More pregnant postcards from the west

More pregnant postcards from the west …….

Today,I received 3 emails from friends in Buenos Aires.  One of them has moved to San Francisco because things got too dangerous for her in BA.  Since the economic crash things have been a little lawless and there is a lot of tension.  Elisa comes from a very wealthy family and has lived out of Argentina a lot as one of her uncles was kidnapped a few years ago.  Even when I was walking around Palermo with her (the Notting Hill of BA) she asked that I didn’t speak English in the street as she was paranoid about attracting attention to herself.  One night in June their house was broken into by 3 armed men.  They gave them all their cash and left but her two young children witnessed everything and that was enough for her. They basically left their home that night.

Rafa called me to say he had managed to get an appointment with a doctor and could I come into the city at 4.30.  I finished my notes and left in the pouring rain for Casacomal and got stuck in a traffic jam.  Finally arriving at the clinic, I suddenly got a really bad feeling.  I met the Doctor and his English was not good at all.  I also discovered that the private hospitals here do not use midwives.  For me the thought of having a doctor only birth is unthinkable – I want to be in the cosy capable hands of an experienced female midwife.  This doctor was a kind man but it is not the kind of option I want – a medical birth.  I will approach things as though I will have a fully natural birth and if things go wrong then I will take the ………. give me loads of painkillers and cut me open route that is oh so popular in the medical world.

As we left the clinic I was relieved to hear that Rafa agreed with me and we decided to look for a midwife and a doctor who works with midwives.  Here in Guatemala 70% of births are performed by midwives but this is only within the indigenous Maya communities.  It seems that the ‘rich whites’ want to distance themselves from this option and go for a medical approach in an expensive hospital.  Whilst I am certainly not brave enough to have a traditional maya birth neither did I want the other sort.

I got on the internet and read about an organisation in Antigua called  It is run as a charitable project set up by an American lady, who works with the locals to share knowledge and provide training and support to the Guatemalan midwives.  They also run a clinic and birth centre with a full library of books in English and Spanish.  I met the woman who runs the centre and was assigned a German midwife called Cornelia who seems efficient and capable.  They have a doctor that they use in the city and also I was given the name of a doctor who was trained in the UK who I will meet this coming Tuesday.  Rafa and I will sign up for our antenatal classes on 3 Saturdays in October when I get back from London.

Last Friday was Gury’s leaving party (Casacomal’s contact to the Norwegian embassy) and I drove into Guate to Rafa’s sister’s house to go to Casacomal with them.  Casacomal had been decorated, there were smartly dressed waiters serving drinks and a band playing in the front room.  There were various embassy people there including the Swedish Ambassador and also the usual Casacomal crew.  There were some emotional toasts, everyone is sad that Gury is returning to Norway, she has been a very special person for Guatemala and culture and arts.  I managed to last until 1am but was almost asleep on my feet when we ‘snuck’ off home.

We met two British hairdresser’s (Gury’s hairdressers) who were from Scunthorpe and North Yorkshire.  One of them had been living in Guatemala for 10 years with his girlfriend.  They were nice Northern lads and I promised to come in to get my haircut next time.  They seem to party a lot in the city and it was interesting to hear about all the things they get up to.  I had no idea there were so many underground parties!

The next morning we took a decision on the expensive house.  After a week of trying to count our pennies and being frugal we decided that neither of us were very good at it , and also we had no idea of what unexpected baby costs may come our way.  They made the decision easier for us by telling us they had plans to build houses and a Spanish school in the garden.  Not our idea of the peaceful idyllic paradise that we were willing to sacrifice much of our disposable income for!!  Also I know that two trips a year to London are not going to be cheap.  So we are still waiting to hear about the French house and have put an advertisement in the newspaper for others.

On Saturday, Rafa and I decided to go to La Finca in Zacapa.  Rafa’s family have had this farm for years but during the war when they kidnapped (and ultimately killed) his brother.  I think for the family the farm has become a symbol of their survival.  Rafa was the first person to go back there after the war and he said he really did not know what he was going to find left.  Zacapa is to the east of Guatemala city, a couple of hours drive.  It is much lower – 200m as opposed to the 2067m of San Lucas.  The climate is hot and dry, and the area was settled by middle class Spaniards with smaller farms unlike the large plantations of the richer, landowning families.  You can see how the Spaniards would have liked this climate, which is much more like the Mediterranean in the summer.  There is a wonderful swimming pool filled by a mountain stream in the shade of the almond trees and some farm dogs to keep us company.  We had a lovely time relaxing by the pool with Rafa’s parents, lying in hammocks and drinking fresh coco water (my only pregnancy craving so far!).  There is a lady who sells coconuts on the road into Antigua.  She is not always there, I can’t express how disappointed I am when she is not!


