Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Go Shawty, Its 'Yo Birfffday

          The above title is in no way directed at the fact that many Guatemalans happen to be of small stature, but at the fact that last night we celebrated Mary's (My neighbor and mother of ten children) 47th birthday.  When one thinks of birthday celebrations music, food and dancing may come to mind.   There was no dancing at this gathering, but to quickly sidetrack a couple weeks back two of the past volunteers from this Co-op came back for a week long visit.  Both volunteers completed service here in 2007, therefore are only a few brief years removed from service and still fresh in the minds of the people here.  Marsha, one of the two volunteers, just finished law school at U-Penn (congrats) and ironically enough studied international business at the same university (UIBE) in  Beijing as I did (Shout out to my China buddy Liz R. on your new full-time employment!).  We all decided to meet up and go out dancing one night in Coban, all of us being them and their two friends.  The five of us tore up the dance floor, or more accurately their two friends were possibly the best dancers I have ever personally witnessed (Better than hood-baller).  The guy, Jose, won some major dance competition and is apparently 'The Best Dancer' in Alta Verapaz, the department in which I live.  This would be equivalent to being the best dancer in a state in the United States, even though this entire country is the size of Ohio.  Let's just say he'd be the best dancer in all of Rhode Island. 
                  Flash-forward to last night.  This was the second birthday I have attended in my town thus far, both of which have been within Evangelical families.  Both events consisted of a decent amount of people gathering together, prayers being said and feast of caldo de gallina (Chicken soup, more specifically a broth with a piece of chicken a few herbs and possibly rice in it).  After this meal, cake is served and everyone seems to wander home.  I had been sick this past weekend (actually pooped myself as a 22 year-old man- TMI I know) and was specifically excited for this meal with a newly restored appetite.  With ten kids and five grand-kids all living in the same compound the house was packed.  I helped Gloria serve tea and atol to the guests and then ate dinner with the family in the kitchen.  Eating dinner in the cramped kitchen standing up was a great feeling, a passage if you will, from seated guest to family member.  Check out the photos:

                             Ammunition for a whole-lotta tortillas!
"Chicken Little" as Mary Jr. calls them
Playing cards with Pancho
Miguelito in a basket
Michelle serving the tamalitos
Gloria and the caldo
Baby Lisbeth- 11 months yesterday
The guests sitting down to eat
Wooden walker!
Jacqueline y Jimmy
Mary Jr. 
Stray puppy
13 y.o. Byron failing to not crack a smile while doing the I now kill cows for a living pose
Some of the Don Domingo Tribe
Qawa Domingo ut Qana Mary

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Baile de Venado

In a quick attempt to summarize a unique experience I had last week, a recent blog post by my friend and fellow Upstate NY'er Jordan Brown popped into my head. Jordan had an eventful cultural experience himself (Check it out: )
'Life is about wandering down an unknown path and smiling when you realize where you have wandered.' This past week Kamille (my sitemate), her friend Ty, and I did just that. Okay, we knew our destination, but not what we were getting ourselves into. We headed through the tea fields (head lamps and all) down to the house of Alberto, the current President on the Co-op. Having been invited to a gathering it could have been assumed we would all greet each other, quickly eat caldo, and be on our merry way. As Drake would say, 'never pay attention to the rumors and what they assume.' The large wooden home was filled with excited people dressed in clothing ranging from traditional traje to more modern attire, an abundance of food/tortillas and drinks, colorful decorations and a long table up front. On top of the table lay a number of masks, ranging from a tiger to deer.

Following a number of speeches, a large meal (despite insisting we were thankful, but had already eaten... always come to eat!) and a performance on the marimba the b'oj was served. B'oj is a fermented sugar-cane drink, which logically varies in strength depending on the period of fermentation. Normally a conservative community, the b'oj was flowing, the music was playing, and even cigarettes were smoked as part of the ceremony. We then all proceeded out to the front of the beneficio, miramba and all, where the men took part in the dance of the deer. This took place directly next to the new gravel road funded by Fedecovera (an independent organization working with 36 cooperatives throughout the Verapaces), who were likewise in attendance at the event. Coming up on the corn harvesting season, the dance was symbolic of the correlation and harmony between man and nature. Around midnight, following nearly two hours of dancing, the three of us decided to call it a night. The music continued on well into the night, but this was merely a practice round for the following day's full-costume event at the Fedecovera office in Coban. The actual production was vibrant and colorful, but there was undoubtedly a little extra excitement (a little B'oj in the step of the dancers if you will) that Wednesday night we decided to venture out.

Masks on the center table.
 The pre-baile feast.
Kamille, Ty and I outside of Alberto's house.
Baile de Venados @ Fedcovera Office