I’ve written before that one of our favourite parts of travelling is meeting the people who live in the country we’re visiting. That’s why a highlight of our recent trip to Guatemala was paying a visit to a small community, to see their school and have lunch in a farmhouse.
Before leaving the city of Antigua, where we’d stayed for two days, we stopped in a local market to pick up soccer balls to take as a gift to the school. We drove about an hour out of the city through winding roads, and pulled onto a dusty lane that led us through small cultivated tracts. We watched as farmers planted and fertilized some of these fields by hand. Horses are expensive, and the farms are small enough that these jobs can be done manually.
We pulled over to the side of the road to see the village school. The classroom was held outdoors, where five rows of desks were filled with hard-working children. I’d told the guide we didn’t want to visit a “model school”, where visitors are regularly paraded through, and we were pleased that this didn’t seem to be the case. The children seemed genuinely excited to meet these odd visitors who spoke little Spanish and brought a couple of soccer balls with them. (To my relief, nobody asked us to inaugurate those soccer balls.)
Although the language barrier meant we couldn’t speak directly with the kids, they enjoyed showing us their schoolwork. We loved communicating through smiles and laughter: two of the girls were thrilled to show me the pictures they’d drawn and stories they’d written, while Andrew bantered with the mischievous boys in the back row. They were particularly amused by Andrew counting “uno, dos, tres” before taking their photos – maybe it was his Canadian accent?
Waving goodbye to our new friends, we drove a few minutes further along the road. By North American standards, the farms are basic and the houses are compact. When we arrived at the farmhouse we’d be eating lunch at, we were greeted by our tiny, perfect hostess and invited into her home. We sat at a table in a small room next to the kitchen, with religious pictures and calendars on the walls around us.
When she brought us the meal, I asked our guide if we could say grace – given the sacred atmosphere of the room, I thought she would appreciate it. And sure enough, when we were finished, the first thing she asked him about us was “Catolico?”
Our meal was the best kind of simple, delicious food made by an experienced cook. A mile-high stack of tortillas accompanied our plate of rice, vegetables and chicken. We were each served a bowl of broth, which we ate with the other food as a kind of deconstructed soup. It was more food than I could possibly eat, and yet in this small, welcoming home, surrounded by fresh air and green farmland, I loved every single bite.
|Guatemalan cook meets Canadian cook|