Friday, August 12, 2011

There is a mushroom growing on my wall. Happy 2-year Anniversary.

Two years ago today, I arrived in Guatemala. Two years ago today, I feel as if my real life paused and I embarked upon some crazy journey of self-realization full of lessons in compassion, understanding, strength, self-worth, desire, and drive. This paused section has been so incredibly unreal yet so painfully real at the same time. I feel I will unpause my real life as an entirely new person. While I am still fundamentally and very much the same Amanda, I am so much more Amanda than I ever knew possible. And I am excited to be this and grow from this exponentially more aware and conscientious point evermore for the rest of my life.

I’m sitting here eating no-bakes, my Gran’s very amazing recipe and my most happy food of all foods, as my first meal at 1:30pm today. I woke up at about 4am feeling feverish and achy in my entire body, for who-knows-what-reason… not the first of this type of day here in Guatemala. I’m sure, as I know how appreciating your food is good for everyone, that these no-bakes will cure me—full of sugar as they are. So, feeling sick as I was, I got to fijate que my ladies this morning, whom I was supposed to accompany on one of their many campaigns to give eye exams and sell eye glasses, eye drops, energy-saving light bulbs, solar-charged lamps (which are ever-so-useful here where electricity is scarce in so many of the remote villages these ladies do campaigns in), and water filters. I was feeling too ill to help them today with their inventory and sales and be the “gringa” publicity they so appreciate having. But, they got to do it ON THEIR OWN today!! These two ladies, Romelia and Flory, are members of one of the women’s groups I have worked with since about a year ago and have really blossomed since they began doing these campaigns in May. It is amazing to see two women from the campo step up to learn a little business and take charge in doing so. Thanks to Soluciones Comunitarias, they have become entirely new people. YAY! One piece of gratifying work I can say I helped achieve here. And very gratifying it is, indeed.

Well, the entire week has been full of fijate que’s, since I was supposed to give a charla on greenhouses, give two charlas on HIV/AIDS, and accompany these ladies this morning for their campaña. The greenhouse charla was put aside for my studying for the GRE’s (which I take next Tuesday – YIKES), and the other two because the educadora I work with at the Centro de Salud had too much going on and one of our communities decided to have a día deportiva and play futbol all afternoon instead of learning—of course. But, having had the two years I’ve had, this week was just fine. I mean, I really need to study for the GRE’s, and I wasn’t feeling that well, so I decided not to get upset about all the fijate que’ing. It’s life, here, we roll with it.

Besides, earlier this week, I was put at ease and relieved of my resentment and regrets for all of my service. As I was proudly showing my counterpart how I’d formatted the business plan that we were supposed to be working on that he kept telling me he didn’t have time to do with me, he said, “wow, Amanda, that’s great! You’ve done such great work… I feel BAD and sad that I haven’t made that much time to work with you while you were here.  You’ve had very valuable things to share and it’s a shame we were so busy and couldn’t make the time.” I have spent countless hours tormenting myself on the undone work I came here to do and my frustration at how DIFFICULT it has been to find my work niche here. I’ve felt like I haven’t tried hard enough or have limited myself too much out of fear for not being able to succeed. I suppose the last sentence wasn’t totally nullified by my counterpart’s acknowledgment of his faults in this whole process, but my relief came in realizing that I really have made an effort and have brought forth very valuable things to share. It wasn’t all my fault that this has been SO hard for me. At least now I can go home knowing that I made an honest effort and really was appreciated while I was here. That is the best kind of thing to know about something as challenging as the Peace Corps, in my opinion. ALSO, the people I work with at ADICTA have JUST THIS WEEK started to write their sales and purchases down in our registro. I told them that I would no longer do it and that they HAD to remember, since there was no one coming in to replace me or to do this job for them, and they would never know whether they were gaining or losing money if they didn’t. They also would never know how many sales of whichever products they’d made in any particular year when people ask them this information because they’re trying to help them grown. SO THEY’RE DOING IT NOW! And they kept saying, “well, we’d better record this so Amanda doesn’t regañarnos.” J You’re damn right.

