don domingo

In the third grade I wrote my name on Dominic’s shoe. We’ve been friends ever since. But in the nearly twenty years we’ve known each other there has never been a stronger demonstration of best friendship than the time he came to visit me in Guatemala. I know this because for five days he wouldn’t stop saying it.

September 15th is Independence Day in Guatemala (no worries if you have trouble remembering that, it’s written right on the flag). Dominic arrived just in time for the celebration. In Cobán this meant martial parades of schoolchildren with burning coffee cans on sticks, salsa dances in the square, and explosions in the sky.
Back in Samac, they were throwing candy in the schoolyard. I was winged by a lollipop and swarmed by piranha children. While the piñatas were meeting their brutal fates, the cooperativistas asked us to join their soccer team.
The teams were grouped by committee. Dom and I played on the ecotourism team, but our uniforms were pure Madrid.
The Q’eqchi’ don’t have a name for “Dominic,” but they decided it was close enough to “Domingo” that they could use their word for Sunday. So Qawa’ Lu’ and Qawa’ Cu’ joined the field on defense, towering over the opposition (and the support) for ninety minutes on the pitch.

I tried to ease the transition to campo life so as not to shock his system. He had a few days to process what took me six months of acclimation. He was a trooper. But there were a few moments when I suspected Dominic had a different picture of what life would be like here. Some excerpts:

“But there’s a bathroom, right?”

“Where’s the regular food?”

“They’re stopping? The bus is already full.”

“No beans for me. Why do they keep bringing tortillas?”

“I’ll just buy some postcards in your village.”

“They didn’t give us spoons.”

We went to a Mayan ceremony in Sanimtacá. Dom sat down to rest near the coffee patio while I watched the climbing ceremonial fire. The next time I looked up, he was completely surrounded by children.
He had taken out his camera to shoot a quick panorama. As he panned from right to left, the kids noticed he had a camera and crowded in to look. When we watched the video later, there was a sweeping shot of the empty coffee patio with a few people in the distance. And as the camera turned back, the frame was suddenly full of curious young faces.
The people offered us boj, a sugarcane moonshine, which made us both very dizzy. We had to climb most of the way out of the valley to find a place to lie down.
The next morning we had to hike the rest of the way out. Dom sat down on a pile of cinderblocks at the top of the trail to rest. As he was explaining how tired he was, a Sanimtacan arrived behind us, loaded three of the cinderblocks on his back, turned around, and headed back down into the valley.

A brief visit, but a good one.

Also, buddy, I didn’t want to embarrass you while you were here, but “Guatemalteco!” is not how we say hello.

3 Responses to “don domingo”

  1. topsy Says:

    Ya’ll look like “real” soccer players- a hot look. We have new employee that has a crush on you based on stories and our motivational “teamwork makes the dream work” photo of your mug.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    only 5 days?? gloria, must have been a whirlwind. and Dominic does demonstrate his best friendship duties by visiting you, I’m glad he let you know the entire time. And I hope the Boj-light girls came to your table at the Independence day gathering and took a picture with you guys to commemorate your time together.

  3. lefton Says:

    look at that dude. love the post and the photos. also, coincidentally, i’m going to see the band ‘explosions in the sky’ next week.

    love / jason