Sunday, June 29, 2008

Brian's Despedida


Brian’s time here in Cabricán is running short. Yesterday we did a short hike down to Las Barrancas and along one of the rivers and then up into Chorjale so he could have at least one last hike through some of the municipality. Andrea came with us and was able to see Los Rojas, where Brian did his first project of water tanks upon showing up in Cabricán two years ago. We spent the afternoon cleaning up the house for Brian’s despedida.

Juliana came over around 3 pm to teach Andrea and I how to make tamales, which seems to be a simple enough process, although lacks an official recipe and so will be hard to recreate. Additionally, with three people cooking and working at once they still took us two hours to make, so I can see how with only one person working they could take all day.

The few guests, Reina, Roberto, Juliana, both Andreas, Saul and Gary arrived around 8 pm and we sat down to enjoy the tamales and celebrate Brian’s experiences and work over his two years here. Reina, Juliana and Roberto gave Brian the traditional shirt worn by men in Cabricán which he was very excited about, although this one is particularly shiny and not exactly traditional. He and Roberto were twins for the evening.

Brian leaves Cabricán de una vez (as they say here) this Thursday and will head down to Antigua and Santa Lucia to finish up all his final paper work and medical documentation. His flight home (New Hampshire) is on July 9th. He is leaving a little early to surprise his mother for her birthday and will be in New Hampshire until the end of July. Aneth is flying out to visit him there for a couple days and then they are driving across the country together back to Los Angeles. Cabricán to Los Angeles will be a big change, but Brian is very excited about it, mainly because of Aneth.

I will be sad to see him go. He has been such a great friend and support during my first year here and it is hard to imagine Cabricán without him. However, after more than two years he is ready to go, and I can understand that (as long as he remembers to send us packages once he is gone!).



The tamales we made used a rice dough and are typically made for Christmas. Generally speaking tamales are made from some type of dough placed in a maxan leaf or corn husk (maxan leaves, a very large green leaf, are used for special occasions) with a red sauce (made from tomatoes, miltomate, sesame seed, pumpkin seed, several different types of dried pepper, onion and chocolate), a piece of chicken (or turkey on special occasions) a prune, and some red pepper and then wrapped up. All the tamales are placed in a big pot and steamed. Reina claims she can put the creation into a recipe for me, however, most people here just go by instinct, taste and future experience.

Aguas Calientes


Reina took Juliana, Roberto, Brian, Andrea and I out to some hot springs in the north of the municipality of Sija yesterday. To get to Aguas Calientes, San Carlos Sija we woke up at four in the morning and hiked an hour out to Cienaga Grande where we caught a bus at 5:30 that takes a route through the department of Sija into Xela. From where we were dropped off it was another 30 minutes to an hour hike downhill into Aguas Calientes.

These hot springs are different from those of Aguas Georginas, near Xela, in that they are not a tourist attraction and are used only by locals. They are not as pretty as Aguas Georginas, but they make up for that by the lack of tourists. By happenstance, we arrived on their feria so the town (which isn’t much more than one road) was overrun with people. A band had come in from Totonicapan, and there was a parade for the patron saint.

I think I managed to scandalize the town in my bikini, however, with all the blue-eyed, fair-skinned children that were running around, I think more than a few people have spent some time in the states and were a little more used to it than Cabricanecos would be.
Andrea and I spent a lot of the morning trying to teach Roberto how to swim, and he was catching on really quickly, putting his face underwater and giving it a try. I think if he had a couple days in a pool he would quickly pick up on it. Unfortunately, pools are hard to come by in this area, and the chances of that happening are slim. Most people in Cabricán, including Juliana and Reina, do not know how to swim.



A few of us went out to Tilapita this weekend, an island off the coast of San Marcos, near the Mexican Border. One of the Peace Corps staff was kind enough to lend his beach house for Kody’s birthday, so Brian and I decided last minute to head up there.

Tilapita is very isolated and yet to be discovered. Houses have thatched roofs, the beach is empty of trash and we were probably the only gringos on the island. This will probably change soon as small hostel was recently created and the beach has just made it into the most recent version of Lonely Planet.

It was a very chill weekend. We spent the days out on the beach swimming and playing frisbee, eating fresh seafood cooked by one of the neighbors, and watching gorgeous sunsets.

All in all, it was a perfect break, if you don’t count the fact that I lost my wallet on the way home. I must have a problem with Karma because, in the last week and a half, I have lost my wallet, my iPod, broken my cellphone, broken Brian’s Sirius radio and somehow managed to make iTunes not work on my computer. Go figure.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Creative Drying


Rainy season frustrates my attempts to dry clothes outdoors...

Estufas Mejoradas


Brian has officially finished his last project in Cabrican. Working with a women’s group in Corrales he has helped them build 73 estufas mejoradas. These stoves allow women to still cook using fire, but prevent them from cooking over an open flame, which not only prevents fire hazards, but also lung disease as smoke exits through a chimney.

Brian worked with the women, teaching them how to build stoves, and proving to them, that they were perfectly capable of doing this without their husbands’ help.

Today the women had their stove inauguration to celebrate their new stoves and thank Brian and Juana Xoquic, the president of the women’s group, for all of their hard work.

Doña Juana and I are also planning on setting up a community garden with this women’s group. We already have the seeds donated from and will hopefully get things organized by the end of June before I have to leave for my mid-service conference.

Cate and Miguel Visit


I’ve just ditched my second set of visitors. Miguel left yesterday for Mexico, and Cate headed back to the states today.

Cate and Miguel were an excellent set of visitors and got along famously, especially considering they’d never met in person before. (The explanation to people on how they ended up in Guatemala at the same time usually involved some version of “we met on the internet” – all of you on the LS will appreciate that one.) It was so nice to have two people so interested in the culture and seeing more of Guatemala than just the tourist sites. Luckily for Miguel and I, Cate was camera happy and I am sure her well documented trip will be up on the internet soon for all to see.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

John Visits


My little brother John arrived this month, beginning several months of visitors.

I really enjoyed showing him around Guatemala, torturing him with the chicken buses and lack of water pressure. It was wonderful being able to share what I have been experiencing and to see him after so long and he made me realize that things here aren’t as normal as I have come to accept them.

It was also a great precursor to his study abroad in Ecuador. Being able to practice his Spanish here for a week made him realize he can communicate if he needs too. He held a whole conversation in Spanish with one of my Guatemalan friends, which I think was more than he realized he could do.

Next up: Miss Cate Elander: 8 days and counting.

Teacher Training


I complete my first teacher training today with the help of my friend Carolyn who came up from her site in Cantel to help me. Carolyn has been in country for almost three years now, so her experience is invaluable.

We trained twelve 5th and 6th grade teachers in Rio Blanco, San Marcos on the program Fundamentos Empresariales, which I have been working with both in Rio Blanco and Cabrican. Fundamentos, teaches children basic business techniques: how to save, how to plan ahead, how to calculate your earnings. We hope that the program will reach many more children by training teachers and providing each participating school with the program materials. I doubt that all the teachers will implement the program, but I am hopeful that at least some of them will.

Now that I have done one training with Carolyn, I am planning to do at least one on my own in Cabrican. I am also hoping to set up an AIDS training for teachers here in Cabrican, although given my visitor schedule, and other AIDS trainings scheduled by PCVs that may have to wait until August.