Total immersion


Looking right from our balcony

Looking right from our balcony



Jerry and I had an experience in total Guatemalan culture and language immersion yesterday when we went shopping. My friend, Maria, and her family left early yesterday morning for a vacation and she left us her car, brave soul that she is. We dropped them off at the airport early yesterday and spent most of the day venturing out into the crazy traffic. There are two important facts to know: 1. There are no rules when it comes to driving, no one stops at stop signs, seriously! They just slow down a little…maybe. The other important fact to know is that Jerry speaks no Spanish and I barely qualify as “un poco” or a little. And here’s another intersting fact, there are few road signs so knowing what street you are on takes a little experience. I asked about a city map, but were told there may not be one. And it goes without saying there is no GPS here yet. My friend and associate, Maria and her husband, showed us the major streets and gave us directions to a few places. 


Looking west from our balcony at 6:00am

We also have a gracious landlord and her daughter who speaks english and she has been very helpful in how to get around town.Shopping for food and other items was an adventure to say the least. Also, the currency is the quetzal also known as GTQ. The current exchange rate to the US dollar (USD) varies almost daily as well as where the exchange is made with bancos offering the best rate, is between 7.5-7.8 GTQ per dollar. 



Our adventure took us to two malls, one of which has a pretty big grocery store. We were so proud of ouselves that we didn’t get lost. The grocery store is called Pais, but guess what? I’ll give you a hint…they sell Equate brand. Yes, the entire chain of Paiz grocery stores that have been a Guatemalan company for many, many years is, in fact owned by Wal-Mart. GRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The good and scary news is they already have all of our information in their mammoth computer system. We just use our debit card on our accounts in Norman.

I think it took us about two hours to get our groceries because we had to read EVERY label and convert currency mentally to see what we were actually paying, but it was great fun. In the produce section, there were so many items I’ve never seen before but they looked interesting, so I started asking people, “Hable Inglais?” About the third person did and told me all about the fruits and vegtables and how to prepare them. She was so courteous and helpful. Actually, everyone we have met so far have been very gracious to us and are eager to help us out. I cannot express fully how much this means to us. 

Even though we were shopping in Pais (Wal-Mart) there were a few surprises. We think that the cost of food and other items actually costs more here than in Norman. Just like there, prices vary depending on what part of town you are in. The Pais nearest to us is less than a mile away and we’re told the most expensive one because we live in an upscale zone.???? The other nice surprise is that they sell liquor there, so Jerry got his Guatemalan rum, which is wonderful and I got to begin to stock my wine rack on my cute little bar.

Jerry is greatly relieved that he will be able to view the National Championship game. It was amusing yesterday when we were in a little shop and the owner, who speaks english thank god, asked where we were from. When we told him Oklahoma, he said, “Oh, yes…you are playing the Gators for the national championship on January 8th!” That was very nice.

Speaking of football, we watched the OSU game last night, well, truthfully I only watched as much as I could stand and that wasn’t very much. The entire play by play commentary was in spanish. It was awesome! Everyone says if you want to learn spanish, just watch TV. If the programming is in english, there are usually spanish sub-titles, so it really is a great way to learn. It is also helpful in learning the pronunciations of words. We’ve already begun the mental shift. I find myself saying “perdon” instead of excuse me or “hola” instead of hello or “mucho gusto” instead of my pleasure. 

While we love it here, we miss our family and friends. Hope everyone is well.


Who knew going shopping could be so challenging and so fun? We just smile all the time. And now when someone asks me hows my spanish, I say that it’s getting better everyday…and it is.


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