I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 weeks already since my wonderful vacation home! It was so amazing and rejuvenating to see all my friends and family after 15 months. [Sorry if I was particularly socially awkward…I never had much going for me to begin with, but it became obvious that I now need to be re-socialized lol] It was also a rather surreal experience walking around the familiar streets of Bayside, Manhattan, and Bethlehem after so long. Most things hadn’t changed – the ridiculousness of Lehigh/Laf, the crowds in New York, my old office at the UN. But then I found myself being bossed around my outrageous niece, admiring all the cool things my friends have been doing since graduation, and wrapping my head around the fact that my parents finally got CABLE TV, and it hit me how much time has passed (my life in Guatemala generally feels insulated from time, maybe due to the generally consistent weather?). Even so, I’m glad I waited so long to make my first trip to the States, as I now have less than a year left here to enjoy, rather than being intimidated by more time. And as much of a culture shock it was to be back in the developed world – excellent shower pressure! hot water from the tap! DRINKABLE water from the tap! food that won’t make you instantly sick! – I’m glad I got a dose of it now so that I don’t feel like a total alien when my 2 years are up. Let’s just say that I appreciate the little things a lot more now! And this stint home also proved baseless most of the irrational fears I’ve been developing here: the subway made me a little anxious, but Manhattan did not scare the shit out of me; I felt comfortable in footwear other than hiking shoes and Teva sandals; I didn’t embarrass myself in eating situations (it turns out that I only lose my table manners when presented with meat and only a spoon). However, I stayed clear of any supermarkets, so I can’t say if my previous fear of them has gotten worse or not!
So now have I settled back into life in Guatemala? By now, yes, but I didn’t have to for a while. For starters, my awesome college friend Anais was unexpectedly in the country the weekend I got back, so I got to spend some quality time with her. Then I had a really helpful training for several days in Chimaltenango on working with kids on school gardens, during which I stayed at my friend Alene’s house (thank you for putting up with me!). From there I headed to Xela for 2 nights for a GAD meeting, before finally making it back to Cunen this past Saturday. All of this while hauling a 50-pound suitcase around on chicken buses. Disclaimer: the bus drivers and ayudantes (helpers) did most of the handling of said suitcase. But still, it was an extremely exhausting journey…look up Guatemala City g Antigua g Chimaltenango g Quetzaltenango g Santa Cruz del Quiché g Cunen (if you can find it) on a map sometime! Needless to say, I was ecstatic (for the first and probably last time) to be back in site! And of course to be back with my favorite sitemates, despite them trying to make me feel bad for leaving them… :)
One week into being really back, things are finally back to normal. I went to the market Sunday, hung out with my host family and friends in town. Luckily work has been slow so far this week, since I was NOT ready to pick things up right away! I began working with a new agricultural group yesterday; they’re really motivated, so I’m excited to work with them, but the community is FREEZING! Yesterday was additionally my half birthday (left uncelebrated, sad times) and Quema del Diablo (“burning of the devil”), when everyone publicly burns their trash outside. It’s fairly disgusting, but also serves as the unofficial start to my favorite part of December here: fireworks! Lighting a sparkler with the embers of your burning trash is totally normal, right? And today Cunen celebrated the Virgen de Concepción with one of our infamous convites – 20 costumed and (creepily) masked pairs dancing in the streets throughout the day to a live marimba band with a truckfull of speakers. Apparently it’s tradition to eat tamales for breakfast for the occasion, so my adorable neighbor who always brings them to me (I don’t have the heart to tell her I don’t really like tamales) invited me over to eat with them this morning. I felt so bad because I guess I didn’t say goodbye to them before I left for NY and they were asking all over town to make sure I was okay when they didn’t see me!
Finally, I somehow managed to not take any photos while home, but here are some highlights from my travels before and after:
my sitemates and I as TOURISTS for Halloween
at the Sumpango kite festival
with Anais after running all around Antigua
Alene’s dogs that slept with me and Cara
I just uploaded the rest onto facebook :)