Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Un-ill Side of My Vacation

So, here are some photo highlights of my trip to Mexico with Andrea and Jeff and Jeff and a few days with the Skjonsby's in Guate beforehand. Look, I wasn't ragingly ill the WHOLE time....

We started off with a short run to Panajachel, a beautiful town by one of the most amazing volcanic lakes in the WHOLE world. Donald met us there and tried to learn how to fish.

After a quick review of one of Guatemala's most amazing sites, it was off to Cancùn for some more traditional relaxation, where we met up with the other Jeff. There was lots of good food, games, beach time, and general silliness.

We also got to take a kayak trip out to the second biggest coral reef in the world and I took this nice underwater shot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lions, Cows, and Their Anitbiotics

Disclaimer: All medical decisions made in the following stories were made me myself and me alone without the consult, advice, or premission of the marvelous and amazing Peace Corps health staff.

Ok, so I promised information, so here some is. I know you were incredibly enticed by my juicy preview so I will try to tell a few stories. I am waiting on most of Mexico until probably tomorrow when I can put some pictures in there too and quit using these ones I found on the internet to make my blog interesting.

So here is the good news. When I got back from the vacation I have yet to tell you about, I finally got to take my Kitten home. That obviously isn't a real picture of him/her but that you get the idea. My friends are all forming armies around whether it is a boy or girl and there are people that are pretty sure in both camps. I know nothing about animals but how so many reasonable people can get opposite answers from the same kitty's belly is beyond me. The jury is still out on the sex, but its name is Aslan and it is REALLY cute. It is a little whiney right now but that might have to do with tearing it away from its mother and tying it up at my house until it gets used to me and won't run away. I promise, it isn't as cruel as it sounds, animal lovers. I left the rope really long so he/she can frolic.

Speaking of animals....

Cows. I have this nameless Guatemalan friend. Actually, its a friend of a friend...Actually its just a guy I heard of once from a friend of a friend....well, he hurt his foot playing soccer and it was something like sprained. So, after a few weeks of not healing all the way, a friend suggested he use this magical ointment. Now, although it was an ointment for COWS it was rumored to work wonders on human bodies. It actually when used resulted in the worst allergic rash I have ever seen. The obvious moral story I got out of the experience with this aquaintance of a friend's friend was that ANIMAL MEDICINE SHOULD NOT BE USED ON HUMANS. I thought this unnamed guy who used cow ointment was silly.

Ok....skip to Mexico. So, I felt a little ill when we arrived, but since when does air travel NOT make you feel slightly queasy? So, fast forward to ragin illness the first night in the most beautiful 5 start resort you have ever seen. So, the next morning, I felt bad enough to open my wallet and go see the resort doctor they charge you for (not in any way associated with the wonderful Peace Corps medical staff) He was really nice, prescribed me medicine, and took my $150 with a smile. He gave me 4 medecines, one of which I only took for a day because it was liquid and thick and minty. If it sounds like drinking toothpaste, you are right, it felt just like that and I could barely force it down. So, I only took it for one of the two prescribed days.

Fast forward again to Guatemala, where the wonderful Peace Corps nurse looked up the medications I took (just out of curiousity). They all checked out.....except for the toothpastey one which turned out to be an animal antibiotic that is banned in the USA by the FDA. Thanks Mexican doctor!

I don't know if it was Karma for laughing a little at my friend with the cow ointment or what, but I am lucky not to have any adverse side effects. It just goes to show that you can't always trust really nice doctors that work at five star resorts. Let that be a lesson to you. I am telling you, that medicine was gross, I am not even sure my lion/kitten should take it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Still sorry...

So, I am STILL a really lazy blogger, but I promise a new one this week although the internet is almost closed for Christmas (I wish you were in a country with severely extended holidays too).

News to look forward too: Photos and stories from Mexico, raging illness, kittens, cow udder allergies, how airport x-rays can affect your pregnancy, and third world prescription of minty animal anitbiotics. All this and more is coming and that is BEFORE the holidays, so keep checking in.

Stay tuned.

Advertisement: Christmas presents can be sent with Kerianne who is the best friend EVER for spending Christmas with me and helping me eat the enormous food gift Guatemalan families are preparing for me.

I also love you.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Ok, so I know what you are thinking...I am a really horrible blogger. It isn't that I forgot about you or I don't like you, I just haven't really had anything exciting to report.

School is still out for the summer. I am teaching english classes to 25 nine to thirteen year olds in the library which isn't my favorite thing in the world, but I did get them to practice pronouns by listening to Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" which I thought was pretty cool of me.

While you all were celebrating that great-excuse-for-dress-up holiday called Halloween, I was celebrating All Saints Day which is kind of like the Day of the Dead in Mexico. The festivities incluse painting graves and depositing flowers and wreaths on the graves of family members. Although my lack of relatives in the cemetery and my fear of being named a gawker prevented me from touring the graveyard, I enjoyed watching the steady flow of people and flowers headed through town to the cemetery and the flowers for sale in the market were a nice and pretty change.

I am also learning how to communicate to Guatemalans just how important things are in order to get them to work more quickly. In one of my schools, we are trying to get a grant to pave a basketball court. I have spent the last few weeks, together with my teachers, chasing down signatures and price quotes and masons. One thing that the Peace Corps is teaching me is definitely patience. Things just don't always move every quickly here and to hold on to your sanity sometimes you just need to relax and let things take awhile. You can only say "me urge" (its urgent) so many times before you want to give it up alltogether. The good news is, the paperwork is in and the comittee will give us an answer this week. I am also getting some scholarships together for some sixth graders to go to middle school. I think I am finally starting to feel like I am getting some work done here.

Anyways, thanks for tuning in. I will try to write again soon if not before Thanksgiving then after since I am going with my best friends to Mexico to spend the holiday! I am SO lucky.

Monday, October 13, 2008


So, I have gotten some complaints that I have been ignoring my blog. So, here is a quick life-update to get us back on track!

The school year here just ended. That means the rainy season is also ending, which is good news. I know I said I really loved the rain but it will be nice for my clothes to actually dry for a change. So, I have been tying up some loose ends at school and looking forward to summer break. I am planning on teaching an English class at the library, relaxing a little, and getting some traveling done.

I also just moved into a new house. I loved living with Reina and they are a great family but I started to get a little tired of having to be home by 8:30 and feeling weird with my friends over so I thought I should opt for a little privacy. So the last few weeks I have been cleaning up my new house, painting, and arranging things which you all know I love to do. I will put up some before and after pictures in a few weeks when I get everything done.

