Comer con Brendan

Just this last week my host family bought me real milk.  100% leche de vaca.  Making my breakfasts 100% more enjoyable.  Cereal and Milk are like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, together until the end.  I could consume a gallon of milk a day and eat cereal every meal.  So for the last month-and-a-half I had a difficult time downing cornflakes with dried milk, which I thought was just one of the small hardships of living in another country.  But now I am back to pure cow milk!  I have, however, found that most everything else about the food down here is not a hardship.  It is more like a blessing.  I still haven’t tried everything down here, but I’ve eaten almost everything that is “worth” eating and have made a list of my favorite foods.  Buen pervecho (Enjoy)

-Flour tortillas made by Naomi, my host mom.  These aren’t your regular home-made tortillas that look like Africa.  They’re a treat all by themselves.  She puts a bit of sugar into her dough, which makes them extremely delicious.  At the size of my head I can eat them as a stand-alone meal.  

-Chocobananas are a mix of banana and chocolate and heaven.  Naomi sells them to make a little extra money, but about twice a week she sends me to school with a couple of bananas that have been dipped in chocolate and frozen like a Popsicle, a true Guatemalan treat.

-Pache is a meal made with either rice or potatoes; I prefer potato.  It is muy rico with a texture that is soft and pleasing similar to mashed potatoes.  They wrap the rice in am oha leaf, which is a large green leaf and very similar to the leaves that Elves used to wrap lambus in, and then serve it hot with a slice of chicken in the middle.   It is great for a snack or a full meal.  

-Pancakes, okay these aren’t a local anything, but my host mom makes great flapjacks.  Again, I am sure she puts about a pound of sugar into her batter.  My host mom makes these for breakfast about once a week and when she is cooking them in the kitchen directly bellow my room the sweet aroma lifts me out of bed.

-Scrambled eggs with refried beans are more common down here than beautiful women with dark eyes.  I’ve had this dish for both breakfast and dinner.  If you add a little picamas hot sauce to the eggs you get a nice spicy meal.  Sometimes my host mom adds peppers and cut up hotdogs to the eggs, which makes me happy.  When I am served eggs for dinner, I typically make an egg sandwich with pan and a paste of refried beans.  It fills me up and is good and cheap.

-Tacos are good down here.  Can you believe that?  As I mentioned last week, I had a great taco at the fair the other week.  I’ve also ventured out into the street for a tasty taco.  And I’ve been treated to a taco or two at home.  All three have been different and delicious.  I’ve eaten crunchy, soft, and amazingly soft and crunchy together.  (I know your thinking of taco bell, but stop this isn’t the four for a dollar Rockies special, this is the real thing.)  The best thing about the tacos is the flavor of the meat, simply a miracle, which cures all of the taste buds in my mouth.  I’d eat a taco any day if I could.

-Chevres are cheap hotdogs sold on the streets.  They’re served with mustard, a sourcrout like mix, ketchup, and mayo.  I don’t like mayo so I make sure the street vendors don’t ruin my chevre with it.  I think the best part of the chevres are the silver stand they are sold from.  They’re similar to ice cream stands you’d find rolling down the beach down the beach on a hot day.  I walk by a set of stands every day after I leave the gym.  The aroma is intoxicating.  It’s all I can do to walk all the way home with out buying a dog and ruining my workout.

-Home cooked chicken with rice and beans is another typical meal I’ve been served for dinner and lunch.  Everyone jokes about how much Latin American’s eat rice and beans, but honestly I’ve only had this dish a few times and I’ve enjoyed it each time.  Today I had fried chicken with rice and corn off the cob.  It was delicious, but probably not healthy.  

         You can tell that I am eating very well down here.  I didn’t list all of my favorites here, because I already listed a few last week when I talked about all of the food I ate at the fair.  My older sister, Katie, predicted that I would lose weight when I came down here.  Her prediction was based off of the change in diet.  Well, I have lost weight but that is only because I’ve been running and lifting weights almost every day at the gym.  I’ll need to keep my gym membership if I plan on eating as well as I am right now.

La Feria y el Grito

Independence in Guatemala means two things, the fair and the grito.  La feria, as the locals call it, is a mix of rides that would never pass safety standards in the states and food, which easily pass my standards, as well as make other things pass through my standards.  The fair lasts for a little over a week and is extremely fun.  The grito, which is Spanish for the shout, is like our fireworks celebration on the 4th of July.  Except they throw a concert into the mix and give a shout out at midnight.  Both of these events are something a person living in Guatemala must experience.  I started salivating for the food at the fair about the moment I first heard about it, which happened August 1sth (the day I arrived in Xela).  Can you blame me?  All the greasy Guatemalan grub a guy could grab and crazy rides.

  Guatemalan’s official Independence day was last Monday, the 15th, which was celebrated with a gigantic party lasting from Sunday night until early Monday morning.  This was definitely one of my most enjoyable nights in Xela, even though no one gave a shout out at midnight.  The best part of the grito (just a little spanglish here) was hanging out with the crazy Guats, which was highlighted by convincing a friend to kick a sign because she was mad at someone.  She asked me to hold her drink, which I accepted and she preceded to kick around the sign and knock the drink into my face. Yuk, about as bad as crazy corn.

