Caroling in Canlun

As part of our Guatemalan excursion, we drove off to some remote villages to sing Christmas carols in Kekchi to the local Christians, who didn’t have many (if any) Christmas songs in their language. One such excursion took us to Canlun, which, coming from my little world of white picket fences and Hot Pockets, completely staggered my imagination.

To reach Canlun, we drove through a countryside which… I wish I could find a better way to describe it than to say, “It looks like Jurassic Park,” but here we are. I come from a desert, so I tend to forget what the color green actually looks like until I go somewhere that gets more than a snow cone’s worth of precipitation a year. And the foliage is incredibly varied – greens of all shades, and shapes I didn’t even know plants came in. Squat palms, fat around the trunk and bushy in the branches. Tall, whispy trees than only look frail until you realize that they’re actually a mile or more away. And, of course, there are the coconut trees.I’ve seen houses like the ones in Canlun before, if only in photographs. Their yards are surrounded by thin fences bound together with twine or by walls of cultivated plants. The walls of the houses are, again, slats of wood tied together and roofed with leaves, and they’re terribly dark inside. Still, many of these places were actually fairly large (not terribly spacious, but not uncomfortably cramped, either). Some even had room for a coconut tree or two.

Part of our caroling group got sidetracked into conversation with this family, so I went back to retrieve them. As I walked up to them, the women of the house motioned for me to stay. They spoke to me in their heavily-accented Spanish, which… well, I don’t understand Spanish, anyway, so it doesn’t matter what their accent was. A member of my group pointed up into the tree, and I started when I realized that there was a man up there, cutting coconuts from their branches. He scurried back down while his daughters promptly loaded two of them into my arms.

After the family refused payment for the coconuts, thus reaffirming that I’ve been far too ungenerous in my life, we made our way back towards our singing engagement. One member of our little chorale struggled with carrying his two coconuts, his bag with his water, and the cane he had to use as he walked. I offered to carry his coconuts for him if he agreed to carry my music folder, which he did, gladly.

…and that’s how I wound up singing Silent Night whilst carrying four coconuts, which is not a thing I would have ever thought about putting on a bucket list.

*-Translated from Kekchi, of course.

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