I also went to church for the first time last week. There was a special service for Doña Lucy’s birthday and the family invited me so I thought I should go. I was really nervous to go. That seems kind of silly since I grew up in the United States going to church all the time and I have been to lots of different churches over the year. I was mostly nervous because the evangelical church here always seems kind of intense and I had heard it was really conservative. Also, I knew that when I went I would really stand out like I always do and I am uncomfortable with that much attention. I should also be used to the attention because I stand out almost everywhere I go around here. So, I went and it was actually pretty nice. I wore a skirt because I wasn’t sure how I should dress but not everyone was dressed up and some girls were wearing pants. They only announced my presence in the service once and didn’t call me up front or anything. The music was a little different than I am used to. It was just a piano and sometimes a bass guitar with the pastor singing hymns that I couldn’t understand very well. They also gave an opportunity for members of the congregation to go up front and sing a song dedicated to God. This week they had invited a trio of singers to come play as a gift to Doña Lucy and they were really good. They all played the guitar and sang religious songs but it was kind of a Mariachi-style. I really enjoyed it. Afterward, we all ate paches (kind of tamales…rice with chicken and tomato sauce wrapper up and steamed in a leaf) that Doña Lucy’s family had gotten up at 2am to make everyone. All in all, it was a good experience. I think I will probably go back someday. It is just one of the many things that are very very different in Guatemala.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vocab Lesson

In light of my friends and family planning their AMAZING visits to Guatemala and to ME, I have composed a little bit of educational material to help you out. Don't worry, there is more to come!
Things you should know in Spanish before coming to visit me:
Hola (Oh-la) Hello
Buenos dias (Boo-oin-ohs Dee-us) Good morning
Buenas tardes (Boo-oin-us Tar-days) Good Afternoon
Buenas noches (Boo-oin-us No-chayz) Goodnight
Mucho gusto (Moo-ch-oh Goo-stow) Nice to meet you
Me llamo… (May Yah-mo) My name is…
Como se llama? (Coe-mow say yaw-maw) What is your name?
Gracias (Grah-see-us) Thank you
Por favor (Pour fah-vore) Please
Lo siento (Low see-en-toe) I am sorry
Disculpe (Disc-cool-pay) Excuse me
Como esta? (Coh-moh Ess-tah) How are you?
Yo soy ---- de Andrea (Yoh soy ---- day Awn-dre-ah) I am Andrea’s -----
Mama (Maw-maw) Mother
Papa (Paw-paw) Father
Hermano (Hair-mawn-oh) Brother
Amigo(a) (Ah-mi-go (gah)) Friend
Yo estoy perdido (Yoh ess-toy pear-dee-doh) I am lost
Me podria ayudar? (May poe-dree-ah ah-yoo-dar) Can you help me?
No hablo espanol (No ah-blow ess-pan-yol) I do not speak Spanish
Habla ingles? (Ha-blah een-glay-ss) Do you speak English?
Necesito llamar a mi --- (Ness-ess-ee-toe yah-marr ah me) I need to call my---
Amiga (Ah-me-gah) Friend
Hija (Hee-ha) Daughter
Hermana (Hair-mawn-ah) Sister
No entiendo (No en-tee-end-oh) I don’t understand
No me molesta (No may mow-lest-ess) Don’t bother me
No tomo (No toe-mow) I don’t drink

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Market Day Lentil Soup


2 cups lentils (soak overnight with some onion and garlic)
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 red pepper
4-5 small tomatoes
Any other vegetables you are a fan of (broccoli is good)
2 jalepeños
Curry powder

Put it all together, watch a movie while it cooks. Good for dinner + next day lunch + so much more.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Q 7.50 = $1.00

Snacks for 3AM bus trip: Q7
Getting up at 2:30AM to catch the bus: Lots of will power
Bus fare from Cabricàn to Santa Lucia: Q52
Chuchitos for Bfast in Cuatro Caminos: Q6
Imaginary fiancee in the US to deflect men: Lots of imagination
Taxi ride to the doctor's office: $36.50
Doctor who shares your birthday: free
Cheeseburger at McDonalds to reward myself: Q40
Pirated movies to last me the next few months: Q50
Night with Mel in Chimal: free
Chuchitos in Mel's site: Q3
Bus fare from Chimal to Cabricàn: Q45
Bus breaking down on the way home: free
New bus fare the rest of the way: Q5
Sitting next to the guy who was also on the 3AM bus: Free

Total two day trip cost: Q254.50
Falling in love with the world around you: Priceless

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Pop culture has arrived in Guatemala. We have all heard of this phenomenon called Globalization in which we are all connected and goods produced in or by one country can be relevant and available in other countries around the world.

The problem here is Guatemala is that pop culture has arrived without the education to handle it. It used to be that people in other countries were just a little behind stylistically than us in the up-to-date fashion world. Don't worry, we are still using a lot of 80's and early 90's haircuts around here. With the increase of technology and of influence in the forms of foreign brands of clothing, people here have begun to adopt a lot of American styles. Kids run around with gold chains and big jeans and there are even some punk kids running around here in Cabrican.

Somewhere along the line there was a disconnect in which people began to use these pop culture symbols we love so much without really knowing what they represent. Last week I went to a store where the lady owning it wore a black and silver hat that said "HU$tLER" across the front. This morning I ran into a friend's mother who had earring with the playboy bunny on them. I am sure the store owner liked the shiny colors of the hat and maybe even recognized the dollar sign, but I doubt she knows what a hustler is. I am positive that the church-going mother of my friend thought the rabbits on the earrings were cute but had no idea what playboy is.

It is really funny to walk into the store and see the old lady wearing such a ridiculously not right for her hat, I know. It is also kind of sad because they really have no idea. We throw all of our culture into people's lives without giving them a chance to understand it.

Lesson: Next time you are going to donate your HU$TLER hat or your playboy earrings to a charitable organization where it will then be resold in countries like Guatemala, think twice and maybe attach a note explaining the symbolism.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Reoccurring Dreams

I have reoccurring dreams about whether or not the post office is open. I suppose it is a good thing that the mail is the most worrisome thought that plagues my mind at night.

My English is slipping. I insertar words of Español even when I am hablaring with mí mamá. Life has become this weird mix of trying to speak Spanish to people who speak English and English to people who speak Spanish. My brain is having trouble figuring out who is who. I have got friends now and I think as I get more comfortable with them I feel like they should understand English because that is what I always speak with my friends….but they don’t and I am pretty sure I look like a crazy person most of the time. Last week I was giving a lesson and I started speaking English instead of Spanish in front of 25 third graders. Awkward.

I think I am the only one who loved the cat Reina got to kill the ratones. Her name is Micheli. Reina says she hasn’t been eating very much and I think it might be because I let her lick my cereal bowl.

I have realized being away from them that I have the best friends in the whole world. I miss you guys. I love living in Guatemala and I love my friends here but there is nothing that could ever beat a barbeque at the beach with you guys. I am starting to get a little U.S.-sick.

Things I miss about the U.S. (besides family and friends and other obvious things that might make me cry in the internet café)

1. Knowing what time to show up to things (everyone here seems so know exactly how late you should be except me. I am either way too early or way too late all the time)
2. The Mongolian Grill
3. Driving (not allowed here because of Peace Corps rules)
4. Costco (thanks to my brother who informed me he bought a huge pack of Australian toaster biscuits the other day)
5. Movies I can understand
6. Paved roads
7. Seattle
8. People who go outside in the rain (It rains here an everyone hides until it is over. Streets: totally empty)
9. Saying what you mean (here you say a trillion things to hint at what you really need or want but can’t ever come out and say it)
10. Laundry machines (have I already mentioned how long it takes to wash your clothes by hand?)
11. Affordable chocolate
12. Things that have prices (blonde hair seems to mean everything costs more here)
13. Concerts

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I have got some complaints that I haven’t been up to date on my blog. It is mostly because not a whole lot is new but also because not a whole lot is going on. In any case, here is what has been going on lately for those of you who want to silly details.

