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ruthless compassion
26 December 2003 @ 02:59 pm
Here in Guatemala, the big day, or night, rather, is xmas eve, noche buena. Wednesday during the day, all the stores were open, lots of stands in the parque selling foods (grapes and apples seem to be traditional xmas food, judging by the amounts of them being sold) and fireworks and cards and other thises and thats.

As we had gotten back the day before, I had to do some shopping for ingredients for my bread, which I was planning to make to have with dinner -- yeast is hard to find -- normally only at the big supermarket at the mall -- and Jet wanted to buy something at the mall for Claudia, so we, yes, went to the mall on xmas eve.

What an incredible riot that was. First of all, it was totally packed, more than half of the people there were in Mayan traje, which is just a great image. Second, it was clear that a lot of the folks there don't get to the mall more than once a year, and the escalators were just a TAD scary.

Nonetheless, people braved the escalators. Some people were quite proficient, but others, particularly older Mayan folks, were not so much so. What would happen is that a couple of people would approach the escalator giggling and tittering and trying to figure out how to get on it. Meanwhile, a crowd would gather behind them, giving advice or waiting their turn. There would be a rush of lurching, panicked grabbing for the rail, the step, etc, followed by some tottering, and then relieved laughter.

Of course, that was when it worked. Sometimes, only one person would manage to get on, and the other would be left to fend for him or herself. Sometimes, they would chicken out and go to the back of the line to wait for an opportunity with less pressure of people waiting behind them.

While we were waiting to go down, the older Mayan couple in front of us took a while to decide to take the plunge, but when they did, he got on, but she didn't. Panic! So I stepped up and offered to give her a hand, which she accepted. Too bad no one was filming -- that was definitely the most fun escalator ride I've had :)

Jet and I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing dinner, and in the evening, Claudia and the rest of my family showed up. We ate and drank and talked until around 11, by which time the fireworks in the city were getting pretty heavy. The tradition here is that everyone (almost :) buys fireworks and sets them off at midnight, but, of course, there needs to be testing and such, so there was a lot happening throughout the evening. Claudia and Jet's apartment was on the 3rd floor (most buildings in this part of the city are only 1 or 2 stories high), so we had a great view of what was happening. At midnight, we took our fireworks down to the street and started setting them off.

We had firecrackers: noisy strings of crackers -- bombas: little package with big boom -- volcanoes: sparky fountains -- satelites: whistly little spinny things... and more. Great fun. But what was really even more fun was hearing and seeing the fireworks from everyone else in the city. It was even more fun and interesting than a big coordinated fireworks show like we do in the states for the 4th of July -- although it wasn't nearly as pretty, there was something incredibly cool about everyone doing this one thing at the same time. Of course, by 12:05, the air was totally smokey and hazy, there were noises all over the place, and the few people driving home had to be careful not to drive over active fireworks.

The fireworks slowed down by about 12:15, but continued at a slower pace through the rest of the night and the morning yesterday, peaking again at 12 noon, which I didn't know was another traditional time, but it was totally clear once the time came. What fun :)

Yesterday, we went to the mall for opening day of Return of the King, but, disappointingly, discovered that the movie here had been dubbed into Spanish, rather than given subtitles (which was the case with all the other movies here that I've seen), so we skipped it (I because I don't like movies dubbed into other languages, and others because it wouldn't have been understandable and because of not liking dubbing), which is kinda a bummer, as I was very interested to see how they translated it. Oh well, I'm sure the DVD, when I get around to getting it, will have an option for Spanish subtitles :)

And today, my parents and I went to San Francisco el Alto for the market day there. Totally packed and wild -- we didn't buy any pigs, goats, dogs, chickens or turkeys (I told my dad he had a four-leg limit on purchases for today -- one goat or two chickens or a chicken and a turkey or half a spider or as many snakes as he wanted), but I did get a heck of a lot of really beautiful woven fabric.

I also got a clean bill of health from the lab where I took a sample today, so I don't have to worry about facing the music of the US health system immediately upon my return, unless I manage to pick something up between now and Tuesday.

Three days left before I start travelling back to the states. Crazy.