I've learned, from different cultural norms, how I can benefit from approaching life in different ways. Guatemalans cherish above all else their family ties. Like in many culture s in the world it is not weird to live with your parents and even your grandparents. There isn´t a child or teenager that doesn´t know how to take care of a baby. Guatemalans are always smiling and cracking jokes. Guatemalans are always reminding their friends how much they mean to them (There are also countless things I could list that I now appreciate even more about Americans and the US) . Guatemalans form close knit communities. Guatemalans walk A LOT slower and can spend hours on the walk home stopping to talk with family and friends. Guatemalan families with nothing will always offer food/drink to guests. Guatemalans are very resourceful. Guatemalans treasure moments (nobody knows what tomorrow brings) and face-to-face time. Guatemalans will climb up a mountain (thinking of specifically this mountain pictured below), balancing a huge stack of firewood on their head or back, have a baby tied on their back, while holding the hand of a toddler. Guatemalans are quick to share something nice to say and very hesitant to ever say something out of anger to you.
|San Andres Xecul, Volcano Santa Maria|
While two years of riding in the back of pickups or squished into old American schoolbuses with loud reggaetone music could get old... I will miss it. The pictures below show how crowded the pickups into the center were. If I were standing there my head would tower above everyone. The weighed down tail of the pickup scrapes over every one of the 20 some gigantic speedbumps into town.
|Trying to catch a ride into town before the pickup leaves|
|And we´re off!|
At the end of our service we give a presentation to the community about what we have accomplished in our two years at site. A few Peace Corps staff members came from the office to show their support and give thanks. Below is a picture taken after the presentation outside of the community tourism office.
|In front of the tourism office|
|History of the church with a local guide|
Below is a picture of Al and his daughter Kathleen visiting a family in Xecul that they have been donating to for years. My sitemate Laura and would join them for dinner some nights and help with translating.
|Wedemeyer Family from Kentucky|
I have deep friendships with many other young Americans who went through this with me. I have no doubt that these experiences will bond us together forever. We started with 50 something volunteers and at the end of the 27 months the numbers were barely over 20. Below is a picture of me with 4 of my best girlfriends. We make up the five girls that were left in the ecotourism program. From left to right... Rosie the sweet natured, soft-spoken girl from North Carolina. Me! Mimi the Mississippian with parents from Vietnam, she is a master chef, brutally honest and always loyal to her friends. Christine the biology master from Pittsburgh, was always there to cheer us up in our lowest times (the group counselor! haha). And with lots of perseverance, our little Korean-American Gracie with her always big smile.
|The back of a pickup, of course|
Below are the intricate Guatemalan alfombra designs that they make for Easter processions out of colored sawdust.
Below is a picture of me with Jose, Laura, and Elana. Jose is our close Guatemalan friend who was nice enough to host us and take Elana and I to the airport the next day. It was really weird to be at his fancy house with some of his family members speaking to us in English. Another side of Guatemala. Most families live in poverty but those who don´t usually are very well off. Laura is my sitemate from Hawaii who stil has some months to finish in San Andres Xecul. Hoping to visit her in the future! And on the far right is my sitemate Elana who worked in the healthy schools program and started with my training group and finished at the same time. I have grown very close to both of these women. Many volunteers after finishing service celebrate by traveling together in Latin America or other parts of the world together. Elana and I are doing a three week trip in Peru and a three week trip in Colombia together. On the way back to the states her family has invited me to visit their home in San Luis Obispo for a couple weeks before finally heading back to the Northwest. I hope to do a roadtrip with Elana down to San Diego where she will be starting grad school so that I can visit my aunt and uncle who are living there. Right now we are already through the Peru portion and soon here I will update another blog with our travels.