1. Brian left a few weeks ago and I got new site mates last week. They are a married couple named Joe and Katy and I really like them. SO, now we are 4 gringos in town which is a lot for how small it is. It is alright though, I have 2 more people to help me eat the things I bake when I am bored or stressed out.
2. Last week I was in Antigua doing a training they give after 3 months called “Reconnect.” It was fun to see all my friends that live far away and I learned some good things in Spanish class. Staying in Antigua, however, was not so much fun and I have decided that Xela is 10 times better that Antigua.
3. I also got to go see my family in Alotenango while I was in the area. Christian is growing up and even saved me some candy from his piñata they had on his fifth birthday 2 weeks ago. Andreita is growing TONS and it SO tall now. She isn’t quite walking yet but is really close. She turned one year old a few weeks ago.
4. Last weekend I went to a soccer game in Xela. The team there is called Xelaju and is pretty popular. We played against Huehuetenango and won. There was a man behind us yelling obscenities the whole time, it was pretty comical. My friend happens to know the guy who is the mascot so I got a picture with him. He is a chiva, which I think it like a ram. I have included the picture for your viewing pleasure.
5. Things are winidng down at school. The year ends in October and in September we have a bunch of activities for Independence day (Sept. 15). So, I just have a few weeks left of work before summer break. I have lots of visits coming up so I am really excited. Andrea and Jeff and Jeff are coming as well as Keri and Nicole and my parents so I will be really busy showing people around.
6. Also, my birthday is coming up and I probably won’t have a party but I will be haunting the mailman waiting for the packages that I know you will send me. So you’d better get started. I am specifically longing music, movies, books, and chocolate.
7. I bought a toaster oven on a whim yesterday (it was on sale…) so today I will be baking cookies all day and I am going to try and make my next 10 meals in the toaster oven. I was going to go to school today but I showed up at my teacher’s house and her husband told me she had a training so she isn’t going to school. So, since the other teacher leaves earlier I had no way to get to school. This country drives me crazy sometimes.

Anyways, that is my life. Exciting and adventurous, I know. I really miss you guys! Hope you are enjoying the sunny days in the States. Eat some s’mores and hot dogs for me. Send me presents. Please.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just some thoughts...

The Peace Corps is cracking down on safety issues associated with Volunteer in the interest of being a rule-follower I vow to be culturally sensitive at all times and not reveal my precise location. So, if you hadn't already picked up on where I happen to be living, too bad. I am now finding and deleting all references to C***** in the interest of preserving my safety and that of those around me.

Sometimes when I get up to go to the bathroom at night I turn the light on and the rooster crows. I feel pretty bad for him, he really thinks it is morning. He probably feels really confused and thinks he is falling asleep on the watch. Poor guy.

I am going to the training center next week for Reconnect, a week long training they give us to clam our nerves after 3 months of pannicked isolation in site....just kidding. Really I get to take a few days of Spanish classes and they will give me advice on what I should do next...advice I probably need. It will be the longest I will have been out of site since I got here and to be honest I am a little wary of town I live in. I think I will miss it.

Last week I got invited along with another volunteer to a dance in another town by two friends of mine who announced on the way to the dance they invited us to that they didn't dance. So, we spent the whole night watching their friends coerce each other into dancing with us. It was pretty fun, except for the part where the singer welcomed the "tourists from a faraway land" in front of the whole crowd. So much for being anonymous.

My family got a kitten in an effort to chase away the mice that are eating my bananas at night. She is really cute and I hope she eats the mice whole so I don't have to see anything die like that time one got burnt alive.

Thanks for tuning in. I will keep you updated on all my culturally sensitive, legal, non-location-specific, safe activities

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I just thought I would throw it out there that last weekend I ate ants. They are in some places a local delicacy that come out when the rain starts and get fried up with lemon and sugar. Don’t worry, it mostly tastes like lemon and sugar.

I also just found out on Tuesday that I don’t have school for a few weeks because of teacher trainings and mid-year break which means I have two full weeks of no plans at all. I think Melanie is coming to visit me up here in C***** and I am also planning to make my triumphant return to Alotenango sometime at the end considering I haven’t seen my host family since I left 3 months ago.

In the meantime, I went with Sara and her friends that were visiting from the states to climb Chicabal, a volcano near Xela that has a lake at the top. It was a beautiful short, uphill hike that left me exhausted but it was TOTALLY worth it. I am realizing more and more what a beautiful country this is. We got to the top and you had a view of Santa Maria, another volcano, and on the other side straight down into the lake-filled crater of Chicabal.

We also climbed down a zillion stairs to get a closer look at the lake. It is a sacred Mayan lake and they perform rituals there a lot. That means you aren’t allowed to swim there but it was completely breathtaking and totally worth the climb.

In the afternoon we went up to Fuentes Georginas, a hot springs outside of Xela and relaxed. In the evening we had the whole place to ourselves and got to make hamburgers and lay around in the warm water. It was like a giant swimmable hot tub. We stayed in the water for way too long and I have never seen my skin that pruned before. It took several hours to get my toes and fingers back to normal. It was great to just relax in such a beautiful place, especially after volcano-climbing.

So, the new plan is that I am going to relax here in C*****, make some bread, do my laundry, and watch movies for the next few days. Life is good.

Oh yes! Happy Fathers Day! Daddy, you are the best father in the whole wide world!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Stuck in the mud

Today I was on my way to Xela and my bus got stuck in the mud left over from the tropical storm which cancelled school twice this week. It resulted in switching drivers to a man I waited at the bus stop with (meaning not a bus driver...). He got us unstuck after a few minutes of fishtailing and kept on driving. It turns out he is the sort of bus driver that likes to race other buses to make up we careened the rest of the way through the mountains, swerving to miss other buses and sliding down the parts of the road that are still unpaved. Needless to say, I made it, but it was one of the more exciting bus trips I have had.

I have been assured I will grow to hate the rainy season...but I am sure I will continue to enjoy how green everything is during this time of year. Yesterday Sara and I hiked up to one of the highest points around the town (an hour long uphill hike...geez...) where there is a lime (the mineral) mine and we had a view of the whole valley and it was time I will take a picture. Sara says that hikes like that make her love where we live and I agree.

What I don't live about the rainy season is the cough it gave me which I took antibiotics for which were pointless because the throat culture I rode all the way to the city to get showed that it was a virus. The antibiotics made me vulnerable to another sort of infection which I cannot get tested for yet but am taking more just-in-case-you-have-it medication for...and if that doesn't resolve it I have to come back to the city to get tested...lame.

Good news: they are paving the road to the city so it will be a lot faster/safer in the future...
Bad news: They raised the fare from Q24 round trip to Q30 round trip...Q30 is a liter and a half of beer or a giant box of cornflakes or 10 lbs of broccoli or 30 packages of other words, a lot.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sick Miller

I know some people (you know who you are) who have mastered the art of the sick person. They lie on the couch, cry out for glasses of water, and milk their pathetic infirmity for all it is worth. I myself am here to admit that I am horrible at being sick. I hate missing things, I get bored at home, I inevitably cry over something, and I don’t like to listen to myself complain.

Last weekend I was sick to my stomach. I have traced it back to the meal I ate at a comedor on Friday. Really, stomach-sickness is fairly common here. It happens to almost everyone at least once every few months. We talk to each other about things like Diarrhea in ways that I would have never even talked to my best friends about. It is a fact of Guatemalan life. Anyways, I forced myself through a birthday part on Saturday and let myself skip school on Monday to speed my recovery and by the time Tuesday rolled around I was feeling good as new.
On Tuesday, I woke up to a sore throat and a headache. I took an ibuprofen and went to school. During the day, my throat improved as my headache got progressively worse. By the time I finished lunch, I didn’t even want to move. I took the maximum amount of ibuprofen possible and tried to relax. In the evening, I scoured my room for my peace-corps issue thermometer to check for fever and it was nowhere to be found. I decided to go to my friend Gary-the-doctor’s house and borrow a thermometer (and a cup of sugar…). Temperature: negative. Ever the thorough medical professional, he looked at my throat with his doctor-light thing and kindly informed me that I had a throat infection and I should be on antibiotics. Things just kept getting better. That night, I woke up with my headache worsening and lost four hours of sleep because of it.