On the other side of things, my personal relationships in Guatemala, with Guatemalans and other Americans alike, have been so incredibly gratifying and real and humbling and strengthening. My host families here are so wonderful… I feel so entirely at home with them that I forget I need to speak Spanish when I’m around them and find myself saying things in English to them, expecting them to respond. WHOOPS. I love them so much, and I feel very much that it is mutual. My host mom, Sarita, was granted her travel visa and is going to accompany me home on September 30th. SEPTEMBER 30TH. So soon. She will spend a few days with me and my family before we accompany her to San Francisco to visit her brothers whom she hasn’t seen in I-don’t-know-how-many years. She has even toyed with the idea of teaching my family how to make paches, which are tamales made with potato instead of cornmeal. SO delicious. The tamales they make here are not like the Mexican ones we buy in California… they are very soft and have only a little bit of meat inside (which I feel we can augment in our potentially new California version). So I am excited and looking forward to this lesson from my chiquita momma Sarita. My other host family, Joe’s host family, have been visiting the states for years and I look forward to hearing from them and making plans to see them when they come to Los Angeles in the future. I tease my momma Alis that I will drive her from LA to Sacramento so she can see my home – she tells me she will spend the entire six hours holding on for dear life because she is convinced I can’t drive. Maybe she is right. In any case, there is real love in this part of my world. I will always hold it as a very dear part of me.

My Peace Corps friends, as I have mentioned innumerous times, have been my saving grace. Thanks to Peace Corps’ buying us phones and giving us a plan where we can talk to any volunteer for FREE, I have spent hours and hours talking to my friends about all of our woes and happiness, and call almost every day just to say something that’s frustrating me or making me happy. Is this interdependency good? I don’t know. But it has been nice to have that type of support. In any case, they are amazing people and because of how hard this has been for all of us, we have grown tremendously together. We know each other in a way that two years could not possibly allow most friends in the United States. One’s fellow Peace Corps trainees/volunteers are almost guaranteed instant family members. They will never leave my heart. Lucky for me, three of my closest Peace Corps friends will be in Sacramento (!!!!) so I will get to continue this relationship I’ve so grown accustomed to. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to do it in my REAL life. J

So next week is our COS (Close-of-Service) Conference. The day after my GRE’s (AHHHHH). I am very excited, as it will be the first time my group will be intimately reunited in about a year. We will talk about resume building, job hunting, graduate schools, and the cultural re-readjustment we can look forward to upon our return to the United States. It is easy to think how happy I will be when I get there, but hard to imagine how hard it will be at the same time.  A completely different lifestyle in a completely different place than we’ve had to accustom ourselves to these past two years. But, as dad’s booming words of wisdom said, life WILL go on. J I am happy I have such a great family and network of family-like friends to return to. Anyways, this COS Conference is something we look forward to our entire service. They will end it by giving us lunch as a THANK YOU for all that we have done and what we have given of ourselves and our lives over the past two years. We finally get the chance to look at ourselves as having done something grand instead of as strugglers painfully trudging through this trench of really thick mud. And through someone else’s eyes, too. That’s always a plus.

So, as I prepare myself to leave in a month and a half, I appreciate knowing my house as MY house, even with the mushroom growing on my kitchen wall (I’m sorry, I don’t have a camera because of unmentionable personal faults) because of how rainy it is outside and how the construction of this country does a poor job of keeping the inside environment of your house dry. I appreciate the people I’ve met, even if I have constantly felt like an outsider here, for their gracious hospitality and open, genuine love of everyone. I appreciate the delicious foods I’ve tried (including my new and TERRIBLE love for ketchup AND mayonnaise on my French fries), even if they have given me the most unspeakable of intestinal issues. I appreciate the work I have learned how to do under the most challenging of circumstances, even if most of it never fully came to fruition… only most of it, though; not all. I’ve appreciated having the countless hours necessary to finally decide what I want to do for the rest of my life, even if it will take me years to achieve it. I appreciate having learned how to have a peaceful relationship with food, even if it did take me about 40 painful extra pounds to do so, 25 of which are now gone. It is all good, now. It is ALL good.