  The grito was a blast and something no one should miss if they are in Guatemala, but wasn’t the food fest that I had been looking forward to for a month and a half.  I’d say it was a good appetizer to the main feast.  On Wednesday night, the 17th, the main course finally was served.  Oh what a dish!

  I shall start with the rides first, because if you eat first you will throw-up, heck even if you don’t eat first you will throw-up.  I rode two rides and cut my self off.  I was way too dizzy and sore.  The first ride, the tagada, which is Spanish for ride of death, or ride at your own risk, was insane.  Even some of the Guatemalan’s won’t ride this one.  More people watch this ride than actually tempt their fates by getting on the ride. 

The tagada looks like a large upside down frizbee.  A bench sits along the outer rim with only a couple of bars behind it for “safety.”  Riders sit on this bench and hold onto the bars as the ride spins and tilts up to a 35-degree angle, riders have to hold on because there aren’t any seat belts.  Then it starts to bounce up and down in an attempt to throw the riders off the bench.  At all points on this ride death is a possibility.

  At about half past six I tempted my fate.  It was starting to get dark out, lights were bursting to life. I sat down on the hard red bench, no seat bets, remember.  I grabbed the “safety” rail behind me with my right hand, my other hand was blocked by Tony, who sat down next to me, pinning me neatly in the middle of himself and Josh.  Not a safe place.  The ride started to spin, tilted up a little making my butt slide off the seat.  Josh started kicking my legs, trying to make me slip off the seat.  I resisted.  The ride started to spin faster; then it stopped.  No time to relax.  At this stage the real danger started.  Still at a tilt the ride started to bounce me up and down.  I flew up out of my seat, or jumped as one of my students recalled who was watching from the crowd.  Fate would’ve taken my life if not for my iron grip.  I landed back on the hard bench with a thud and quickly readjusted my body so I could fend off both Josh and Tony.  This worked beautifully.  With my body turned to the side so my back was facing Tony and both feet up on the bench next to Josh’s butt.  I started pushing with all my might and nearly pushed Josh, who is about twice my size, off the bench.  The ride continued to spin and bump, but as a cowboy masters the bull, I mastered the ride.   Bruised, but satisfied I excited the victor. 

  The next ride conquered me.  It spun me up, down, inside out, and upside down.  If there was a way to spin a rider this ride spun me that way.  When the ride ended I nearly puked.  Puking would have ended my night, before the main event, which meant no more rides for me.

  Around 7 p.m. we moved into the food tent, not a moment too soon.  The clear night quickly turned into a flood.  Perfect time to eat.  My first dish was a Burrito con pollo.  Amazing! During the burrito feast I tried a bite of crazy corn.  Let me just say, yuk.  Although the Guatemalan’s don’t agree.

Next, I walked through the maze of eateries to the taco booth.  I ordered my new favorite dish, a taco on a soft flour tortilla with beef, hot sauce, and a lime. This taco was the highlight of the night, at least food wise.  My stomach was starting to feel full, but I still had so much more to try.  After a small break I grabbed a plate of pizza.  The crust was light and fluffy, but enough to make me full.  There was so much more I wanted to try, but alas I only had room for one bag of churros.  Unfortunately the consuming of the churro meant saying ciao to the Guatemalans.  I had to get to bed so I could teach the next day.

  I wanted to stay and continue to eat with the Guatemalans, but I had to be responsible, and buy a churro on my way out.  Churros are fried bread with sugar dumped on top.  This desert was fabulous.  I scarfed down my churro and was surprised to find about a cup full of sugar at the bottom of my bag.  Quickly I dumped the sugar into my mouth and called it a night.  To anyone living in Guatemala this is a must.

Hogwarts!

J.K. Rowling is a genius. Not because her books are so entertaining (which they are), but because she describes school life so well. I’m sure she must have taught at some point in her life. During my month of teaching I have found that I may be actually teaching at a Guatemalan Hogwarts. There are some very interesting similarities between the schools. And yes that means magic. Actually, no that doesn’t mean magic, but I wish it did. But there are similarities between Christianity and magic so I’ll substitute there.

Here in Xela at the Inter American School we have everyone from the Weasly clan, families that have five or more students at our school, to Harry, the orphaned child. Rowling nailed the private/boarding school sibling atmosphere. There are so many brothers, sisters, and even cousins at this school that the assemblies must feel like big family reunions. Rowling’s depiction of middle schoolers also rings true. I could probably name at least one Neville here at IAS and probably even a Draco. I have a Hermoine or two, life is fun teaching over achievers, but then I also have the under achieving Ron or Harry.

