Today is Nov. 1st, All Saints Day here in Guatemala. It´s a big event and we´re going to be celebrating it all day long! So, here are 13 things you can do on this great day.
1. Visit the graves of loved ones. I don´t have any here, of course, and our babies died too small to be buried, they were taken by the hospital. But Irving has plenty of relatives and we go to the cemetary to see the graves and light candles for them.
2. Eat fiambre. Yum! This plate differs depending on who makes it, but it includes a large number of pickled veggies, assorted meats, cheeses and garnishes. It is usually tasty . . . as long as they don´t put fish on it! Guess what we´ll be having today?
3. Fly kites. Dorian is very excited this year about flying kites because he has his very own! His is simple, but there are giant kites here that take up to 12 months to build! The final result is held down by massive cords and the kites (made of TISSUE PAPER) are up to five or six stories high!
4. Decorate graves. People go early in the morning or the day before to clean the graves. My first year here, I thought there had been a huge accident or something because all the graves looked fresh. Later, I learned that they pile new dirt on them every year to make them look nice!
5. Sleep. It´s supposed to be a day of relaxing and reflection.
6. Work. That´s what I´ll be doing since I have a deadline! I did stay up really late last night finishing some articles so I can work less today, though.
7. Eat. There are food stalls outside the cemetary and there will be HEAPS of food. I´m looking forward to it. Can you tell I think a lot about food?
8. Travel. Many people here travel to places like Santiago to see the giant kites, but we don’t anymore. One year, Irving and I went, before the kids were born and we got caught up in crowd that was going down a hill, between straight walls. People were screaming, children were trampled, parents held kids above their heads to keep them from getting squashed. It was simply a matter of everyone wanting to leave at the same time and once you were in, you couldn´t move because more and more people were pushing in from the back and more from the front. It was absolutely horrific. I was carried along, pressed between sweaty bodies for a few meters and lost my bag and jacket, they just got caught between people and ripped away. We finally climbed out and into a little hut where a woman was nice enough to let us sit until the police managed to sort people out, getting the front wave to back up and spread out. I´m astounded no one died that day.
9. Pray. This is a day when people pray a lot. It´s a Catholic holiday, so they light candles for the departed and the sick. I think today will be a very sad one for many families after what happened a week ago, with four men being shot. One of the men had lost his wife to cancer a week ago and now he has joined her in heaven. They left 5 small children behind and they have been split up. I feel so bad for those little kids . . . especially today.
10. Talk politics. With the elections coming up this weekend, everyone is talking about them! This is the second voting held this year, because in the first one, no one got even 50% of the votes. Now it is down to two main candidates, Colon and another guy. One says he will rule with an iron fist, which might be good, though it sounds scary, the other says he´ll be for the people, whatever that means.
11. Climb on tombs. That´s what kids do here, to get higher to fly their kites. One year, Irving´s brother, Melvin, fell off a tomb (about 8-10 feet high) and fell onto a branch. It stuck into his arm and broke off. I spent about 2 hours working on him, getting all the bits of wood out and bandaging him up.
12. Celebrating. Really, today is about celebrating the lives of people who have moved on and the fact that we are still here. People don´t usually cry at the cementary, they are happy. Death is far closer here than in our Western world. People die at home, they are prepared for burial by family members and wakes are held, with everyone talking about the dead, playing cards and drinking with the body right there. They just seem more comfortable with it.
13. I´m running out of stuff! Ummmmmm, I guess we´ll also be taking photos! I´ll post tomorrow with shots of everyone having fiambre and fun.