Meet my friend, Hombre Arana (picture a squiggle over the n, which makes that read "Spiderman" in Spanish). Jose earned that name by waiting until I get into the elevator on first floor, then running up the stairs all the way to third floor and beating me to the office door which is next to my apartment. He is one of my favorite people in the world and one of the most genuinely happy fellows you would ever hope to meet.
I was thrown off guard the first time I walked into the parking garage and saw him going through our bags of garbage. It seemed a violation of my privacy and felt a little creepy. Were they collecting and sorting garbage to sell for a little extra money? I decided rather than to be annoyed by it, I would start sorting the garbage recyclables (they don't collect recyclables here) to make it easier for the guys who work in our building. This has been going on for a few months. Today we walked through the lobby on our way to get pizza and Jose has this adorable handmade robot on his desk. In the bag next to the robot are all the heavy duty cardboard tubes from my U.S. shipments of essential oils. I would never have thought they would become Guatemalan robots, but they did!
Jose's boys are in a dance at school and they needed costumes, so he is spending his hours whie guarding the front door putting together their costumes. I really admire Jose because he knows what matters most. We have found him cutting out pictures of Lightning McQueen from advertisements and carefully gluing them onto his son's notebook at the beginning of the school year. His love for his three sons is so compelling. Last week he had Mike sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for him repeatedly in English so his son could do it correctly in his school classroom. Jose recorded the rehearsal for us because he was so proud of his son's new English song and wanted to be sure we knew how well he had mastered it. It sounded about as good as my Spanish does, which made me feel slightly better about my survival Spanish.
This isn't the same as getting into the car and going to the local party store to take care of a child's homework assignment and that is one of the things I love about Guatemala. Families here are real-no pretense, nothing fancy-just genuine family closeness and love unfeigned. I just don't think you can overestimate the value of this kind of solid family life.