Life as a 0.5 Chapin

Have you ever felt like you were living in two different worlds at once? One where you constantly look both ways before crossing the street at the cross walk, and the other where you slowly, carefree cross the street at anytime, almost exclusively as a “J-walker.”

Well after living in Antigua surrounded with Chapines my natural gringo way of life has surly slipped away. I no longer buy my mangos, avocados, or even tortillas individually, it is now always by a “mano” (group of five). I no longer think twice about hanging my clothes to dry while the neighbors are burning their garbage, or if it might rain, or if it is “too” windy; because all of these things that used to drive us gringos crazy are now just baked out by the sun shine and the strong whirl wind “breeze” that gets caught in my patio. There is no more random shopping in the supermarket, rather there is the quick prayer that I don’t get lost in the market on Saturday afternoon with my two kids who have apparently found their way around the market better than I have even at the ages of 8 and 11.

It is the mental list that is never completed and always exchanged for whatever fruit looks the best, meat that is the freshest, and the veggies that are the appropriate colors. It is searching out the five vendors who have now after so many years, decided that I am Chapin enough to get the Guatemalan rates, rather than the exponentially higher gringo rates. Everything in the market is deliciously of fresh, almost clean, and “slightly bruised”; produce that sits in bleach water for 10 minutes as soon as they hit my kitchen, in an unsuccessful attempt to not get parasites again.

Life as a “1/2 Chapin” is much more dirty, creative, and adventurous. There is more walking 2 miles a day, just to go to and from the center of Antigua to my home, sometimes more than once. There is way more street food then I could have ever imagined in the states; and way more sunshine. Painful sunshine if you are not prepared with your daily bath of sunscreen, because gringos even the “1/2 Chapin” ones, burn. I am not talking about pink skin, I am talking about the crying-to-your-mom blisters because you stood in the sun for an extra five minutes, burn.

Though with all of these changes I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else but here. In fact, I dread the visa runs back to the States, where all of my Gringo family and friends –as I know now – do everything wrong, as they wait for a street light to give them permission to cross, while there is absolutely no cars as far as the eye can see; eating their “fresh produce” that tastes like wax; and drying all of their clothes in dryers instead of under the sun. I believe they all need a little Chapin in their lives, just like you and me!
Happy produce hunting!

written by: Melissa Schroden
translated by: Julissa Carillo


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