So, I am finally here. I became a Peace Corps volunteer and then had an envelope handed to me with a name of a town that I’ve never heard of. After one of the most emotional goodbyes of all time, I got on a micro with my counterpart (who now may or may not think that I am emotionally unstable) and landed in a small mountainous town in the clouds. My site is truly a beautiful place. As a native Angeleno, I could never see myself living outside of a major city, none the less in a town that is in the middle of the forest. I am enchanted by my town every morning when I wake up and see clouds rolling over the tops of pine trees. I wonder if this is what the world looks like to God. The people in my town are very friendly and speak English, Spanish, and K’iche’.
It was a little off putting when I first came here and people would speak to me in English, but its because a majority of people in my town either immigrated to Los Angeles or have family members that moved there or to other cities in the States. My hair has become a source of fascination for people: I am frequently stared at in either awe or fascination. I always overhear people asking how do I comb it or if it feels rough or soft. I’ve let people touch my hair because it helps them understand and it doesn’t really bother me that much. People also think I’m Belizean. My coworker asked me if I was Belizean because she thinks Black people are just really pretty people. Shout out to these Guatemalans who love Black people!
Another thing that has been weird about living in a small town is that within a week, people know who I am. Today I was walking home from the health center, and the ayudante (bus attendant) went “ch-ch! Taylor! Donde va? A Xelaaa?” I had to start laughing because I don’t think I’ve ever seen this man anywhere, yet he knew my name. I went to church last Sunday and I was almost converted to Evangelism! The pastor prayed for me and asked the congregation if they wanted to be my friend and my sister. So now, people call me Hermana Tyler #blessed. Also, people recognize me because of Bill, who is my incredible site mate. He’s been helping me get adjusted and integrated into my community. Bill is in his late 60s and he’s probably one of the most funniest and interesting people I’ve ever met in my life. That sounds dramatic, but if you met Bill, you’d probably say the same thing.
My new homestay family is really nice, although they are very different from my original homestay family. I’ve likened my family and living situation to Volver meets Casa de Bernanda Alba. I live on a compound in the campo with all women, who work hard and are each so unique.
There’s Doña Gloria, who sells chuchitos in the park on Fridays. She has a daughter named Miriam who lives in the States, and she likes to call me Ty because its cute and also because its easier than Tyler.
There’s Esme who is our 17 year old maid. I am the closest to her in my family. It’s kind of sad because she is one of 8 children and she doesn’t get to see her family that often. I’ve been trying to talk to her at least every day so we won’t be lonely.
Doña Paula and Adam
There’s Doña Paula, who is this 85 year old lady who looks out for me and treats me like her daughter, although I’ve only known her for a few days. Maybe its because I took care of her when she was sick.
There’s Doña Rosa, who reminds me of Raimunda from Volver. She told me that her family has a lot of secrets and that she will share them all with me, one day at a time. She’s married to a doctor in Xela and she’s pretty awesome. Doña Rosa is one of 10 children (Doña Paula or Pau is her mom), and I met 5 of her sisters. It was wild! There’s Gladis who has a baby, Adam and Yaimi who is 22 and works at Wendy’s in Xela. I am trying not to compare my current homestay family to my old one, because its completely different. I live apart from them, and I cook/clean/fend for myself. I was way more integrated into my training community family, but I also have only been here for one week, so I’m giving it time to develop into a different but hopefully fulfilling relationship.
This week has been the longest week of my life. It has been extremely real being in site. I try to find small victories in little things, such as having electricity or being invited to eat lunch with my coworkers. But there has been some minor obstacles that have made the transition a little bumpy. But hey, this is the Peace Corps and I did have a very plush and comfortable life in training.
First and foremost, I had no furniture when I arrived so I slept in a room that had a bed. That was a blessing because I had anticipated sleeping on my yoga mat. However, one of my suitcases got sent to another site, and that was the suitcase that had my yoga mat. So really, I would have been sleeping on the floor. And for that, I am grateful especially during rainy season where my floor gets wet every time it rains. The first night, rain water somewhat flooded my room and there was hail on the ground. I’ve never seen hail before, but apparently, you can eat it and it tastes sweet (this is according to my coworker, José).
