Good Friday fun

What a day.

Short version: my younger daughter got chomped on by a dog, we went to Coban to look at the carpets, and then, at the end of the day, we finally took her to a doctor. Also, it was a really fun day.

Long version: brace yourself. Also, there will be a little blood, but it’s only fitting, seeing as it was Good Friday.

So, Escobar, the neighbors’ old Rottweiler, was eating his breakfast when my daughter spied some of his food on the ground and picked it up to toss to another dog. Escobar didn’t approve and let her know by clamping down on her arm with his teeth. This is the same dog who has punctured car tires with his bare (bared?) teeth and who terrifies taxi drivers. In other words, he’s got a mean bite.

Naturally, my daughter screamed and lit out for home where she bled all over the patio and her shirt, and we, once we realized she was actually hurt and not just screaming for the joy of it, jumped into high gear. After washing the wound (there were actually three—two small ones on the back of her wrist/hand and one bigger one on the inside of the wrist), we sat her down with a rag, ordered her older brother to read to her (so she would stop wailing and we could think), and started reading up on dog bites. We called our friend who is a nurse, messaged my brother-in-law who is a pharmacist, and paged through Where There Is No Doctor, the go-to health manual for overseas workers.

I had been chatting with my mother online when all this went down, so my son (before we commissioned him to read to the wounded) took over the chatting. Here’s the conversation, slightly edited:

My son: She just got bitten relly bad. Nothing to worry about.
My mother: relly bad. NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT?????

After about twenty minutes of allowing the wound to bleed, we called up Nurse Friend again and she said it was time to apply pressure. My husband put antibiotic on it and wrapped it in a panty liner (panty liners have more than one use, as we already know), we jotted down the recommended antibiotics, and off to town we went. This was our original plan (minus a pharmacy visit) because in Guatemala, Good Friday equals PARTY.

For Guatemalan Catholics, Good Friday is a really, really, reallyreallyreally big deal. (Easter Sunday not so much.) On this day, they make elaborate alfombras (carpets) on the roads and then parade over them in a series of processions that last all day long and into the night.

When we got to Chamelco, a procession was already underway.

The fashionista rocking her panty liner bracelet.

The carpets are mostly made out of colored sawdust, but pine needles get some heavy use, too.

Fresh flowers, fruit, twigs, and candles are called into service as well. My favorite was this: Jesus on the cross with a banana in his hand.

We went into the cathedral just to see what was going on.

Tourist tidbit: our little town’s cathedral was the first one to be built in this whole region.

Inside, there was some sort of service gearing up, plus people were working on the floats.

readying the women’s float

Later in the day, people would carry these giant floats through the streets. There was one for the women (16 women on each side) and a bigger one for the men (30 men on either side). These, however, are peanuts compared to the float in Antigua, the mother of all Good Friday celebrations. That one takes some ridiculous amount of men to carry it, like a hundred on each side.

Once we arrived in Coban, we only had to walk a little ways up the road before arriving at a roped off street. It was buzzing with alfombra-making activity.

self portrait 

After watching for a bit, purchasing the antibiotic (and changing the bandage), we went to a little comedor for lunch.

Fried fish was on the menu, and my fish-loving kids jumped at the opportunity. They didn’t, however, expect it to come with eyeballs attached.

Turned out, fish with eyeballs isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, because if it still has eyes, then have they even gutted it? (Yes, of course, but we couldn’t convince everyone. It didn’t help that my husband’s fish was still partly raw.)

Also, we are never giving that boy Pepsi ever again. Within minutes, the kid was pulsating with unbridled enthusiasm for life.

Lunch over, we headed to central park. I sat myself in the shade and reveled in the abounding photo ops.

fruit carts: peeled oranges waiting to be sliced in half and sprinkled with spicy ground pumpkin seeds, mango slices, fruit salad in bowls (and a honey bear because here fruit salad is always drizzled with honey)

boiled field corn on a stick: they dress each ear with liberal amounts 
of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise

cotton candy: it takes two men to make it, one to catch the sugar with the stick 
and the other to hand crank the machine

Dog Bitten Daughter’s bandage was getting rather bloody (again), so we changed it.