Thanks to my beautiful and very gracious friend, Leili, I was given a little new insight into things. She asked, what do you and what don’t you want when you come home? I was allowed to answer however I saw fit.

What DO I want (or, what do I look forward to):
  •           Being with my family
  •           Getting to know and growing with my two norteamericano Godsons J
  •           Continuing my spiritual path in a more direct and immediate way, instead of being pushed through it in a totally unfamiliar and challenging way (which has been a benefit, of course)
  •           Being with my friends who have proven, against all consejos that most personal relationships from the states fall away during your Peace Corps service, they REALLY are my friends… I am so lucky
  •           Feeling like my work is useful and contributes greatly to whomever I work for, and being appreciated for it
  •           Feeling like I belong instead of constantly feeling like I’m being looked at and listened to as an outsider who could never possibly fully understand the context of life in this place
  •           Having the space to be ME, all of the time (at least, feeling more comfortable doing so)
  •           MAKING MONEY!!!!
  •           Having my very own car and being able to DRIVE again
  •           Inhabiting soundly constructed buildings where there are no leaks, mold, or mushrooms on the walls
  •           Baking in ovens that AREN’T gas and that WON’T explode on your hand and burn the shit out of your fingers and burn all the hair off your hand and forearm
  •           Living in a place where electric companies can’t just decide to triple charge you one month and then cut off your electricity if you don’t pay it (UGH!)
  •           NO MORE FLEAS, please
  •           No bolos slamming drunkenly and half asleep against my metal door and having it resound very violently throughout the house as if a meteor has just crashed on my roof, without falling through the roof, miraculously… or not having to step over them as I try to get INTO my house, smelling their awful stench of 40-day-old pee and who knows what else… or listening to them barf outside my door, including the symphony of gut-wrenching and gagging
  •           No more “ch-ch’ing” and feeling as if men KNOW they have some kind of advantage over me because I am a woman
  •           No more people feeling like it is okay to call me gorda to my face
  •           No more people saying that they CAN’T because they are used to free hand outs and don’t want to or know how to try to do something themselves
  •           No more being let down by how difficult and slow-to-come-to-any-sort-of-fruition development work is (especially because of all the free hand-outs that take away from peoples’ understanding of their own capabilities to create their lives the way they want them)

What I DON’T want (or what I am afraid of):
  •           To be re-confronted with how difficult it is for people and how fearful they are to really open themselves up to others, and how everyone has to try so hard to prove themselves to others instead of know that they are wonderful just as they are (like Guatemalans so miraculously know here – I think) and be let down by humanity and its faults
  •           To constantly wish I were in a different, better place, as I have spent so much time doing here
  •           To be dampened by the low economic environment and low morale because of it
  •           To feel lazy in a fast-paced America after having had the time and space to take my time and space here
  •           To not be able to afford my OWN place—living alone has been such a saving grace
  •           To feel alone because no one understands the changes I have gone through
  •           To feel alone because boys there are just as silly as boys here and because everyone around me is in a relationship
  •           To be around people who are so absorbed in their Smartphone lives they can hardly put the things down, and therefore not able to fully enjoy the company at hand
  •           To listen to America lie to America about how to fix its life, when the answers are so simple and internally located

That is all. I will see you in a month and a half. ThankGOODNESS. I love you.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


So life is happening. In a beautiful way. I just came home from the día novena service of the “novenario” to guide our beloved García family’s abuelo through purgatory to the afterlife. I’ve spent several of the last nine days with the family, the extended family, and in the presence of Don Lorenzo Cándido García Gamboa’s spirit and feel so connected with life and love that it makes me feel at home. Although it may have been the death that brought life to me, I am thankful for having had the experience with this, my second family. Tonight most of the women present got on their knees for an hour, including some that were likely around 70 years of age, to pray and sing in guidance of Don Lorenzo’s soul. It was beautiful to sit and listen/watch… there was a calm in the room, not only for the actions taking place, but for being able to share in such a traditional, cultural experience and feel like I was with my family. Afterwards, the abuela began to really grieve. She cried, and you could hear her heart so strongly that you felt it was your own heart crying out for the whole part of you that has just left you. As somber as the moment was, I felt grateful to be in the presence of her grief. It was real and human and, most importantly, love in its most perfect form. Not only did she share her grief, she failed not to share her love with the strange gringa that had been coming into her home. I felt so welcomed and loved and loving, it was one of my better moments here. This family will forever be a part of me. I truly love them.