I don’t have a kid that is the chosen one, just a couple that think they are. A couple of my students enjoy bending the rules, but I don’t think they really mean any harm. The other day I noticed that a couple of my kids had written their names on their desk with white out. Clearly damaging school property. Very disrespectful. I gave them all a middle school detention. Filch would have strung them up their toes, but we don’t work that way here. I think it’s stupid that they did that. The kicker was their reason for doing it. One of the guys, a squirrelly little sixth grader, told me he wrote his name on his desk so he would know where he sits. Sadly he was telling the truth. I mean didn’t we all learn from Harry and Ron that some rules are meant to be broken? I mean who really cares if the students don’t listen in class or do a lazy job on their homework? Wait a second what kind of example was Harry setting? I mean he did save the world, but does that really make him so great when he was constantly breaking the rules in school?

The students aren’t the only ones that have Hogwarts counterparts. The teachers also share some similarities. I think if I were to relate myself to a Hogwarts teacher I’d probably have to say I’m Hagrid, mostly because I have a full beard, no wait not true. I mean because I have no teaching experience. I’m learning how to handle a class. Two weeks ago I wouldn’t have known what to do about the white out incident, so I hope to move up to the level of Madame Pomfrey soon, or even Gilderoy Lockart. But that might be asking a little too much.

With all these similarities between the two schools I have noticed some differences. I think the one thing where IAS is not at all similar to Hogwarts, besides the fact that our students can’t perform any type of magical incantation, is the fact that we don’t have any school sports team. They all like soccer, probably as much as Harry liked Quittage, but we don’t have any inner school competitions on the soccer field, nor do we have any games between other schools. As the PE coach this kind of makes me sad.

Our focus is elsewhere. We work hard on teaching the kids how to speak and read English. This is kind of like their magical power. Sounds lame, but it will help them get into better schools and open up all kinds of opportunities for them around the world. The fact that we are teaching English in Guatemala is one of the biggest similarities to Harry Potter for me. It is like we are set apart from the rest of the community. The school is set apart even more because we are a Christian school. I think the struggle of how to live a Christian life in a non-Christian world is one of the hidden themes in Harry Potter. As a Christian we are different and set apart from the world. IAS isn’t perfect but neither was Hogwarts. What matters is that our end goal is to honor Christ and I think we are doing that.

I came down to Guatemala with the blessing from my friends and church family. And I’ve taken the responsibility seriously. I think it is very important to share my love for Christ with all of my students. I don’t preach in my classroom, but I’m forming relationships. This is what matters.

I need to go back and read Harry Potter again so I can become a better teacher. It has been my reference point to teaching so far and I believe if I had a better working knowledge of the books I might actually start to become a great something or other. I am truly enjoying my time down here and I hope that this blog has encouraged at least all of you to go read Harry Potter.

Food Review Blog coming soon!

Time

I feel a little disoriented.

   This feeling could be explained away by the fact I had a 101.4 degree fever on Friday.   I still taught all of my classes, which included lecturing on the writing process, discussing current events, giving a spelling test, of which I would not have aced, and administrating a quiz for my seventh graders.  They didn’t fair so well.  During each class I had to fight off the urge to vomit or fall over because I was dizzy.  I think I got sick because of something I ate, but I don’t really know.  I know I need to start getting more sleep.  For the most part my kids were really good to me because they could tell I wasn’t feeling well.  They’re just fortunate I didn’t give the quiz to the sixth graders and the spelling to the seventh.  

Or it could be linked to the fact that my watch doesn’t work.  The battery died about three weeks ago.  I’m still wearing it because I have a watch tan to protect, but I’m getting a little tired of looking down at my watch and being told that it is 6:45 a.m. and knowing that it might really be around 2 in the afternoon, maybe.  Or maybe it’s because the clocks in the school are set ten minutes behind Guate time or is that ten minutes ahead of Guate time (And what really is Guate time?) and the middle school’s clocks are behind the rest of the schools clocks, which makes my day longer or shorter, I’m really not sure.  Outside of the school where Guate time is supposed to be the standard I have noticed something odd.  At the gym both of the clocks are way out of whack.  If you go upstairs to where the cardio equipment is the clock says one thing and if you go downstairs where the free weights are (I spend most of my time down here, I’m a beast) the clock says another thing.   So I never really know what time it is.  The only place where I am sure of the time is at home sitting by my computer, which has the correct time according to GST (global standard time, a term I might or might not have made up).  

But here I am in Guatemala living on Guate time, not really knowing what that really means, but living on it anyway.  I know that if someone wanted to brainwash me this is how they would start.  They would constantly keep me in a state of confusion.  Maybe Guatemala is trying to convince me to live a more laid back life style.  Wait, I’m already laid back.  Maybe they just want me to forget how the rest of the world works and realize that I should live my entire life down here, but then again the clocks could just be wrong.  This is the third world after all.  I have been here a month and well, I think another month will sort things out a bit more. 
God is teaching me a lot.  I’m still not sure what I think of teaching.  I have up days and down days.  I am ready for the rainy season to end so I can go hiking more.  Maybe I just feel disoriented because I am used to an easy life where I don’t have to deal with much.  God is teaching me how to face my problems.  I don’t have a job where I can check out at 5 when I get home, if it really is 5.  I’m working with lives and thats a whole different ball game.  These kids require my time and my love.  I guess the thought of responsibilities alone is a little disorienting.  But God has my back, and that is a good thing.