Dia de Todos Santos

On November 1st, about 20 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) traveled to the town of Sumpango for their annual Festival de Barriletes (Kite Festival). Because on November 1st, Guatemalans celebrate Todos Santos, (All Saints), a day on which families remember their deceased loved ones. Families adorn grave sites and fly kites to symbolize a connection to the spirit world.

To begin our field trip we gathered in Antigua for coffee and snacks before driving to the festival about 30 minutes away. I always love getting together with other PCVs, to share stories and catch up on each other’s lives.

Photos: (above) at the coffee shop; (below) at the Festival de Barriletes!

My phone camera’s limitations do not give the festival due awe! The crowd was massive and constantly in motion. To the right in the above photo, are bleachers which you have to pay to sit in. On the field below, people wandered in all directions with some people flying kites.

The largest kites are not meant to fly and the medium sized ones (still huge) were only rarely lifted into the air. They are there to be beautiful and to convey the messages of their artistic creators.

Below:  In the distance were the huge kites set on poles.

I couldn’t get a whole photo of the above kite so I took two, above & below. The crowds prevented me from having distance & a clear shot. Unbelievably crowded at times. Early morning and later in the afternoon is less crowded.

Above: These two men are the creators of the kite, pictured above.

While walking through the crowds, I stumbled across the three young women in the photo below. They walked regally through the festival, preceded by a drummer.

I’m not great in groups, I admit. As soon as we arrived, I raced off with my camera (phone) and eventually, I left the main field to explore the town below the festival field. The town was full of festival visitors, vendors and places to eat. Suddenly I turned a corner and caught sight of the cemetery. I gasped, overwhelmed by the beauty of the people, flowers, colors and sounds. There was a mariachi band playing at one grave site. People everywhere were sitting at the grave sites and kites were flying. Children ran up and down in-between grave plots.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Festival de Barriletes in Sumpango, Sacatepequez, Guatemala! If you consider attending the kite festival, I suggest the following:

  • wear sunscreen & a hat & sunglasses (the sun!)
  • pack a picnic lunch and extra snacks
  • pay to sit in the bleachers so you can take photos at a distance
  • expect to be jostled by the crowds and to get tired (it’s still worth it)
  • visit the town below and see the cemetery
  • buy tourist items (it’s good for the vendors and they make good gifts)
  • take a good camera!

For more information about the festival, read this article in the online magazine, Cultural Survival.

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1 Year Anniversary

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary for my group, Bak’tun 8, to be here in Guatemala. Woot! I feel lucky, I feel amazed, and I feel like I’ve just begun. I’m so glad that Bak’tun 8 will enjoy a one-year retreat in a couple of weeks.

But I’ve been here one year and my Spanish is still embarrassingly bad. At some point I gave up. I stopped trying to study advanced Spanish grammar and listening to intermediate Coffee Break audios. What the hey-ho, I thought? But that stop in the ditch didn’t last long.

Instead I sought guidance for how to overcome this inner obstacle to learning Spanish. I spoke to my higher self and to my inner child. I spoke to Creator. I did some tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique). A day later, I had a sudden thought that I should write down Mexican song lyrics and learn the songs that my mother always loved. When I was little, she taught me how to sing El Rancho Grande. I probably didn’t learn more than one chorus and I’m pretty sure that I had the words wrong. But it was fun!

After I wrote down the lyrics to Cielito Lindo; Bésame Mucho; and Volver, Volver, another thought struck me:  there were too many building blocks that I had bypassed in Spanish. I needed to start over at the beginning level.

The day after that revelation, I traveled five hours to get to the Peace Corps office which is fifteen minutes from Antigua. Arriving there, Italia, one of my program managers, asked to speak with me about upcoming trainings. She was alone in her office and it seemed dimly lit because it was the end of the day and the office lights had not yet been turned on. She talked to me about upcoming trainings and asked if I could assist in some way. I could feel myself getting tense, worried that she wanted me to speak in Spanish at one of them. She said that I would not need to speak Spanish. I agreed to assist and then, maybe because I was road weary and maybe because she has a comforting presence, I decided to reveal my problema to her right there in that moment.

