Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Final Thoughts (A Few Months Late)

I have been meaning to post this blog since before I even left Guatemala. Now here it is, nearly the middle of August and I feel overwhelmed sorting through these photos. So many memories and such richness and sadly, it already feels so far away. My heart thumps and my eyes moisten as they glance at the hundreds of photos on my computer that represent only a fraction of my life for a short and wondrous two years. About a month ago I began to cry upon viewing a photograph of a little girl from Toto taken by a travel photographer at an art outdoor art show. An experience like Peace Corps; my experience in Guatemala, is not something that is forgotten easily, yet I feel the need to absorb and cling to it to retain every last memory and detail that my brain and heart can handle. 
Having said that, here are just a few photos from my final day in Chirijox, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, Sololá, Guatemala. 
Don Juan fell asleep while listening to his radio in the 'yard'. I was able to get just one photo of him before he woke up.
Hendrick on his way to school. We both thought this would be it, that when he came home from school I'd be on my way. Turns out nation-wide protests over the price of electricity would keep me there until late in the evening when the roads were finally opened. That evening was one of my favorites with my family; chatting, exchanging stories and eating lots of food. At night, once don Pascual from PC arrived to take me to Antigua, the whole family bundled up and we walked with flashlights down the dirt paths, arms loaded with my things to the entrance of town. The called me 'sister' and waved on the side of the road as we pulled onto the hiway.
This photo is blurry but it's the only photo I have with tiny Doña Ana. As a parting gift the group had a traje outfit made for me and I wore it for my despedida; good bye party.
Arroz con leche, rice with milk was served on the chilly morning as women arrived slowly to gather in front of my house. One by one they said good bye.
A small portion of my women's group.
That afternoon Ela came up to my house to help me do the final clean-up. There was a knot in the wood of my door that was just Hendrick's height. When he would arrive at my house he would put his finger on the knot and declare, "gling-gling"; the door bell. He taught this to Elkin, but Elkin found it much better to just lay on his belly outside and slide his fat fingers under the door and through the flap of duct tape that served to seal my door from the elements. When Hendrick asked who was there, Elkin answered, "Sapo"; frog. 

Those final days...my final week in Guatemala was a whirlwind. Once we passed the protests and I finally arrived in Antigua and the Peace Corps center, Volcan Pacaya, just over a ridge from Guatemala City, began to erupt, closing the airport. Compounding the situation was tropical storm Agatha, whose heavy downpours not only turned Pacaya's ash into cement but also washed out bridges, flooded villages and caused landslides. Volunteers where put on standfast and were ordered to stay put. Lucky for me, I had some good friends who had traveled to Antigua to say good bye so standfast turned into an extended Antigua vacation at the Burkhard. After a few days I was put on a bus and sent to El Salvador where I put another stamp in the passport, had a final visit with Makali and ate loroco papusas for breakfast before boarding my plane home. I was even bumped to first class on my flight to Houston. 
Nic met me at the airport and the following day took me to my favorite beach, Pacific City and asked me to marry him. Since then, we have been in a whirlwind of life; planning a wedding, planning our future, apartment hunting, job hunting, visiting old friends, visiting family, drinking lots of delicious beer and sampling the bounties of a NW summer, traveling on the weekends, getting a few concerts in here and there and even did some backpacking. 
That last list, that stream of activities is what I like my life to be like; busy with goodness, fullness and blessings. It feels good to be home. However, Guatemala will also be remembered as a home as well and when we return there I hope the whirlwind list of activities will be just as long. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday and Blacky

Friday Ela and I set out to visit the women and their potatoes. 
Feliciana's model tire stack, her little girl with a flower in her hair and rows of radish.
Julia's little one Denielsen watches on as we take apart her tire stack. Her plants rotted away due to undetermined reasons but we did find about a pound of golf-ball size spuds in the dirt.
Dominga attends to a customer at her carniceria while we wait to see her tire stack.

Also, in my previous blog I forgot to give proper representation to Blacky and her six-week-old pups.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Last Visit with Doña Tina and Don Pedro

As many of my readers may know, but for those who don't, I am counting down my remaining days in Guatemala. I will return to Oregon by the end of the month. My early return is not attributed to any issues or frustrations in my work but only due to outside circumstances. As such, I am in the process of wrapping up the life I have participated in for the last year and a half. For Tuesday and Wednesday that meant a trip to Quiche to pack up Nic's house and have one last meal of doña Tina's fatty tortillas. 
It is about a 40 minute walk from Nic's door to doña Tina's gate. It starts on a path and ends on a bumpy dirt road and all along gives wonderful views of green pastures and corn fields with a back drop of cloud-hung mountains.
A local woman carries her laundry to a spring for the daily load.
Almost there at the split in the road...
Don Pedro and doña Tina live such a wonderfully simple life. The house they built in 1975: two rooms and a latrine.
Doña Tina's famous meal: Beans from her field seasoned with herbs from her garden, spiced with chile, cheese from her cow and hot, thick tortillas fresh from her woodstove, all washed down with weak, overly-sugared coffee. The meal is always eaten with good conversation and laughter and always finished with "Costal llena, corazon contenta"; Feedbag full, heart happy.
Don Pedro is a lover of animals. Their dalmatian dog just had 11 puppies that he was so proud to show off.
What a beauty.
Doña Tina has such a carefree, positive and content spirit. I will miss her greatly and remember her as an inspiration.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dia de la Madre

