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Dec 14

Vestuario de la xnul y despedidas: Thursday, December 15, 2005

Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 in G.W.A. (guatemala wins again)


And now….my hands-down favorite saying in K’iche’:

K’ax numuxux (K’ash new mooshoosh)

Which means ‘My bellybutton hurts.’

I just cant get enough of that phrase. It is pure magic.
And it gets ’em every time. ‘That crazy gringa.’

On December 1st, we (Salud Sin Limites) celebrated the international day
for HIV/AIDS, also known here as VIH/SIDA. With the kids who participate in
our youth groups, we made a bunch of signs with catchy slogans like
‘Protect yourself from AIDS, be faithful to your partner,’ etc. Then we
borrowed a sound system from one of the overbearing evangelical churches
and put it in the back of a pickup and marched through the streets of San
Antonio, handing out informational pamphlets about AIDs (hopefully to
people who are literate. In my town, our literacy rate is kinda shoddy). It
was a great experience. The kids got really into it.

Last week what we call a medical jornada came to San Antonio for two days,
one day in a village called Chiaj and another day in the urban center. A
team of three doctors and two nurses came through an n.g.o. called

Aug 22

Que le vaya bien, Puchica!: Monday, August 23, 2004

Posted on Sunday, August 22, 2004 in G.W.A. (guatemala wins again)

At the end of last month, I officially swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer. The ceremony took placew in the home of the US Ambassador, John Hamilton. Talk about a swanky pad. I couldn’t believe it. I guess it was pretty normal for someone who has a lot of money, but it was impressive. Tennis courts, pool, sauna, art and expansive grounds.

And now the real magic has begun. I have started my work with Salud Sin Limites and am nestling into my new community of San Antonio, Ilotenango, Quiche’. And now is the time, folks. I have a house with an extra folds-into-a-bed couch with every one of your names on it.

The longer I am here, the more convinced I am that there is an all-powerful force in this country called the Guate-Ninja. In female form, she wears the traditional dress (the blouse – called a huipil and the skirt, called a corte). Her physical and multitasking abilities outrank any layperson. On her back, wrapped up in a woven blanket called a sute, she carries her newborn or her 3-year-old. If she does not have the baby strapped to her back, she has him or her in front, breastfeeding. They are so unbelievable pro-public breastfeeding here. On her head she carries (without using her hands) a huge basket she probably wove herself. The basket may contain several live tied up chickens, papayas, pineapples and a sack of dried corn. These baskets are always overflowing and quite heavy. But these women carry them with such ease. They start carrying things on their head from the age of 3 or 4.

You can find the male counterpart to the female Guate-Ninja on the camionetas (chicken buses). Their official professional title is ayudante, but I like to call them GUate-Ninjas. >They are usually between late 20s on up to early 40s. They collect the money from the passengers and crawl up onto the top of the bus (while it is moving) to secure large items people are traveling with. Their button-down shirt always has to have at least the first 4 or five buttons undone to expose their chest. They scale the length of the roof of the bus as it careens down straightaways or whips back and forth up the switchbacks winding through the mountains. Each and every highway in this country puts Chuckanut Drive to shame with its curves.

The camionetas are brightly painted old school school buses. The ayudante packs the people in until you wouldn’t have any idea if someone was shoving their hand down your pants to pickpocket you. The experience is that intimate. Even though the seats are rather small, meant for children, people sit at least 7 or 8 people across. I have actually shared one single seat with five other people. Even when you think no one else can possibly fit onto the bus, the ayudante finds a way. People cram into the aisles and when we pass cops, everyone who is standing has to scrunch down while we pass them.

Like I said, intimate. But you have to set your boundaries. I learned one lesson the hard way last week when I was coming back into the capital. I was sandwiched between these two men and each of them felt they were deserving of my shoulder as a bobbing along semi-resting place. I tried my best to shrug them off, exaggerating the force of each and every bump and lurch. Sometimes it seemed as if they got the idea, but just as soon as I thought it was safe, a head would lob back over.

Later, when we had made a connection and were riding on another bus, my friend I was with pointed to my shoulder. The guy on my left had left a greasy head print on my shoulder. A nasty brown stain was smeared into the creases of my shirt. It was horrific.

