Field School: Day 10

I need to learn how to cook. If I’m going to come live in Guatemala for any extended length of time, I cannot rely on restaurants. Restaurants offer food of uncertain quality cooked in uncertain conditions, which leads to certain gastrointestinal distress. I’ve learned this the hard way. On the bright side, there is a reliable 24/7 pharmacy near school that is willing to dole out antibiotics to gringas. This, too, I learned the hard way. My performance in Kaqchikel class suffered a bit on Thursday and Friday before I figured that out though. 

Kaqchikel class is amazing. We’ve learned so much in such a short time. I feel like I understand spoken Kaqchikel much better than I can produce it, however. Particularly when I’m called upon in class, all the Kaqchikel just disappears from my reach and I’m stuck floundering around like a goof with strange syllables and complicated verb prefixes. In this, I appreciate (and rue) being surrounded by linguists. Getting a handle on grammatical differences is somewhat simpler when you can ask the linguistics professor sitting next to you… You just can’t expect a LING101 level answer from them, which is admittedly what I probably need. 

I’m getting more comfortable in Patzún as well. I can find my way home from school, from the café where we meet after school, and from the director’s house where we go for lunch. I know how to find the central square, the market, and the grocery store from my house. I know where the most reliable ATM is. I can even find the skateshop and the mill where my host tía goes to grind the corn for tortilla dough. 

My host family is without a doubt amazing. They’re exactly the kind of people I want in my life. My tía went to the grocery store in the other side of town specifically to get rice for me when my stomach was upset. They invite me to come with them whenever they go out, even if it’s just to the little tiendita one street over for firewood. They’ve made me feel extraordinarily welcome in their home. I’m trying to come up with a good gift to get for my tía’s birthday tomorrow, but the only hints my hermanas will give me is that she wants a cake. I guess I’m getting a cake!

Field School: Day 4

My brain is fried. I think I may have mentioned that in a prior blog post, but it’s extra true today. Super fried. Two full days of classes has me feeling like my brain is about to pour out my ears if I tilt it too far to one side. I didn’t write anything except vocabulary and sample sentences in my bullet journal today, which is extraordinarily strange. Normally I have some kind of notes about how my day was, where I went, interesting things that happened… None of that today. Just notes upon notes about Kaqchikel vocabulary.

We did go over numbers today, which made me so extraordinarily happy as to actually dance around and clap. I was so thrilled to actually know something in advance and be able to help people out a little bit that weren’t catching on. There will be a whole post about Mayan numerals and what’s going on there, so stay tuned.

 

The family dynamic is getting a little easier as well. I have a tía (aunt) and two hermanas (sisters) as well as a sobrino (nephew) now.

Field School: Day 3

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We got our Mayan names today! I’m absolutely thrilled with mine, even though I’ve known it for a whole year already. It’s a combination of my Mayan birthday (9 N’oj) with the classifier for “woman”. So, now my name is Ixnoj and I’m extraordinarily happy about it.

We’ve been learning how to do introductions and how to say here we’re from.


4:30pm

A full day of classes is, without a doubt, exhausting. In addition to introductions and where we’re from, we also learned school supply vocabulary and a few verbs like “run”, “jump”, and “swim”. We’ve left school and left for a little cafe near the school where we’re all just kind of collapsing. We’re going over our logistics and the details of the experience. I’m one of three non-linguists here, and the only one that’s going to stay on for the research portion, so I’m feeling a considerable bit of Impostor Syndrome. We just went around and described our research plans and mine was… well. It was different.

I’m starting to fit in a little more, I think. My personality is coming out more frequently and in more strength; I think everyone knows to point out ice cream vendors to me because I will more than likely immediately contribute to the local economy.


7:30pm

Today I successfully found the way home from the café. I only had to use the map twice, but once was to try to track down the skateshop that I saw yesterday so I could stop in and see what they had. Nothing exciting or even quality, and a walmart-level board would cost me bespoke-level money, so looks like I’m walking everywhere. In any case, I got home by myself and it’s a source of pride. On my way home, I also popped into the candle shop and said “ütz, matyöx” to the shop girl when she handed me the right candle I wanted. I was promptly interrogated by some very curious elderly Kaqchikel men as to why I was learning Kaqchikel and how long I’d be in town and where I was from… I got to bust out some vocabulary that I learned today and I think I used it properly! Progress!


Today’s Vocabulary

Rïn – yo, I
rat – tú/usted, you
rija’ – él/ella, she/he
röj – nosotros, we
rïx – ustedes, you all (formal)
rije’ – ellos/ellas, they

ja’ – sí, yes
manäq – no
achike – cómo/qué, cuál, quién; how/what, which, who
akuchi’ – donde, dónde; where
aj akuchi’ –  a donde, from where

tijoxel – estudiante, student
tijonel – maestro, teacher
tinamït – pueblo, town

nub’i’ – mi nombre, my name
ab’i’ – tu nombre, your name
rub’i’ – su nombre, their name (singular)
qab’i’ – nuestro nombre, our name
ib’i’ – nombres de ustedes, their name (plural, formal)
kib’i’ – nombres de ellos/ellas, their name (plural, informal)

nutinamit – mi pueblo, my town
atinamit –
tu/su pueblo, your town
rutinamit – 
su pueblo (de él/ella), his/her pueblo
quatinamit – nuestro pueblo, our town
itinamit – su pueblo (de ustedes), their town (formal, plural)
kitiniamit – su pueblo (de ellas/ellos), their down (informal, plural)

 

Field School: Day 2 First Day of School

7:15am

Oh god its early. The town starts making noise at 5am sharp and the church across the street has some really loud bells at 6. Waking up might have been a welcome relief from the bed though; I normally sleep with a very thick pillow and mine here is maybe a half inch thick. I slept with my airplane neck pillow. I’m sure I’ll become accustomed but it’s a sharp change from Hotel Barceló.

