Throughout the first eight days of our nine days in Guatemala, I have enjoyed sharing with others in so many smiles, jokes, and laughter—sometimes with my traveling companions, and also with Guatemalans.
My vegetarian eating habits were so graciously accommodated by the many people whose hands served us our meals. In Quetzaltenango on Wednesday, a waiter and I laughed together as he teased me about it, pretending to include meat items on my plate or in my coffee.
On our way to visit the widows of Chontala to learn about their weaving cooperative on Saturday, Pastor Diego (son of a Maya priest and a Maya priestess who converted to Methodism) and I discussed how the one English word, “free,” (with its two very different meanings of “at no charge” or “possessing liberty”) exists as two very different words in Spanish (“gratis” or “libre”). He created a nonsensical sentence to the effect of how is glad that he is free of charge, and we both giggled with delight at our silliness.
In Chichicastenango on Sunday, as I weaved my way through the market day crowds doing my best to dodge persistent adult vendors, I found myself enjoying sharing conversations and smiles with the children with whom I interacted. I wished that Roxanna, Maria, and Robelia (all of whom I would guess to be between the ages of six and nine) did not have to sell me a bookmark, a headband, and a potholder in order to help provide food for their families. However, in the midst of buying from them out of pity/charity, I found myself coming alive and relating with them as our shared language of Spanish allowed them to set aside their worn plastic bags filled with trinkets for just a few moments as I asked them about their families and accepted their embraces as we posed for pictures together.
This trip has opened my mind and heart to more fully considering how bilingualism might be an important part of my ministerial calling. I thought leaving bilingual elementary school teaching behind meant that I had also left behind the use of Spanish on a daily basis, but it could be that the Spanish language opens too many relational doors for me to ignore.
- Clare Gromoll