Monday, July 25, 2011

Progress, in installments

I’ve been reading about the terrible heat wave making its way across the States and all I can say is, I’m sorry!  When I got here last August at the tail-end of Guatemala’s winter/rainy season, I was miserable and cold.  However, whether due to the same climate change forces the US is currently experiencing, or because the supposed resurgence of summer during the month of July, the weather here has been pretty perfect :)  Hot days, cool nights, and no sudden rain storms plaguing my afternoon community visits.  The clouds forming outside as I type might bring some relief to the farmers, though!  I’m curious (read: apprehensive) to see how August progresses and if the roads become impassable or not.

But this post is about progress, and more specifically how it comes in spurts.  And how in between those spurts, it’s very easy to forget about any progress made.  For example, I was so bored on Thursday that I remained shut up in my house like a hermit for 48 hours, until Saturday evening.  During those mildly suicidal yet productive 2 days, I neither dwelled on the successes of the previous week or 2 nor could I revive myself enough to predict how fun the end of my self-imposed state of recluse would be.  As my mood swing back to joy principally involved the return of sitemates and other volunteers passing through, I am further convinced that I could not have done this experience alone.  Also that I am a great self-entertainer but ultimately a terrible hermit!

I’ve diverged again – as I mentioned, the last week or 2 have actually been fairly successful.  Work-wise, Save the Children hired a new marketing specialist, Enrique, to work with us.  I was extremely skeptical at first because Enrique became our new Supervisor while Allan, the previous unhelpful Supervisor and whose daily work is a complete mystery to me, was promoted to Coordinator.  I further could not comprehend why Save was hiring new people when it a) supposedly has no money and b) is looking to end all projects northern Quiché by next June (I’m here until October…).  I have to say, though, after one particularly productive brainstorming (lluvia de ideas!) meeting, I am impressed with Enrique and his leadership abilities.  While Allan (though a nice guy) never inspired anything in anyone, Enrique came up with a solid 6-month plan and was very open to altering and adding on to it, especially to more actively include Stephen and I.  With a sidestep back to pessimism, that was the first installment; follow-up on the plan has been lacking.  Returning to my natural optimism: I also had a bunch of successful capacitations, teaching about responsible micro-lending, nutrition, and a manure “tea” organic fertilizer :)

Progress with my new neighbors has come haltingly as well.  On the one hand, my direct neighbors across the street persist in their blank stares/dirty looks whenever I greet them.  I for the life of me cannot understand why, considering I am far less threatening than other people actually from town, but I guess being a gringa and renting a nice house causes jealousy/envy/resentment.  Oh well.  On the other hand, a woman a few houses down has taken a particular liking to me and brought me over a tamal yesterday evening :)  She was also overjoyed that it wasn’t one of us gringuitas (little white girls lol) that died in a recent car accident in town – the victim was a woman from out of town, who wore pants and had light hair – it was actually really sweet!  Oh and I also forgot to mention that I had my old host family over for lunch last weekend, which was really nice; I always liked the family a lot and I think it’s easier to appreciate them now that I’m not living under their somewhat crowded roof!

To end this installment (!), I do not have any new photos to post, but I do have some exciting news: my plane tickets are booked to go home from November 13th-26th!!!  It’s funny how I was originally never planning on returning to the States during my 2 years and now I CANNOT WAIT!  Thanksgiving, Lehigh/Laf, friends, family, food, stainless/hole-less/form-fitting clothes…mmmmm :)

PS – Felicidades to all gay couples now legally allowed to marry in New York!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Monthly update…

So as the title suggests, this may be turning into a monthly update instead of something more frequently.  But that’s ok, as my life isn’t all that interesting and I know you all can only take me once a month, right? ;)

I do have rather excellent news: I am all moved-in into my new house!!  Apparently my landlord and I had some miscommunication (welcome to my life…) and he built a whole fence, instead of part one that could be extended.  SO once that was finally finished, I snapped some photos, sent them to Peace Corps, and got the approval to move in!  The OK came fairly simultaneously with the rest of the furniture I’d ordered from a carpenter in Uspantan, about an hour away.  THAT was kind of a hassle; of course it was raining and since the banks were closed and the ATM was out of service, we convinced the poor uncomprehending guy to take American dollars at the current exchange rate.  We found out later that Guatemalans can only exchange US$ if they have an account at the bank, so luckily my friend Stephen who lives in Uspantan was able to help the guy out lol, since the rule doesn’t apply to Americans.  Anyway, the moral of the story is that I’m living in a wonderful (almost) fully furnished house!  I need some more chairs, and mirrors, and pans, and a table, and I’m sure other things, like gardening tools and curtains, but I’m set for now :)

my furnished kitchen:

my furnished bedroom:

my giant pila and part of the backyard:

Hmmm since I last wrote, I turned 23.  That was super fun celebrating in Panajachel and Antigua.  I was just in Antigua again last week for July 4th.  We had a pretty interesting all-volunteer conference last Friday on hot volunteer topics and then a hopping party the next day – the 2nd not the 4th, as a Saturday was unaccountably deemed more appropriate.  I mentioned last time that I’m now on the Gender and Development (GAD) committee and my main job is running the 4th of July raffle and selling merchandise during the conference and party…HUGE SUCCESS!  We ended up soliciting 96 prizes and raised over Q7,000 between ticket and merch sales, almost $1,000!  The only downside was a conflict between GAD and VAC (the Volunteer Advisory Committee, who runs weekend activities) during the raffle drawings, but hopefully there won’t be any lasting issues on that front.  And credit must be given to them for a fun party and a great after-dance-party :)  A few friends and I decided to stay in Antigua for a few more days, the highlight of which was a redneck party at Mono Loco, the American bar/restaurant in town, on the actual holiday :)  As usual, I spent far too much of my meager monthly allowance on excellent food and drink (and less excellent hostels), so I’m a little broke for the second month in a row…oh well, at least I’ve got everything I need!  Including internet and a working cell phone…it turns out that losing 2 cell phones in a 5-day period isn’t as hard as you’d imagine, who knew?

my sitemates and I at the party:

The Antigua trip was also inadvertently a despedida for 1, probably 2, friends who have decided to leave early.  Or “early terminate” in PC-speak; how awful is that?  Anyway, they’ve both been very unhappy with their work situations (aka no work) and are out in the lonely eastern part of the country, where there are very few volunteers.  They will both be greatly missed and I hope things work out better for them in the States.

Of course it’s extremely hard not to question my own situation here in light of their decision.  I mean, work is…work.  It’s not especially good, but I guess it’s not terrible either.  And I do have 2 amazing sitemates and a lot of solid relationships, both with Americans and Guatemalans.  I don’t plan on going home early, but it has made me think a lot about if I actually like it here or not.  On the whole, I do.  Life can just be super difficult…my friend Carolyn does a great job of expressing our collective frustrations here.  So while I do kind of look forward to the end of my service here, I still have quite a bit of time left that I want to make the best of.  Although who wouldn’t look forward to October 2012 plans of traveling through Latin America for a month or 2?  (Positions for travel buddies are still open!)  I’m also starting to plan for the future by studying for the Foreign Service Officer Test in October of this year!  So much for photojournalism ;)