Well, as I said, life is happening. And it HAS been happening quite tumultuously for the past several months. Many changes have been occurring in my life so rapidly that they have really thrown me every which way I never knew was possible. I’ve cried harder than I have in awhile (and that’s saying A LOT in the Peace Corps) and been happier than I have in awhile.

I had the most excellent 26th birthday, I will never forget it. I had a party with my favorite people all weekend long and just didn’t stop enjoying myself until the hangover Sunday morning. The ones I love most really stepped forward and selflessly made it such an “exactly-what-Amanda-would’ve-wanted” kind of birthday. What more could I ask for? There are no words to describe how I will miss having them so close to me. I felt as if this year was finally going to be the year where things come together. And it certainly has not let me down thus far.

My sitemate, Joe, has been in the states since about a month ago and that was hard for me. We are still unsure whether or not he will be coming back, and the turmoil of the situation really put me under. I wasn’t sure how to process my emotions – we had been here TOGETHER since the beginning and gone through all the trials of becoming family with one another, and, he has just always BEEN here. Well now he’s not. And life has been quite different. I miss him. It felt good, though, to cry that hard… it was a relief for so many things that had been on my shoulders. And ever since then, things have really started to come clear to me. It was like it released all of the walls and fear and doubt that have been blocking me from getting to where I really want. I feel more aware and capable now than ever before of life and seeing the reality behind it, behind what I make it. Words do no justice to how I feel.

Work has been going great, life has been going great, and I finally feel like I get it all. I have only four months left and as ECSTATIC as I am to be going home, getting a job, a car, taking classes, and BEING WITH MY FAMILY AGAIN, I am happy to feel fulfilled in my work, life, and love for the next few months. It is only a matter of time and right now, time feels like a whirlwind. YAY!

Much love to you all, if only you could be with me and my heart right now. Soon, though. Soon. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hello Again

Much time has passed since I last posted. Much has happened since then as well.

I’ve spent time on the beaches of Costa Rica with my best Peace Corps friends, said goodbye to an amazing friend upon his very sad and permanent return to the states, travelled a ton, gotten closer with a few more amazing Peace Corps friends, visited more beaches, and had hardly any time to think about how I’ve spent the past 2 and a half months.

My host mother asked me to be the godmother of her son, Amer, whose FIRST birthday was on February 15th. I got to spend the day with the family, setting up the party and being a super-tall spectacle for all of the Tejutlecos I’ve met over the past year and a half. It was a really gratifying occasion to see familiar faces, be more to Amer than just this strange white giant, and to feel close to my host family. I love them. They call me traviesa, or naughty, because I have tattoos and travel so much… I love that they accept me. Although I still feel as if I cannot be 100% myself with them, I feel closer to them than almost any other Guatemalan. I am still working with Sarita on getting her travel visa so she can come home with me…

I got to participate in a three-day HIV/AIDS workshop with a Guatemalan counterpart from Tejutla (María Luisa) in the Peace Corps Office and am very excited to take on HIV/AIDS work as a secondary project. She’s excellent and so easy to get along with! We’ll be working with the Centro de Salud (health center) to recreate the workshop with many of the surrounding communities and I can’t wait. The workshop is so much fun to do, and so gratifying. It’s like you’re making a direct impact – something I don’t get the pleasure of experiencing quite as much with my work here as I’d like to.

At work I’m doing a real business plan with my counterpart and Board of Directors – we started it last month and I’m interested to see how far we get on creating a successful compilation of information. We plan to meet every three weeks to knock out pieces of it at a time… let’s see what Guatemala can do for us on this one.

I’ve also been in touch with a group called Soluciones Comunitarias, whose work is micro consignment: a non-risky business venture for rural communities, mostly women, in the hopes of making extra income. Soluciones gives products to the women to sell and the women make commission off of what they can sell. Soluciones and I will be meeting with one of my groups this week to see what we can kick off with. More exciting stuff.

