Yolanda and Rosa – Part 1


Yolanda Calgua and Rosa F. Garcia are K’iche speaking Mayans. They have been selected to appear in a show called “Mary Anne Wise and Friends” opening in Minnesota’s Anderson Center.

I had volunteered with Oxlajuj B’atz’ (an educational foundation) and was delighted to learn that one of my jobs would be to teach these ladies the basics of N. American cocktail chatter.

But, wait, wait, first, they must learn to say “Hello.”

With lessons spread over 2-3 months, for Yo-Ro “success” would be if they are able to navigate public spaces, greet people and minimally discuss their work and families… Much of this instruction is done through ROTE memorization and DRILLING phrases from musicals like: “Hi my name is Rosa, what’s yours?” and “This rug is ‘Lovely absolutely Lovely.'”

The good news is: Rosa lives close to me in Patanatic – just a 20 minute uphill tuk-tuk ride. But, Yolanda lives way-way out in Quijel – just this side of Chichicastenanga and deep in the mountains. It takes four transfers to get to her: Panajachel to Solola to los Encuentros to the turn off and from there, it is a 15 minute pick up truck ride to their compound. If I make every connection perfectly, it takes me about an hour and one half. Quijel is further out than Flatbush.

Last Thrusday, while trying to reduce the “friction of distance” to Yolanda’s and get beyond Quijel to my tailor in the state of Quiche, I had a NY moment. This is not a good thing to have in Guatemala.

I had to do small but unavoidable errands (like getting cash and buying food for my hosts) before catching the first chicken bus that morning,. I had the ambitious (but, do-able) plan of getting up to Santa Cruz D’Quiche (45 minutes above Chichi) that day. My goal was to get Yolanda tutored, snag a pick up to Chichi; the bus to the tailor in Sta Cruz and double back to Chichi in time to catch a nonstop shuttle to Pana. The Bonus would be to get back, with my custom made Tipica zoot suit before 6:00PM.

I was about hustling to the bank at 8AM, when I saw a taxi parked across from the church. This was a “real” TAXI (with the little light on the top) and I thought it was one beat up mirage.

I had to ask:

Will he take me all the way to Santa Cruz d’Quiche?
“Yes,” he says.

Make a few stops on the way?
“Yes,” he says.

In a flash I ask him how much if I hire him until 6PM if I pay gas?
“About 50 bucks,” he says (A little more than the round trip shuttle to Chichi and I was going beyond that…)

We agree on $45 and with cash in hand, I jump in directing him to go three blocks to PanaSuper for the goodies. Soon enough we are off to Solola, the first stop is to pop in and deliver Adonna’s gift to the Asociacion Maya. After this is accomplished in less than 20 minutes, I am liking my plan more and promise to buy the drive lunch in Santa Cruz D’Quiche at the Mansion d’ Chef. But, first we will go to Yolanda.

And would he mind filming the class for me??
“No Problemo,” he says
I begin telling him about pans, zooms, pulling focus, cutting on movement and form, etc. Expecting the best, I am carefully reciting “The Art of the Film” in broken Spanish.

And, since he told me he knew the way, I am hardly looking for the turn-off to Yolanda’s.

Suddenly, I notice that we have crossed into Chichi.
Is he is blowing though to Sta. Cruz, first?
That was not the plan.

I ask him what is going on and he says that it will cost me 100’s of extra Q’s to go to Sta Cruz and we are going now.
That was not the plan
…the Mansion d’ Chef doesn’t even open until lunch.

He then tells me that he doesn’t want to wait for the English class to be over. He wants to return to Panjachel immediately.

After a few minutes of this annoying patter, I am on the verge of flaming. And,when he told me he did not understand the plan, I took to screeching.

“How can you have misunderstood “Santa Cruz D’ Quiche” it is the Capital city of Quiche; a destination? You sure understood the lunch part,”

I am seething and it is time to be at Yolanda’s if the plan is going to work. I tell him there will absolutely be no extra money and to turn around, now, forget lunch and take me to Yolanda’s, pronto.

This time around I am keenly scouting the turnoff and direct him to go there. By now, he is muttering that he needs to go to church and I second that emotion by calling him a “liar and a cheat” in my best Spanish. (Yes, yes I know he could just as easily leave me on the road or chop me up in little pieces with a machete but I am having a NYC moment.)

As you can see by the photo, I retrieved my zoot suit. And believe it or leave it, I made it back to Pana via flying chicken by 6:30PM.

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Author: diane e. dreyfus

on the road until they put the lid down

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