wiib’ chihab’ sak’al

Two Years Complete

My errands finished, I went outside to find a taxi. After waiting too long, I went around the corner for some chips. It was late afternoon and the day was coming to a close. People would be getting off work soon.
I found the chips I wanted, but I had to hesitate. In some stores they say Lay’s or chips (cheeps), and some stores say nachos or papas. When in doubt, I use the Spanish (a strategy that once failed me when I wanted a “siete up,” which turns out to be called “seven oop”).
So as I thought it over, filling the quiet by pointing at what I wanted, the guy behind me said in English, “Chips, dude. You can just say chips.”

Once I had my cheeps, we talked a little about where we were from and what we were doing here. He didn’t need to explain that he was a Guatemalan-born Los Angeles resident in town to visit family, because I had already figured it out. The Guatemalan-born Los Angeles resident or GbLAr is a sparse but recognizable character type in the city (look for visible tattoo and/or piercing, a manicured goatee, and a slight 90′s sag. Sunglasses vary. LA accent is diagnostic).
I told him I was a volunteer working in villages outside of Cobán.
“Oh, so did you just get here?” he asked, inferring from my difficulty acquiring snacks. I hastily explained that I was close to finishing my second year in the country -and that it’s the inconsistent admixture of English in Guatemalan Spanish that trips me up.

I went outside for a taxi. I forgot the cross streets of my destination, and I tried to work out a description of my stop for the taxista when I found one. Oncoming traffic was hard to see through the orange of the low sun. I
thought about the GbLAr mistaking me for a new arrival at the end of my service. Did it bother me?
A taxi pulled up before I was done thinking.
It was my friend Victor.
“Where are you going my friend?” he asked in Q’eqchi’.
“Victor, you know that comedor where we like to eat?” I asked as I climbed in, “Drop me there.”

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