I told her, “I can understand a lot of Spanish but talking, responding, is nearly impossible. I grew up hearing Spanish spoken daily. But it was a private language for my parents to use. I thought of it as an adult language. They didn’t speak to their children, to us, in Spanish. I just learned phrases that were directed at me:  sit dow, be quiet, come and eat. But I heard Spanish every day! When I was older and wanted to learn Spanish, I would be criticized by people for not already knowing Spanish or for making mistakes when I tried. When I entered the Peace Corps, I thought I was really ready to learn Spanish. I thought that once I got here, I’d be immersed in Spanish and become fluent in two weeks!

But all year it’s been a struggle. I feel bad not being able to speak adequately with my co-workers. I have to script out what I want to say before I meet with teachers. I use google translate which isn’t always accurate and then when they speak to me, I don’t understand them and I can’t have a conversation. I feel guilty that I have to rely on my new site mate who helps translate for me whenever we’re together.

I know that the Volunteers with advanced skills are doing much better work, more complex work that what I’m doing. That’s why I want to write grant proposals for some of the schools, so that I can justify being here. I don’t expect you to fix anything. I’m just telling you so that you know where I’m at and how it’s impacting my work. I do have some new ideas for how to study Spanish.”

I observed Italia as she listened to me. There was a softness in her eyes. Her face seemed open—how can I even describe that—the way her eyes focused on me and her face tilted ever so slightly as she listened. I sensed no rush to speak. With most people, I do feel rushed and that makes me stumble over my words. With her calm presence, I felt better able to find the exact words that I needed.

When I stopped speaking. She said, “I want to respond on a personal level and then on a professional level. On a personal level I would want you to know why there is a block for you in learning Spanish. And you know why! You told me exactly why. You said that when your parents spoke Spanish, you understood it to be an adult language—their private language that you weren’t supposed to know. And you said that when you tried to learn Spanish later, you were criticized and made fun of or shamed for not knowing it already and this made learning Spanish even harder. It just added to your existing block. But I know you have the tools. You know how to work on these things, so I would look at that.”

I assumed that she was referring to the fact that I am a Life Coach and serve as a Peer Coach for other PCVs. I couldn’t remember what else she might know about me.

I would also ask you what new ideas you have for learning Spanish. When I was learning Spanish as a teenager, I used songs.” Wait, what? Her English is perfect. I didn’t realize she didn’t grow up speaking English. Italia said that she began learning English as a teenager, using popular songs on the radio. She would tape them and listen to them over and over, to write down the lyrics as she thought she heard them. She said that it was fun and she could familiarize herself with vocabulary and grammar in that way.

I told her I’d just had the epiphany to use Mexican songs and she offered me some Guatemalan classics as well. I told her about my plan to start over with beginning level Spanish. She nodded slowly, affirmatively.

“Now I want to respond on the professional level. You said that you felt bad for not being able to speak in Spanish to your co-workers and you felt guilty for having to rely on google or on people that could translate for you. Eloisa, don’t be hard on yourself.” She looked at me and paused to let that sink in.

“You’ve probably always been a strong person in your work in the states and now you’re more vulnerable and you have to receive help from others. Maybe it’s good for you to receive help from others? Maybe you didn’t exactly have that experience before. It’s great that you’ve decided to write a grant proposal to help the schools. You said you are doing it to justify being here but your value is greater than that. What you bring here is who you are. You are a strong woman, someone to learn from. You have a positive influence!”

I’m not sure that being a strong woman is what justifies me staying here. But she was trying to bolster my confidence and I accepted it with gratitude. I’m also dedicated to getting that grant writing done to help in a concrete way.

“Eloisa, do you realize how much better your Spanish is since you got here?” “Yes,” I replied. I admit that I have gotten much better. I can understand people if they are patient and speak slowly. Sometimes I can get a lot of my ideas across (as long as I have my dictionary handy). I can read Spanish a little; I can read most of the Peace Corps training material that is in Spanish. She continued to reassure me, “It will come. Maybe not as fast as you expected because you really did have high expectations, but it will come.”

Then she added the following which was the highlight of the conversation for me, “Eloisa, do you ever talk to your inner child?” I nodded slowly, utterly surprised. “You might want to ask your inner child to help you.” She was definitely speaking my language then.

Here’s to one year in Guatemala, to the amazing Italia, my PCV amigos, my Guatemalan friends, the entire Peace Corps staff, and my family and friends at home. Un gran abrazo a todos ustedes. Cheers! Here’s to a new year.

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Photos:  Blurry shot of the welcoming banner we received at the airport; first meal.

nl res first PC mealI am grateful to meet great students, teachers and friends! And I am most astounded by the volcanos and the lake.