In the morning, I called the lovely Peace Corps medical staff who asked me to go to the city to get a throat culture. I admit I suppressed a few tired tears (I am sensitive when I am tired/sick) when I went to the health center to tell Gary-the-doctor. I hate being sick. So, with a diminished but still present headache, a took a five hour round trip bus ride to the city to spend 30 seconds at the hospital with a lady shoving a stick down my throat. The good news is, I got some migraine medication that was to make my head stop hurting.

My throat culture is still growing in the city and I am back out here. I am on antibiotics just in case it is not a virus and my head stopped hurting. I missed 75% of my school days this week due to illness, including a birthday party. I am avoiding travel this weekend just to be safe. I wish I could relish in the all-day-movies that this allows me, but I am just not a good sick person. I can say that right now I am right back at 90% and I am relieved.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rainy Season

We have now officially begun the rainy season here in Guatemala. I am told that it will carry through until around September or October, when we will begin the not-rainy season. During the rainy season, it rains every day (sounds like home, right?) for several hours, usually just in the afternoon. Some years it is really predictable and always starts and stops at a certain time. Some years, it is a little more random. Who knows what kind of year we will have.

The bad things about the rainy season are discussed a lot around here and lamented about to me by other volunteers. Your clothes never dry, you get rained on wherever you go, Guatemalans don’t go out in the rain, there is mud everywhere. Every volunteer I talk to hates the rainy season and assures me that with time, I will find a special place of disdain in my heart for this time of year.

Maybe it is the Northwesterner in me, but despite it all I still love the rain. There is a certain kind of understanding that the rain brings, and a certain part of my soul that really feels the emotion of the rain. It doesn’t make me sad, just content, like the world understands me a little better. Rain makes everything smell cleaner, makes the corn in the fields grow tall, and makes the land a little greener. The sound of the rain lets me sleep better at night.

Guatemalans think I am crazy to like the rain. They have a level of respect for the rain that makes their crops grow, but they personally hate it. They hate getting wet, they hate mud. When it rains here, the streets are completely empty. The sight of someone walking in it, especially without an umbrella and without a disgusted look on their face, is very strange. I have lived my whole life with rain, and I have learned not to let it slow me down. If I had plans to go out, I go. If I need to walk somewhere, I enjoy the fresh smell and the feeling of raindrops on my head.

Rain reminds me of home. They say I will grow to hate it, but I don’t believe them. I am from the Northwest: I have rain in my soul.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Picture Day

On Wednesday I took my camera to the school to get a few pictures of kids. They insisted on taking a picture of myself. I tried to explain why I wouldn't want a picture of myself but they didn't quite understand. Atleast you guys might get to enjoy it!
This is a group of the youngest kids I work with...esentially kindergarten/preschool. They are actually the bravest out of all when it comes to talking to me and being my friend.
This kid really wanted his picture taken. He is drinking atol which they serve the kids during snack. It is kind of milky-rice drink. I really love it. He does too!
This is what happened when I told him to smile... I love the other kid looking so concerned in the background. They are really happy kids, I promise. There is something ingrained in the Guatemalan mind that smiling in pictures is silly.
This might be my favorite that I took.
Me in the sea of children. I have 3-4 other pictures just like this with the kids switched out for other ones...I chose this one to show you.
Ok, now the real work I do is right here...tooth-brushing! This school has already got it down, it is furthest along out of all of them.
My favorite part of the day is right after they brush their teeth and I ask them to show me. I get the biggest, brightest clean-teeth smiles in the whole world!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

German Youth

Tuesday, May 13th

I found a dead rat in the pila while I was washing my dishes...good news: it was already dead. Bad news: the rat poison/burning survivors alive didn't get rid of all of them.

One of my friends in Germany is organizing a ¨Youth Task Force¨in his church to go out and combat things like hunger and poverty in their city. He is giving this huge inspirational speech in June and he asked me to write something that he could use as an example of someone out in the world working in development. I had a lot of trouble doing it because I feel sometimes like what I am doing doesn't quite qualify as ¨development¨work in the sense that people might expect. I am teaching kids to brush their teeth and wash their hands--not exactly what you see in the movies. I was talking to my mom about it and she pointed out that the fact that life here working in Guatemala isn't neccessarily rewarding, exciting, or difficult is important for people to know. Moms do always know best. So here is what I wrote to my friend:

“I guess one thing I would like to say and I don’t really know if this is relevant or not…but I don’t feel like my life right now is what people would expect when they hear I am working for the Peace Corps in Guatemala. I am actually pretty comfortable here (I have electricity and running water). The help I am giving people isn’t really as obvious as feeding a starving person or keeping someone from getting AIDS. Suffering in the world doesn’t always look exactly like what they show on the news or in the movies or in commercials on TV. Thinking about writing this for you or sending pictures, I found myself thinking that the people I work with aren’t “needy enough” to be an example to anyone. I realized how stupid that way of thinking was. I think a lot of people who want to “save the world” seek out the neediest people they can find where aid work is really obvious when in fact there are people suffering next door. There are people everywhere that need help and the point isn’t where or who you help but that you are doing something to better the life of someone else. The people here are needy even though they aren't desperate. I know that I am in the right place, but I didn’t have to come here to find someone who needed my help. On the other hand, I could have gone somewhere that they needed my help more than they need it here. The point is in the attitude. The point is to do something for someone other than your self. It doesn’t really matter who you are helping, what they need, or how badly they need it. It isn’t always as obvious as putting food in the mouth of a starving person in Africa, but it is often a lot simpler and a lot closer to home than that.

I hope that makes sense. I am actually kind of having a hard time because I don’t feel like I am making much of a difference here. I am teaching kids to wash their hands and brush their teeth. It isn’t exactly my world-development dream. The truth is, I know that what I am doing is important, and at least it is doing something for someone other than me. It is “preventative” work rather than “reactive” so it doesn’t feel as urgent. I can’t see the difference that I am making but it is there. It is just a hard adjustment because it isn’t exactly what I imagined when I decided I would save the world. It is good for me though. I feel like maybe I am growing up a little and I am definitely learning a lot about myself which could turn out to be just as valuable as the things I am doing for others. ”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Peanut Butter Brownies

Author’s Note: Don’t be fooled by the cheery title---if you are at all sensitive to rodents, animal cruelty, or laundry, you should probably just skip to the recipe at the end. The title won’t be quite as witty but you will save yourself some tears.

Today when I got home I decided to get some laundry done. I was down at the pila washing my clothes (by the way, washing clothes by hand is awful and takes a zillion years) when I saw a movement over by where the chicken were pecking at the concrete.

To back up a little, we had all come to the agreement that we had rats in the house somewhere last week. They had been eating my tomatoes at night and also eating clothes in Reina’s room. So, Reina put out some rat poison, which subsequently was gone the next morning. The assumption was that the rats had eaten the poison and had crawled away to some hidden location to die a slow and painful death by poison.

