First visit to the United States, first experience of snow, first single digit temperatures, bowling, ski racing, craft beer... Manuel Sic arrived in Colorado with a shiny new passport and heavily blue plastic wrapped bag. After running through the airport with my pass to get through security I thankfully found Manuel. I had no idea if he would make it through immigration and customs in Houston in time to make his flight, if it would even arrive on time in the midst of early February's storms (it arrived ahead of schedule actually, hence my running). You never realize how convenient it is that everyone has cell phones until they don't! Manuel did his research; he knew Denver's airport was unique so we were taking pictures before we even got 50 feet out the door.
Manuel Sic is a Maya Guatemalan living in a very small village near Totonicapan, Guatemala, attending the University of Mariano Galvez for civil law. Spanish is his third language, behind Ki'che' and Kaqchikel. Manuel, with the help of his brothers and local weavers, weaves the fabric sold at Little Mango Imports. Upon Manuel's request, I sent him a letter of invitation to Colorado for him to present to the U.S. embassy in Guatemala. Honestly, I didn't expect Manuel to successfully acquire a U.S. visa, but he managed to maneuver the hoops and loops, front the $380 fee, and purchase his approximately $800 plane ticket to the United States (life savings....literally!).
Manuel visited Colorado's state capitol, Denver's Museum of Nature & Science, toured Oskar Blues Brewery, gave bowling his best shot, experienced the Rocky Mountain National Park and watched a high school alpine ski racing team practice (random I know, but I coach the team). It was incredible to watch Manuel experience so much that is so different from everything he has ever known. He marveled at the genuine moon rock, dinosaur bones and Egyptian sarcophagus at the museum…..not to mention our dishwasher, wood flowers, indoor heating, to-go mugs, and beer in the fridge.
During Manuel’s visit we discussed everything from marriage and religion to Arizona immigration law and the drug trafficking problems in Guatemala. He asked me to break down U.S. national and state governments, to explain the significance of Thanksgiving and describe Colorado’s economy. The last was tough for me and definitely made me put some thought into the state in which I live. Here’s what I came up with: skiing, tourism, grain (I just heard on NPR that Colorado produces more than half the country’s millet), cattle, beer and oil. What am I missing here? Let me take a moment to say I am not fluent in Spanish; I can speak conversational Spanish and I have a decent accent but ‘pilgrim’ and ‘millet’ are not in my vocab. Luckily my language limitations masked what I failed to remember from fourth grade social studies!
Manuel was extremely courageous to venture from his home country to the United States. Upon asking him what he expected, he said he thought Americans would be serious, but he was gladly surprised that Coloradoans were very friendly. I honestly didn’t know I had so many friends who could speak Spanish! He never seemed to be negatively affected by “culture shock”; he soaked up every moment. On the way to the airport Manuel asked me if he was a good house guest… honestly, probably the most respectful house guest I have ever had. He even complimented my cooking! I managed to acquire another pass through security and walk Manuel to his gate (all this whining about signs in Spanish in the US; I never noticed that they are actually pretty rare in Colorado!). I was sad to see Manuel go but very happy that he had achieved one of his life goals in visiting the United States.