Friday, July 30, 2010

When the Cows Come Home...

While we were in Guatemala, we stayed in the city mostly-albeit on the outskirts of the city. Just a couple of streets over, there was the busy Ruta Atlantico, a major highway that runs through most of the city with thousands of cars and buses passing by daily.

From the roof of our relatives house, we could hear the shouts of the Ayudantes (basically the driver's helper, they collect fares, load cargo and let people know where the bus is headed) as they shouted out the bus routes and let prospective riders know there was plenty of roof left to hitch a ride. To them, plenty of room left often means standing room only with your body pressed against complete strangers-although I did see a few young men hanging precariously out the side and back doors at times too.

We could also hear the loud grinding noise of the brakes-which sound unlike the typical brakes squealing you hear in the States. Yes, they still have those brakes too, but apparently this is "los frenos del motor" (brakes that have something to do with the motor I guess) that make a very loud noise which, I will admit, startled me for the first few times as I honestly thought that old, retired US schoolbus was going to self-destruct because it sounded so loud and terrible.

If we walk up the hill, and turn a corner, we arrive on the Ruta Atlantico. Not very far at all, and the area is often busy with small restaurants, street vendors of food and pirated CD's or DVD's and people wandering around buying their food at the market for the day. When I suggested stockpiling food for emergency to my mother in law, she actually looked at me like I was nuts. In Guatemala, most people buy their food for the day only. While that is wonderful and all, because it is most likely fresh-in case of emergencies or extreme weather conditions it makes it quite difficult since people just don't have food readily available all the time. I suspect most of it has to do with economic reasons-people who are poor can probably only afford to buy that day's food rather than buy a week's worth in one shot. I do give my husband's family credit though, they do actually stockpile beans and corn and buy a year's worth at a time.

Considering how very close they live to the busy highway, I was shocked to turn the corner and head down the hill one day and find the cow pictured above grazing in the grass next to the church where we had my daughter baptized. I don't know who the cow belongs to, but there are several of them that apparently don't stray very far from home, and they let them loose in the neighborhood to graze on the grass and act as the community lawnmower I guess. I thought it was pretty funny, and had to stop to take a couple of quick photos.

Even though this is on the outskirts of the city, and houses are pretty darn close together-the sounds of a rooster crowing at 4 am is not unheard of. As a matter of fact, I begged my hubby to have his mom cook us some fresh chicken using the rooster from across the street who woke me up at the crack of dawn daily. Goats, cows, chickens and roosters blend into the landscape there and seeing them in the city is about as normal as seeing a woman pull out her breast and breast feed her child in full view of everyone. Even if said child is about 3 and should have been weaned long ago. But that, my folks, is another story!

So if you visit Guatemala City in the near future, be prepared for a moo moo here and a cluck cluck there-as it is all perfectly normal! (I will say that some US cities have ordinances which permit chickens and roosters within city limits, there are a few in Maine that do, which I think is pretty cool because having fresh eggs is definitely a plus!)

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