As I mentioned in the first article, my husband is a Mining Engineer. He has been in this business his entire life. We have lived in Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Arizona. As well, he has worked in Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. We are here in Guatemala now working for a Canadian-based company, headquartered in Reno, Nevada. He is building a brand new silver mine – okay, he and about 1,500 other people!
Anyway, we live in a 3 bedroom, 1-story house inside a 2 year old compound (we’ll call it El Barrio de Plata – The Silver Neighborhood) comprised of a total of 9 houses. We are the first to occupy this particular house in the compound. Most houses in this part of the world are made of cement, usually in the form of blocks. That is the case with this place. The walls, inside and out, are “stucco” texturing over cement block. As you can see from the pictures, it is very “neutral” in its colors. “But”, I said to myself, “there is so much potential, especially in this land where houses and people have color in, out and on!
The interior decorating hounds were loosed! I immediately saw this house as a blank canvas. Creativity had to happen. I had nothing but time (my husband cringes when that happens). My quilting and needlework, which was supposed to ship shortly after we bid adieu to the US, had not even left the shipper’s warehouse. My brain began working overtime and my hands began to twitch with the need to work with some kind of tool!You can see that everything was in place for the perfect storm! I was being propelled down the highway to the danger zone: a PROJECT! A really, BIG, CREATIVE project! THE Project! Quick, Igor! Go get me a brain, pencil, paper, measuring tape, and the INTERNET!
Thankfully, we do have internet! I don’t know how I would have made it through those first few weeks without it. It brought me home to my children, family and friends (Skype and e-mail). Google Search was at my fingertips! All I had to do was figure out how to search in English and consider the types of stores where I could find everything I needed to bring color and life into my casita! Surely in all of Guatemala, I would be able to find the things I needed?
[Sounds of a large, heavily loaded semi, braking from 70mph to 0mph] Okay, before we go any further, you must understand a few things. First, the nearest major city for any kind of shopping is Guatemala City (Guate) which is a 1 ½ hour drive from San Rafael. I can’t just run down to Home Depot, Safeway, TJ Maxx (sigh) or the mall.
Second, I don’t drive here. I actually don’t want to drive here. Those who do drive go fast and crazy. There are people walking on the roads all the time – men, women, children…old ones to very tiny ones. There are cows, roosters, chickens, dogs (and more dogs) everywhere. Motorcycles with entire families on them pass between you and other cars. Stop signs are suggestions, a one way sign means it’s an option, passing zones are anywhere you want and speed limits are for foreigners! So, I have to get a “driver” to take me into Guate. It has to be arranged and it usually only
happens once a week. The driver knows the route, knows the city, speaks the language, drives like the rest of them and packs a pistol – all good things to get you where you need to go in one piece.
Third, you don’t drive at night. It isn’t safe. Cars and other vehicles are not necessarily in the best of repair and sometimes headlights and taillights are optional! Also, all those people (who for some reason wear dark clothing at night) and animals are still out walking on the roads after dark! So, there is a timeframe! You must carefully plan your time in Guate. Since you only go 1 time a week, you need to do your grocery shopping, too, so you only have a tiny window of time for “other”.
There is one other American wife who lives in San Rafael. She (Teresa) and her husband have been here 2 years. She knows the ropes and is familiar with Guate. She has been a lifesaver and a friend. I am so thankful for her company and knowledge. She is a painter and told me about the art supply store where she gets her canvases. That is when the wheels of creativity really began to turn! [Sounds of a really hot sports car revving its enormous engine]