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Dia de las Madres/Mother’s Day

The schools in our department (state) and probably throughout Guatemala, celebrate Dia de las Madres (Mother’s Day). I had received an invitation to attend the celebration at school that requires me to take a microbus and then a tuk tuk up a rocky dirt road up a mountain. I especially love going to this school because the land is beautiful, the students are friendly and the three teachers are super friendly. They put up with my unfortunate Spanish, what can I say?

The younger children are funny with me. Sometimes they run up to me and say hello and giggle all the while. Sometimes one child will push another towards me and then run away. The older girls giggle at me from a distance and the older boys don’t notice that I’m around.

But on this special occasion, there was a large audience of mothers to watch their children perform dances and to hear speeches by the teachers. The children that did not perform, attentively watched those who were on stage. Altogether it was a fun event.

Photo above, looking away from the school, towards the open field when the children play futbol.

Photo below is from the walk back to the main road.

That’s it for this post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferria 2017 Pt III

On the last day of the Ferria, August 15, the city celebrated the Feast of the Assumption. Actually this is a Catholic celebration and although a good portion of the population are not Catholic, but it seemed to blend in seamlessly with the Ferria.

Two great processions filled the streets for this feast day. There was a huge wooden structure decorated with colored ribbons, small mirrors and hundreds of peacock feathers. Inside was a statue of the Virgin Mary. Behind that altar was a statue of ChristThe procession was led by priests, nuns, lay devotees and musicians. It wound in and out of streets and stopped traffic. It was wondrous.

Inside the cathedral, there were people in prayer each day.

But closer to the feast day, the church was prepared with flowers.

 

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After carrying the altar for miles, it was taken to the church. The man in the front left of the above photo must’ve been looking at the palo voladores. Who could blame him (see below)?

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Once inside the church, people made a line to the altar to pray to Mary. The actual mass to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption was packed, far more than in the images below. Altogether it was a week to remember forever and one to look forward to again, next year.

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Ferria 2017 Pt II

The Ferria crowns Princesses and Madrinas and other such luminaries. There were many events that I could not attend due to not knowing about them or because they took place after dark (curfew, ya know). But I did know about the two main parades that featured school children. Sabrina, my fellow PC mate, has a great view from her balcony as you can see below. The first photo is of the crowned women followed by many community leaders and then the schools.

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Above:  three of my work partners here in Guatemala at the beginning of the parade.

The two days of parade each lasted hours for the children that walked the miles of the route. Throughout the week there were other festivities in the main plaza as well as the costumed festival dancers.

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And on the other side of town, a carnival area was set up on the old airfield strip. It was packed with rides for children and adults, food stands and three ferris wheels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above:  At the end of the long runway of rides I came across this family group sitting under the hot sun. I love the lady using a basket for shade. That’s what I would have done!

See you next, at Ferria 2017 Part III.

 

 

 

Ferria 2017 Pt 1

Each Guatemalan town/city has an annual ferria (fair) and each one features its own specialty. When I moved to my first (temporary) Guatemalan home during pre-service training, I arrived during their ferria. It featured student musical bands from around that region. It was the best welcome I could have ever imagined.

After training I moved to the home where I now live, in the Guatemalan Western Highlands. I had heard about our city’s annual ferria for months in advance. I grew in anticipation of seeing the “palo voladores” (pole flyers) for which this ferria is known. I began to wonder if the ferria could even live up to my excited imagination. It did!!! It was spectacular!!!

I loved exploring every day’s offerings with my camera. I gasped at least a few times every day. Out of the hundreds of photos that I took, I’ve selected some to share here with you, starting with the palo voladores (pole flyers)!

I was surprised to find that the palo voladores had no set public schedule. For the first three days I kept asking, desperately, when they would fly and I kept getting different answers, “in the morning,” “in the afternoon,” “today for sure but…who knows?” and in fact, all three answers were correct. But finally I managed to get there when they were flying and after that, I saw them many times more. Each time I watched, I felt as though I was sailing in the sky along with them.
Photo above:  Folks watching the palo voladores from the steps of the cathedral.

When the two flyers begin their round-about descent on the ropes, the two at the top lay backwards and dangle leisurely. Sometimes they would lay on one of the four outer poles of the top structure, with their spines running alongside the poles, and nothing to tie them securely.

The young man above, had just finished his flight around the pole. A monkey mask is sometimes worn on the face. Once they finish their descent, they dance lightly around the pole, touching it to thank it and then they proceed to dance in a circle with other flyers in front of a man playing the marimba.

