It has already been a full month since I took the Peace Corps Oath, the same oath which Joe Biden took some 15 plus months ago, and officially swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer. All I can say is Guatemala is GORGES. The landscape, the volcanoes, the lush green that surround the co-op I work on, just everything. I just returned from a trip to the river, a bit dirty, but extremely fun and refreshing on this day in the mid 90’s. The side of the river is bordered by land of varying heights allowing you to jump into the river from a decent height, immediately reminding me of the gorges I once jumped off in Ithaca, NY.….A flashback that put a smile on my face and warrants this ‘I miss you all and hope things are going well’ to those stateside, or even teaching English in Korea.
You may be thinking in regards to the title… Is that what Evan said when he opened a recent package he received? OMG a Poncho for the rainy season and candy, what great gifts?! In actuality these are just common words thrown around when visiting the neighbors, two of the kids are named Poncho and Dulce (Check out my posted video on Facebook). As I begin to settle into ‘a routine’ I find myself spending a significant chunk of my free time with my neighbors. The mother has ten kids and two of the elder daughters and the eldest son have kids of their own. Throw all these people in one compound, add in a few dogs, two geese, hens and roosters, bunnies and the most happening Churrasco stand in the community and you’ve got my new extended family.
They recently purchased a new chu-cho, a dog they initially named Cooookie. After a handful of biting incidentsand a generally angry ‘tude in his high pitched bark, a general negative consensus about ‘Cookie’ had been formed. The second goal of Peace Corps is helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.. When meeting families and new friends I generally share a little history about my background, education, family and other random tidbits that may be relevant to the individual or situation. One evening I had a long talk with Mary, the eldest daughter, about our perspective families which went on to include mascotas, or pets. Mama Mia came up. It was explained that they thought a cat’s only purpose was to kill mice, not particularly to be a man’s best friend. I talked about how Mama Mia was going through stomach issues and often threw up around the house. This, in conjunction with their preconceived opinions on cats (a black one at that, malo suerte), officially labeled her as BAD. This somehow led into renaming the pesky little dog Papa Pia, as he too is no dessert. This name has stuck and the only name close to cookie left is Chicky, the name of one of the youngest daughters.
Mary runs the Churrasco stand out front, selling a plethora of staples including horchata, arroz con leche, tostadas, fried chicken and frijoles depending on the day. She often feeds me and I’ve already cooked them a meal of meat raviolis (which I was told had a Pizza flavor, fail?). The family speaks Spanish and Qeqchi so they are a great resource for practicing both. Mary knows a bit of English, understanding more than she can speak. I’ve found that Guatemalans love sharing the little bit of English they do know with you at any given chance, which includes the men at the top of the hill in town who regularly shoot me a ‘good morning’ when I am on my way home to sleep.
One of Mary’s favorite phrases is ‘Oh My God’. Having recently discovered the new Usher song, I brought my netbook next door and we sang along. Gloria, the 21 year old daughter is convinced we should make the Ay Dios Mio Guate-Remix. Following this sing-along I pulled out the Guate songs I have (Thanks Jareeau), my favorites being Obsecion y No Hieras Mi Vida (You-Tube them). This past week 6-8 of the kids and I have been going to the local basketball court and playing at night, a definite reminder I need to get bac into shape (gordito en serio). Here are a few pictures I have of the fam:
Work on the Co-op is slowly beginning to progress. One of my central duties right now is learning Qeqchi, the Mayan language in the area. I have begun taken classes, almost up to twenty hours, and I must say it is going to be a difficult task. Learning another foreign language through my second language makes it a three step process, but I have encouragingly realized I am learning just as much Spanish through class. Spanish is now my crutch and English is out the door. Either way I am pretty excited to learn and definitely see the excitement and respect even now when I use basic phrases with those on the Co-op.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” - Nelson Mandela
… end corny quote. ( Sidenote: ITunes free language podcasts, or other interesting topics for that matter, are an EXCELLENT way to keep up on news and learn while you are relaxing before you fall asleep. Try it out!)
Throughout my first few weeks I have met with the president a couple of times, visited both of the schools on the Co-op, attended a security meeting and also a meeting in Coban for Viviente Verapaz. Viviente Verapaz is the alliance of seven sites of Peace Corps volunteers in Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz(1). The site in Baja is the highest waterfall in Central America we visited beforewhich I had previously discussed. We will all be working together to help strengthen our advertising in conjunction with one another, including information at corresponding sites and a V.V. website. This coming week I will spend the first couple days completing our information and deciding on which photos to use for our portion of the web page. I could go on about work related activities, but will do so when things are moving a bit faster. Plus, this post is already sufficiently long and I have a few pictures of the Co-op that attest to the beauty of my location more than any more words can. Jo wan xik, hasta luego, Until later