I visited my friend Annalisa’s site on the coast of Guatemala, 20 kilometers from the border of El Salvador. A group of us from my training group went out there and had a great beach party. SO hot, so great. Annalisa is a great and sound friend – I’m happy to have had this time to get to know her as well as I do. She came to my site the next week to climb Tajumulco with me (the highest volcano in Central America, 1 hour from my site). We left the house at 6:00am, climbed to the top in about 3 hours and 45 minutes, and sat on the top of the world in freezing cold wind. It was an incredible and unusually clear day, and well worth the pain of climbing up rocks towards the top, at about 13,845 feet. I was a bit dizzy and VERY cold, but in awe of the amazing view and accomplishment. So worth it. We climbed down the same day, in about 2 hours time, and found it hard to move the rest of the day and next morning. It was just about as euphoric as running a marathon. Can’t wait to experience that again!

Since then I’ve been to several despedidas as a few good friends of mine are getting ready to finish their service. They’ve been so much fun, great way to say goodbye, but sad events nonetheless.
On that note, I can’t help but be consumed by the idea that I have about 7 months left. 7 MONTHS. That is NOTHING in comparison to the 27 months I signed up for. And the time this year has already gone away as if it were mere seconds. I love that the time flies, I love that I will be home sooner than I can imagine, and I love that I have so much time and realization under my belt. I do not like, however, that regardless of the relationships I’ve built, regardless of how I’ve learned so much about Guatemala and how it works, regardless of the newfound immense and great workload, my missing home and missing feeling at home continues to impact my motivation and excitement at what I’ve accomplished and what I have left to do. Every day, even with small victories here and there, is a constant struggle to be so 100% aware of the cultural differences and challenges. I will never be completely understood and accepted here as I am at home, and my work will never be fully understood or appreciated as it is when I am at home. I know that it is meaningful to be here and great to have this experience and I regret absolutely nothing. I am immensely grateful for what I have done and seen and learned. I am just constantly reconciling that with my desire to be comfortable again, all of the time instead of just some of the time. This is, consequentially, the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer.

So that’s life, all. Thanks for listening. Love to you. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in 6 Corners of the Sky

I apologize for being so malcriada and not posting for such a long time, what a life I have lived for the past two months.

I wrote my last post just before I went to Todos Santos, Huehuetenango for the world famous drunken horse races and delirious drunken marimba dances all throughout the streets. It was the greatest celebration of culture and PEACE CORPS culture I have experienced since arriving in Guatemala. The Peace Corps community rented a house and stayed there (about 60-70 of us) for the weekend of All Saints, ready to soak it all in; “it” being many things, of which most you can imagine, I’m sure. Halloween night we threw a costume party and set up a dance hall on the unfinished fourth floor of a magnificent house unoccupied by its US resident owner and slept on the floor in the 6+ bedrooms of this place. The next morning a few people braved the sunlight to watch the cemetery processions of colorfully dressing the graves and then went to join the crowds of candy-cane pants and blue-rimmed straw hats to watch the unfolding of events at the horse tracks. It is a tradition of this “dry” town to get the bravest riders drunk throughout the morning while running the horses back and forth on a short stretch of sandy path, to the point where most of them fall off in the middle of the track because they are so drunk they can no longer hold on to their horses. Literally. This, really, is the sole point of this activity. But fun it is, to watch, indeed.

