Dance into the night

guatamalaDuring the many journeys I’ve made there are a number of experiences I’ll never forget. For instance, I lived with a family in Guatemala for a while. I slept in a little wooden panelled room. The bathroom was a hosepipe with cold water and electricity was available only during certain times.

What stays with me most are the little things that they family enjoyed and how they celebrated life. Death isn’t terrifying in Guatemala. That was clear from the two parties I could go to.

The first was the birthday of St. Simon…I knew nothing about it – I thought I was just going to a birthday party for someone called Simon. When I went in it appeared that I had to kneel in front of a statue – St. Simon – leaves sprinkled with water were scattered over my head and I was ready for the party. Amazed I went into the inner courtyard. St. Simon was no longer alive…but what a party! Dancing Guatemalans, a head shorter than me, looked at me and my blonde hair strangely at first, but soon I was one of them, doing my stiff best to join in amongst all the supple people dancing to their salsa music. After a bit they asked what sort of music we danced to in the Netherlands and if I want to ask the DJ to play some. I asked for Madonna… It took a bit of searching but then the loudspeakers boomed ‘Hey, Mr DJ put a record on….Music makes the people come together’. The Guatemalans stood still for a moment, like in the Bacardi ad. …how did you dance to this? Then the party really got going. Fantastic!

Another party was at Halloween, and everywhere in the house there were glasses of water and plates of food. These were for the dead. They were ‘back on earth’ for two days and this was something to celebrate. For two days there was a cooking marathon, because after all it was a party! On the evening of 1st November we went to the cemetery and I couldn’t believe my eyes! Everywhere there were lamps, music, pizza stalls, cola stands and people dancing. It took me a while to get accustomed to this crazy combination, but really it is such a lovely idea! We’re used to grey, depressing cemeteries with sombre faces…but it can be different! Why not?

A blog by Marloes Dekker