Wow! I can’t believe that I have been in Guatemala for two weeks now. Time has been going by so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time. I have been doing a lot of observing, listening, and being vulnerable most of the time. It’s been pretty hard to have to give up some personal freedom (i.e. no tattoos, piercings, clothing choices, going out when I please), but its also paid off to make friends and slowly start to integrate into the community. Now, I walk down the street and people in my family (BTW: I have a big family!!) greet me and it makes me super happy to see them out and about in town.
View of Guate from the airplane!!
Guatemalan Mona Lisa
So much has happened and changed in my life in a matter of two weeks. Firstly, I have gotten so used to not having the Internet that I’m beginning to forget my passwords to different websites, LOL. I will try my best to recap what has happened since I last left the USA!
[Note: These are excerpts from my journal that I felt comfortable sharing]
Valentine’s Day (2/14/14):
Today was a great day! We learned our Spanish placement, and I found out I was Intermediate Mid/Advanced Basic. I felt disappointed at first because after Chile, I scored Intermediate High on ACTFL and now I’m only mid. However, I love my class and realized that I need to accept who I am in this present moment. With time and patience, mi español va a mejorar…poco a poco. It’s crazy how quickly my brain goes between English and Spanish these days. Today, we had a Carnaval where we took colored eggs filled with confetti (or pica pica) and cracked it over each other’s heads. Then, some people took paint and smeared it on people’s faces. The staff and trainees (aspirantes) got so into the activity, it was super fun.
Home Sweet Home (2/15/14):
I found out what site I will be living it, but due to Peace Corps policy, I am not allowed to disclose the name of my site. However, what I can say is that it’s a beautiful town. God is definitely looking out for me. My home stay family is nothing short of amazing. I live in a three storied house and my home stay family’s family are my neighbors. I met Vilma (my mom), Jorge (my dad), Sofía (my little sister), and Jorge Daniel aka Danny (my little brother). On top of that, I am neighbors with Kristina (my aunt), Juan (her husband), my grandparents, and I live near Vilma’s parents. Everyone is nice and wants me to be comfortable. My room is big and bright and next door to Munchies, our dog.
Photos of my house and home stay siblings
Today, I felt a bit sad because everyone keeps thanking us for coming to our site to help. But really, I am more thankful to them for showing me the importance of community. I envy my Guatemalan family because everyone knows one another and loves each other as they are. In the US, I feel that we emphasize wealth as individualism. Today, Raquel (Vilma’s mom) said something that really moved me. She said, “Somos pores pero en otras maneras, no somos pobres.” (English: We are poor, but in other ways, we are not poor). She’s so right. I’m not sure if I would say they are poor because they live in a huge house with running water, electricity, cable, and can afford to support multiple people in the household. I feel so thankful to be here and for my home stay family. This was my first night outside the house after 6pm. I love that my mom breaks gender roles and that my grandpa (her dad, Don Domingo) is anti-machismo and anti-racismo….it’s hard to find people who are willing to combat both.
Jeremy (another trainee) lives with Doña Raquel and Don Domingo. Since our families are related, we spend a lot of time together. At dinner, he shared his Peace Corps story about why he chose to join. His story really moved me. He said he saw emotional pain in not being able to feed your kids or go to college or not have access to a hospital. And he joined the Peace Corps because he didn’t want to live in a world like that anymore. That really moved me and I feel honored to be surrounded by like-minded and like-hearted individuals. It’s weird not going out on a Saturday night without my friends. I’m going to watch a movie and crash since I’m teaching Sunday school tomorrow, eek!
+ I went to a family party with about 80+ Guatemalans and a baby shower in one day!!!
Baby shower games!
+ I went running with my Spanish class/friends/homies in this beautiful park called Parque Ecologico Florencia. It’s super hard running at such high altitudes! I think we ran about 1 mile or so, and then walked the rest. I felt proud of us for running, especially since it was so high up and I had allergy problems.
My awesome classmates and teacher!
+ I learned how to sing Happy Birthday in Spanish:
Feliz cumpleaños a ti (x3)
Feliz cumpleaños a [person’s name]
Feliz cumpleaños a ti.
Ya queremos pastel (x3)
Aunque sea un pedacito, ya queremos pastel!
+ I am getting more acclimated. So much that I was on la hora chapína today. La hora chapína is CP (Colored People) time in the US, LOL
+ I found out there is Peace Corps Vagina Monologues….so you know I will be signing up! 😀
+ I have athlete’s foot (#gross), but its getting better, poco a poco.
+ I’m feeling super amped about our MCH (Maternal and Child Health Project). We have two major goals: to improve institutional infrastructure and community/capacity building. Will explain more once I understand more!
+ It is hella loud in Guatemala. At any given hour, I can hear roosters, club music (I found out I live near a gym that bumps music to animarse la gente), and dogs barking at night. I don’t sleep with ear plugs, but once I’m in bed, I don’t really hear these things except the roosters again at 4am. I’m starting to get more used to sounds of the campo and not city sounds of cars, police, helicopters, music, etc.
+ Religion is a big deal in Guatemala. To my surprise, there is a big division between Catholics and Evangelicals, so much to the point that some people will not associate with people who are not of the same religion.
So that’s about it for now!!! I miss and love everyone back home in the States! It’s hard being away from everything that makes me feel comfortable, but I’m making friends and feeling more and more assimilated into my home stay family.