Above:  They pay their respects to the marimba and the others in the circle. It’s all very subtle and easily missed if one does not look closely. By the way, there were marimba bands  throughout the town!

Above:  Three separate groups of costumed dancers made merry throughout the town, pretending to tease each other with grand gestures. One group looked sombreros, another group kind of looked like winged pirates and the third wore colorful feathers. Considering the heat, it was amazing that they could wear such heavy costumes all week long. I only saw one female that was part of the costumed pageantry and hers in the last photo in this row. I cannot seem to continue to add new text after that photo so I’ll have to add a Part II to this Ferria 2017 post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Comadronas

There are 317 registered comadronas (midwives) in my municipality in the departamento (state) of El Quiché. The Centro de Salud (health center) conducts bi-monthly trainings that the midwives are mandated to attend. Today, nearly all were in attendance in the town’s main meeting hall.

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Before any of the training or logistical information was shared, we began with a Mayan-Catholic ceremony. A Mayan elder created the circle with other elders, then those of us in the circle lit the candles.  Once the fire (or candles) are lit, the Mayan elder typically begins the ceremony. But in this case, a young priest was present to offer prayers. There is a curious integration of Mayan and Catholic practices and I can’t tell what is what, even though I was raised Catholic.

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Let’s just say that everyone knows the sign of the cross and kneels at appropriate times. But there were women who lit their candles in a way that was indicative of indigenous ceremony.

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After the ceremony, Sebastiana (woman below with the mic) led the training. She introduced the new health center staff (there were at least ten present). The new staff members will each be assigned  to staff a health center outpost. And the midwives will be assigned to communicate with whichever staff member is at her nearest health center outpost.

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Due to the ceremony and the logistics, there was only time for about an hour and a half of training which included a film and a demo by one of the comadronas (below).

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It takes a long time to do attendance. Each comadrona must show her I.D. to a staff member and give her signature or finger print.

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I used my time to meet comadronas who might be willing to be interviewed by me. Juliana (below) has been a midwife for over twenty years. She speaks both K’iche and Spanish so we were able to have a nice conversation. I hope to interview her for this blog in the coming weeks. nl res w border Juliana w comadronas behind_Fotor

It’s Friday as I write this and now I must attend to creating a charla (talk) for next week. Be well. ❤️

 

The Grace of Being Alone

I used to think that being in Guatemala would feel like being a hop, skip and a jump away. After all, it’s easy to pick up a phone, send a text or use video chat. But instead, home feels light years away. I have written family letters and this blog, but for the most part, no one writes back with missives about their lives. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to say that technology has not bridged the distance and I feel very far away.

I feel far away even from people here. I feel like I’m walking around in a bubble due to my limited Spanish and because no one accepts me as a Latina–it’s blown my whole identity out of the water! In terms of my Spanish problems, I am always struggling to translate things in my head. I have not reached a level of comfort in any conversation because I can hear my own mistakes which make me ponder corrective options while I’m still talking! At the end of each day when I retire to my study, I soak in the rest and quiet of my space.

Let me digress a moment.

Once I was on a two week artist retreat out in the countryside in Connecticut. During the days, I would walk along green fields from the house where we stayed to the art center where I worked on a collaborative theatre project with two other artists. At meal times I enjoyed listening to the handful of artists that were also there on retreat–accomplished dance and theatre artists with many stories to tell. I found myself listening deeply but barely talking. During the second week, I plunged even deeper into my work, creating a video segment that would fit into a larger theatre piece. By the end of the retreat, when I returned home, I noticed how much I had been in silence even while being in the company of larger than life artists. The silence that had come from simply keeping my mouth closed for those two weeks, felt cleansing, freeing. It had freed me from some of my own ego.

Returning to my present time here in Guatemala…. Due to all this “aloneness” there has been an odd but welcome unlayering of myself. Here are a few ways to describe how it plays out for me:

I’ve been more aware of patterns of conditioning in myself, in my thoughts, speech and behaviors. I would have thought that this would place me in choice of how I want to think, speak, or behave but instead, the moment of awareness leads to a dropping away — a feeling of an energy shift. It’s subtle, so subtle that I wonder if I should even write about it.

When I go for walks and hear my busy thoughts, it’s easier to drop under them, like dropping under incoming waves at the beach. It’s only momentarily that I can walk peacefully like this, but moments add up. Thank goodness for the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and the mindfulness walks I’ve taken with him and practitioners at Deer Park Monastery.

