Glorious sunny morning after hurricane rains, we had breakfast guests Salvador (Xalic), Maruch, and her adopted son Marión join us for tortillas españolas, biscuits with marmalade, plum sauce and coffee. Ambar and Teofila, who helps every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, creates these delectable foods from scratch over the stove and hearth. The tart plum sauce is handmade by mashing ciruelas from the orchard outside and heated slowly and strained, during which we have conversations and get to know each other.

Our Mayan friends are from Chamula, among best friends of Ambar…and the conversation dominates in Tzotzil. The Mesoamerican languages are surprisingly like Chinese in the sense that each word has only one syllable, and the ancient writing system is based on pictograph characters. However, the complexity lies in all the suffix and prefixes one can add, so now I’m only learning neutral abstract nouns. So vajh‘ is tortilla, for instance, but ‘my tortilla’ is another word and so is ‘your tortilla’ and ‘his tortilla.’ I’ve learned the basics: milio’yut is hello (is that you?) ; tame’shibot is goodbye (I’m going now) ; hech is yes ; ta’na is sure ; avo’kuluk is please ; lek is good.

Since a week has passed, Spanish comes naturally to me almost like a native language, and I have a few skills which people seem to really need. (Like, translating Chinese instructions into Spanish.)

Where they cannot pay me, I am repaid in personally accompanied trips to indigenous communities in the surrounding areas, new friendships, and delicious homemade foods. I am well cared for. In fact, I prefer these enriching experiences more than money, because my life is already privileged in the sense of affluence, and now to able to be welcomed into their communities, to get to know these people on a friendship level and be trusted, to contrast the rich and the poor, the scientists and the artists, to be able to have yet another cultural point of reference, to learn how native ingredients are prepared here, how Mayan people use their surrounding material, is what makes it so invaluable. And it wouldn’t be the same if I did not already have personal experiences in Africa, Asia and South America to better appreciate how rich this is now.

Spanish Word of the Day: Expressing something awesome.

“Qué chulo” – Sweet. Nice. Use when something strikes you as beautiful, lovely, or aesthetic
“Qué padre” – Cool. A casual way of approval, use “padrísimo” for awesome.
“Qué chido” – Frikkin’ tight or hella awesome. Ultimate approval, when you think something is da bomb.

Ways to say “cool” outside of México:
¡Qué flipe! ¡Qué bakán! ¡Dabuten! ¡Fantástico! ¡Estupendo! ¡Fenomenal! ¡Qué pasada! ¡Se sale! ¡Que guay! ¡Chachi! ¡Mola! ¡Genial!