Updated: Jan 27, 2021
We got ''stuck'' in Guatemaya when I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy due to global lockdowns. But after some time, the word ''stuck'' didn't sound right anymore.
We are not stuck. We were led here because our daughter chose to be born in this place. She chose to come to this world right by the Atitlan Lake, surrounded by mountains, hills and volcanoes.
We were embraced by this land and its people.
We were embraced by the beautiful Mayan family we live with.
We were gifted this incredible opportunity to be in this magical Mayan land during our pregnancy, birth and first months of life of our daughter.
Malaya is almost 4 months old now and we are still here, unable to leave together as a family due to external limitations (if anyone is interested to find out why, click HERE) . With each day passing, grounding ourselves more and more, strengthening our bond with those around us, feeling at home. We don't know when we will be able to leave. We miss our families and friends, we would love Malaya to meet her grandparents but at the moment I can't even think of being anywhere else but here.
I offer my deepest gratitude to the forces that brought us here. Not only to this particular land but also this particular home. A home full of love and warmth that became our love nest.
We created or love nest we prayed so much for in a home of a beautiful, kind and loving lady Estela and her daughters.
Estela became Malaya's grandmother. She embraced Malaya as if she was her own granddaughter.
Her daughters Nasli, Chusita and Clarita became her sisters.
And just like that, with the power of love, the story changed.
It is not about a couple with newborn baby, stuck somewhere far away from their loved ones because of Covid and visa issues. Totally alone, sad and angry at the circumstances.
It is a story about a new family surrounded by so much love and care. It is a story about a family embraced by those who were once strangers. About a family that is raising a child in a place of so much culture and tradition, so much nature and so much kindness.
They were with us during my pregnancy, supporting and helping with all I needed.
They were with us during Malaya's birth.
And they are still with us, present in every day of our lives.
I can't underestimate the value of this connection and the value of all the lessons we learn here.
The power of simplicity
One of the unexpected gifts brought by the lockdown was the slower pace of life and less distractions. Life around the lake is very slow compared to big cities but with a curfew, restrictions and a very few tourists around it slowed down even more. It gave us time to start exploring many things, including our connection to food.
Being in the place where people still mainly cook their own food from the scratch instead of buying processed and frozen stuff only, we got inspired to dive deeper into this theme and start making things we always used to buy before.
That's how Angelo's exciting bread making adventure started, but I will write about it separately because it deserves it's own post. That's how we started to make our own broth and cakes, our own fermented products. That's how Angelo ventured into an adventure with making tempeh! But for me, the most exciting part was processing cacao...
Where could be the better place to start connecting to the cacao?
As soon as I felt the urge to understand the traditional process of making it, I asked Estela for assistance and as usual she helped us.
The day after, Angelo roasted the cacao and I spent a long time in our garden peeling the beans, with Malaya lying next to me on her pillow.
We were ready to receive the star of the day- a beautiful rock that belonged to Estela's grandmother. I don't know how old this beautiful rock could be but it felt really special to be able to use it to process the cacao.
We all took turns to grind it. How beautiful it was to watch the beans slowly turning into a paste.
I don't know why it looked so easy when Estela was doing it but it is a HARD WORK.
Hard work that totally pays off because you end up having an amazing, rich, aromatic cacao you can then drink and share with others.
Speaking about hard work... Have you ever separated seeds of the corn from the cob?
5 corns later and I already had a callus on my thumb. Seriously? 🤣 5 corns...
The corns are being used to make tortillas that people here eat a lot (and we also buy occasionally).
But after this experience I will never look at tortillas made by people from the scratch the same way again...
As usual, Malaya was helping
What I noticed is that processing our own food made us appreciate it so much more. Once you know how much effort goes into making it, the approach changes. It just tastes different or maybe you just concentrate more while eating instead of consuming mindlessly.
The next adventure awaiting us is making tamales.
I tried different tamales in Mexico and didn't like them at all but Estela's tamales are a gift from heaven. They have consistency of a cloud with a yummy sauce and veggies inside. I already said I will not leave Guatemala before learning how to make them!
Malaya has already learned, of course :)
Of course we also love sharing food with the family and I am always excited to bring them something to try. They liked everything so far (or maybe they are just being polite 🤣).
Sharing food together.
Estela creating beautiful embroidery on blouses.
The girls playing with Malaya.
The presence of the lake, trees and birds all around us...
The list goes on and on but there's another priceless benefit of being here...
Hearing Spanish every day and being spoken to in Spanish.
17467 XP on Duolingo later and...
YO ABLO ESPAÑOL!
( I speak Spanish)
Ok, I can't say that yet... but I am slowly getting there 😁
At the beginning of the lockdown I was learning Tagalog because I thought we will go back to the Philippines. I always thought it is important to be able to speak the language of the country I live in. But at some point I realised we will be staying here for a longer period of time so... goodbye Tagalog and hola Espanol!
I started to spend time on Duolingo trying to learn and now instead of speaking English with everyone I try to communicate in Spanish as much as possible.
Of course Estela and the girls help a lot and are very patient with me when I try to speak in Spanish. Nasli often uses her hands when she says a word I don't understand, which I love because when she does it, the word registers in my brain well and I remember it after.
I could barely speak any Spanish when I arrived so luckily for us they were making effort to communicate in English, which also paid off because I see how their English improved so much since we arrived ! I is a win-win situation.
I believe I'll be able to speak Spanish properly before I leave Guatemala.
Speaking of languages... there's another blessing for Malaya. Abuela Estela sometimes speaks to her in Tz'utujil! How amazing for her to hear this beautiful language.
The words hold so much energy and I am so glad she can absorb the energy of these beautiful people in this way as well.
Different cultures, different languages, different people...
But LOVE IS LOVE
I never felt any hostility from them. I never felt like I am being treated differently, as a ''gringa''.
We met Estela's family- sisters, father, nieces and nephews and everyone is amazing.
Actually, all the local people I met and interacted here with were warm, open and friendly.
Estela and her family, sellers at the market, ladies in the local shops, my beautiful comadrona, people we met on our walks by the lake... I will always hold all their smiles in my heart, no matter where I am. We have so much to learn from them.
My heart melts every time I see Malaya interacting with her beautiful Mayan family.
We are so blessed to be here, among these magical people.