As always, time flew this past year and before we knew it, it was feria in Cunen once again! While it was a fun week of diversion and no responsibility (because you know I worked not one day), last year really was better. What couldn’t be controlled was the shitty weather; it was unusually chilly and rainy throughout the entire week. But the more important difference this year was that the muni tried to keep costs as low as possible; a quite prudent step, considering that the new mayor announced Cunen to be Q6 million in debt…impressive for such a small municipality (suffice it to say that everyone’s cursing the old mayor). Even so, the activities were abundant: election of the Mayan queen on Sunday night, election of Miss Cunen on Monday night, a First Communion on Wednesday afternoon (and the first of like 7 convites), burning of the castillo and toritos (castle and little toros, both comprised of fireworks, neither particularly safe!) on Wednesday night, and…Los Conejos on Thursday night! Last year Los (Internacionales!) Conejos played in the park and the dance was free, but this time it was a private dance with a Q45 entrance fee…so worth it! I love them; it’s a like 15-member marimba band that’s super fun to dance to. Mary Frances from Uspantan joined us to dance the night away…celebrating Darren’s birthday from afar :)
the First Communion girl and her sister (on the left, I want to steal her) and cousin
Cunen en fiesta
las gringas y Los Conejos!
It was a fairly emotional week as well, at the base of which were boredom and a sense of uselessness during the day, as I wasn’t working. Add to that: finding out that neither Whitney will be coming to Quiché nor Rachel to Cunen because they and the majority of my friends chose to take early COS; about 12 out of the original 32 volunteers in my training class will remain in country. And finally: the news that my grandfather passed away that Tuesday night, the second grandparent I’ve lost since arriving here. It’s true that you sacrifice many things and are changed in various ways in the Peace Corps, but some things you just don’t foresee.
Anyway, Monday was back to reality and thankfully back to work. The 2 girls replacing Kate and Melissa, Mayra and Tatiana, came to Cunen for a few days for a site visit, during which I got to spend some time with them and help them find housing. They’ll definitely be great replacements for my sitemates in terms of continuing their work, if not in terms of continuing the current “Cunen threesome.” Then Thursday I had a meeting with the Save the Children ag project coordinator, who had some interesting news. Both to give me a counterpart agency and to continue the project’s work once it ends in the next couple of months, they legalized the community agricultural leaders into an association, with whom I’ll be working. It seems that I’ll be doing more organizational strengthening rather than marketing stuff with them, as they don’t actually produce anything (they’ll continue offering agricultural and basic veterinary services to their communities, plus whatever entrepreneurial projects they want to embark on). I’m curious how motivated they are, which I’ll see when I meet with them this week. Stephen’s in the same situation in Uspantan.
On the bright side, Kate got her application for Small Project Assistance (SPA) funds approved by PC and USAID, so she’s starting her stove project this week! Melissa decided to skip the traditional SPA route and is funding her project solely with municipal support and help from friends and family – please donate and help her meet the goal of building 30 stoves in 90 days, about half of which are going to women I have a community garden with! And while you’re at it, my friend Rachel needs financial help as well – any and everything is appreciated! Both girls are staying on past their COS dates to see their projects through and make sure that the families they’ve been working with for over a year have this small improvement in their lives.
Well that’s about it for now. I got back today from a night at my friend Kate’s site in Chajul (which forms the Ixil Triangle with Nebaj and Cotzal) for her going-away party, as she has exactly one more week left of her 2 years. I’d wanted to visit her for a while as it’s an ecotourism site; I was impressed by the aldea’s beauty and the novelty of walking around in clouds because it’s so high up in the mountains! I have some more trips planned for the month, for work and for fun (I’m also seriously looking forward to a planned 2 weeks in Belize and Mexico with Kate in April), but for now it’s back to the daily grind in Cunen :)