This morning Rafa went to pick up the moses basket for Zucchini (pre-birth name for our baby, a long story connected to a strange pregnant dream!) and a rocking chair for me.  I know it seems a bit ‘sad’ but I have always wanted a rocking chair and have romantic ideas of rocking my baby to sleep by the fire.  San Lucas is the centre of wicker furniture and hand made wooden furniture so we are well placed for all things.  We also found a great second hand furniture shop in the city where they sell a crazy selection of new and antique furniture at very cheap prices.


Today we found our Doctor at last.   He was trained in the UK (Glasgow in the 80s, probably a shock for a young Guatemalan thinking he was coming to the first world!), has worked a lot with midwives and spoke good enough English to make me feel reassured.  He also had been taught by Rafa’s father in his youth.  We saw Zucchini again on the ultrasound.  He was moving around a lot which is always pleasing and apparently his brain is developing well.  Rafa was proud to hear that he will be taller than the average Guatemalan!  Not surprising with his Giant Nordic mother!  I think Rafa has thoughts of being beaten up by a giant son ……

I met up with my friend Amalia for lunch in the city and we explored a few shops.  That evening we all went along to Rafa’s presentation of his publication ‘Arte Urbano’ which was in the Tea House of the Zoo.  A really beautiful pavilion.  They had a string quartet playing and guests invited from NGO’s, ministeries, embassies and the artistic community.  The heavens opened and it was pouring with rain and also there was a young writers competition at one of the banks the same night.  Enough people came though and the music was lovely – partly because I have never seen musicians who beamed with joy as much as these four!  They seemed delighted just to be holding their instruments.  Afterwards we drove to Antigua for a celebratory supper.  I was asleep before my head hit the pillow that night.  I sometimes forget that I am pregnant!


My transcribed tapes from my Buenos Aires interviews have finally come back and I am really hoping that I can now get all my interviews analysed and my article written before the baby is born!  Things have become a little difficult for me in Guatemala to write about film as Rafa and Casa Comal are so fundamental to the Guatemalan film industry that it will seem I am promoting my husband in an unbiased fashion – which I probably would be ……   Maybe I can write a piece about Casacomal and relate it to some of the other activity here.


After hearing nothing on any of the houses we decided to stay where we are for 6 months as we know it, it is very cheap ($220 a month) and we are in the area we want.  This means that while I am in London we will have all the trees that have grown too close to the house chopped down to let in more light, we will have the whole house painted inside and out and install a central water heater.

The Tacuazinas!

In our roof we have some uninvited guests.  TO me they remain a bit of a mystery as I have never heard of these animals nor ever seen one.  AT the moment we are residing together, due to a rather uneasy tolerance on my part.  They scuttle around like a busy family of,I would guess, around 15/20.  I have warned them that if they show their faces their deaths will be more imminent.  Rafa’s ‘respect for all living things’ can stretch my definition of this.  I have been told by other friends that if I ever saw one of these things I would put a contract out for their killing immediately as they are spectacularly ugly.  They are black and white with ratlike tails, beaver teeth and rear their many babies in their pouches being mini-marsupials. (Since the ‘killing’ of the trees, they have evacuated the site except for one, who maybe was sleeping when they all jumped ship.  He/she must be lonely up there!)

I think Rafa is nervous that I will not come back and opt to have the baby in London, which is often tempting when we keep paying the Doctor’s bills.  However for me to be in London for 4 months and Rafa for 1 month would cost us a lot more!  Being director of Casa Comal means that he can’t take too much time off.  At the moment he is preparing the ‘carpet’ documents for his film ‘Las Cruces’ and still needs to raise half the money.  He will be flying to Panama for the opening of ‘La Casa de Enfrente’ the same day I go to London and also will be going to Norway in October for a film festival, which is frustratingly close to Duncan and Lisa’s wedding.  He was due to go to Cuba for the film festival there in December but that seems unlikely with Zucchini due mid to late November.  ‘La Casa de Enfrente’  has been invited to around 15 festivals and even has a fanbase in Vancouver.

The rainy season is at its worst point at the moment and up in the mountains it feels like an English summer!  So I shan’t have the tan I was hoping for on my return.  The good thing is, the hills are green and beautiful and the dry river beds are filling up.  Global warming has hit Central America too!  I’m hoping I will be returning for an Indian summer in the UK.  I am rather nervous about coming back so soon as Rafa and I have already got used to living with each other and I feel I will have to start again with my new life when I get back with my head full of London life and first world comforts again.

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