What my room looked like when I got here
The room was cool until I realized it was ant infested and I woke up with bug bites the size of dimes on my arms, legs, and face. I had no money when I got here and no food. The ants ate my only food source, which was bread in the shape of an alligator that my homestay family made for me since they own a bakery. I got a bed on a camioneta (bus) without ropes and now have a nice comfy and bug free bed. I put up my mattress cover protector, kept the original plastic on, and also put up my mosquito net. I felt so invigorated by getting a bed on the bus that I was ready to get my stove and other things the next day. The next day, I woke up and was so sick: I was vomiting everywhere and having intense bowel movements. Come to find out that I had food poisoning! But, after downing oral rehydration salts for 8 hours, it passed and I was able to go to our market day. It felt really good to spend time with Bill and my homestay family. I even was able to regatiar (barter) a lot of my stuff down, so maybe I’m getting better after all!
I’ve started to get to know more of my co-workers, and they have been helpful in getting me out into the field. For me, its been hard being idle and in observation mode. I just want to do something, so I’ve been going wherever my coworkers go. I got to help weigh babies, which was fun! Its sad watching babies be vaccinated. Their cries sound like someone is being murdered, but they get over it very quickly.
One of my coworkers, Greysi
I feel like a baby often times. I don’t understand what is going on, and when something hurts such as being lonely, I just want to cry but then it passes and I’m ok. It’s still hard, but such is life and you just have to put your big girl panties on and get on with it. Ironically, I was on the bus one day and Backstreet Boy’s Show me The Meaning of Being Lonely came on. Really, truer words have never been said. I do feel lonely a lot, but poco a poco (little by little), its getting easier to be alone. Even though I lived alone in the States for a majority of college and after it, its not the same as living alone and being solitary most of the day in another country where you’re interacting mainly in Spanish.
The funniest and also tragic thing happened to yesterday. I was on another roll, I paid my rent, got fresh water delivered to my house in 10 minutes, and got on the bus and went to Xela to get more things for my house. Everything was great until on the way home, when I realized my keys were not in my backpack. It was raining, my phone was dead, and to top it off, the only set of spare keys I have were locked inside my house. I spent an hour and 45 minutes on the ride home being salty and mad at myself, but I also did come up with 3 solutions:
1) Sleep and eat with my homestay family, in the morning go to locksmith and change my locks
2) Enter the ant infested room and bust down the door that’s been hidden by a wardrobe that connects to my room.
3) Sleep outside with the cats in the rain if all else fails.
I started panicking because it was Thursday and that’s when my family has to go to Evangelical church which goes on for 3 hours (not exaggerating, I went to one service already!). I got home right in time, because my family was about to leave but they ended up directing me to Doña Rosa, who was home visiting. I met her husband and we went with Solution #2. We moved the wardrobe, dismantled the wood piece that was on the door, and I got into my room. Never have I been more happy, relieved, and excited to be in my room!! However, I do want to give myself kudos because at no point did I bust a tear or get dramatic. I found a feasible solution to a somewhat serious problem (because no one else has a copy of my keys but me).
Yesterday kind of sums up what I’ve been feeling. Yes, I’ve been sick, lonely, and sad (and all at the same time), but I still have gotten up and gone to work. I feel overwhelmed by these major life changes, but I still smile when I see the sun and my cats playing on the tin roof and seeing Doña Paula drinking her tea in the morning light. Even though it has been rough, I feel like I am where I need to be. I find myself focusing more in the immediate now than in the future. I am getting better at talking through my feelings. I treasure the small things, like hearing my friend’s laughter on the phone and knowing that we’re going through this together. I’ve been reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruíz, and the last agreement has been the most pertinent to my life right now: always do your best. So that’s what I’m doing. My best these days is being present, coming to work with a smile on my face and ready to work, waking up and making my breakfast & lunch but still being ON TIME (#getit). Overall, I’m just trying to do and be my best at all times. Next month is going to be better, I’m getting more active and will be pretty busy at work. I think that will help with the loneliness and general feeling of confusedness. I’m excited to get more settled into my space and to get to know my community better. I really do like where I’m living, and I’ve been getting really good vibes from the people I’m around. Giving it a little time, and everything will be ok, or so I believe 🙂
What my room likes like now!!!