Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bienvenidos a Febrero, el mez mas loco que todos!

I'm sitting in my room listening to the rain pattering away at the zinc roofing above my head and hearing my host mom's words in my mind: February, the craziest month of them all. You never know what you'll get, freezing cold, boiling hot, rain..each day is a surprise. The rain is actually very unusual for this time of year, as we are just entering into the warm, dry months of summer. What's to blame is climate change, por supuesto. Nonetheless, I had a very pleasant walk in the chipi chipi (steady sprinkles that are famous throughout the rainy season. Today it was really a drizzle but chipi chipi is more than amusing enough to bend the rules a bit.) with my good friend and groupmate Hilary. We strolled around the aldea of San Andres, which is a tiny sub-pueblo off from San Antonio. The clouds hanging low and the hazy silouettes of the trees along the ridges above us made for a very tropical late afternoon.

Last week was packed full with work as my group and I prepared our charlas, a formal class or presentation that is basically the bread and butter of Peace Corps. Simple, straight to the point presentations that we will be doing many of in the next two years. We presented to several councelors from the municipalities of San Antonio and our neighboring pueblo, Santa Caterina. Also attending were a handful of women from our group of artisans here in S.A. with whom we are hoping to develop a cultural fair as well as the trainee group from Santa Caterina. Additionally our technical trainer David and our program manager Flavio (who is in charge of what site we'll be placed in based on our experience and our performance..gulp) were there to evaluate us. So you could say I was a bit nervous. Our charlas were, together, how to create and conduct a charla. Charlas on charla-ing. Like, how to assess your audience, the importance of experiential learning, how to break the ice with your students, planning and preparing your charla and, finally, the importance of reviewing and processing what you've taught your students. The last one was mine. I talked loud, got people laughing with my ice breaker (if they answered my questions reviewing the charlas right, they got a prize!) and I really felt I got the message across with repetition, a short rollplay where I did a review with my “students” to be sure they got the message of throwing their trash in the basurero instead of the river or streets (Acto 1: I, as the teacher, forgot to review and they all ran off throwing trash all over the place). My groupmates and I were very pleased at how it seemed our audience really picked up a lot from each charla as they told me what they learned from each one in my review. So, despite my nervousness, I got some good laughs, got the point across, stumbled a few times with my spanish, had my notes to keep me rolling, and managed to come out on the other side not too worse for wear!

In other news, I had the experience of watching a Mayan ceremony as it was conducted for us on Saturday (which is the Mayan new year) by a spiritual guide in Iximche. This was a really beautiful place, up in the rolling hills with towering pines, cypress and oaks. The Kaqchiquel (one of 21 different Mayan tribes in Guatemala) had a town here with temples and ball courts, the remains of which still stand. In 1524, the Spanish conquistadors overtook the town but they didn't remain long for the townspeople, hiding in the hills above, continuously attacked during the nights until finally the Spanish relented and left to find another place to name “capital” of this new land they now called their own. The ceremony was about an hour and a half and our conductor had us toss a handful of different colored candles into a growing fire. He invoked a variety of different gods to protect us and our friends and families, bring good and release us from our sins (bear with me, this was all in spanish/kaqchiquel, so I might be a bit off about some of it) and while speaking, he tossed various things in as well-rosemary, dulces, sugar, aguardiente (liquor) and some little brown lumps. We were made to face in each sacred direction as he prayed in the indigenous language and he had us shut our eyes and flicked aguardiente into our faces. All the while, other people were in front of their own fires and various flower strewn alters lighting candles and a small group of men played the marimba and a cello. I felt very much the tourist but not quite as bad as the ones that just would walk up to the bowed worshipper and snap away with their cameras. Afterwards we ate a meal of comida tipica that was muy rica. It was a beautiful day and I even saw a few birds-stellars jay and an eastern bluebird: one bird you see commonly in the Western United States and the other in the east, but here, the two worlds come together as one, in an entirely different world. And these aren't migrants, either, they're residents living in a habitat befitting their needs. Can't blame them for choosing Guatemala! Ahh and there's still so much yet to be seen and that I have to learn in this gran bellesa pais.


  1. beautifully written, as usual, my love...i miss you and it's such a joy to read your blog and get a glimpse of your amazing life there...sounds like you really pulled off your charla! we just dug out from about 30" of snow and are expecting 10 - 20" more tonight and tomorrow! it is beautiful! love you like a rock, yr mom

  2. Mas Loco Que Yo!!!!! jajajajaja Febrero es mi mes, loco coco!!! jajajaja, dude! i can't believe you were part of the new year maya ceremony, i'm so jealous but so glad you were there. are those like prayer flags in the background of your pic...? love the pic by the way, with the flowers and the stones, thanks for describing the ceremony, love it. I'm sure you will soon become a charlas master!!!

  3. Can you get Basilio Estrada's email for me? I was a PCV in Chamelco 89-91. I haven't been there since 1997, but Guatemala seemed much more busy coming down just for a visit. my email is tonypointer1234@gmail.com

  4. haha! they should rename this city chipi-chipi land then ;)
    I do remember stellar's jay, boy they like to wake up sleepy people in tents, ya?
    I'm so happy you are able to post often, keep it comin' we're anxious as you are waiting to see where you're placed!

    -ps- i am in crutches, my armpits hurt!

  5. i joined a peace corps parents group on facebook and hope to communicate with some people in similar situations...it doesn't seem to have a lot of recent posts, though...if any parent of a pct or pcv in guatemala wants to talk, contact me in the comments section of this blog and we'll go from there!


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