It turns out, a few rats were smart enough or not hungry enough and escaped the trap, because out from behind the crates of empty bottle crawled a RAT. Now, I have spent the better part of two weeks phobically afraid of these guys. I never thought I was scared of rats, but come to find out, they are one of the few things in the world that give me the heebie-jeebies. I have lain awake at night imagining that I hear them skittering around my kitchen. I have run to the bathroom at night as fast as I can because I am afraid they will jump out at me. However, to my dismay, out crawled this rat, and it was CUTE. It was not this giant, hairy, menacing creature I had been imagining. It was this little, cute, furry animal.

So now, I feel bad for trying to kill the little things. I try to imagine all the diseases they carry, all the tomatoes they have eaten, and the swarming capability of twenty of them reproducing behind those crates, because otherwise I kind of wanted to cuddle with it. Roberto (7 years old) came out and asked me if he should kill it. I told him he could kill it, but I didn’t want to see. I was already feeling morally torn and kind of sad for the ones I had already poisoned. So, he proceeded to take a board and throw it on top of the poor little thing. Now, it is halfway squished and suffering, so I told Roberto he needed to kill it all the way because it was hurt. All of the sudden, Roberto is too scared to go near the tiny, half-dead, cute rat. He threw a basketball at it, and a coat hanger, before I realized he did not have the guts to go through with it (I guess he is only 7). So I stood over the dying rat and tried to come up with the courage to kill it. There was a hatchet nearby and I contemplated it, but I just couldn’t do it. I could already feel tears welling up in my eyes.

So, I asked Roberto to go get one of the men who was working on constructing the new apartment at Reina’s house to come kill it. A man came down and stood at the top of the stairs looking down for ten minutes. Meanwhile, the little rat had dragged itself out from underneath the board and was crawling with its front paws back toward the crates (its back legs were already broken from the first blow dealt by Roberto). The man told me he was scared of rats (grown man + construction worker + fear of rodents?) but I finally coaxed him down. By now, the rat had crawled between the crates and he had to pull it out with a broom handle, into a dustpan, where he brought it into the yard onto a pile of garbage. Roberto then proceeded to grab a can of gasoline and some matches. They both looked at me like burning a rat alive was a perfectly reasonable solution. I told them how cruel I thought it was and that they needed to kill it first at least before they burnt it. The man assured me it was already dead. However, when I turned around the leave before I had to see it burn, I saw its little gasoline-soaked body trying to crawl away.

I admit, I cried. I am not a fan of rats, I am annoyed that they keep eating my vegetables, and I don’t blame anyone who wants to kill them. However, being a witness/accessory to the burning to death of that cute little rat was more than I could take. So, I made peanut butter chocolate brownies, courtesy of the supplies sent to me by Ryan Strash and Andrea Skjonsby. Here is the recipe:

Slow and Painful Death by Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

2/3 cup Crunchy Peanut Butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream peanut butter, butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth (besides the crunchiness of the peanut butter). Add chocolate chips. Bake in greased pan at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes (I can’t vouch for that time/temp because I used an improvised stovetop oven).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bacon Vacation

On Friday, I went with Chorjale to play sports against Las Ventanas, another of the big schools around here. I spent all day in the sun watching first girls, then three different boys teams play soccer. We lost every game. We also lost every game of basketball they played simultaneously up at the school. In Guatemala, they don’t really go for the “the most important part is that you had fun” philosophy so the kids were pretty disappointed. I had a good time though and we get another chance to win this Friday when the school is coming to play on our home turf in Chorjale. We also rode there in the back of a giant truck which was pretty fun. They tried to insist I sit up front with the driver but I told them I wanted to ride in the back with the rest of the teachers and students. It was a great game trying to keep my balance on the rough dirt road. When they went through to drop me off in Cabrican, the other two teachers climbed over the side and tried to tell the driver to put the ladder down for me but I insisted on climbing over the side too. I just want to be like everyone else as much as possible because I look SO different.

I left at 5am Saturday morning to go meet some people at Lake Atitlan. I got to Panajachel at 9:30am and found out that everyone had gone across the lake to go swimming. Thankfully, they left one person waiting for me and we took a launch out to a hotel where they let us swim because we bought lunch there. They had these great stone patios that you could sunbathe on a dive off. I also got to enhance my sunburn from being outside all day Friday. The lake was SO beautiful and the water was perfect. You have this amazing view of volcanoes all around you. The lake itself is a huge crater left over from a monumental volcanic eruption in the past. It has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. After swimming, we went back to the hostel and rested before meeting some Guatemalan friends for dinner. We went to a restaurant owned by a Canadian man where I ordered a bacon cheeseburger. It was HEAVEN after not having anything of the sort for 4 months. We also stumbled upon a punk/ska concert that was happening across the street. It was almost like being home for a night.

In the morning, I woke up too early as usual and left for home at around 7:30. I stood on the side of the road watching buses pass too quickly to stop for me for awhile before I finally got one to stop. The problem was, there weren’t any seats left so the ayudante sat me down in his spot, which is on an upside down bucket in the front with the driver. I had to hang on for dear life around all the curves through the mountains. We were almost to Xela before a seat opened up for me. I politely declined the free ride to San Marcos they offered me. I had to get back to Xela early because the last bus leaves for Cabrican on Sundays at 1:30pm. I got back in plenty of time, did some civilization-shopping (I got cheese, butter, coconut milk, measuring cups, a wooden spoon, and nail polish) and got on a bus that was leaving at noon which put me home around two. I was so exhausted that I slept for 2 hours when I got home. I hung out at Sara’s house and ate popcorn for a few hours and went to sleep at 8pm because I was still so exhausted.

This morning half my teachers didn’t come to school. The ones that were there didn’t really feel like working and invited me to eat scones and coffee and go across the street to the store to drink soda with them. I also got roped into playing basketball for an hour after recess and when I finished, the teacher that had brought me to school had left without telling anyone. I was going to take the bus but the teachers all insisted I get a ride home with a local man they knew because the bus was “too rough” on those roads. I opted for the free ride over paying for the bus. I also got invited to eat dinner at a teacher’s house tomorrow because they are killing a turkey to celebrate Labor Day (Thursday). Life just keeps getting more interesting around here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Deeper Thoughts

Author’s Note: I apologize in advance to you casual readers who aren’t ready to hear the serious thought-provoking side of living in Guatemala. I promise the next one will be really funny and witty, don’t worry.

Today my school got canceled so I decided to go on a hike. I just finished reading Donald Miller’s book “Through Painted Deserts” which is about an outdoorsy-finding-yourself type of road trip so I was feeling extra adventurous. I decided I would go up the road past the police station and see where it might take me. It took my down a winding hill (not quite as much fun on the way back) and through some houses before giving way to a lonely road all the way down to the river. There, I found a perfect grassy-picnic-knoll where I could sit, eat lunch, and do some good alone-in-nature-thinking. I thought I might share with you a little of what I wrote in my journal while I was there…enjoy my deeper thoughts!

“It’s funny, at least five Guatemalans told me on my way down here that they couldn’t believe I was walking alone and I was going to get robbed [side note: I know there are times when you should definitely listen to the locals and I assure you mother, I was not doing anything unsafe]. It is so tranquil here; it doesn’t really feel unsafe at all. We Americans, we love to be alone. We love the freedom and the independence that comes with doing things on your own. We love the tranquility and serenity that comes with being alone in nature. To concentrate, we need silence and to pray, we want to be alone. Guatemalans don’t understand that part of us. They think it’s ridiculous to go on a walk by yourself, they think it a waste to live alone and a tragedy to be away from your family. I don’t think they really think I am doing something unsafe so much as they think I am doing something strange and unnecessary. They are always around family, always cooking for ten (or twenty), always looking for someone to talk to, and they always, always know each other’s business.

