"If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together" -Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Activist

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween!

This week has flown by. Aside from all the graduation ceremonies, graduation church services, graduation lunches, etc, I've been running around all week trying to piece together the last bits of data for my Reconnect report, which has been a real pain in the ass, to put it bluntly. Guatemalans really love ceremony and formalities, so graduation ceremonies often run about 4 hours long, with a luncheon afterwords. They take graduating really seriously, as they should…it's a really big deal for some of these students to get to where they've gotten.

I'm taking a nice weekend getaway with my volunteer friends from training. It's been 4 whole months since I've seen these girls, so it's going to be a treat to spend the weekend with them. We're heading to Semuc Champey, which is an eco-tourism reserve about 2 hours from my site. There's candelight cave-swimming, tubing, waterfalls…I'm just crossing my fingers that we have good weather. I have a double Q'eqchi class this afternoon and tomorrow morning in Coban, and then we're off.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Coming home

Just getting home after an extra-long micro ride back from Coban. Caught the last one out, so standing-room only the whole hour and a half. Not fun, but definitely a good arm work-out holding onto the ceiling bar for dear life. But as we finally pulled into Campur, I realized that the relief I felt wasn't only being able to get off the cramped, stuffy bus, but because I felt like I was coming home…the smell of burning garbage, the rocky roads, the tone-deaf singing at the evangelical church, the sticky air…the campo officially feels like home to me.

Went into Carchá yesterday to visit a fellow volunteer and avoid having to leave at 5am today to get to my Q'eqchi' lesson on time. It was quite lovely…made a yummy mushroom pasta dish, garlic bread, and we even splurged for a bottle of wine. It wasn't until we got it back to the house, though, that we realized: no cork screw. Oops. But as true Peace Corps volunteers, we were resourceful, and ended up hacking the cork out in pieces with a pocket knife (this is after we tried banging the bottom of the bottle against the wall for 5 minutes…apparently the pressure is supposed to push the cork out gradually…not as easy as it sounds). All in all, a lovely night of venting and good food. This morning I got up early and met with Liliana, my new private Q'eqchi' teacher. She's great, and really pushes me…it's exactly what I need to really start getting the language down. It is quite an experience learning a third language via my second…but I'm quickly learning that Q'eqchi' grammar is a lot English verb tenses, without all those pesky irregulars.

Back home with a fresh list of vocal words to learn. Settling in for the night with a big bowl of cereal and a book. Goodnight all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crazy week

When it rains here, it pours. And I mean that literally and figuratively. I've been in site for 3 months now, during which I was in a constant battle to have enough to do. And now, one week away from the end of the academic year, you'd think that the directors of my schools just now realized that I'm here to work. In the next week I have 2 (possibly 3) teacher meetings to run, 2 parent meetings, a vacation camp to plan for November, and a library project to get up and running. On top of that, I have the flu. Wonderful. I have to be honest, it's getting to me. The fact that scheduling anything, ever, is a complete impossibility here is really hard. It makes getting anything done almost as impossible. Before coming here, the idea of a culture where scheduling and strict timelines didn't rule the land seemed a bit romantic, I've got to admit. But now that I'm not only living in one, but working in one, I realize that it's not so idyllic. Instead, the smallest of tasks become a headache. Planning anything ahead of time is unheard of. And last minute cancellations are the norm. It's really a test to my patience when I walk 2 hours to my most rural school only to find out that the parent meeting isn't happening…the parent meeting, mind you, that I had confirmed the day before.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

6 Months!

I've been in country 6 months. It's hard to believe. I bought myself a ridiculously overpriced package of Oreos in Coban to celebrate.

Classes finished this week at my schools, next week is exams, and then vacation. I actually have a lot of work to do...big teacher workshop to lead next week, and planning my summer camp for early November. Also need to make some final arrangements for the house I want to move into. It's weird, because I remember when I thought I'd never be busy here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dear Beth

Dear Beth,

I just wanted to write and thank you again for your message, your pending care package (so excited!), and your wonderful words of support and encouragement.

You have always been so great at being there and cheering me up when I really need it. You know just how to put things in perspective for me.

Like you said, I need to make sure not to measure my success (or happiness) on things I can't control. And I know now that I need to continue surrounding myself with those people who have really been there to support me through this…and they've made themselves known.

You've come so far, Beth…you're gonna be a lawyer! You even write like one, now. Can't wait to hear more about what's going on in your life these days. Keep doin what you're doin.

Talk soon,

Hay sol

The sun came out today for the first time in over a week. I felt like doing a little dance. Instead, I washed clothes for 2 hours. Gotta take full advantage of sunny drying time in case it's the only sun I'll see for another 10 days.

Dear Liz

Dear Lizzy,

Thanks again for your lovely letter. I won't lie though, I was slightly disappointed that this one didn't include a coloring book page.

Glad to hear your job is going well…once upon a time I used to be that girl in the office asking my coworkers for projects. Beware….pretty soon you could be getting everybody's crap work. I feel like that here, sometimes…like I'm begging people to work for them…for free. Please, Mr./Mrs. Guatemalan, I'm a lonely bored Gringa who needs to feel useful. Might you need help with organizing this classroom/typing that grant/shucking those beans? I didn't realize you were planning on doing grad school next year…will you be able to keep your job (or is it just a year-long thing)? What schools are you looking at?

I'm really have a hard time imagining you being bat-shit crazy. But I'll take your word for it? Thanks for trying to cheer me up…I know everything you told me is right, it's just hard to see that right now.

I do know (and am quite fond of) the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, and I will definitely check out the Good Life. Just gotta wait until I have a good enough internet connection to download some songs.

On a side note, you guys are into Watchmen, right? I've tried to watch that movie 4 times now…just can't get through it. It's too bizarre. Maybe it's one of those that you have to have read the comic first?

Okay, and pardon my rant but are you really telling me that you can't eat ONE veg meal a WEEK? You guys eat meat every single night?? Do you know what's in that meat? Where it came from? Now I don't want to lecture you, but I would highly recommend you read either Michael Pollen's "Food Rules" or Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" and watch the documentary "Food, Inc." To put it lightly, the American meat industry is crazy messed up, Liz. I'm talking bleak. If you were eating normal unadulterated meat, you wouldn't' be able to afford to eat meat nightly. Very few people would. If you'd like, I'll give you some good (and hardy) meatless dinner recipes. Yeah? Yeah? Okay I made my spiel…just had to give it a shot.

Anyways, I hope you guys enjoy staying put for a while…talk soon!

Te extraño,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Some news

I received this message today from our country director:

Dear Volunteers,

You have probably by now heard in today’s news the tragic discovery involving medical testing conducted by U.S. physicians in Guatemala in the 1940s, in which Guatemalans were intentionally infected with sexually transmitted diseases without their knowledge or consent, in order to look for new ways to prevent infections. Like all US citizens, those of us working in Guatemala are horrified that this took place. We want to ensure that all of you are informed about this and direct you to the link below:

US apologizes for infecting Guatemalans with STDs in the 1940s - CNN.com