After convincing my boss, and myself that Coban was the best place to be, I moved!
I have been here in Coban for 6 days.
Coban is completely different from Semuc Champey. There are vast differences in the weather, accessibility to things, population, waste management system (aka garbage collection), and I see far fewer random, sickly dogs roaming around.
Coban and Semuc Champey are like Milwaukee and Chicago.
Milwaukee has an abundance of everything you need, tons of culture and things to explore. Milwaukee boasts streets that are easy to navigate and full of life. Charming boutiques and businesses with inviting storefronts. Milwaukee has character, and soul, similar to Coban. Then you have Semuc Champey/Chicago. It is a beautiful place to visit. You go and take some amazing pictures, be the envy of everyone who follows you on social media. Upload pictures and get tons of likes, #goals, and the yellow emoji with the heart-shaped eyes. It’s one of those “you must see” places. But once you leave the heart of the place, you’ve seen it all. Yeah, that’s Chicago.
I am here in Coban in a very different way than my presence in Semuc Champey. In Semuc I ate, slept, showered, ate again, drank, breathed, saw, and slept Greengos Hotel. Every particle of food or drink that touched my lips was from Greengos Hotel (well except that one time when I ate at a restaurant apparently staffed and ran by a pack of stray dogs). I kid you not when I tell you that there is absolutely NOWHERE ELSE TO GO－ aside from the National Park or another hotel (but why would I visit competitors who already know I’m the weird-looking foreigner who works at the Israeli hotel?). I enjoyed the peace and tranquility for the first couple of weeks. It gave me a chance to actually hear myself think, process what was going on with me, and reflect on how I ended the school year. I was at peace and decompressing. Although I met customers while working, I was not focused on really building or nurturing any sort of relationships. I had “small talkish” conversations with people and when they left, I smiled, wished them well and collected their room key. I was also working crazed woman hours so I was probably tired ALL THE TIME and didn’t even really notice because tired became my normal state of being.
It was great, at first. I didn’t have to cook any meals (I wasn’t allowed to because the kitchen is off-limits to those who are not chefs or kitchen staff). I didn’t have to do any of my own laundry－ the laundering staff took care of those needs (in my British-princess accent). I didn’t spend any money, 3 meals and housing were a part of the scheme to get me here (just kidding). And I could watch the daily drama of Greengos Hotel: When the boss is away the staff will play unfold before my very eyes.
What was great turned into old. I realized that I had 2 breakfast, lunch and dinner options (the same 2) and that those options were being exhausted and recycled every two days. I started to lose weight. Let’s pause. Don’t get me wrong, this was AMAZING! I was finally doing what I couldn’t pay to do while competing in 2 rounds of The Biggest Loser at work. I lost weight because I was over the idea－ not the idea, the reality of eating fried rice, lo mein or hummus and pita for lunch and dinner everyday. I started just asking for fruits, salads and fresh veggies. Oh and french fries. Bowls and bowls of homemade french fries. You may be thinking, “you are in Guatemala, you aren’t eating Guatemalan food?” Nope, not-a-none. The menu is indiscriminately, overwhelmingly stacked with Israeli food. And fried rice. And lo mein. And pasta. Red or white sauce. And pita with nutella in several different variations that boast names that start with the prefix hummus- and end with the suffix -ella; although nutella + pita don’t equal hummus or -ella (𝅘𝅥𝅮 -ella, -ella, eh, eh, eh. Under my um-brella, -ella -ella 𝅘𝅥𝅮)- tidbit about my myself, I heart Rihanna (heart means love; doesn’t everyone talk in emoji’s now?!).
Now Coban Ashley.
Ashley 2.0, cooks all of her own meals, or takes herself to dinner (only once so far). Ashley 2.0 still doesn’t wash her clothes－ I pay people to do that. Well the truth is, there is a laundry service about 87 steps from the Airbnb and it’s only right that I support the local economy by allowing them to provide me with their services (eyelash bat and smile). I still have my room cleaned for me－ because it is a service provided and I wouldn’t dare deprive someone of doing their job. Ashley 2.0 gets excited about normal tasks like going grocery shopping, buying feminine hygiene products, and purchasing socks & underwear－ there is no such thing as too many socks and underwear.
