Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Out of the Ordeñary

I apologize for the lack of updates (Mom, and calling for that matter). I've been extremely busy and haven't had access to phone or internet, which is actually a deep breath of fresh air. Many of you know in the States I was less than reliable with answering my phone anyways. I'm writing this summary post, incapable of explaining all, hopeful I will recount some of the better events thus far. No later than 4:45, my parents and I took the long five minute haul to Hancock Airport (Thanks Garett,chiste!). Upon arrival I made un amigo nuevo and we took the shuttle to the hotel. Staging lasted a solid seven hours and reminded me a lot of RA training from college, but with more passionate liberals. There are so many interesting individuals in our group of 45. People from all across the states have studied and done research in a plethora of areas, both topic wise and world locations. Following staging, a group of 6 of us (MA, TX, CA, ID, CT) went out for Ethiopian food (Perfect last meal in America right?) Either way it was delicious.

The first three day staging period took place in Santa Lucia, Milpas Altas, a town outside of Antigua with a beautiful view of the volcanoes, including the currently active volcano Fuego. My host family in Santa Lucia M.A. consisted of a grandma (abuelita), a married couple, and their three kids. Directly off the main road my host mother and her two siblings each own houses in close proximity (off the same driveway). I was able to spend time with all three families, including un concierto in which we sang a number of songs including "When the Saints Go marching In" in both Spanish and English. Inevitably sounding cliche, they were as welcoming as I could have imagined and really became a second family during the short stay. With minimal education in the Spanish language, being here is similar to being thrown in the deep end. Luckily my experience has at least built a vocab base, more of a floatie on my left arm keeping me afloat.

My roommate, Joe (Chepe) and I (Evanito de Polonia) would spend our time following dinner with our host family, specifically the father Samuel, yellow Spanish-English dictionaries in hand. Learning went both ways, although the eldest daughter probably knows more English than I do Spanish. One specific word which came up was chata, meaning bedpan. Samuel assured ( I'm sure our pronunciation was off) that his wife had a chata on her nose. We all eventually burst into a long hard laughter when it was explained she was said to have a container one uses to poo and pee on on her face. Ordenar is to order in Spanish. By addiding a tilda on the n you can completely change the meaning of a word, similar to the way not having a fridge can change the way you live. The verb ordeñar is 'to milk a cow' and is something I was able to do in the mornings. Breakfast consisted of cereal with hot milk, pancackes, tea, and fresh fruits.

Other highlights from my short stay included my first bucket bath, jenga, (piedra, papel, tijeras) rock-paper-scissors, and a hike partway up the mountain. On our hike Samuel made a flute out of a plant reed and also climbed different trees to pick fruit for Laura, Chepe, and I. Fresh fruits included mangos, limes, passion fruit, oranges, and a delicious fruit called an anona (I recommend looking into this one!) Despite my major language barrier, I was reminded that laughter is universal. Before a minimal improvement in understanding, I was able to use laughter to make the family open-up and feel more comfortable. By the end of the three day period the children were calling me gordito "fatty" (similar to my name locito in the States), which was very endearing they felt comfortable enough to joke around. They were joking right? jaja

I've been assigned with my host-family for the next three months of training. I am living in a town directly next to the active volcano Fuego. I live upstairs and can see the smoke/fire during the day and night respectively from standing in my doorway. My family has a very nice house, including a hot shower downstairs and a fridge! It is crazy how my perspective of well-off has changed in such a short period. The family consists of Aura, Jime, and the children (Christian-6 and Andrea 2.5). Grandpa rides over on his horse fairly often as well. I am the sixth volunteer the family has hosted, which is helpful in terms of expectations and pushing me to speak the language.

The other three volunteers staying in my muni; Winfrey, Patty, Breanna, are with various members of the same family throughout town. The cousin owns a finca in town where they harvest coffee. Our language classes will take place at their house. On my first visit we were given some amazingly fresh coffee and bread.  I hope there will be more cafe during my 8 hour language sessions. As I hear dogs barking and Alvin and the Chipmunks in Spanish blasting from across the way, it is time for bed. It is in fact 9:15pm! Hope all is well and I would love comments :-)


  1. "Staging lasted a solid 7 hours and reminded me a lot of RA training in college, but with more passionate liberals." - This made me laugh out loud.

    Everything looks to be going well!! Great update. I'm sure it's hard to recap everything that's going on. Pictures look great though :) I can't believe you're next to a volcano!

    I'm sure your Spanish is already 100 times better, and it will only continue to improve! Your family sounds very welcoming, and I'm so glad they've already realized who you really are.....GORDITO. Bahaha.

    Miss you sooo much! I'm already looking forward to another update. I'll admit, I cried at this one. My favorite line is "Despite my major language barrier I was reminded that laughter is universal." Perfectly said :) Stay safe! Update soon....Justin the fish misses you!<333

  2. I also laughed at the RA training/passionate liberals comment. I am excited that you shared this on Facebook and I saw it! Congrats on getting the job! I am super excited for you and know you will have a great experience. I also look forward to following your blog on your trip. Good luck and have fun!

  3. Hey Evan,
    I miss you more than i thought i would. I felt really bad i wasn't able to come to the airport with you. I didn't really get to say the proper goodbye I wanted to but i was going to tell you I loved you, in a brotherly way. Also, is the address you posted still accurate to where you are because i would like to send you a letter. Anyways I will be checking your blog constantly to look for updates!
    Love your brother,

  4. ANNONA fruit is NOT AVAILABLE in whole foods wtf. send some of that over!

    i thought i heard some yelling. it was probably you milking the cow haha. how did it taste? talk about organic.

    pictures look awesome! keep taking them. did you adopt a puppy, already!?

    can't wait to hear more. we miss you.

  5. Awesome post, Evan. I love the comment on the shift in perspective even after this short time. Can't wait to hear more.

  6. How incredible is this opportunity in your life right now! The world has so much to offer and how much we take our comforts here for granted. Enjoy all the time you have there. When the language gets tough just give them one of those great big Evan smiles............pictures more pictures. Aunt Turtle

  7. Hope you are warmer than we are (10 degrees tonight). You are making connections with another culture and planning on improving their lives. You are the change you wish to see in this world and we are proud to see that happening. Enjoy every minute as it will go by too quickly. Take as many pictures as you can and spread your charm along the way! Aunt Cookie

  8. Evan! The pictures are beautiful and everything sounds so great! I'm so glad you are safe, I was worried. Also, the volcano is beautiful and it's probably amazing to wake up to every morning.

    You are gordito, it wasn't a joke. HAHA kidding.

    Anywho, I just watched HSM3 & I thought of you and almost cried because you're more than 1,053 miles away...OK goodnight, Wildcat! Be safe, have fun, and enjoy that fresh coffee (I'm jealous!)!!!

  9. That's pretty cool evy. have fun and ten cuidado senor!

  10. Evan - reading this made me feel like you were sitting right here. Be safe and keep updating us with pictures and funny bedpan stories!

    PS - I am on the hunt for annona!

    Love, Biscuti

  11. I looove the picture with the PC medical kit. Live it up during training and don't get too caught up in the bs of it all. Everything works out when you are at site anyways. People take stuff too serious and get upset for no reason. Just dive right in and I promise you will learn along the way. You are doing great and I am so excited that Pc guatemala is so sweet.

  12. evan- hows it going just wonderin thts awsome wht your doing it looks sweet just sayin sup from the williams family

  13. Evan
    Keep it up, it sounds like you are getting the hang of it. I see already got your hands on a baby. You are definately your mothers son!!!!
    Aunt Sue (and Uncle Jeff)