Guest post by Alison Olmstead
I decided to do a homestay my first week working with De la Gente because it would be a great way to practice Spanish, but what I got out of the experience was so much more than that. Not only was I able to practice Spanish but I became acquainted with the family's day to day life, tried new and delicious food, and made a special connection with the family.
I arrived at the De la Gente office on a Monday after a long day of traveling and was picked up by my host Eduardo, one of the farmers in the San Miguel Escobar cooperative, and his two grandkids, Anthony and Iris. I was stumbling with my Spanish on the walk to their home but Eduardo was very patient with me speaking slowly and clarifying when needed. We arrived at their house and I was shown my bedroom and on my pillow was a drawing with “welcome” written and drawn by Anthony. I was feeling at home right away!
After setting my bags down I was greeted and welcomed into the kitchen by Eduardo’s wife, Francisca. We got to know each other quickly talking about our families, where I am from, what work they do among other things. Their daughter Mildred arrived home, and I was asked if I would like to come to the legal ceremony of her wedding that coming Saturday. I was honored to be invited and of course said yes! We all sat down for a wonderful dinner of rice, chicken in a sauce, and tortillas. After dinner Francesca asked me to help her with some preparations for the next day, cooking some corn on a wood burning stove and preparing some salad for the next day.
Over the course of the next few days I learned more and more about the family and their life. I joined them for delicious meals such as tamales, soup, beans, with warm tortillas always served on the side. Conversations and laughs with the family continued and I witnessed all of the hard work it takes for Francisca and her daughters to prepare food and complete the tasks to be done around the house, and the work Eduardo needs to do everyday for his coffee fields. I helped Moises, Eduardo’s son, with his English homework and played games with Anthony and Iris. At night I was even able to see Volcan de Fuego erupt with glowing lava from their rooftop!
On Thursday I came back to the house from volunteering to find the front entry way filled with baskets upon baskets of vegetables that they had gotten from the market in Antigua. I soon found out that it was all for the wedding as they were expecting six hundred people to attend! The next day, around thirty women came over to help cook the food for the wedding all day long, continuing the next day up until it was time for the fiesta. I helped where I could chopping vegetables, washing dishes, and whatever else they needed. The wedding was beautiful and the food even more delicious because I had known all of the work that was put into it. The fiesta continued the next day, watching the bride and groom open all of their wedding gifts.
After a fun weekend of celebration, Monday morning eventually rolled around and it was time for me to share my last meal and say goodbye to the family. Although I knew it wouldn’t be for very long because they invited me to the second part of the wedding, the religious ceremony in the church, the following weekend. Eduardo, Francisca and their whole family welcomed me so wonderfully into their home for the week, showing me their culture and way of life. It was amazing to see their community come together to prepare for Mildred’s wedding and let me, someone they just met a few days earlier, attend. I am incredibly thankful for the hospitality and warmth their family has shown me. It was a remarkable and memorable way to spend my first week in Guatemala!