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 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.
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.
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.
of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise
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.
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.
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.