I took a trip to Baja Verapaz today to attend the opening ceremony for a fellow volunteer's bottle school project. He teamed up with a local school and built an additional 2-classroom building using the "Eco-ladrillo" (Eco-brick) technique. Basically what you do is collect empty soda and water bottles, clean and dry them, and pack them full of cleaned, dried trash (plastic chip bags, plastic bags, etc.). The trash makes the bottles heavy and durable, so they can act as the foundation of the walls of a building (in this case, a school). The building cost is therefore greatly reduced, and it helps to clean up the local area of trash. The idea was created by a returned Peace Corps volunteer, and is quickly spreading across Peace Corps Guatemala. My site-mate currently has a bottle-school project underway in the aldea where I work with the women's group. It's moving along more slowly than planned (still in the bottle-collection phase), so I will most likely be the one responsible for finishing the project after he leaves.
On the way back to site from Baja, we stopped off at Casa D'Acuna, a swanky hotel/restaurant in Coban. And for a mere 20 quetzals (more money than I normally spend on food for two days), I had the best chocolate cheesecake I've ever tasted. It was so good, in fact, that I almost didn't feel guilty about spending all that money.
At the opening ceremony I also met a women selling jewelry that her women's group makes out of recycled trash. They use plastic bags, bottles, and pop tabs to make earrings, bracelets, and necklaces, which they sell and make a pretty profit. I bought a pair of bar-code earrings, and talked to the woman about the possibility of her coming out and teaching my women's group how to make the jewelry. I think it would be a really great way to fundraise for our pila project.