To us, God exists in nature, in silence, in a “still small voice.” We feel God most intimately in the quiet times and the quiet songs. I think for many Guatemalans, God exists in the laughter of friends and the joy of community. For Evangelicals here especially, God is loudness and joy and movement and LOUDNESS. I don’t think either way of thinking is wrong, but which makes more sense?

The awful truth is, I am not sure if I really fit in Guatemala. I never felt like I fit into life in the United States. When I went to South Africa, I got caught up in the miracle of Ubuntu and the strength of human kindness there. It is a human spirit that I am sure exists here and I know exists in the states in some people and exists most definitely exists in my heart. The thing is, I can’t decide if I could do more good in a place where I fit in or a place that I don’t.

It is safe to say that when I joined the Peace Corps I had definite thoughts of “finding myself” (and the Latin man that I have given up hope on, by the way). Seriously, the truth is that I know who I am, I just don’t know where I belong in this world. I just know there is a place out there with my name on it. I am not feeling like Guatemala is it, which doesn’t mean I can’t love my time here and grow a lot because of it. Sometimes I just think I don’t make sense. I didn’t make sense in the U.S., I don’t really make any more sense in Guatemala. I made more sense in South Africa but I was only there for a month so it is hard to know. I just know there is a place out there where who I am makes perfect sense and where I will feel at home being exactly who I am.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Encyclopedia Guatemalteca

Author´s Note: I killed atleast 20 of those beetles in my room before I went to sleep on Saturday night. Thank goodness they aren´t rats...

Today I rode home from school 6 deep in a 2-door Volvo with a group of encyclopedia salesman. Life is so strange.

On Friday I went to Xela and met with Ashleigh for lunch. Before I left I went to the post office and I had TWO packages…one from my parents and one from the Strash family. I was SO happy. So I went to Xela and we went to a Mennonite bakery that is only open Tuesdays and Fridays and I bought some wheat bread. I also went and bought a guitar which will make me very very happy. I might not have to resort to watching the Desperate Housewives DVD that Sara gave me.

On Saturday I got to go with Brian to an aldea close to here named Coralles where he has a stove project. I got to help him build the bases for 4 stoves. A lot of people here are still cooking on fires on the floor of their house or on stoves without chimneys so respiratory problems are a HUGE deal here. So, his project is to build 73 “estufas mejoradas” in houses there. It was really great to be able to go into people’s houses and see their lives from that perspective. Everyone was SO nice and welcoming. They all fed us several times. I also got to do a little manual labor which felt good. We used cement block and cement and basically built a box on the ground (the hardest part is making sure it is level) and when it is dry they will fill it with sand or earth and then build another box of brick on top of it where they can put the metal cook top. They have chimneys so they can still use wood to cook and it will heat the house but there won’t be smoke. It’s great because respiratory problems are some of the most serious illnesses here. It is nice because he teaches people to do it so they can build their own and he doesn’t do it all for them. Also, a lot of the women end up working on it which is great because it isn’t the kind of job they normally let women so around here. It is great to see everyone work together and get something accomplished that is so good for them.

Sunday was market day and I had to buy another blanket for my bed because it has been really cold here at night. I spent all day cleaning and washing my clothes because it takes SO long to wash them by hand. I also make quicoi (kind of like zucchini) bread which turned out really well in the oven I made on my stove top. Next step: chocolate chip cookies with the chips Ryan sent me! It felt really great to bake something, I hadn’t realized how much I missed it.

This weekend I get to go watch the schools play sports against each other on Friday and on Saturday I am meeting some of the people from the training group at Lake Atitlan to hang out. It will be nice to have a vacation.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Did I Mention the "rat"?

While I am talking of bad weather and natural disasters and things going generally wrong...

Last week I was lying in bed after watching either a movie or 3-4 episodes of Ugly Betty (I don't really remember) trying to go to sleep. All of the sudden, I heard a skittering noise next to the wall beside my bed. No kidding, it sounded like tiny clawed feet running across my tile floor. I thought for sure that there was a "ratón" in my room. I completely pannicked (no screams though). It turns out I am slightly afraid of rodents, especially ones that run around my bedroom at night. I just laid there pannicking, trying to think of what I should do. I figured it wouldn't climb onto my bed (although Sara later told me that it could have) so I just laid there hyperventilating. I didn't even have a broom or anything to shoo it away with from a distance so I was mostly out of options. After what seemed like forever, I got the courage up to turn on my headlamp and find out how big he was. My heart was racing, I got ready to scream, turned on the headlamp and I saw....a beetle. I don't think I had ever been so relieved to see a giant beetle in my life. He was beating his giant wings against my wall which made the skittering noise I attributed to the R.O.U.S. that I thought was in my room.

Huge relief. I named him Jorge, squished him with a shoe and spent the next hour trying to get my heart to stop beating so fast so I could fall asleep. I also went out and brought a broom the next day...just in case.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

I woke up Monday morning to the worst weather I have yet to see in Guatemala. It was so cold Sunday night that I had to pull out my sleeping bad in addition to sleeping under the covers. Brr. When I woke up it was foggy, windy, cold, and drizzly. It felt a lot like home but not really in a good way. It was strange because it hardly ever rains here except in torrents for a few hours in the afternoon. Also, the rainy season isn't supposed to start for another month. I commented about the weather to Reina (the weather is one of the things I feel most comfortable about in Spanish) who told me it was a hurricane and it would probably pass by the next day. I am pretty sure it wasn't an actual hurricane, but it did get better the next day, and even better today (still cold but sunny).

Tuesday night I was sitting in bed watching Ugly Betty (Sara has the complete first have no idea how great things like that are around here...). At approximately 9:03pm, I felt an earthquake. It was pretty strong, my whole bed was shaking side to side. I wasn't really scared...I was mostly confused because I don't know what they do about earthquakes in Guatemala. It lasted 40 seconds, and I just sat in my bed and thought ¨wow, an earthquake....that is strange...¨Afterward I thought maybe I should get up and go outside or something...but when I looked out my door, there was nobody moving around in my house at all. So, I went back in my room and hit the play button to continue watching Ugly Betty. In the morning, I found out that it was a 5.8 (the U.S. says it was 6.1) and the epicenter was just south of us off the coast of Escuintla. It made a small splash in the U.S. news but since I didn't get any frantic phone calls, I am assuming they didn't make it sound pretty serious. Nobody was hurt. It was a little exciting has been awhile since I felt one of those.

So I have already survived a hurricane and an earthquake unscathed. I think that counts for something.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pictures of the Pueblo (because you asked)

A typical view from one of the aldeas out here. This is the kind of view I see on my way to my schools. SO pretty. It looks a little like the Northwest, right? Maybe I am just a little nostalgic...
This is a view of the town (all of it) from my walk to Loma Grande.
This is the main square with the Municipal building in the background. This is where the market takes place (tiny during the week and gigantic on the weekend).

This is our newly paved road (it is really big news). On the left beneath the peach building is where the gym is.
This is Reina´s store. I also love orange soda, so the sign makes me happy. These are my really fun site mates Brian and Sara. I am pretty sure this is my welcome dinner where they made me some really fantastic tacos. Mmmmm...
More pictures to come!