Immediately, we had a crowd.

“We could charge money,” I hissed to my husband as I handed my older daughter the camera. (She didn’t back up far enough so she missed all the people standing on either side.)

When we took off the bandage, the blood started running down her arm right away. Also, the wrist was swelling and there was a good bit of purple underneath.  

Hmm, should we be concerned yet?

Nah, not just yet. 

We slapped on another bandage and went to the cathedral. Inside, the priest (or somebody) was preaching about the wounded and sick and people were milling all around. The huge floats were parked at the front of the church, awaiting their moment of glory.

I alternated between hanging out in the church with the family and going outside so I could make phone calls. The wound was still, after three changes, steadily bleeding. Perhaps the damage was a little worse than we thought? Was a vein punctured? An artery? Should it be sutured? The high risk of infection had me slightly nervous. I kept checking her arm for red streaks.

Outside, the crowds were tucked to a fever pitch.

Official looking men (my husband just informed me they are firemen) were finishing up an alfombra.

A band arrived:

Men in long robes scurried around moving motorcycles to make room for the procession:

Seemingly out of the blue, two long lines of Roman soldiers marched into the church:

Upon seeing the fierce, broom-capped men with their long pointy swords, my kids, boredom forgotten, snapped to attention.

Roman soldier in training

The Roman army had two not-yet-in-use generators—one at the head of the procession and another at the tail.

That’s the best part, my husband said. So I got a picture.

Then when I was outside, a whole line of men in black suits and sunglasses streamed around the side of the building and into the church.

They—the first round of float carriers?—looked like the mafia, or secret service men. That many of them were on cell phones made them look all the more intimidating.

They were accompanied by not-yet-lit incense carriers.

 And right about then was when I connected with the people I was calling. They said they could meet us at a private clinic—the best one in the area, our different sources agreed—so we had to leave the party.

I never did get to see the monstrous floats in action, much to my everlasting disappointment.

At the clinic, they called a doctor while we waited in a hallway. I let my daughter play games on my cell phone to take her mind off the upcoming ordeal. Our friend, who so generously stayed with us the entire time without us even asking her to, bless her heart, chattered away, helping to distract our daughter even more.

The doctor came and was wonderful. He suggested, and we agreed, not to stitch up the bite because of the risk of infection.

He flushed it out while I helped her breathe: in through your nose, out through your mouth, LOOK AT MY EYES. And then my son, who was outside with the other kids and Luvia (who was with our friends when they swung by the clinic to help us out—it’s all very confusing so don’t even try to follow), called on the cell phone and visited with her for the rest of the procedure. The doctor gave us a prescription for a 7-10 day treatment of high-powered antibiotics, as well as drops for inflammation and pain. And then we were done!

Our friends offered to drive us all home, but I wanted to see more of the festivities. So my older daughter and I stayed in town while the rest of the family headed home.

Even the kids had their own spot!

Recognize this alfombra?

I am so glad we stayed. We ended up walking down the same street that we first saw when we arrived in the morning, but now the alfombras were mostly completed. We joined the hordes of Guatemalans in admiring the alfombras and taking tons of pictures. It was like a giant block party: everyone working together to make something beautiful. The atmosphere was fun, light, focused, and peaceful.

Towards the end of the street we discovered our landowners busy working on an alfombra with their extended family. One neighbor handed my daughter a bucket of sawdust and put her to work.

The sun was setting, so we had to head home. The party, however, was far from over. The procession, we were told, wasn’t scheduled to reach that particular street until 9 p.m., and the whole thing wouldn’t be over until midnight or one o’clock.

Back in Chamelco, the morning’s alfombras had already been swept clean. But more were being built on the side streets. The celebration was far from over.


