On Passover eve we studied Spanish all through the morning, and volunteered for the first time in the local orphan home, so we didn’t have that much time to organize the Seder. Still, we managed to celebrate a traditional Jewish Seder with our adopting Guatemalan family. We had a grandma (not ours, let’s not get caught up in small details), we had Matzos (not sure that the Rabbi would have approved, but they did the job), wine (in a carton box from the local store), and a hardboiled egg (nothing different here). We had Charoset (with an improved recipe), a Zeroa (shank bone from a fast food chain), and Karpas (fresh lettuce). We had Maror (chili jalapeño), and a lot of traditional food (soup, tostados, chicken). As I said, a traditional Jewish Seder.
The whole day long we felt that special holiday feeling, not just for us – but for everyone in the streets. At first we thought we were imagining things, but then we remembered that our fellow Christian Guatemalans are celebrating Semana Santa (the holy week).
The after the Jewish Passover, we went outside to the plaza to watch one of the many processions of Semana Santa - the Christian holy week which is celebrated a week before Easter. People all over town came out of the churches, carrying icons, banners and models representing different stages in the life of Jesus Christ. In each procession there were men, women and children dressed festively, and a marching band with some very heavy instruments…
The streets of the city were covered with the traditional colorful carpets of Semana Santa, on which the people of the city worked for hours before the event. We joined all the locals, and watched the processions in the very hot day, with the sun beating down on our heads.
We arrived at the town of Quetzaltenango, also known in short as Xela, on a Saturday evening. On Sunday we had a day to relax and get to know the town before our Spanish lessons started. We study the language in a small school called El Portal, which was founded by a charming woman called Paula. All the profit from the school go to the local community. The classes are held Monday to Friday, and we live with a local family, that by chance or not, Paula’s family.
The family includes the grandma, Mimi (who is younger than both Shahars mother and mine), Paula, who is Mimi’s daughter, and Stephaney, Paula’s daughter, a 13 years old girl with a devastating smile. and there are 3 other cute young girl walking about, that we don’t really know how they fit in the picture…
In the house we have a room on the ground floor, near the kitchen and the dining room – the most important places in every house. The shower, which is on the top floor, is shared by all the residents. Breakfast is served at 7:30 in the morning, and after we eat we walk to the school (10 minutes walk), and almost always arrive late… school ends at 12:50, and on 13:00 sharp grandma Mimi is already waiting with the table all set up for lunch (I have to admit I can get use to it). Dinner is served at 20:00, and until then we have time to go over our classes, walk around the town, go to one of the school activities or volunteer.
A local woman in the central park of the town
Every time I hear the words “New York”, I get an aching to come back for another visit in the city. And it doesn’t matter if it is August with a heat wave or freezing February, it seems New York is calling me in every possible weather….
On our way to Guatemala and Costa Rica, we decided to stop for a few days in the big apple. We didn’t have any plans, but the city, as always, stretched her arms with a big and welcoming embrace.
We didn't do all that much… just wondered in the streets, enjoying the human commotion, absorbing the atmosphere, letting the magic run in our veins… oh, and we did a lot of eating too…. really, a lot of eating.
Manhatten, a view from Williamsburg
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