Trabajando (working)

Well, I have survived my first week of work. I can’t say it was a normal week or that it represents at all what my work will be like in the future, but it was interesting to say the least. On Monday, I went to Chorjale, my biggest school. I got a ride with Profe Pedro because I don’t know how to get there and it is a 5K uphill walk. My goal this week was to meet with the school directors and give them a calendar of my work schedule I made up and hang around the school a bit so people could get to know me. It turned out that Monday at Chorjale was a civil day, which meant an assembly where all the kids sang the national anthem, said the pledge of allegiance, and Profe Eli, the Director, discussed a topic about the country of Guatemala. It turns out this was the perfect time to introduce me to all of the students and invite me to give a speech. In Guatemala, everywhere you go, especially if you are from out of town, you are invited to give a speech. So I gave a speech in front of the school. I am pretty sure I mostly said thank you twelve different ways and them ran off stage. After the activities, I was asked to help hand out school supplies that the government gave to all of the parents in the school. So, all the parents came and lined up for their supplies and I handed them out while Profe Eli and another teacher checked them off the list. It was a whole 3 hours of me running around, trying to understand what grade the kids were in, and trying to remember to grab the supplies to all the grades of the parents who told me (sometimes 4 or 5 kids). I am pretty sure, like usual, I looked like a crazy person. It turns out, all of this left no time for me to talk to Profe Eli about my calendar. I guess it will have to wait until next week.

Tuesday I stayed in town because I had a meeting with the Education Supervisor to give him my calendar. On Wednesday, it was my day to go to Xacana Chiquito, my smallest school. I rode there with Seño Patti because I don´t know the way and it is a 4.5K uphill walk (seeing the pattern here?). When I got there, I found out the Profe Gilberto, the director, wasn’t going to be at the school that day. So, I couldn’t present my calendar. I guess it will wait until next week. I told the other two teachers that I just wanted to sit in their classes and observe which translated into my giving a lesson. So I was left first with Profe Gilberto’s class because they didn’t have a teacher. I pulled a lesson about hygiene habits off the top of my head and took up an hour of time. I then went to the other classrooms, where the teachers gave me the floor even though I insisted I didn’t have anything prepared. I asked all the kids their names (none of which I remember) and a silly question like if they had animals or siblings or if they lived close to the school. The good news is, I made it through the day and I got atol (hot rice drink) during recreo (recess).

Today I went to my last school, Loma Grande. When I got there, it turned out that two of my four teachers (including the director, Seño Sara) weren’t there today. So, I couldn’t give her my calendar (got the pattern?) and it will have to wait until next week. I told these teachers that I just wanted to observe their classes and it translated correctly this time so I just sat in on the classes for a half hour and then excused myself. Someone from the health center had come to give vaccines and all the kids were crying anyways. I walked home because this school is only 1.5K and was accompanied the whole way by a really sweet grandmother from the community who was going to Cabrican as well.

So that sums up my first week of work. I figure it counts to get to know some of the teachers, let the students see me, and hopefully the real work will start next week. Next week I am preparing a presentation for the kids about my life and my family and friends (you guys!) so they can get to know me. I am hoping it will be fun. The most common questions I get asked are if I am married, why not, if I have kids, and if I am sad. I am hoping to answer the all at once and get it over with.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ten Ways Guatemala Has Changed Me

1. I am addicted to orange soda
2. I put sugar on my cereal
3. I’m not afraid of public transportation
4. I sing out loud more often
5. I greet everyone in the street
6. I am more positive (out of necessity)
7. When someone whistles at me on the street I smile and say ¨good morning¨
8. I eat beans with my eggs
9. I don’t consider the distance from Seattle to Portland a ridiculous way to go to get peanut butter and tuna fish.
10. I am a mellower person in Spanish…who knew.

Home at Last

April 2, 2008
Well, here I am living in Cabrican. Sort of.

After staying at Sara’s this weekend, my room at Reina’s was finally ready. She owns a store across the street from Sara called the Tienda Tikal and she and her family live above it. Right now she is building an (well, my) apartment but it won’t be done for another few months. So for the time being I am renting a room in her house and using a hallway for my kitchen.

The problem is, I don’t have any stuff. Actually, I have a lot of stuff in the sense of clothes and books but I have nothing in the sense of a place to put all of it. On Monday, I went and bought a bed. The little old man at the store was SO excited for my business (not a thriving mattress market in Cabrican) and I got my bed for the same price Sara paid for hers last year. He even delivered it to my house which meant he and his 15 year old granddaughter carried my mattress 3 blocks to my house through the streets of the town. Good news, citizens, the gringa bought a bed.

I walked past the carpinteria at least twelve times yesterday to see if he could make me some tables but he wasn’t open any of those times. Today I finally caught him open and he is making me a table for my stove, two small tables for next to my bed, and also selling me boards to make shelves with cement block. He asked me what size I wanted and I held out my hands to show him while he tape measured the width I was showing him….so precise. All of this won’t be ready until Saturday or longer so for now my things will have to stay piled on the floor.

You also can’t buy a stove in Cabrican. So tomorrow I am going to Xela to buy one. The other problem is, I can’t really use it without a table so my diet of bread, cornflakes, powdered milk (no refrigerator), and mangos will have to continue at least until then.

The other good news is that the entertainment in Cabrican consists of sitting in my room reading, walking around town (it takes less than ten minutes to do the whole thing), or going to the gym. So far I have gone to our gym every day and I already feel really sore and tired. I have two years to get used to it. Besides, I have to make up for all the bread I have been eating. Also there is the boredom eating. Also the bite size snickers my mom sent me (thanks mom!).

Life is good.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My new (and final) address

Andrea Stanaway
Voluntaria del Cuerpo de Paz
Recomendado por el Correo de Cabrican
Cabrican, Quetzaltenango
Guatemala, Central America

If you send things to the Peace Corps address in Antigua, they will still get to me. It will just take a little longer because they have to forward it to me in Xela and I have to go pick it up. I have heard a lot of “I have stuff to send you…” but my mailbox is still feeling a little lonely so…send me a letter atleast!

Buen Viaje

After being too sick to go out and celebrate, I spent a tranquil night alone in the hostel in Antigua and decided to make the long trek up to my site. I felt well enough that I thought I could make the trip without feeling too miserable. I talked Mel and Jessica into helping me drag my stuff to the bus terminal in Antigua so I could catch a camioneta to San Lucas. I was debating taking a Pullman (like a charter-type bus) but someone I asked told me they only left at 7am and another person told me they left all day long. I decided that I didn’t want to risk going all the way to Guatemala City and taking a taxi to the bus station only to find out that my last bus left at the crack of dawn. So instead I decided to brave the whole way in camioneta. I got thrown on a bus out of Antigua, kissed Mel and Jess goodbye really quickly (easier if it’s a quick goodbye…like ripping off a band-aid), and was off the San Lucas.

In San Lucas, I had to lug my stuff (too much and too heavy) across a sky bridge in order to wait for a bus to Xela (AKA Quetzaltenango). A strange man asked me what bus I needed and told me to wait while he found it for me. Sometimes it is hard to tell if people are really nice or really strange but he found me a bus. The odd thing was, it wasn’t a camioneta. It looked more like a small tour bus, but I decided I would go for it. The ayudante told me it was going to Xela and it was the same price to I figured “what the heck?”. The problem with this bus was that I sat next to a man who was REALLY interested in getting to know me and if I had a boyfriend in the U.S. So, I did what any sensible girl would do in this situation and I made one up. The trouble is, you can’t just say he exists, you have to say how old he is and how long you have been together and if you have kids and if he is going to come visit you (26, 4 years, no, yes). He bought it, but then told me that since I was gone for 2 years I should find another boyfriend here. Sometimes you just can’t win.