Shortly thereafter, or so it seemed, I moved out of my host family’s house into my VERY OWN apartment. I painted the walls in the bedroom and bathroom a pale green and off-white and absolutely LOVE being in my own space. The time with the family was super lovely, especially towards the end where I FINALLY began to feel comfortable being absolutely myself with them and knowing they care no matter what. But having your own space is its own special kind of meditative peace and quiet, I am so grateful. I painted and moved in PROMPTLY after my site mate Matt and his wife, Meli, moved back to the United States. Emotional as it was to say goodbye, I was quite relieved to have the opportunity to find my breathing space in town. It seems warp speed the time in which it took me, at that point, to feel as if my comfort and space in town was all settling in as if I actually belong there. I really can truly say I feel at home now. Moments pass by more and more frequently in which I feel as if I DO NOT need, nor desire, to go back to the United States just yet. It feels good to be in this small town where life is simple and everything can be expected before it happens and family is so close and so defined that you really aren’t left for wanting much. I spent the day with my host sister and the family for her graduation from Diversificado (the equivalent to a very applicable tech high school degree) and felt as if I truly were a part of the family. Even Dona Vida, the momma of my host momma, was treating me as a family member – scolding me when I didn’t get pictures at the right moment, etc. It really was beautiful. That night I moved out. And from that night of November 20, it seems, life began.

So I spent the following week preparing the house, cleaning, moving in, and getting ready for about 16 PCV guests who came to spend Thanksgiving in my site with me, my site mates, and our most beloved host family. The preparation for this event included provisions for three turkeys, pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, and all the other dishes in between which, thankfully, we had our volunteer friends help provide and put together night before and day of. We celebrated the night before for my friend Kiera’s 30th birthday by ordering about 8-10 pizzas and having ice cream cake and JELLO SHOTS (strawberry and pineapple jellos mixed together – my ingenious creation). The brave ones prepared the turkeys by getting them drunk, getting them dizzy, killing them, plucking their feathers, and setting up the pans for the next day, while the rest of us enjoyed our drunkenness and the celebration of Kiera’s life (and ours, really). It was absolutely fantastic. The next day we made breakfast at my house, prepared our dishes, and headed over to stuff the turkeys and take them over to the town bakery who let us borrow their huge ovens for the day. It was a great day, this Thanksgiving day. For others as well as myself it was probably the best Thanksgiving I have ever had. There was no regret or sadness for not being at home with my family and friends (as much as I really do miss them). It was only happiness and gratefulness for being in the presence of so many that we love, understand, and appreciate in needing one another throughout this crazy Peace Corps experience. I got up and gave my palabras at dinner and almost instantly started to cry (what some of my fellow PCV’s here have dubbed as the usual “heart-to-heart with Amanda Baker”). I cried because I honestly felt in my heart and mind and body that everything that was happening at that moment with that host family and Peace Corps family was just absolutely perfect. There was no ounce of satisfaction or love missing from that event and I felt it. So overwhelmingly, in fact, that I do proclaim that the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had… along with a few other volunteer friends of mine.

Anyway, after this Thanskgiving there were only two weeks (less!!) to wait until MOM GOT HERE!!! She arrived to my site with me on December 9th and from there, what a holiday it has been. We started by having Walter (a Garcia brother of mine) pick us up in San Marcos to drive us back to site where they insisted we ate lunch before going home to decompress. They cooked a delicious meal of grilled chicken and forced a bit of rum down our throats before sending us home to rest. Everyone instantly loved mom, of course. The whole time we were there we were told how friendly you could tell she was just by looking at her face, and how young and preserved she was even though she is %@ years old.  Everyone absolutely loved her. The next morning I cussed out the construction workers right in front of my house when they tried to deny my request to move their 50 lb bags of concrete away from RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY DOOR so I didn’t have to trip over them on my way out and as things escalated, I sent my counterpart over to talk to the owner of the job site. After that, they didn’t bother me. Saturday my friend Lauren from Comitancillo (the town next door – 2 hours away by foot AND by bus) joined my new site mate, Jaron, me, and my mom for some wine and dinner. It was absolutely delicious and such wonderful times. Sunday we made spaghetti for my host family for lunch and relaxed in the evening. Monday we went to my host family’s house, made a TON of chocolate-chip cookies (host grampa’s favorite), and accompanied them to the family’s land up above Tejutla for the day. We shared a DELICIOUS lunch of pollo con crema, many stories of what kind of work mom did and does now, wool-lined boots for a Christmas present from us (and Thank You for treating me like one of their own and taking care of me) which had almost everyone in tears. It was such a heartfelt and gratifying event, so validating of my time here. We then napped on the crazily terraced hillside of their once-farmed land to watch the sun settle into the afternoon sky and listen to their cows drink from the fresh-water spring facing Volcan Tajumulco. Indescribable beauty and calm. Tuesday my Garcia family came over to dinner with us and the site mates and mom made her chili, which is now WORLD FAMOUS!! So much fun, I ABSOLUTLEY love them and how at home I feel with them. I’m so happy they had the chance to meet mom, although they were quite displeased at having missed the opportunity to meet Dad and Olivia, too. But even still, all was beautiful and well. Wednesday we went to the office and then to Momma Meli’s house for dinner. It was so sweet, they made us a typical meal of beans, fried plantains, and chicken. So delicious. And so great a time – what a wonderful family that I have yet to experience the best of times with. There are three nephews/sons, all eight years old, that are super talkative and loving and excited about life—such a refreshing thing in Guatemala. The three sisters are just BEAUTIFUL women with whom I am very excited to share much love in the next year, and Momma Meli, the sisters’ mom, is the most dear lady in town – you cannot help but instantly love her. Thursday we went to Quipambe, one of my community groups, and made spaghetti with the ladies for the Clausura (the end-of-year reflection and projection of prosperity and greatness that has come into our lives) and enjoyed listening to them chatter, talk to mom in Spanish, watch me stand in front of the stove because I sat in unseen spilled pineapple juice, and EAT. It was such a pleasurable experience for momma, to see the lifestyle, to share in the love that is ever-present between all Guatemalans and the world. Thursdsay night was dinner at Joe’s with Charlie (3 lbs worth of burgers – DELICIOUS). Joyous night to send us off, sadly, the next day to Xela.

