A homestay in Guatemala is an amazing way to get to know the culture.
While visiting Guatemala recently I took part in a homestay with a local family in the small village of San Jorge la Laguna. The location is spectacular, with Lake Atitlán below and volcanoes and mountains surrounding. The village is small, with a few basic shops, a primary school all children can attend, a pub with a handful of tables, and a large church. A group of three of us were invited into Dora’s home to spend a full evening with her family. She was very welcoming and her three cheeky sons made the evening very entertaining.
Using my basic Spanish, I found out that Dora is a stay at home mum, as are most women in the village. She spends her days looking after the kids, taking them to school, cooking, cleaning and shopping for food in the nearby market town. Life is simple, but they seemed content.
Her husband Alex returned from work around 7.30pm. He works on the chicken buses (local public transport) as an inspector. He was warm and friendly and jabbered away in Spanish as I nodded along, only picking up every sixth or seventh word! He used to work in a hotel as a bartender and before that in a launderette. He had lived quite a varied life compared to many of the fathers in the other homestays, who worked as builders or craftsmen within the village itself.
While the family were by no means rich, they did have a few luxuries such as a television and a hot shower. Dora and her mother showed us how to make one of the staples of the Guatemalan diet – tortillas! Women learn how to do this from a very young age, and Dora makes around fifty a day. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was! They make it look so easy as they pat the corn mix from side to side in their hands. Mine got stuck to my fingers, fell on the floor, ended up irregular in shape, and never really looked like a proper tortilla!