The other problem was that when the ayudante told me he was going to go to Xela, what he really meant was that he was going to tell me I had to get off in Cuatro Caminos and find another bus to Xela which is like 30 minutes away. So I got off with this really nice lady and her son who were going to Xela as well and she told me I could follow her because she knew where the bus was. So she brought me to a bus that went to Xela but didn’t go the bus terminal. I decided to wait because I did in fact need to go to the terminal. So I sat on the side of the road (luggage piled around me) and waited while 2 more buses that were going to non-terminal Xela passed by. So I finally got a bus that told me it would take me to the bus terminal.

The problem with that bus was that the ayudante lied to me and stopped at an unknown location in Xela and told me that I had to get off because the bus wasn’t going any further (certainly not to the terminal). So I got off another deceptive bus and found myself in the middle of Xela. Luckily there were some other people there and I asked them if I could catch a bus to the terminal there…the answer was yes which was good because I didn’t think I could carry my stuff very much further (did I mention all I had eaten was a pancake and soda crackers?).

So eventually I got tossed onto a terminal-bound bus in Xela and made it to the actual terminal at long last. I made my way through the throng of buses to Guatemala City, Panajachel (Lake Atitlan), and lots of other exciting places looking for a bus to Cabrican. Every time you pass a bus her, the ayudante smiles really nicely and asks if you are going his way. When I said “no, gracias, voy a Cabrican” they looked confused (not a normal gringo destination) and pointed me in the right direction. So I made it (with all my things intact) to a bus that was headed to Cabrican. I sat next to a really nice older man who begged me to take his sons to the U.S. He didn’t really understand that my embassy connections only extend to swearing to uphold the constitution and being rewarded by a tiny tuna sandwich and a barefoot-grass moment at the ambassador’s house. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really help my find visas for Guatemalans.
So here I am in Cabrican. My room at Reina’s isn’t ready until Monday so I am chilling at Sara’s house and tomorrow is market day so we are going to buy everything I need to survive in Cabrican.

One Last Moment on U.S. Soil

March 27, 2008

I officially became a Peace Corps Volunteer. I know what you are thinking… “Um…hello…I already sent you off to the Peace Corps…” but technically speaking I was what they call a peace corps trainee which isn’t an actual volunteer. Go figure.

Mel and I on the micro ride to the city
So on Thursday we had this ceremony. It was mostly just like your high school graduation. We elected a class speaker…we put on our fancy clothes for the first time in Guatemala…we took way too many pictures of ourselves together. The only difference was it was at the Ambassador’s house, he didn’t invite our families, and we had to swear to defend the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies domestic and foreign. So it was basically exactly the same.

We managed to get through the prestigious high security at the Ambassador’s residence. This meant that we were technically back in the U.S. again. I have to admit, I took my shoes off, felt grass between my toes for the first time in three months, and it felt like home. The house was what you might expect from the residence of a U.S. government official (big, nice, not very home-ey). The ceremony itself was actually pretty anticlimactic. After three months of training, we raised our right hands, swore to uphold the constitution, shook the ambassador’s hand, and were pronounced volunteers. All of us were left saying “Well…congratulations everyone….?”

Me with mister Ambassador

What does the Ambassador serve for refreshments?
Apple or Orange juice (with ice that is safe to drink)
Tiny tuna or cheese sandwiches

I have been sick (in my tummy) all week so I only ate 2 sandwiches and half of a brownie…which was an awful idea because I am still sick and it is probably because I let myself off the soda-cracker diet too quickly. The good news is, in case you are worried, that I don’t have an amoeba…they checked.

Alotenango girls with our Spanish teachers

That was it. We walked out of the gate back into Guatemala (they didn’t even stamp our passports…) as Peace Corps volunteers, feeling…just about the same as we felt when we walked in.

Healthy Schools training group

The real difference is that now I get to start working. I stayed with my family in Alotenango Thursday and went to Antigua to celebrate on Friday. I was too sick to go out so I had a great night sleeping in a hostel in Antigua before I left Saturday morning for Cabrican.

We couldn´t leave American soil without a thumb war

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Like Cabrican

So I just got back from visiting Cabrican, the site where I am going to be living during my two years of service. In the interest of thinking positively and keeping you informed, I composed this list of reasons why life there will be good. Enjoy.

In no particular order:

1. The panaderia (bakery) there makes these little pineapple pies that are SOOOO good. There is also a store that sells snickers bars. They are Q7 which is like $1 but expensive for here but its nice to know I have got it in case of emergency.

2. Sara and Brian are my site mates and they are SO cool. Sara is a small business volunteer and Brian is Apropriate Technology and they are both really cool. I am sure we will be spending a lot of time together since there isn´t much to do around town.

3. There is a gym in town that was started my some Guatemalan that used to be a body builder, but the only two members are Sara and Brian (and me now....). So basically we have a private gym.

4. My CTA (the supervisor of education...kind of my boss) is making me a desk in the office so I have a place to work. I have always wanted my own desk.... I had to join the Peace Corps to find a job that would give me my own desk...ironic.

5. Chorjale is my biggest school with 11 teachers and they play sports together like basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Anybody remember how much I hated soccer in elementary school? In this case, I think it will be so much fun and make it easy to be part of the ¨team.¨

6. Profe Eli is the director at Chorjale and he came to the counterpart day the Peace Corps held for us to get to know our new companeros. He was SO nice and invited me to dinner with his family!

7. The last volunteer who was at Cabrican was apparently really unhappy there so everyone kept asking me if I was going to be sad...they are SO relieved when I told them I missed my friends and damily but I wasn´t particularly SAD... That is an easy problem to overcome, they just want someone happy!

8. Reina is the lady I am going to live with and she is renting me a room right about here store that she runs. She seems really nice and with her lives her sister and her nephew named Roberto who is SO cute. I think they will make a good family.

9. I get to take classes in Mom, which is the local indigenous language with a lady named Seno Aida who also seems really really nice. I think it will be fun to learn another language. Also, everyone says my Spanish is really good (I wouldn´t say REALLY good, but its nice to be complimented) which is a huge relief.

10. There is an Art Corps volunteer from Ecuador who lives in Rio Blanco and works once a week at the library (I know, a library!) in Cabrican and here name is....guess...Andrea. So, once again, there are always two of us. It seems like I can´t escape other people named Andrea. I think life would feel strange with only one of us.

¡Hot like Lava!

Last week we took a trip to see the Volcan de Pacaya near Guatemala City. It is one of the active volcanoes around here and so we were stoked to see some lava. There is a volunteer living there named Carlos (Kyle--in the photo with the walking stick) who took us up there to see the Volcano, it was pretty amazing.

So, after a 1.5 hour uphill climb we finally got to see our goal: the flowing lava. It was SO cool, you can actually hear the cracking noise of the cooling lava rolling down the side of the Volcano.

To my amazement/horror, we actually walked out onto the cooled lava to get a closer look at the lava flow. It was SO hot (I am a genious I know). I was expecting campfire hot, but it was lava.

So we did the only thing that makes sense when you ar sitting around a flowing mass of lava...we roasted marshmallows!

They were the best s´mores I have EVER tasted. They don´t have graham crackers here but they do have chickies which are vanilla sandwich cookies with chocolate covering one side...oh so tasty!