Monday, January 31, 2011

Ideas taking shape...

Wow! Time flew this month. The weather is pretty beautiful, mango season is starting, and my maple syrup is still holding out! Nothing like fluffy pancakes and real maple syrup, I can’t complain. And I am continuously amazed by the fabulous vegetables around... when else in my life will I get all the produce I can eat in a week for $4?

Work is going pretty well, too. This week we are writing a business plan for the park, in order to compete for a $10,000 grant, and I am excited to have the chance to help shape a coherent vision for the park. It’s something that’s kind of been on the back-burner for awhile but there is a lot of potential, if folks would set their minds to developing it more systematically.

This next month I hope to finally write up our plan for environmental interpretation, a grant for signs, and begin training our park guards and the two educators to give educational walks on local environment and culture. On Feb 25 the local school principals will come up to the park to see our big educational pitch: why they should bother bringing their students up to us? So that’ll be a big day.

Next Sunday I am going to start teaching an English class to women’s groups (mostly artesania groups that want to sell to gringos and a few teachers left over from the winter course). It’s certainly a means to an end, and not the end itself – but a great way to make friends.

It’s also really time to get rolling on my Masters’ project! And I’ve taken up Mam lessons again. And big news: I found a house for Oliver and me to move into next month! So life is plenty busy. Every day brings its challenges and joys (both big and little). I'm used to it. I kind of like the rollercoaster, at this point.

Oliver got hurt last night – not really sure how, I think he may have gotten in a fight with another animal. He has a wound on his arm and won’t walk on it. I was pretty freaked out, but, my vet back home recommended an antibiotic and I think he will heal up. I realize more and more how important he is to me for companionship. This is a case in which I am really grateful to be in a town with 7 pharmacies! Way easier on the nerves.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Christmas at Home (and Now What?)

Hard to believe that it has been over two weeks since I got back from my Christmas vacation tothe US. And what a vacation it was. One thing Peace Corps has given me is the sense of how important it is to take breaks, to have a change of scenery, to say yes instead of no. Home was a much-needed jolt back to broader reality and my broader self.

It was a whirlwind two weeks, full of Christmas gatherings, seeing friends and family, drinking lots of tap water, and eating lots and lots of good food. We also had a few fun outings, to the local childrens’ play museum, an abridged winery tour, a pilgrimage to Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, and two nights at a bed and breakfast for New Years’. It was really fun. The US is really nice, in its own way.

An abridged list of mind-boggling and beautiful things I encountered:

  1. Snow
  2. My family
  3. My brother
  4. My boyfriend
  5. Gringos everywhere, who don’t greet with ¨good morning¨
  6. Speaking English to strangers in public
  7. My family’s enormous cats (see picture at right. animals are genuinely ENORMOUS in Central New York)
  8. Our Christmas tree
  9. Wegmans!
  10. The food! : Tofu, salads, take-out, brownies, pecan pie, pizza, lasagna, almond milk, five kinds of cereal mixed together, omelettes and homefries, Veggie dogs and burgers, Mom’s mac and cheese, Grandpa’s pancakes, Tex-Mex food, we could go on...
  11. Toilet paper going down the toilet bowl
  12. Trash management
  13. Drinking water out of the faucet
  14. Hot water out of the faucet
  15. Christmas and its traditions!

Despite the comforts of home, coming back to Guatemala was not as tough as I had thought it might be. Being with family and being in a different culture are two very different things, but each has its own distinct challenges. On January 6 we completed a year in Guatemala, and I feel so accustomed to life here - tortillas and tamalitos, spinning through curves on the micro with reggaton blasting, the dusty countryside, Spanish, the burning sun and freezing nights, waiting, waiting, and waiting some more, my own cooking, the little oases I’ve found here. The maple syrup and nutritional yeast I brought back aren't going to hurt morale, either.

And, there is plenty of work to be done... HOW is just the question. The tough thing right now - I think typical for a volunteer at my stage of the game - is seeing how few concrete projects I have truly rolling in progress after these 9 months – including my Masters’ thesis – and wondering – how will this all work out? I have lots of ideas and smaller starts (as you might have gotten from my previous blog entry on work) but they seem to be constantly modulating based on the changes around me. I feel like I absorb my town's sense of inertia at times, too, which is tempting since waiting gives more time to assess, understand, before making any mistakes.

I've realized that assessing is good, but life is full of mistakes no matter how much thought you give things. And could trying to avoid them so adamantly not be its own mistake, too? This month the not-so-perfectionist side of me is being called to task for the next year, to make leaps and decide directions and make mistakes, to be more proactive here than I've been before. The results might be messy, but it’s really time to get down to work.