Another time I had ate something that didn’t do well the night before. I woke up in the morning and threw up in my pila (guatemalan version of a sink). I thought I had got it all out of my system and felt fine at the beginning of the 3-hour camioneta ride, so fine I even fell asleep. But, de repente I woke up and felt nauseated. Luckily, I was prepared. I rifled through my backpack and pulled out the plastic bag I had packed. Ha! So very clever. The time came and I leaned to the side and threw up into the bag. Sadly the bag had a hole, so my throw-up made its way right through the bag and onto the bus floor. It is those times that we smile to ourselves and say, with a sigh, G.W.A.

That stands for Guatemala Wins Again.
I find myself saying it an awful lot.

Jun 19

200 years of rice, beans and tortillas: Sunday, June 20, 2004

Posted on Saturday, June 19, 2004 in G.W.A. (guatemala wins again)

Salutations from the land of slap, slap, slap and we have ourselves another tortilla!

Actually, my friend Colleen and I wrote a song about the tortilla girls that work down the road Calle Principal in Santa Lucia. It is called Slap, slap. I sing and Colleen plays the harmonica.

Good times.

Last night, at about seven o’clock we heard this huge ruckus next door. There was crazy marimba music and about 35 or 40 people milling in and out of the house across the street. My family members took turns going up to the slit in the window to spy on them and try to figure out what was going on. After about an hour or so, we discovered that we were getting new neighbors. How many? It is still really hard to say. But it seemed more like a fiesta than anything else.

At about 9:30 the marimba music stopped. Phew! …Peace…

Oh no, that, my friend, is not the Guatemalan way.
Let the live music start, and let it be hardcore Evangelical music where everyone laughs and screams and /or yelps and faints. For hours and hours. I don’t recall when it did finally end, but oh dear.

I was thinking we needed to send them over a housewarming gift or something, but dude. I am not so sure now. That music is too much.

Guatemala, more than anything else, is a country of sounds.

Besides the Evangelical music, here are my top 2 favorite Guate sounds:

1) When I am sitting in my language class or technical program training session, off in the distance in the trees I hear what I like to call the Killer Birds. I haven’t actually seen one yet, but the sounds they make are so compelling – it always sends me into some sort of space-out reverie. I even have a hand gesture that goes with it. The best way I have found to describe it is the music that is played during horror movies when someone is cutting a knife across the iar to kill someone, something like, REERHH-REEEERH REERRHH. Does that mean anything to anyone? OK…

2) In addition to the guys who haul around in the pickup truck with their loudpseakers vending fruits and veggies at the buttcrack of dawn, we have the firecrackers. At first I thought it was only for special occasions like Semana Santa or Mother’s Day or someone’s birthday. Slowly I began to discover that it doesn’t have to be someone’s birthday. It can be Thursday or Sunday or tomorrow morning. And it usualy begins at about 530 am. For some people it was a bit disconcerting at first, but now, it is almost comforting. Almost. Sometimes it still freaks the crap out of me.

This last week, we had our first field-based training. We took a microbus with our trainers and one Spanish teacher out to visit some other sites in the Oriente (east). First we visited this married couple, Timoteo and KK. They lived out in the middle of nowhere in this small aldea called Las Crucitas. But their house was charming. We met up with one of their youth groups, rented 2 pickup trucks and headed even further into the middle of nowhere to Laguna Ayarza, this great big lake in the middle of some mountains in the Department of Santa Rosa. It was magical. Hardly any people lived along the lake and the only boats in the water were two me rowing and fishing in these great big dugout wooden canoes (yes, Mom, kind of like the Kayukas in Bocas de Toro). We did several different activities with the kids to break the ice and then we had then act out a skit about environmental conservation. They were a great group, very participatory. And then we went swimming and the water was great.

We spent three days in Las Crucitas before moving on to our trainer Sara’s site in La Flor de Amayito, Jutiapa. It was much more desert. Very hot. But she also had a great house and a rocking garden. It gave me hope. Apparently all you have to do is throw down a seed and something will sprout up. have yet to see that for myself but I will let y