Altars, Kites, and Three-legged Sheep: My Weird Day
category: Jims Guatemala

Today was a nice fall day- sunny, and awfully cold unless you were in the direct sunlight. We are packing to go to the south for a weeklong seminar, so we are in “get outta here” mode, but weird stuff kept happening. First off, LOTS of men are staggering around drunk. Not kinda drunk; I’m talking about slurred speech, staggering around almost falling over drunk. Actually, check that: I saw one guy sleeping in the road at about 2pm. Sixth-grade graduation was last night (a very big deal here) and the party got pretty out of hand, apparently. Then some people stood us up for a meeting, one of our kids that we’re friends with was crying for no apparent reason and wouldn’t talk to us about it, and all sorts of stuff like that.

BabyKalnelS.jpgThen, Emily tells me that one of the sheep had a baby last night, and I should go look at it. Turns out, the dog ate its leg off. Yep. So, the neighbors are trying to keep it alive. They moved it to the sunny hill above their house, and put its mother nearby to keep it company, and put a blanket on it to keep it warm. This happened once before, they said, and they were able to save the lamb. But it had a pretty hard life as a result. Duh.

When I went to see the lamb, the boys were flying kites. They made them from scrap cellophane and little reeds from the field, and strung them out with sewing thread. They worked surprisingly well! Here’s a photo of one that was hundreds of yards up in the air, with the kids flying it. There is a tradition here of flying kites for All Saints day, coming up soon.

KiteS.jpgSpeaking of which, they have another custom as well. They clean up cemeteries and decorate graves during October, because it’s safe then: all the spirits leave the cemeteries to hang out in their former homes for the month. On Halloween, the spirits all have a big party, and on the following day (All Saints Day) they go back to their graves to rest in peace for another 11 months. To make the spirits welcome (or appease them?) the locals put up altars with candles and pictures and such. This evening, our neighbor/ landlady came by to ask us if we could leave our key with her when we went away, so she could set up an altar in our clubhouse. I suppose that means that a former occupant of our home died. I am generally OK with the concept of an altar, but not too thrilled about someone having our key while we are gone for 10 days. She is one of the three or four people in town we know we can trust, though, so I am not too concerned after she said that she will be the only person in here. (I had secret worries of a 10-person, all night prayer vigil in our house by people I’ve never met before. That happened to me in my last house in Guatemala.) So, Emily and I discussed it, and we’re going to leave her the key. My only worry now is the idea of someone leaving half a dozen candles burning unattended all night on a wooden platform in the middle of my wooden house. I hope I have a home to come back to in November.

Posted by: jfanjoy