I’ve been writing down a few thoughts over the past several months and thought I’d share some of them. Here are several unrelated stories of our lives in Guatemala.
In Costa Rica, the exchange rate was about 500 colones to $1. It was very easy to convert, even though you ended up paying for everything in thousands (of colones–we were literally millionaires 😉 ). In Guatemala, the exchange rate is 7.6 quetzales to $1–much harder to convert on the fly, but I’m learning, mostly by having set amounts that I know what they convert to and estimating the rest (i.e. 100Q is around $13 and 1000Q is around $140). One of our first weeks here I was at the market buying vegetables, and trying to be a good barterer, I countered their price of 2.5Q/pound with “dos mil,” or 2,000. Whoops! I got some strange looks on that one…but I did eventually get my tomatoes for ~$.26/pound and not $330/pound.
Recently, Daisy and I visited a local libreria (small book store) to pickup some school supplies. I asked for “cartulina” which I thought meant cardstock. After agreeing on 12 sheets because it was cheaper by the dozen, she returned with 12 huge pieces of posterboard! Ooops again. It took some discussion, but I finally did end up with 10 sheets of heavier paper, though it was more textured than normal cardstock. Maybe we’ll try again when I figure out another word for cardstock. I do miss stores where you can just wonder the aisles and pickup what you want after looking at all the options (or pickup things you didn’t even know you wanted when you entered…maybe this way is better after all). After that, I asked about some other items and the owner made sure I knew exactly what each thing was before selling it to me. (I wanted a pack of pens–the ones I could see under the counter, but she kept asking if I wanted pens or markers. I didn’t know which she considered the ones I wanted, but I wanted those ones! I also saw some sidewalk chalk I wanted to get to keep the littles busy, but she didn’t think I understood it was chalk. I explained I wanted it to write on the sidewalk. No, no, no. I guess they don’t do that here–even though it says it on the package (in English and Spanish). She went so far as to pull out a regular-size piece of chalk to make sure I knew what I was buying. I knew what I wanted; I just didn’t know it it Spanish. The good thing is, I’m sure she’ll remember us next time we stop in!
Here’s something I truly appreciate here and I’m not sure why it hasn’t caught on further north. Many of the traffic lights have counters on them. They count down exactly how much time is left for your green or red light, so you always know how long you will be waiting–and if you have time to take another sip of your hot coffee before having to shift. 🙂