I’ve had moments of spiritual witnessing in which I am aware of myself (my body) not needing my thoughts to drive my actions. I am reminded of spiritual teachers who have said that we are not creating our lives, life just is; life is living itself. An example of this is when I am thinking of whether I should first eat breakfast or take a shower. My thoughts might be swirling with the options when I suddenly notice that I’m entering the shower. I chuckle because it proves once again that my body is living the life and the thoughts are needless banter.

The feeling of isolation that I’ve had for a few months now, means I don’t have to act in any particular way to impress or defend myself or be accepted–all the things that humans do in a subconscious way. This is partly an outcome of getting older, too; if I can get out of the house clean and fed, I call it good.

It’s also been easier to sit and meditate rather than to fight it like a child.

A psychic friend told me that here in Guatemala, I would be happier than I could imagine. It’s true, it really is. But the happiness is occurring in a way that I had not imagined; it’s welling up from within. Sometimes I feel the expansion of joy so much that I need to process it–because my head has not registered yet, that this much joy is possible. Processing (with EFT or Ho’oponopono) allows me to let out the steam of any suppressed energy in my body. If I don’t process it, my programmed response might be to use the internet or sugar to stay in my normal comfort range. There’s no growth in that.

In spite of the common connotations of  aloneness and isolation, I would say that my aloneness and isolation have been a source of much of my inner peace. Because aloneness is not the same thing as loneliness and I am not totally isolated; I am surrounded by people everyday. But still, I’ve had just enough aloneness and isolation to feel the grace of what comes from untethering to my thoughts and to people while retaining my tether to Creator. I have a strong connection to Creator (use whatever name or theology that suits you) so there is no possibility for me to feel truly alone or isolated. And I feel utterly connected to my family and friends here, even with the simultaneous feeling of distance. At least I’m no longer waiting for anyone or anything. Everything feels soft.

All of this is to say that the unlayering of myself has been a way to let go and allow the goodness of what moves me (what moves us all) to be better revealed and flourish.

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Terremoto

I never knew that Guatemala does not have four seasons! Instead it has two: dry (November – mid-May) and rainy (mid-May to October). All through the dry season I wondered why Guatemala was not as radiantly beautiful as I had pictured. Beautiful, yes, but dry. Then the rains started and within days, the country transformed into a radiant and glorious green!

Still, it’s beauty comes with some risks. Lately, Guatemala has had over a week of heavy rains, flooding, landslides and now, terremotos (earthquakes)! I am very safe where I am as long as I stay home and do not travel unnecessarily.

At times the Peace Corps Safety & Security office sends us text alerts with updates. When something puts us at risk, they ask us to send in our statuses and whereabouts. I appreciate that they are always looking out for us.

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Today, June 22, 2017, the earthquake rattled at 6:30am while I was awake and trying to get myself motivated to get out of bed. The earthquake helped! Eight days ago, at 1:29am, we had a 6.9 earthquake. That felt smoother, like a waterbed (yes, I’m that old) rather than today’s jalopy-like experience. I guess this is what it’s like to live in Guatemala and I’d better get used to it. California earthquakes are one thing but earthquakes in a developing country are another.

Below: view from our roof, looking down onto the fallow corn field below. Our house is against an incline so the backside is up high whereas the front is level with the street.

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Speaking of the corn field in the back, look at it now during our rainy season!

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Over the decades, Guatemala has suffered many disasters  from earthquakes and floods and landslides. The worst of the recent damage from landslides and earthquakes have been in other departments (states). A recent landslide in another department buried homes, a microbus and a car. It’s horrible what people suffer from catastrophes! We have had no flooding of the streets in our town but the woodworker next door lost his roof to recent windy rains. I have no idea who else in our pueblo or surrounding communities have had problems.

Over the past seven years in NYC, I experienced hurricanes, a tornado, superstorms and blizzards. Life is not so fragile, right? It’s pretty hardy, considering. Nonetheless, I will pack an emergency bag just as I’ve been told to do by the Peace Corps. It helps to have so little to cling to but I don’t expect I’ll ever have to use it.