Ashley 2.0 is excited to walk out of the front gate to see… people! Actual living, breathing, people! I love trees, dirt, rocks, smoke rising into the clouds, stray itchy pregnant dogs with their adorable big-eyed, hungry looking pups. But not more than I love the company of HUMAN BEINGS! Just to see people, even if they do look at me like I’m an alien. Or a missionary coming to tell them about the goodness of God and his precious son, sweet baby Jesus and turn them from their wicked indigenous farmer ways.
It’s nice to have a place to find basic essentials and watch street festival dancers twirl to spanish gospel music－ but not the American-missionary kind.
I am enjoying Coban.
1 thing I started to realize yesterday, was how much I miss my daily episodes of As the world turns ever so slowly in the desolate jungle. I had started to develop friendships with the local staff. I no longer have them to encourage me, invite me to the women-staff sleepovers in their dorm, invite me to eat lunch with them, teach me Guatemalan slang, ask me how to say things in english, and watch me so they could pick up on my weird American mannerisms－like squirting on loads of OFF spray and hours later scratch at my host of mosquito bites because that junk DOESN’T EVEN WORK!
It can get lonely here. I don’t see the same people on a day-to-day basis and when I do come into contact with people they are
- Astound to see me and don’t speak, just whisper to each other and point in my direction
- Try to sell me random knickknacks
- Ask me to change
- Walk passed me quickly, then turn around and watch me as I turn my head to watch them, watching me.
One thing is for sure. Black people in Coban and Semuc Champey are all aliens, every single one of us, singular me.
Speaking of aliens, I was in the mall with my boss when I first arrived here. He was in the bank and my stomach was slappin’ my back (translation: I was pretty hungry). I found the food court and got Dominos (yes America takes over everything, everywhere we go and there is a Dominos, Subway, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s in this mall). So I order and am now outside of the bank on a bench DEVOURING this pizza. I don’t know what I look like, but I imagine I look pretty darn hungry. A Guatemalan woman walks past me. Then she doubles back and stares at me. I am honestly used to this by now. I just smile and wave, like a zoo animal, eating pizza. I’m sure she doesn’t see brown-skinned people too often because since I’ve been here neither have I. She leaves her cart, with her purse in it and comes to sit near me. In Spanish she starts talking to me. But all of my attention is devoted to this personal pan cheese pizza with bread-sticks and marinara sauce. What I heard her say was, “where did you get the pizza from?” I’m a pretty nice person I would say overall, so I respond, “Dominoes”. She says, “Dominoes is in what country?”－ So her initial question was where are you from. At this point I put the pizza down because clearly I cannot listen, comprehend, translate in my mind and properly answer while inhaling the scent of marinara and demolishing a pizza. I have a conversation with her－ well really I am listening to her talk to me about I don’t know what. I was still very hungry and fully fixated on the pizza in the box next to me that was getting cooler and cooler by the minute. It wasn’t all bad, I was nodding, appearing to be a very good active listener in true teacher fashion.
To sum it up, Ashley 2.0 is enjoying living among more than 40 people. While I may not be talking to any of these people, seeing them around is enough for me.
Until next time. I’m gonna go cook one of those meals I was telling you about. Sautéed veggies, avocado, sliced cucumbers and a piece of fruit. I still am not eating ‘Guatemalan’ food. Seeing as how I didn’t evolve into a Guatemalan, I am unsure of their daily cuisine and am sure I don’t have any of the ingredients to even pretend to dabble. It’s funny how when I had a limited choice of food options I complained. Now that I can eat whatever I want, I essentially eat THE SAME THINGS EVERY DAY. But it’s the principle, principle I tell you!
Until next time- says Roger the Rabbit
Get it? I eat fruits and veggies (every single waking day) so I’m calling myself a rabbit! Who needs friends to tell you jokes when you’re just naturally born funny, and your ability to gauge what is funny decreases everyday that you don’t actually interact with the people who stare at you like you’re about to do a magic trick or steal their baby!