Feria Santa Eulalia
category: Jims Guatemala

feriaSM.jpgThis week is the Santa Eulalia feria, a celebration of the saint’s day for the town’s namesake. No one works except the guys that sell street food, knicknacks, balloons, and things you can’t normally get in our market. Needless to say, we aren’t giving any lectures or training or having any meetings, because no one would show up! We don’t really get the whole week off, though; we’re busy planning and corresponding with people trying to set up projects, and we have to do a presentation to our bosses in the capitol on Thursday to explain what we’re up to. But despite that, there’s plenty of time to go to the feria and mingle with the locals, learning about their culture and getting them more used to seeing us. In fact, today I had a typical exchange I want to share with you:

“Welcome to Guatemala!” says a guy with a tent selling fancy shoes, as he checks out my Gringo looks.

“Gracias,” I reply. “De donde eres?” (Thanks. Where are you from?)

“Soy de Xela,” he replies, looking a little confused. (He’s from Xela, a big city about 6 hours south of here. A lot of these guys travel from feria to feria, selling specialty items.)

“Muy Bien!” I reply, shaking his hand and patting him on the shoulder. “Entonces, bienvenidos a Santa Eulalia! Soy de Temux Grande, una aldea de aqui.” (I just told him that I actually live here, and I should be welcoming him to my town instead of the other way around.)

At this point, much hilarity ensues. It blows them away that ANY gringo would live here for two years, and they dig it. In most cases, the person is from the surrounding region, and speaks Q’anjob’al. This is when I bust out a few phrases in the local dialect, and I have a new friend forever. Then, they talk about their time in the US, or their kids, or my lack of kids, or whatever. You get the picture.

Anyways, we were watching the parade today, when the guy in front of me started chatting in a similar manner. This is pretty normal, and would freak me out as I am normally a pretty introverted person, but I got this thing from my Dad where when Joe Plumber wants to talk to me, I can just talk like I’ve known the guy for years. This comes in handy all the time in Guatemala. In this case, I ended up meeting Lorenzo Mateo. He’s been to the US, and speaks reasonably good English. He is interested in practicing with us, as there is little opportunity to practice in Santa Eulalia because everyone who goes to the US ends up learning Spanish there while working on Mexican crews, and never learns English. But he went to school for a bit. He mentions the idea of helping us learn Q’anjob’al as well, which we are interested in, but we need someone who can also write it. “No problem,” says he. Turns out, he’s a member of the Mayan Language Academy, and he’s got the goods on written Q’anjob’al.

LorenzoMateoSM.jpgBut that’s not all, he’s also on the board of directors of Snoq’ Jolom Konob’, the town radio station. “Come with me to the station, I will show it to you,” he says. We follow him a half block to the radio station (we’d seen it before and knew where it was) and he took us inside and showed us around, speaking English all the way. They were playing marimba music at the time (of course) and he dimmed the volume down and starting talking into the big fuzzy microphone in Q’anjob’al. I could follow about 10% of what he was saying, things about the feria and such, then he mentioned that there were some gringoes that lived in town and work with the health center, and they were with him in the studio. Then he looked at me, and moved away from the microphone.

LorenzoRadioSM.jpgUM, YEAH. The joke’s on me. “Trajein ayeq hemasanil,” I said into the microphone, spending most of my Q’anjob’al in one pass. Then I spoke a few minutes in Spanish about how nice the fair was and how happy everyone looked and how much fun we were having. Luckily, at that point I was able to give the microphone to Emily, and she said some intelligent sounding stuff to balance out my vapid commentary. Having done that, we exchanged phone numbers with Lorenzo so we can visit again sometime. He has a radio program weekly on Saturday night and he’s invited us to join him. I think I’m into that.

More on the feria itself in the next post.

Posted by: jfanjoy