Volcano Fuego, one of the four currently active in Guatemala, is clearly viewable directly to the left of my bedroom door. Each day or so it releases humo (smoke), releasing clouds of gray varying in size and height. Being involved in an eco-focused project, I have begun to learn various aspects about the environment, poco a poco. Living in a town with two other Masters International grad students, who have spent years studying geology, helps in the learning process as well. Simply put, Bri and Patty explained that these gradual releases of smoke and lava release energy from Fuego, making it extremely less likely a large eruption will occur. Likewise, with time one of the many things I have learned is releasing feelings and thoughts of your own, in a constructive manner, can be an extremely healthy practice and negate "eruptions" of emotion (Yes, so corny!).
My close friends know where I stand on religion and its place in the world. Despite this fact, this is something I try to not impose upon others. Diversity, freedom of beliefs, and choice are all things I strongly advocate in all aspects of life. Taking away this aspect is FAR from my purpose or intention in being here as a volunteer. After all, removing religion here is like taking away football, beer, and greasy wings from Americans (It's not going to happen). It is an intriguing and historical part of the culture and an area I am willing to put an effort into witnessing. Despite the barriers denominations can cause here, misa is a great time for the community to get together and for me to gain confianza with those in it.
Embracing differences in beliefs, interests, and choices can become difficult when you may see it negatively impacting a person or a group. Religious views, especially here, can often be fatalistic. People feel they have little to no impact on their lives and see things as god's plan. Individuals with little to no money often invest the little they do have into the church, money which could directly fund the purchase of nutritional foods, clean clothes and pure water. This is in a country with the 4th highest rate of malnutrition in the world. Nearly half of Guatemalan ninos under five are malnourished; 70% in predominately indigenous areas. A tough pill to swallow.
As taking away football is more than likely unattainable or desired, the best option is to show that eating celery and fresh juice is the healthier option to those Monday Night Football snacks. Education and implementation of simple healthy practices; washing hands, boiling water, treating basic illness, nutrition, exercise, recycling, can make a world of difference. Additionally, demonstrating that playing football (doing), rather than being just an observer (hoping) yields a healthier and better self. The hope of the people is admirable, but they may very well be overlooking the tangible help which lies within people themselves. Regardless of god, no god, denomination, fear of condemnation, or plea to not knowing, we as people have so much potential solely in ourselves within our energy, strength, and ability to live healthy and fulfilling lives through one another... possibly the initial message of religion lost in translation.
As the little volcano that I am puffs his thoughts, above you see the gorgeous view of Fuego with some humo of it's own. Directly next to Fuego is a piece of land owned by the muni, also known as our park. Throughout our two remaining months, when the four of us are not in language/technical/medical trainings we will be working to construct a playground out of recycled materials. As of now we have a proposed gazebo, swings(shaped like animals), teeter-totter, and tire pyramid/swing. We have been working with the director of the OMMA (Oficina Municipal Medio Ambiente), or the environmental branch. Our project also includes working with the local artesanas to design a layout for their potential marketplace in the park. Research into security, advertising, water and sanitation are also tasks we face. We have already constructed a FODA analysis (the Spanish SWOT Analysis), Plan of Action and a MATRIZ to layout the business venture and its potential/drawbacks/necessities/etc.
My Spanish is coming along. Puchica! This is the equivalent to WOW in English. I have been able to communicate more and more, especially with my host family and siblings. This past week we took a trip to a current volunteer's sight at volcano Pacaya, which brings in nearly 2.5 million Q a year for the community. The site was gorgeous and he expressed the importance of focusing on improving our language skills to ensure a successful two years. As I head to bed before an early rise and trip to Santa Lucia, I'll share a few things which might make you laugh, because I know they made me laugh:
- Patty laughed so hard when we were in the center of town that she had a pee accident
-Winfrey didn't initially realize he had left his things at my house, which led to a delayed reaction in getting of the bus at my stop. The back exit (you know the fire exit in the back of the bus we used to have drills out of) wouldn't open at first and by the time he jumped out the bus was moving. This resulted in a fault on the landing, or more accurately Winfrey rolling down the street.
-I stepped in horse caca (the kids enjoyed this)
- Today on the camioneta or "chicken bus" Damion (around 6'7), I and an older Guatemalan man were sitting in one seat (that order with Damien by the window). This alone is a site to see. A few minutes before arriving in Guatemala City the man puked infront/on the woman in front of him. Interesting situation to say the least
-My siblings Andrea and Christian pretend to be pigs and run around the kitchen on all fours. I say " Yo quiero jamon" and chase them around as they scream and laugh. This happens a lot
Overall I am super busy, but will try to more diligently update this blog. I plan on posting picture/video/informational entries on the experience that is the camioneta, mi familia and the kids, the park/project progress and a possible tour of town. Let me know what you'd like to see to get a glimpse into my day to day life.
P.S. I hear the coffee of the week at Starbuck's is Guatemalan Coffee, which is made right here at the local fincas! Go out and buy an overpiced venti to support local farmers, jajaja