I left Antigua in the late afternoon, arriving in Guatemala City starving. My cousin Esther had homemade matzoh ball soup prepared. Not only does she add noodles but also potatoes, carrots and onion. She had run out of frijoles negros so she phoned neighbors to find some. Her maid Moda made sure there were plaintains because she remembered from last year that I love them. We caught up in her white tiled kitchen with a cup of hot tea.
I was born and raised in Calfornia so I’m used to earthquakes. I was jolted out of sleep by a 5.6 magnitude tremblor my first morning in Guatemala City around 5 AM.
“Esther” I called out and wandered into her room in the dark. Her son and Moda were all in her becroom. We sat on the king sized bed for a bit and spoke about the shaking.Esther said it’s called a temblor, which is not quite a full earthquake.
I walked back to my bedroom to sleep. After a shower, in the middle of blow drying my hair, another smaller one hit.
Today Esther and I went to the grocery store. I bought candy treats for my mother that she will remember from her childhood and a comal to make tortillas from scratch. I also bought a six pack of frijoles negros. I’m using a second piece of luggage I keep stuffed in my large luggage to bring home all the food items.
Moda taught me how to make the tortillas. I watched her add water to the dry corn mix.Then she did something with her hands to roll it into a small ball.A handful of dough makes a good size tortilla. She used plastic in between the tortilla maker so the dough doesn’t stick. Then she cooked the dough for about one minute on each side. If someone tried to explain what she showed me I could not have understood. I’m visual, I need to be shown.
Esther made a typical Guatemalan egg dish for our dinner. She chopped tomatoes and onions, cooked in oil. She added a tiny piece of a fiery hot pepper. She cooked two eggs for each of us then added the tomato onion mixture on top. I had hot corn tortillas with butter that I just learned to cook.
At the airport a man confiscated the candy treats I bought for my mother. He set it aside as if he was going to eat it as soon as I boarded. I explained to a supervisor and attendant that I wanted to bring home Guatemalan candy to my mother, who hadn’t been home in fifty three years. I asked a flight attendant if there was anything she could do. She said my candies resembled the material sometimes used for bombs, that nothing could be done to retreive the candy. I was visibly upset.
An attendant mid flight asked me if if was the one whose candy was confiscated. She asked if she could give me some Guatemalan cookies for my mother. I thanked her. She returned with a bag of a dozen small packages of cookies. I was moved by her caring enough to go out of her way for my mother.
Being awoken by barking dogs and the walk by the lake every morning seems so long ago. I’ll miss the exchange of “Buenos Dias” with each person I passed. I’ll be careful about using metaphors and cliches in my writing.I felt so blessed eating those breakfasts of frijoles negros, scrambled eggs, homemade bread, yogurt, granola and all the local fruits at Joyce’s every morning.
Todavia estoy enamorado de la belleza del pais, la calidez de la gente, la cultura, la comida, la lengua. I’m still in love with the beauty of the country, the warmth of the people, the culture, the food, the language.