob and Sue



You can see the empty tables as every took cover from the rain.

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One Response to Guatemalan Experiences

  1. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for sharing this rite of passage! Enough of the rain. I hope you get out to Honduras soon and have a wonderful cruising season. All goes well on Deja Vu and we are mellow on our floating condo. Take care, K and G

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