So....the last few blog posts have been sporadic and a bit random. Thinking back, I’m noticing that I managed to evoke guns, cowboys and Field Based Training in some brief outbursts that, truthfully, are the result of not having my computer with me - I didn’t bring it with me to Chiquimula, a town of +/- 50,000 people in Eastern Guatemala where I spent last week.
It seemed like a good idea to leave my laptop locked up back at home with my host family. The other option was to lug it around or leave it in a strange hotel room, which, I should mention, seemed to overlook a daily street circus. Seriously, Chiquimula was a big change from the sleepy little town of 10,000 where I’m living right now. Maybe it was just the city size, or our hotel’s proximity to a huge open-air market, or the some cultural nuance emerging from the heat, dust, scantily clad women and the belt buckle/cowboy hat/gun combo, but it was vivid. The noise began at 4 AM with a construction worker and his sledgehammer, continuing until well after midnight with blaring ranchera music coming from shady customers at a nearby bodega. Exciting!
Furthermore, people in Eastern Guatemala primarily identify themselves as Ladino, and there is almost no visible Indigenous population (i.e. women don’t wear traditional dress, the bright, woven shirts and skirts called traje that you see everywhere here in the West). You can sense the differences immediately – men are more macho, women are more vocal, and people are more open. It’s a completely different Guatemala.
All in all, it was a great week, as our whole Municipal Development training group made the trek out East and the 16 of us pretty much took over our hotel. We got a per diem (I ate calzones, chicken parmesean sandwiches and pizza rolls every night), caught up on each other’s chisme (gossip), and spoke lots of English (to our Spanish teachers’ dismay). Of course, there was plenty of work – each day we visited a current Muni volunteer working in the region. We saw their offices (both big and small), met their Guatemalan counterparts (some didn’t exist), sat through interminable meetings (one was 5 hours no lie), saw their successes (one girl fundraised over 75,000 Qs for a library!), heard about their challenges (loneliness, frustration, pace of life) toured their apartments (some really nice digs!), helped with their projects (painted a jungle gym) asked questions (“how do I get my OWN place with an avocado tree?”) and basically learned about the realities of Peace Corps life.
It was a pretty interesting week, but now I’m just anxious to get my own site. October 14th is the official announcement date, when they’ll reveal exactly where I’ll be living for the next two years, but the exciting news is that my project coordinator gave me a general idea during a formal interview last week. He suggested that I’d be living somewhere in the far West, among the mountains below Xela (Quetzaltenango) and San Marcos.