The 16th of July marked one year since I swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. I am officially at mid-service and have just 12 months left here. In terms of my PC service, it's the beginning of the end.
Another week in Antigua. Midservice meds are done and I am happily cavity, TB, and intestinal parasite-free. One final day of midservice technical conference and I'm returning to the campo where I am anxious to jump back into work. Four nights of hot showers, sushi dinners, beer on tap, and time with some lovely friends, and here I sit, on the side of the Carchá highway, waiting for the road to Campur to open. The longer I've been here, the less of a jolt it is going between the American comforts of Antigua and the total lack thereof in Alta Verapaz. I've actually come to much prefer the latter, except for hot water. I could live here for a decade and I'd never become inured to the cold showers of Alta. Nevertheless, the incoming smell of Alta Verapaz dusk and dinnertime wood-fires comforts me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a Guatemalan couple sitting a few meters away on the curb. The woman, who I recognize from Campur but can't quite place, is gesturing conspicuously in my direction, clearly instructing her husband to go investigate the Gringa. A few moments later he passively moseys over and takes a seat uncomfortably close to me. Despite the fact that I sit here scribbling intently in my journal, ipod earbuds in place, he strikes up this Qeqspañol conversation, one that I've had a million times since arriving last year.
-Where are you going?
-Campur (I put down my notebook and remove my earbuds, trying to hide my annoyance)
-Where are you coming from?
-Antigua, I was there for a few days doing work, now I'm returning to Campur where I live.
-You live in Campur?
-Yes, I live and work there.
-Oh (pause). Were you born here?
-No, I'm from the United States. I'm just here on a two-year work contract as a volunteer. I rent a house in Campur.
-Oh (longer pause). And your parents are in Campur?
-No, they live in the United States.
-Oh (pause). You're here all alone?
-Yes, all alone. Do you live in Campur? I've seen your wife over there around the center.
-Yes, I live in Campur, but 2 hours by foot from there in another village, do you work in Santa Domingo?
-No, I only work in three villages (I list them).
-Oh. You speak Q'eqchi'?
-A little, I respond in Q'eqchi'.
-What's your name?
-Jana, what's yours?
-Nice to meet you.
-(Pause). Excuse me. (Satisfied with the information he's gathered, he returns to his wife to give his report, and I return to my journal).
It's been 10 hours traveling so far, and according to the bus driver, and the dynamite blasts I hear further up the road, it will be at least 2 hours waiting here before the road will open to traffic. But I don't really mind. After finishing the lukewarm tamale I bought from a passerby Señora, I'll make my way back to the big yellow school bus where I'll curl up and nap until we start moving again. I'll get home eventually. A year here has at least taught me that. And unlike Francisco, I won't have to walk two hours in the dark to get to my house. The school bus will drop me off right at my front door, where I can crawl into bed and sleep the day off.
Dreams of a Beached Cow
4 years ago