To change the subject, today marks the beginning of school break. I have a lot of big goals to accomplish during my break and I’m very excited about all of them. I’m all about goals and achieving them. Collages help me pave the way. Below is my latest collage. It includes my priorities for now which includes writing, community engagement, activism, connection to Tonantzin (Aztec Mother Goddess, more popularly known as Our Lady of Guadalupe), trips to the lake (the bedroom image), staying fit & meditating, and of course, beaded necklaces. So here goes!nl res cropped collage.jpg

 

 

Quetzales

Friends sometimes ask how much money we make in the Peace Corps and whether it’s enough to live comfortably. People also want to know about the cost of traveling here. So let me offer a few bits of information here.

The Peace Corps was established by President John F. Kennedy (Executive Order 10924) on March 1, 1961 and authorized by Congress on Sept. 21st of that same year. The Peace Corps Act clarified its purpose as:

To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.

It is important that as Peace Corps Volunteers, we live a lifestyle that is integrated with the people with whom we work. In other words, we should not make a higher wage nor have greater access to things of a higher standard of living.

Basically, I make the equivalent of a beginning level teacher. Keep in mind, I don’t have a family to support and I’m not creating a home full of furniture or needing a car or moto since I’m here for the short term. I’m able to take care of all of my needs as long as I pay attention to my ongoing expenses. I keep a little book for that purpose.

Our rent is covered by the Peace Corps. Our only other main costs are food, clothing (I lost weight and need new clothes!), incidentals and travel. Great, fresh vegetables and fruits are readily available at low cost in the outdoor market three times a week in my pueblo. Below: an indoor market in Chichicastenango

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There aren’t many places to spend money except for the cafes, stationary stores, and a jewelry/cosmetic store which is very inexpensive. Let me give you an idea of some random costs but first I’ll give you some exchange amounts:

Anything less than Q7 (7 Quetzales) is less than 1 US dollar. Q10 = $1.36.

avocado Q2; broccoli Q5.25; apple Q2; oranges (bag of 6) Q10; papaya Q7.9; fresh corn tortillas (pack of 4) Q1; chard Q1.65; cantelope Q6; eggs Q23.9

Restaurants and cafes vary from very inexpensive (Q15 to Q20 for a meal with a drink) to more expensive (Q50 to 70 or a complete meal w/drink. I love eating out but I can’t do it often because the costs add up. I can however, have a nice plate of healthy tacos w/drink for less than $3 or, if I want to splurge on a Sunday, I can have an incredible breakfast with coffee for $4.77.

Travel is inexpensive in Guatemala. The large carreteras are usually crowded beyond comfort and you feel every bump in the road. But the cost and accessibility makes them worth it. For me to travel from my site to Lake Atitlan, three hours away, is only Q30 ($4.09). That’s about 4 bucks to get to heaven.

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Once you hang out a while and meet people, you find the best prices for hotels in each city. You have to know people. I recently found a nice, modest hotel for Q100/night in Panajachel (sorry I can’t give you the name since I stay there). But you can also get a very inexpensive room at the beautiful hostel, La Iguana Perdida, across the lake with a more secluded setting. Otherwise, on the cheaper side, hotel rooms are about Q150 per person and they are very modest and without a view. More money means more space and a view.

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In terms of the hand woven textiles, they are priced well below their true value but at the same time, more expensive than I can usually afford. A rebozo (shawl) is about $20+ and a larger one that is used as a falda (skirt) can be Q400+ ($54.51). I bought a couple of used huipiles in Chichicastenango. That is definitely the place to go for weavings. Mine are a little worn but gorgeous nonetheless.

Until this month I’d been complaining to my inner self about the money situation. But then I met another Volunteer who told me how much she spends a week (very little) and how much she saves–enough for flights to the U.S. and her upcoming wedding! That was humbling. Then a few days ago I realized that I had forgotten about Q800 ($109.02) of money from this month’s income. Apparently I had hidden it from myself! That might sound like very little to you but to a Volunteer, it’s cause for a happy dance! So, yeah, I’m doing fine.

Below: clay bowl, crystals, textiles and quetzales. 

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Two last things to share with you is that the Peace Corps does not allow Volunteers to work extra jobs in Guatemala. They don’t want us to receive any money from Guatemalans, which makes sense. Secondly, the Peace Corps sets up a savings account for each Volunteer so that at the time of Close of Service (COS) after two years and three months, you will have something with which to re-settle in the U.S. Instead of telling you an actual amount, I suggest that you speak with a Peace Corps Office staff member. They can help you with that information and much more.

I highly recommend the Peace Corps experience. For any kind of service, what you give aways comes back double. In the case of Peace Corps service, it comes back a hundred times more.