Friday, March 11, 2011

March, the cranky month

Or so it feels, from where I sit. So at least a couple of cranky and idiosyncratic blogs (well, the whole blogging thing is a bit of a showcase for idiosyncrasies, or at least the ones a blogger chooses to project to/perform for his/her public). Then I promise, I'll get back to some other content.

I know, I keep promising "this is for a future blog", "I'll write more about this later", and I probably haven't. One day when I have time on my hands (let's say, any evening in Chinique after 7 p.m., shall we?), I will make a list and maybe even post it, and then we (or I) can dutifully check off things or basically say, "the hell with that one."

I've been absent from the blog and from just about everything else because of an unexpectedly yucky illness (I was going to say "unexpected illness" but then thought, "well, nearly all illnesses are unexpected, unless someone you have just seen does you the courtesy of calling and saying "I just came down with...." or "The baby you were playing was just diagnosed with chicken pox" .. then you can pretty well EXPECT to get the malady to which you were exposed). And I guess there is also a certain logical expectation that I, as a foreigner living for the first really extended period outside of my country, and in what people think of as "the tropics" (with all of the baggage laden onto that term by colonizing armies, traders, clergy, tourists and novelists; one can just roll out the essential adjectives and phrases... swampy, pestilent, primitive sanitary habits, questionable food preparation, don't drink the water). Of course, I might hasten to add that "my" part of Guatemala (how's that for anthropology's colonizing gesture?  There is certainly a tendency -- I do my best to avoid it -- to be very possessive and territorial about our communities [virtual or FTF] and collaborators]), the mountains of southeastern Quiché, is not very tropical.  The altitude for departmental capital, Sta. Cruz del Quiché is listed as over 6,400 ft.  The altitude for Chinique is listed as ranging from 3,400 to over 7,000 ft (these statistics include the entire municipio, which means the pueblo or "urban area" and all the surrounding aldeas that are part of the territory). There are tropical parts of Guatemala, undoubtedly -- I think down along the Pacific coast, where many large plantations are located -- but I'm not in one of them.

Nonetheless, I survived my first two months with nothing more dramatic than some upper-respiratory reactions to the climate (cold at night in the mountains), the altitude, the dust and the pollution (so on-and-off cough and runny nose, especially when I'd spent several hours driving in diesel fumes or an hour on unpaved mountain roads), and a few hours of gastric distress -- ironically the day before I returned to the U.S. after 6 weeks in country, so it wasn't a reaction to new and unusual food or the water; probably just accumulated stress working its way through my body and finding a convenient haven in my digestive system. The runny nose/cough/dry throat I dealt with by keeping a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of water or a thermos of hot tea in the car, and the gastric distress responded quickly to some familiar over-the-counter medications -- no name-dropping here; the internet is commercial enough; at the "entry page" for the blog there is a tab that purports to offer me advise about how to "monetarize" (monetizar) my blog, but I've never even opened it.

So, Sunday afternoon (returning from the second of two round-trips to Panajachel in as many days which occasioned my last cranky entry about teaching the women to drive),  I started to feel a little "tetchy" and Monday I woke up feeling awful. I made a trip I probably shouldn't have to Chichicastenango to work with Ixmukané, realized once there that I was really sick and needed to get back to Chinique and into bed as fast as I could. It was about 11 a.m. when I finally was able to collapse onto the mattress and until Wednesday morning I only got out of bed to get more tissues, more water, and try to eat something. More about the sickness later.

So, several days lost to the world -- I went out on Wednesday for an International Women's Day Celebration in Sta. Cruz del Quiché, and it was worth whatever it might have cost my recovery, and then returned to bed.  Thursday (yesterday) I was up and about a bit (but then lay down around 9 a.m. after a few relatively active hours and before I knew it, it was 2 p.m.), and today is the first day that I have really felt even, like 50%.

Oh yes, and on top of this the power was cut off from about midday Monday (don't know exactly when as I was laid out flat, not asleep, but certainly not turning lights or computers or other electrically-powered appliances off and on).  The bill was delivered VERY late (Sunday, or at least that's when I saw it tucked under the outside fence, not even in an envelope), and then they cut it off the next day? I didn't realize it was off until Monday night when I groggily tried to turn on the light by the bed and the switch didn't respond. The landlord went to pay the bill in Quiché on Tuesday morning but they didn't turn power back until about 6 on Wednesday. 

Went to the clinic, taking medications, drinking liquids, drinking soup, eating fruit. I promise, more details about the illness and treatments.

But I had three things in mind when I sat down today.  Three things, that is, about which I wanted to blog. So I'll note them here, and let's see if I get through them today. I figured if I broke them up into three separate entries, I'd be more likely to get them done, one by one. This may or may not be the order in which they get "published". That, dear reader (sorry, I've just gotten through a bit of the Brontes, so I've got the odd 19th century affectation; I've moved on to the early 20th century, Galsworthy and Tagore, so this will stop), is hard to predict now. I'll open up a "nueva entrada" (new entry") and see what pops into mind.

(1) A recipe (and commentary about eating and buying local) - this is of course related to the illness thing since 
(2) Illness and observations (admittedly not very profound) about the health care system....
(3) Some random rants -- my short (maybe not so short) list of things that I don't like about everyday life in Guatemala today. I mean, the really "big picture" things that upset me about Guatemala are ones I've mentioned and should be familiar if you've read more than an entry or two here: pervasive and endemic racism, structural inequality, intense and grinding poverty, violence, impunity, gender discrimination and violence, corruption... Maybe I've left out a few but that's a pretty good summary of the "biggies". No, today I'm going to lay out some of the quirky little things ... some of which, undoubtedly, have their roots in the same overarching factors (colonialism, "development" policies imposed from above and outside, neoliberalism, certain ideologies of "development" and "progress", and so forth).

Okay, I wasn't planning to write that much of an introduction. I will add a picture. Or try to. it just takes a REALLY long time to load photos on Blogger. Usually a good thing to do when I am washing clothes or cooking -- but I have to remember to start the process and THEN go get my hands wet and/or dirty... not vice versa....

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