I just had my first “hot shower”, which involved Doña Maria Louisa waking up early to heat up water on the stove and put it into a large bucket in the bathroom. Then I used a small bucket to dump the hot water into myself. Invigorating! I need shower shoes, and it seems that my brand new travel towel has found a new owner.

Time for breakfast and the walk to school! My host sister Glenda and host nephew Daniel will be walking me to school the first time so I don’t get lost… Daniel goes to school there too so we might be walking there together a lot!


1:15pm

My brain hurts. The q and the k noises are really difficult to differentiate and make noises unlike anything in English. We’ve learned how to do greetings for the morning, afternoon, and the night, and when we return from lunch and buying cellphones we’ll do “My name is…”.

There were demonstrations of the salutations and then were plucked to greet each other, which was a little anxiety provoking when you can’t wrap your head around the noises quite yet.

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Xseqër k’a – Good morning
Xqaq’ij k’a – Good afternoon
Xokoq’a – Good evening
ütz – good
matyöx – thank you

Person 1: Xseqer k’a. (Good morning to you.)
Person 2: Xseqer matyöx. (Good morning, thanks.)
Person 1: La ütz awäch? (How are you?)
Person 2: Ütz, matyöx. La ütz awäch rat? (Good, thanks? And how are you?)
Person 1: Ütz, matyöx. (Good, thanks.)
Person 2: Matyöx k’a ri’. (Thanks for asking.)

There’s lot of thanking and such involved in greeting people, apparently. Very formulaic.


5:00pm

After 3 hours of congregating at the phone store, we all have Guatemalan phones or SIM cards! We’ve exchanged numbers and have started texting each other and our homestay families. I also picked up a little modem so I can use the internet on my laptop, which will be super helpful when I find the time to actually grade assignments for the class I’m TAing (it’s Intro to Psychology so there’s tons of assignments and graded discussions and quizzes). I wasn’t looking forward to grading exams from my phone, to be sure. Anyways, now if we get lost in town we can call each other for help. It took so long we didn’t get to return to school for more class. It’s the first day and we’re behind already!


7:30pm

There’s been a lot of walking today. My homestay family lives about a 15 minute walk from the school and a 20 minute walk from Don Pedro’s place, and I went back and forth a few times (including going once with Doña Maria Luisa to the mill to get the corn ground for tortilla dough.

Daniel is reminding me more and more of Bana and Catie simultaneously. He played the Endless Spanish game on my phone for a while then got distracted and tried to start playing other games and messing with my bank app; I think I need to download some kind of child lock on my phone!

Field School: Day 0 and 1

5/27 7:00pm

I left the AirBnb early to go to the hotel. I met Justin there and we decided to go on a nice explore. We took a taxi to the Plaza de Constitución, where there was a cultural festival going on, including some stalls of lovely books for sale. We both purchased a copy of a Kaqchikel-Spanish dictionary and I got a book of numbers. I probably should have saved my Q, but alas. I cannot resist the allure of a bookstore. We also had lunch at Pollo Brujo and returned to the hotel. Justin was good company. 

The rest of the group seems lovely as well. Lots of folks from McGill as well as University of Maryland, and lots of French being thrown around. 

I have high hopes for this adventure… I’m surely not going to meet all of them, but I hope it will be academically profitable nonetheless. 

5/28 12:50pm

We’ve arrived safely in Patzún. Everyone is pretty awesome and so darn smart. My imposter syndrome is going through the roof. It’s become clear to me that I have very little actual knowledge of linguistics. 

1:45

We just watched a parade go by. It was AMAZING. I think my ears are going to take a few days to recover though. Fireworks kept going off right next to me and my favorite jeans got a bit singed. That’s what I get for bringing my favorite jeans on an international adventure though. 

(come back later for photos when my Internet connection is stronger) 

2:45

We just tried to go get local cellphones, but the store was closed for the fair. We’ll be picking them up on the lunch break tomorrow instead. But, we got a little walking tour out of it and now we know where classes will be tomorrow! There’s a lot of places to buy ice cream on the way. My wallet is in considerable trouble. 

We’re breaking up the group now to go meet our host families! I’m excited and a little nervous to meet them. I know they have a little kid that’s four years old, so I’m going to be missing Catie something fierce.

5:15pm

I’m at my homestay now. My family is very kind. Daniel is 5 years old and reminds me a lot of Salif’s son, Bana. 

Before we left for the homestay, Justin, Julia, Sarah, and I made up an absolutely crazy basketball game variant and we wore ourselves out laughing so hard. It was so much fun. When Pedro and Omer came in from dropping other students off they were incredibly confused trying to figure out but the rules. 

Maria Louisa, the doña of my homestay just came in to give me the key to the gate of the compound. She seems quite nice as well but I’ll have to keep an eye on my “ustedes” so I don’t seem like I lack respect. 

Update 6:45

Doña Maria Louisa gave me some lessons in Kaqchikel! She was very patient. We’ll be having tamales for dinner and tomorrow after class they’ll teach me to make tortillas!