Since Xela it has been TRUE vacation in the nice restaurants and resorts that are so un-Guatemala but so relaxing. Dad and Olivia FINALLY arrived Tuesday night (the 21st) and it’s been fantastic. We wandered through the markets of Antigua, the crazy grocery stores, and the bars/restaurants that my volunteer friends and I frequent, enjoying taking our time. Today was Christmas Eve and we made brunch and wandered into town in the afternoon, had a beer at one place and shots of Don Julio at another, just enjoying ourselves. We ate at a blues/jazz bar and had tapas for Christmas Eve dinner, retiring early only to be woken up at midnight by Christmas in 6 corners of the sky. I’ve not properly explained to you the great tendency to be pyro-crazy in this country, but telling you that you could literally hear and SEE magnificent fireworks coming from about 6 different places in the sky this evening may do that fact justice. It was such an overwhelming and wonderful way to bring in Christmas day, such an unusual (for us) Christmas, yet so filled with magnificence. I do not believe there will ever be a Christmas like it. Having my family here has been the greatest joy, and being able to share with them what I love about this country, the people I love here, and just time has been such a blessing to end the year with. I cannot fully explain my joy at this moment.

In one week I will be flying off to Costa Rica for New Years… more to come soon. I love you all immensely and hope that you have enjoyed this Christmas season as much as I have been able to. Merry Christmas, everyone. Pictures will come when I have more time (and it’s not the middle of the night) to upload them. <3 <3 <3 Love you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Sunset

It appeared as if the sun was setting in three parts of the sky. 

These photos were all taken within 5 minutes of each other.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Over the Hump

There was a day a couple weeks back that was so incredible, I don’t think it could ever be topped in its magnificence. I was getting ready to go to Quipambe and a little stressed out; it was our first meet. I was suddenly hit by a moment of clarity so strong that I no longer felt a part of the earth. It was like I could see everything that was happening around me, everything that would happen in my life, and was SO aware of the beauty that I make my life out to be. I literally felt high – a little overwhelming. Of course it made me cry; it was so beautiful to feel so sure and all-knowing of life and what I’m doing in it.

If only we could have those kinds of days every day. Anyway, out of that came the realization of my dream to be a professor and do ALL SORTS OF THINGS in life that just seem so perfect I can’t hardly wait to get started on the path towards doing them. I’m hoping to start online classes in January to jump ahead on some pre-requisites for the Masters of Science in Nutrition and Clinical Health Psychology (Bastyr University), or a few other Masters of Public Health – Nutrition programs I’m looking at. I’m SO excited.

