I have been back in Guatemala 6 weeks now and it is nearly time for me to head back to Blighty for my brother´s wedding. So much has happened in 6 weeks of this fast track intercontinental family. I thought I should get something down on paper.
Leaving the UK this time was harder and stranger than any of the other numerous times I have done it. Being pregnant and having to pack up my whole life, rent my flat, store my things, send a shipment, make a will, re-organise my finances, have ultrasound scans and various doctors visits, get engaged and try to see as many family and friends as possible before leaving. There were some mornings I woke up and feeling the growing bump in my tummy and remembering my new life, my heart jumped a beat and I wondered if I was crazy to be heading off to live in one of the most tragic and recovering countries in the world with a man I had known for a matter of weeks. But the overriding feeling of calm and destiny meant that I always felt as though I was doing the right thing as well as Rafa’s daily emails of reassurance and love.
By the time I left I was so exhausted that it was a relief to check in my huge suitcase and get on the plane having said goodbye to family that morning and my niece who was heading for her first day of school. I arrived in Guate with very swollen ankles, a dodgy haircut thanks to some random man at Tony and Guy in Ealing …. but a very excited heart. The sun was still shining as we climbed out of Guatemala City to Rafa’s cabin in San Lucas with Rafa stealing glances at the rather more curvaceous woman than the one he had left in London two months before.
This time of year is the rainy season in Guatemala which means that no matter how sunny it seems you cannot leave the house without an umbrella, cos when it rains it rains. The first thing we did was to buy me a brand new car, a little black Fiat Palio which means I have been able to get around when Rafa is at work. Getting on the chicken buses when pregnant is really not advisable. I did it a couple of times before the car was delivered and it left me shaking at the side of the road.
It was strange but nice to hook up with a few of the old Antigua crowd although I slightly had the feeling you have when you go back to your university town and everything is different, probably more in your life than in the town itself. There are still the same art openings, music concerts in beautiful ruins and never-ending passage of tourists and language students. Antigua is a beautiful world heritage site with cobbled streets, jacarandas and three beautiful volcanoes looking over, but does have the downside of small town living which neither of us really fit into.
After getting the car, finding a doctor through Rafa’s parents and sister (all Doctors!) who would do the ultrasound for us was the next task, and two days after arriving we knew we were having a little boy who seems healthy and average in all respects. Average is such a nice word when you are pregnant! So now we are searching for a name which is proving to be much more difficult than we ever imagined. Everything I like in English, Rafa doesn’t like in Spanish and vice versa. I want him to have a British and a Latin name so he can switch identities with his passport if he wants. Since Rafa came home one day with Derek as a suggestion, I have been rather more serious about finding a name. At the moment Dylan Pablo Rosal is his working title! But all may change tomorrow.
I contacted the British Embassy here and having a British mother and being born in Guatemala means that he will automatically get both passports. We will probably do a legal wedding soon as it means that I can start applying for my residency here, meaning that I am not living on a tourist visa and can get a job, a bank account, a driving licence etc. Although be warned we are thinking about a wedding in Guatemala in February/March 2006 when the BA flights are half the price and the sun is shining in Antigua. We would organise trips to Atitlan and Tikal too for those who wanted it – so it would be a fantastic holiday all round.
We escaped to lake Atitlan on the second weekend I was here ………. Which was fantastic. It was a full moon so the evenings were bright with the reflection on the water. We swam and ate and lay in hammocks in the gardens of my friends’ hotel and I felt relaxed for the first time in weeks. We reflected on how much we had done in the last few months and how this little baby chose to keep us together. Someone told us that Atitlan is known as the belly button of the world which made a lot of sense to me in my present state. It really is a magical place and the drive up there through the green, patchwork, and flower-covered mountains part of the trip.
House hunting had been a tougher task than we envisaged as we need three bedrooms, a big garden for the 2 dogs and a fireplace and bathtub for me. Imagine having a baby with no bath tub, its just culturally unfeasible for me!! We heard about a place for a really good price that is owned by two French doctors who have returned to France we cannot get hold of them and have been peeking through the fence to see if we can see it – I want to get Interpol onto it but I suppose they have better things to be doing. In the meantime we were shown another fantastic but expensive property which means that we will have a beautiful house for people to come and stay but no money to go out! Which may be fine when we have a baby as we won’t exactly be out clubbing every night. The garden is huge and landscaped with fruit trees, beautiful lawns and hydrangeas. The house comes with a gardener who also helps with cleaning, fire lighting, gate opening as well as security. It has a dishwasher, great views and en suite bathrooms in all the bedrooms. We have to make a decision by Friday and Rafa will move while I am back in London.
After much deliberation we have finally decided where to have the baby and I should be meeting with my doctor this week. Rafa’s family all have insurance with the Spanish hospital in the city and it means we can join the Spanish club with its restaurants, gardens and swimming pool. At the moment swimming is the only thing that helps me sleep at night. I am trying to do pregnancy Yoga but finding it a bit tricky to remember the movements, breathing and hold the book. My French friend Bertrand has told me about a Greek girl Stella who has just moved out here from London and married a Guatemalan. She is running Yoga courses in the city.
