Tuesday, March 2, 2010


To all my Jersey readers out there, I am not referring to the fist-pumping frat-fiesta music blaring in the basement next to the beer pong table and plethora of blow-outs and uggs (joking... I think), but to waterfalls. During field based training us eighteen eco-tourism trainees spent a week in Baja and Alta Verapaz. Our first day we visited a current volunteer in Chilasco where we embarked on a few hour long hike down to the highest waterfall in all of Central America. The trek was gorgeous/ equally muddy, despite the extremely foggy day affecting the view at the waterfall itself.

The majority of the rest of the week was spent in Samac visiting a current volunteer nearing his COS (Close of Service). Samac, located in a cloud forest, is a small village holding German history and ruins, a Kek'chi population and apparently a landmine for bird watching. We all stayed in two cabins and spent the week using latrines and taking frigidly cold showers, a possible taste of what volunteering will entail. Throughout the week we participated in various activities from sun-up until dark. A few activities worth noting:

  • We were trained/ worked alongside the community in designing and engraving sixteen signs for the village

  • I learned to make tortillas with the local family who cooked for us for the week(I dropped one on the ground... the equivalent of dropping a baby, but we'll try to keep that on the dl)

  • Patty and I gave a 45 minute charla on Buyer Expectations with a translator to the local womens groups, B'eleb' B'atz and Ixb'alamke. The weaving the community uses is a form called Pikb'il, an ancient style of weaving which takes about two weeks for one blouse.
  • We learned trail development and management at the Cafe Cooperative in Chicojl, where one of us will be spending our next two years. I also had the best coffee I've had in my life!
  • I made friends with a bunch of kids in the village of Samac, including Domingo (translated Sunday). There were plenty of jokes and by the time I left my new name was Lunes- Monday
  • We were able to talk with a handful of current volunteers and hear about all the great work that is currently underway. All of our sites are definitely very diverse and I am anxiously awaiting placement on March 12.
  • After a week of a greater fix of beans than one could ever dream of... nightmare wise (Of course I prefer pinto beans to black beans) we all went out for a DELICIOUS meal at a Cuban restaurant in Coban.
This week we have constructed four swings for the park out of old tires, two horses and two baskets, and are finishing up the promotional items and Business Plan for the local muni. The four of us spent today cutting down fourteen large trees with eight other Alotenangians to construct the juegos in the park. I know what you're thinking, eco-tourism cutting trees, but five are being planted for each that was cut. This was definitely a great way to build confidence with our counterparts and also become the source of a craving for icy-hot.

Lying here now, I am extremely exhausted and pleasantly full. Why you may ask? Yesterday I went to the market in Antigua and bought platanos verdes, which I used to make tostones for my family this evening. I know, past volunteers in my house have prepared pizza and lasagna. How dare I make a Latin dish to contribute, BUT I must say my tostones are kick ass even in Central America. I must give a shout out to Mrs. Pena for making me the well-rounded gringo-tino chef that I am today. (Also a quick nod to Alyssa who met Mrs. P this week). Until next time...

Oh, and if I offended any of my Jersians with my opening statement, just know I've stood up for all of you many-a-times letting people know that the state isn't actually like The Jersey Shore. There's definitely a bad rep across the country, but there also is not one volunteer out of the nearly 50 from NJ. I'm just saying they wear too much hair gel here too, it wouldn't be too bad :-)

I also received my first Guate haircut:
And bad hair do or not, I would like Miss J to know I have been wearing the oso negro cap throughout my adventure.  Here is a picture of a bunch of us out for the Superbowl.


  1. hahahahaha MY ENTIRE OFFICE JUST HEARD ME LAUGH OUT LOUD. "i dropped a tortilla, the equivalent of dropping a baby"

    you made out your haircut to be so much worse than it is, ellen.

    me gustan mucho tus fotos! me encantaria ver un dia todos esos lugares.

    pinto>black always.

    mom is going to be sooo proud when i tell her you are using your newly acquired chef skills. want me to send you some adobo?

    uh, exxCUSEE me haters. nj folks do volunteer and despite growing up here, i do not subscribe to the aforementioned attributes. i say no to drugs, uggs, and blow outs. fist-pumping only when necessary. thank you for defending us, lunes.

    sigue gozando!

  2. Fabulous-- looks like you are enjoying yourself-- take care and let me know what we can send you.

  3. Wish you could talk the coffee company into sending that great coffee our way! Loved those pictures and your comments are not only informative but measured for a nice degree of softness so as not to offend. Compliments to your parents and you.

  4. YEAAHHHH!!!!! I love this blog AND Mrs. Pena AND you! It sounds like you're having an amazing time saving the world... and new jersey's reputation? that's a lot of work, go get 'em tiger! :)p.s. keep the shout outs coming lol

  5. Everytime we touch I get this feeling!