I left San Pedro Sunday, June 13 at 8:30 in the morning. Instead of taking another boat and leaving from the city in which I arrived-Pana; I decided to leave directly from San Pedro. Five hours on a overcrowded van on the horrible unpaved and winding roads left me very car sick. Thankfully, on the second half of the trip the shuttle bus was not as packed and one of the passengers shared her Dramamine with me.
Entering Coban, the city-like atmosphere was very apparent. One of the first thing we saw was a huge McDonald’s on the main road- very different from San Pedro. I took a cab to the school where I would be studying at and the school coordinator walked with me to the house I would be staying at.
I was dying to drop odd my stuff and find dinner. I assumed that the Yohana (the mother) would not be cooking dinner on the first night because of my experience in San Pedro. Yohana asked me would I rather her cook me something or go out at night by myself (it was around 8:30/9pm). Of course, I took the cheaper and easier option of her cooking for me. She prepared a plate of eggs, black beans, creama, and tortillas for me. I quickly finished my meal (minus the creama which was disgusting) little did I know this would some minor changes- my dinner for the rest of the week. All of Yohana movements were closely followed by her 11 year old daughter Marie Jose as they both checked me out. Before going to bed I briefly meet her husband Rubén, her 5 year old daughter Maria Renee was already in bed.
Before arriving to their house Jamie, informed me that I would be sharing a room with her daughters. I know weird, I was apprehensive at first. The living arrangement actually worked out for the week, we all had our own side of the room.
There were many social and economic differences between the family I stayed with in San Pedro and with the family I stayed while in Coban. For one, there was a “father” present in the family in Coban and the grandparents did not live in close proximity. I saw Inez brother, sister, niece and parents on a daily basis; often dining with them. They whole family also spoke an indigenous Mayan language; Yohana’s family in Coban did not. The twins in San Pedro watched Disney channel and enjoyed Disney movies, while the girls in Coban’s room was littered with every type of Disney paraphernalia possible. The oldest girl was very much into everything Hannah Montana.
In the morning after the father left for work in his car, I discovered even more difference between the two families. Unlike Inez, Yohana did not work and had a helper for the house work in the morning. They had 2 televisions, a refrigerator, microwave and even family computer- things that were not at all present in San Pedro. Oh and the water was oh so very hot!!!!
The city of Coban was pretty ugly and there were not many things for visitors to do in the town. Due to the amount of students at the school I was studying at I had to take classes in the afternoon. While I was not too happy with this arrangement at first it actually worked out well, since it rained the majority of the afternoons I was in Coban. I spent the mornings exploring the town, running errands and hanging out with Yohana.
One place I visted was the coffee farm in town and brought my parents some lovely Coban coffee. The majority of Guatemalans look at me like I have 4 heads when I tell them I don’t drink coffee.
One morning Yohana invited me to come to the doctor and the children school with her. Yohana is 3 months pregnant and I was curious to see how doctor offices looked in Guatemala. Her access to prenatal care firmly cemented her as middle class in my mind. After we left the doctor’s office we went to the children school. Why? I still have no clue, but we visited Maria Renee’s kindergarten class- Yohanna said something to the children and passed out a paper about her husband job.
I am guessing it had something to do with the father’s day celebration later in the week. Finally we went to market to get food for my lunch. I had the pleasure of seeing a woman pick up the chicken (with her bare hands) that I would eat a couple of hours later and chop it in half.
The evenings I spent with the family- lip syncing/ playing the “air” instruments or coloring with the girls.
It has been years since my dad has had a “real” job, so it was nice to see the girl’s excitement when “Daddy” came home. The whole family usually tried to help me with my homework and by help I mean do it for me. Ruben (the father) taught me some Guatemalan slang and we discussed the day’s world cup game at dinner.
In the last 2 years, Yohana has had 5 students stay in her house. Since she only allows single girls this greatly limits the amount of students. She informed me that she didn’t really like the other girls because they were closed off. She also mentioned that brown people were more approachable and pretty much better overall. I am probably one of the few people who eat meat and I can promise you that I was the only one who asked to use the iron. By Wednesday Yohana begin constantly telling me how much I would be missed and how sad the girls would be when I left. I promised to keep and touch and she promised to call me when she found out the sex of the baby. We are all hoping for a boy. On the final day Ruben told me that I would always have a place to stay in Coban- I think they liked me.