Rafa’s family have been so kind and welcoming to me and really want me to feel part of the family. I met a lot of the cousins at a birthday party the other week. Rafa is the youngest so they are all in their late forties, high powered but terribly unassuming. Two of them had just retired and had motorcycled to Patagonia and back! They are all very excited about the baby and told me I have to have a baby shower. Baby showers are an American invention where you have a party about a month before you have the baby and everybody buys you presents. Seems a bit greedy to me but I’ll go along with the tradition!
A couple of documentary makers from California came down to visit. Rafa made a documentary with them about woman guerrillas after the peace agreement was signed in 97. They were all very involved with the organisation that Rafa’s family were all with during the war and there was a big get-together organised at Rafa’s sisters. Everyone talked about the old days back in the early eighties when they were trying to stop the genocide and they all had code names in the resistance movement. Coming from a country where most people can’t be bothered to vote, it is so strange to think that these gentle, intellectual people were risking their lives for their ideals and others. There was lots of whisky and tequila being drunk and lots of emotional toasts to all those who helped the Guatemalan cause from overseas.
At this point Rafa disappeared into the garden to have a cigarette and later told me that he gets uncomfortable when people get nostalgic because the real tragedy is that the war was never won and Guatemala is still a country of great divides and racism. As we were leaving one of the Californians told me that I must not repeat anything I had heard that day! As I had spent most of the day feeling fat and pregnant trying to follow the Spanish, nursing my one glass of wine suddenly I felt like Miss Clandestino. I think it was more of a reflection on the society that they live in than anything else. How sad that the land of the free has changed so much and people feel scared to voice their opinions, even on things which happened 20 years ago in other countries. They were good people these Californians and I felt quite sorry for them.
Last week as Rafa had a huge piece of work to finish, I took off with my friend Amalia for a couple of days on the Pacific to swim in the sea and eat fish. It was my first real adventure in the car and Rafa made me promise to call every 5 hours. The drive down from the mountains took a couple of hours. We stopped to buy lots of coconuts on the way and then found a cheap little guest house right on the beach. It was nice to take the baby into the pacific for the first time as apparently he can hear a lot of things now….crashing waves etc.
Rafa has been writing a huge book that will be published and presented in a couple of weeks. It is on the present state of art and culture in Guatemala and was a huge team research event with Rafa pulling together all the results at the end to write a discussion and conclusion. It will be presented to various ministries, NGOs and embassies in a couple of weeks time. He is also trying to find some funding to create a new art and film college in Guatemala city to help restore some life to the historical centre and to establish a national facility. They have had some good meetings with the mayor and they have also heard that the airport will be moving from the city down to the pacific plain leaving this land open to construct the city’s first park. Guatemala city is a sprawling mess, damaged by war and earthquakes but as time goes by I am discovering that this monster does hide some beautiful bits and things can only improve. I have driven in a few times now but I am always happy to escape back up to the green mountains. And have definitely vetoed living in the city.
The Norwegian Embassy sponsors Rafa’s company Casacomal and next week one of their major supporters is heading back to Norway after seven years. Her replacement Hilde is pregnant and has brought her husband to look after the baby. Another Norwegian diplomat we met is married to a French guy who is also house husband to their 11 month old boy ………. So it looks as though I will be able to hang out with the boys and the babies. Gury is having a big leaving party next week at Casacomal – she is an amazing woman who rescued Casacomal when they were struggling financially 4 years ago.
Rafa has now done all the casting for his film which, all things going to plan, he will start shooting in March when I am back in Blighty with Bambino. A lot of the characters are Mayan. La Casa de Enfrente (the first film) has been distributed all over central America down to Panama and seems to be doing quite well. Everyone in Guatemala knows the film and even if it is not their cup of tea they are proud and surprised that a film was made by Guatemalans about Guatemala. Casacomal also runs the only Guatemalan film festival in November when I will be enormous!
There is a Japanese cultural festival on in the city at the moment and we went to see a wonderful pianist accompanied by the Guatemalan Sinfonica. The Japanese give more money to Guatemala than any other nation except the US and donated all the instruments to the Sinfonica. They feel a strong ethnic affinity with the Mayan people which is strange but touching.
Considering everything, Rafa and I are finding it quite easy to live together so far and he has done everything to make my life here as comfortable as possible. Of course I have days when I miss Europe and the crazy chaos of Guatemala gets too much for me. I miss my family and friends but know that my place is here with Rafa and our new family and although things are and will always be complicated we are doing pretty well so far …….
We have found our dream piece of land to build our house which has the best view of Agua volcano …………
So I am back to Blighty on September 2nd for 3 weeks so maybe catch-up with a few people in London and at my brother’s wedding.