    • Jennifer Jo

      This question cracks me up—it just sounds … WEIRD.

      But no, we didn't get to see the procession (heaves a disappointed sigh), but I imagine there were lights and sound systems involved. It was probably very loud.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Oh, NOW I understand!

      Actually, we DID tend to her immediately, of course! (I wrote about that part in the very beginning.) And we were in contact with a wonderful nurse throughout the day, following her instructions to the letter. It is so sweet of you to be concerned!

    • Anonymous

      As a mother of four kids ages 10-16, I would have done the exact same thing. There's no use sitting around at home when there are beautiful carpets and culture to see, guaranteed to take her mind off of the bite. You were there to watch it the entire time and took very, very good care of her.

      We've learned to use panty liners for all big things blood related. Most recently when our dog's nail was partially ripped off and we couldn't get it to stop bleeding, we wrapped her paw in a panty liner and taped it up. Worked like a charm.

      I don't comment often but read every day. I love hearing about the good and the bad – the reality of it all – and love seeing your beautiful pictures. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us.


  • the domestic fringe

    Those carpets are gorgeous. I cannot imagine the amount of work that goes into them. It's amazing they allow anyone to walk on them, but I imagine that's the parade route, although I know it's not a "Parade". I guess procession is the right word…maybe?

    You take the most amazing photos. I imagine you and your camera slinking through crowds, bending here and there to capture the beauty from all angles. I love it!

    I hope your daughter is feeling better. What an ordeal for her, poor kid. I hope her wound heals very quickly.

  • Kathy ~ Artful Accents

    Yep, rottweilers. My husband got bitten by one as well. On his lip! He is not a fan of them now or forevermore. Hoping your little one will heal quickly.

  • Anonymous

    Holy Hannah – living on the edge! Got to admit you are handling this ALL much better than I ever would! So glad you were able to enjoy the day despite the bite. Not sure I could have. Happy Easter to the fam and M to C. M said she would say some prayers tonight for C!

  • Margo

    well, I am so fascinated (and trusting the hurt daughter will recover). So they do eventually WALK on the sawdust carpets? And why are they celebratiing on Good Friday, which is the day we say that Jesus died, and not Easter, the day Jesus was alive again? I'm curious.
    I absolutely adore that corn-on-the-cob idea – have you tasted it? I'm going to pin it to remember this summer.

    • Jennifer Jo

      They walk ALL OVER those carpets. The pageantry of Good Friday, for some reason I don't really understand, is quite important to Guatemalan Catholics. I don't know if it has something to do with the Indigenous religions? It's curious, I agree.

      I haven't tasted the corn on a stick, but I will—we're entering corn season soon. (I'm not sure I'll be a fan of the mayo, ketchup, and mustard toppings, but you never know…)

  • Mama Pea

    I do so admire the way you all are able to handle whatever comes your way. And the way you're able to do the best possible job of taking care of your injured daughter while still partaking in the cultural festivities. (That may not have come across the way I would have wished it to, but hopefully you understand my meaning.) What would have been the sense of staying home when you had to get the medication for her and make the visit to the clinic anyway?

    You are, indeed, living an interesting life right now that most of us will never experience. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  • Suburban Correspondent

    Actively worrying about that darn wound…do give us an update! Why would stitching it up increase the chances of infection? You lost me there.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Dog bites are particularly likely to become infected. Stitching up the wound may trap the infection and make things worse. It's better to allow the wound to drain which lowers the risk of infection. Or so they say… (It's healing nicely!)

  • Trailshome

    What an amazing day you had! Thank you for sharing it with us. How nice that your eldest daughter got to help with the bright colors. Even though your daughter with the bite was hurt, she was certainly surrounded by love and caring. Hopefully there'll be no infection from the wound.

    Such a life you're leading, and lifelong memories for all. Thank you again for sharing your life with us homebound virtual adventurers,

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