But this excitement has been making it a little difficult to maintain my enthusiasm about being here. Oh, Guatemala. It is so unbelievably gorgeous yet covered with so much trash. The people are so unbelievably friendly yet plagued by fatalism and poor health/malnutrition. The work is so simple yet so far from realization, it’s almost discouraging. I’m supposed to just DO and let be done, without being so concerned with the outcome. Maybe learning how to do that will be my greatest accomplishment here.

 This morning I asked the “powers” that be for some kind of inspiration or reminder of why it is so great to be here. I was riding in a very crowded taxi on the way to El Horizonte with Virginia, a técnica at ADICTA, and her 5-(or so)-year-old daughter, Neyneli, who is always accompanying her (us) to the office and to community visits. She’s very precious. She was basically sitting on my lap because of how crowded the taxi (i.e. clown car) was. As she leaned up against me on the bumpety, washed-out dirt road I felt present and peaceful. I was happy to be there, to have relationships with Guatemalans that make me feel close with them, and to go give a charla that I was too tired to give. Well, when we got there, the meeting was nonexistent… some faulty line of communication (typical of Guatemala). This did not make me mad; I was actually excited to just sit there and relax with the lady of the house (Doña Reina) to chat about random things. When it came time to leave I waited on the road in front of her house for another clown car to come by and got to see the sun shine through the clouds and disperse its immaculate gold light. This beauty is just as extraordinary the second time around as it was the first. I’m sure it will never lose its splendor. This photo does no justice to the way it shone over the valley.

Anyway, every now and again I get glimpses of that excited “I’M A PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!” attitude I so fervently came here with. It is a great thing that I am doing; for Guatemala but mostly for myself. I love that I’m challenged, very apparently, to better myself and to be for the people of Guatemala what I want to be for everyone, all of the time. So as I listen to all the people COSing (CloseOfService-ing) and exclaiming how great it is to finally be an RPCV, I patiently wait my turn. I look forward to the next year’s worth of lessons and successes. It can only be good, no matter how hard it seems to have a life devoid of Jamba Juice’s REVIVED Pumpkin Smash smoothie and Zeta and Sacramento fall and tile floors without rolly-pollies crawling all over them and beds without fleas and streets without failed-smog-check or burning plastic fumes.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Year Left

First year DONE.

Some tricks:
-          Learning how Guatemala works
-          Learning how Guatemalans work
-          Learning how to be myself in a culture where I’m not really allowed to be mySELF
-          Learning how to eat right in this place full of carbs, carbs, carbs, and protein (and no use of the abundance of fresh and beautiful vegetables)
-          Learning how to BE with myself, by myself, for large periods of the time

Some treats:
-          Living in the vast belleza that is Guatemala
-          Having the comfort of close friends
-          Having technology to connect with my most loved ones
-          Connecting with my host family and Guatemalans
-          Working with Guatemalans

Some things for which I’ve learned to take off my costume:
-          How to be myself and remember myself no matter whose company I am in
-          How to FEEL myself at all times
-          How to remember what’s most important and what I can afford to let go of
-          How to KNOW that my day and my LIFE are what I make them, what I WANT them to be
-          How to let myself love others regardless of what thoughts may be in their heads

I just went through my mid-service medical exams and all is well (no tuberculosis, no cavities!!). What was even better was when everyone that “examined” me asked, “HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE JUST ONE YEAR LEFT?! YOU MADE IT SO FAR ALREADY!” Well, I suppose it feels great to have come this far and to be able to see things differently and ways in which I have changed. It feels great to finally feel like I’m accepted and appreciated here. It feels great to know how fast the past year went by and how the next year should go by even faster; not only because it means I get to go home sooner, but also because I will be working more and feeling more fulfilled in what I’m doing.

Guatemala is great – the people, the places, the things to do and learn… I do not regret a thing. I especially love the people that have come into my life because of my being here, and the life I’ve learned to live because of my experiences.

Change is the only constant thing in life, and I’m grateful for that. We are always growing and learning and doing things that get us where we are supposed to be in life.

Here’s to one more year of change!

Happy almost Halloween.