I had yet to attend a church service since arriving in Guate; at least not a church service that wasn't held outside and for someone's birthday. Ela invited me to church on Sunday as there were going to be activities for Mother's Day so I thought I'd go for it. Even though I had a fairly good idea of what it would be like (long, slow and in K'iche), I needed to cross "church service" off my Guate list. 
While the congregation was worshiping Ela and some other women were preparing the children for their presentation.
Ela spoke about the importance of a mother...
...while the children acted out a market scene. Ela emphasized the many roles that women play in Guatemalan culture and how even though they are almost always in the home they can be important financial contributors to the household.
The older children sang a song about mothers. After the presentation the sermon started. About ten minutes in Hendrick was already causing trouble (he didn't want to go in the first place. Earlier in the day when I asked him what time we would go he responded. "I'm not going because I have to eat lunch and then I have to go to bed at 6 p.m."). I gave him my camera and told him to keep busy.
He certainly did. Although there were a myriad of shots, here are some of my favorites. Isabel carries a jug full of overly sugared coffee from the kitchen to the service to serve with the chuchitos.
This one is incredible, I think maybe my favorite shot in all my time here. Just think of the perfect timing to get that drool just before it dropped, let alone the lighting, colors and composition.
I really like the perspective on this one. 
Today, Monday, there were Mother's Day activities at the school. I joined Ela for this one as well.
Upon arrival Ela was given a name tag custom made by Hendrick. It said Ela's name at the top, Hendrick's name at the bottom, and we think it said "I love you" somewhere in the middle.
Kids wait patiently for their turn to perform a traditional dance.
Hendrick and some of his classmates lip-synced to a song about mothers while strumming cardboard guitars.
Hendrick was very into his part.
Clash of cultures: An indigenous grandma with her indigenous granddaughter in an American flag bandana and watching indigenous little girls in mini-skirts and boots dancing to the Guatemalan equivalent of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun".
And those patient kids had their time to shine.
Faces of the crowd.
These little guys did a great dance to a banda song...this was my second favorite. After Hendrick's performance, of course. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Elkin Turns 2

Ela and Benancio have been talking about Elkin's birthday party for at least the last three months. 
The night before, true to form, Ela and the other women of the family were scurrying to prepare things; decorations, food, gifts and the house. At 8:00 Cali, Charlotte and I went down to help make tamales. After helping to make the sauce we began assembling the tamales. Our goal was 180 tamales but by 11:00 we had run out of banana leaves. We were grateful, each having had a long day already. 
Doña Ana finishes the last of the tamales the next morning after buying more banana leaves.
There was even a clown. Ela invited Hendrick's first grade class to watch.
This clown wasn't any old clown, mind you. Not only did this clown speak K'iche, he was also an evangelical clown, asking the kids who loved "Jesusito" to raise their hands and then opening with a special blessing for Elkin.
I must admit, the clown was pretty funny. He had Hendrick belly-laughing nearly the whole time.
Even don Juan enjoyed himself.
Ferando, on the other hand clung for life to his aunt Isabel. Earlier, while the clown was getting ready in the house Fernando passed his door, saw him and in the same heartbeat turned around and walked straight into Isabel's arms, shellshocked. Before the clown came out to the crowd I asked Fernando if he liked him. His response: "I'm going to kill the clown."
Cali and Charlotte's votes are still out on the clown.
Working his clown magic on the boys.
And then came the piñata. One for the girls...
...and one for the boys.
Elkincito hung in pretty good most the day, considering that while we were finishing up the tamales at 11:00 the previous night he was up and drinking Coca Cola and that a line of firecrackers 5 feet long was set off at 5:30 a.m. that morning followed by birthday cake and hot chocolate for breakfast.
By the time we sang "Happy Birthday" however, he was nearly in melt-down mode.
Guatemalans love "the bite".
And melt-down begins.
After the kids left and we had lunch the church service began. Here Ela speaks to her congregation and thanks them for attending Elkin's birthday. 
Then while Ela tries to lead Elkin in a song, Elkin tries to bite the microphone.

And just like the weekend before at Fernando's party, it was a mad rush to plate and serve the tamales and cake. Cali weaves her way through the crowd, three plates in hands, like a pro.