Wednesday, July 15, 2009


July 15, 2009

Today I left Cabrican for the last time. The past two weeks have been a mess of going away parties and Peace Corps events. One of our fellow trainees got married, several people from our training group have already left the country, and now the few of us who remain, and are not extending, are counting down the hours until we are officially freed from our Peace Corps Service this Saturday. It was sad leaving Cabrican, but I am ready to move on to new things. Luckily, I am being replaced by two new youth development volunteers who will be continuing on with the library and the basicos in town.

Sometime next week I will be attempting to enter into Honduras and meet up with some friends from the States who are flying into San Pedro Sula on Wednesday. Keep your fingers crossed that the borders stay open!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


June 20, 2009

I made chuchitos with Doña Chama the other day. This time I have the recipe right for when I get back to the states!

La Primera Dama

June 20, 2009

The first lady of Guatemala came to Cabrican yesterday to drop off an ambulance for our town. She flew in on a helicopter was shuttled into the center of town and gave a speech and then was shuttled right back out as quickly as she came.

The Municipality provided a lunch for her, which was to be held in the library, so it was blocked off and searched for bombs etc. For some reason (I guess I look sketchy), one of her body guards wasn't going to let me in, even though I worked there and the staff had told them I would be coming (or rather, a gringa would be showing up). All the security turned out to be a bit unwarranted though, because a medical doctor showed up, supervised the packing of her food and took it to go. In the end, she never actually came into the library.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Mini Libraries!

June 5, 2009

We had the inauguration for the mini-library project this Monday, June 1st. Once again, THANK YOU to everyone who donated. Some pictures from the event are posted above. If you would like to see all of them please check out the link below.

Mini Libraries Inauguration Pictures

April and May

May 20, 2009

My mother has drawn it to my attention that I’ve gone almost two months without making a blog post. As a result I’m going to try and do a rapid fire update.

In April, we had the week off for Semana Santa so I hiked through the jungle to the Mayan ruins of Mirador on the Mexican border with Peten with some of my fellow volunteers. Mirador was built between 600 BC and 150 AD at which point it was almost completely abandoned for still unknown reasons. It houses one of the largest pyramids in the world and was recently in the news over the discovery of a nearly completely intact panel that is believed to depict the two Mayan twins from the Popol Vul (Mayan equivalent of the bible). Mirador has no road connecting it to civilization and can only be reached by a two day hike or by helicopter. Still mostly covered by vegetation (it took 30 years to uncover Tikal), it was an interesting experience to see an ancient Mayan city mostly still in its forgotten form and to be able to see the pyramids before they are restored.

Cabricán’s mini-library project was put on hold until now. The municipal government ran out of funds and we were unable to collect those which they had promised us. As a result, we put the book purchasing on hold until new funds were received from the national government. These should be coming in next week. Hugo, the library’s director, and I are going into Xela tomorrow to make initial purchases. All of the books should be purchased by the end of next week and we are hoping to turn over the mini-libraries and train the school directors and teachers on Monday June 1. Once again thanks to all of you who donated!

Rainy season has begun again. It’s my third here in Guatemala. I’m dealing with water flooding under my doors and leaks in my ceiling. A temporary bridge set up between my town and Xela has almost completely washed out and there are mini mudslides are everywhere. The good news is that I don’t have to sweep my house daily due to dust anymore and that things are starting to turn green again.

I turned a quarter century.

My little brother graduated from UNC. I went home to surprise him for graduation and to drop of Xpint, who is now a US citizen. He behaved himself beautifully on the plane, sleeping for most of the flight and only crying during take off and landing. Many people in town have been asking why it so much easier for an animal to get a visa than a person. I cannot explain this to them in terms they would understand.

I already really miss my cat. I keep expecting him to come flying through the window from outside. I found a huge spider in my bedroom today that I was unable to kill/trap and flush down the toilet (it escaped into the wall), and, had Xpint been here, he would have had that completely under control. He on the other hand, doesn’t appear to miss me all that much. According to my parents, he’s settled into life at 1483 beautifully and he and the dog are fast on their way to being friends.

My training group had our COS (Close of Service) Conference last week. There are less than two months left our service for those of us who aren’t extending. It is shocking how fast the time has gone. July 18, 2009: the official date I am allowed to leave Guatemala.

That’s it for now. I will try and be more on top of things in the future…

Monday, March 30, 2009

Library on the Web

March 30, 2009

I've taught the staff at my library how to blog. The link to Biblioteca Nuevo Amanecer's new page is available below, or permanently on the side bar at the right. Check out their page if you get the chance. (Even if you don't speak spanish!)

Biblioteca Nuevo Amanecer

Feria Part 1

Videos on Feria as promised and ahead of schedule (I'm feeling good about the GRE). Hope you enjoy.

Feria Part 2

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Visits to Mini Library Communities

March 24, 2009

Today Hugo and I hired a driver of a four-wheel drive truck (many thanks to the Muni for paying!) to take us out to the three of the communities that are participating in the mini-libraries project: Los Rojas, La Vega el Cerro and Buena Vista el Cerro. It was a bit of an ambitious trip, but we managed to visit all three schools and get back to the center by 2 pm.

These schools, as previously mentioned, are extremely isolated. I had hiked to Los Rojas and Buena Vista in the past, and it takes 1 ½ and 2 ½ hours respectively to reach each one on foot. In car it takes about 45 minutes as the roads are horrible. Hugo made fun of me because I was so terrified driving down into Los Rojas, but I think anyone who was not accustomed to Guatemalan rural roads would be, and even the majority that are. A steep down hill road, which could hardly be considered a road at all, complete with sharp turns and drop offs the equivalent of cliffs… not something you want to be on if your brakes give out. La Vega is even further out, and takes a good hour and 15 minutes to reach it in car. I would guess at least three hours on foot.

Our purpose was to meet with the parents of the community and discuss their responsibilities for the completion of the project. Many of them are already way ahead of us, as two of the schools had their bookshelves completed to show us upon our arrival. It was also an opportunity for them to ask us questions about the project. I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was, when I learned that through this project many of the community members of La Vega learned for the first time what a library is. The education level in these communities is very low, so it is nice to see the parents showing such an interest. You could tell from the quality of the bookshelf that the parents made in La Vega that it is something very important to them. These communities are some of the poorest in Guatemala, which makes them some of the poorest in the entire world.

We also took the opportunity to bring out some of the books that Child Aid had donated to give the communities an idea of what type of books they will be receiving in April. As things have been very busy the last three weeks with Feria, and Semana Santa is following in less than two weeks (both of these events mean a week off of school for students), we are holding off on the purchase of the remaining books until mid-April. The communities will be officially receiving their “mini-libraries” around April 22nd.

Tomorrow (with luck) we will visit the remaining schools of El Durazno, Quiquibaj and El Cebollin, before heading over to the neighboring municipality of Huitan to celebrate the opening of their community library. This means that we have to leave the center by no later that 7 am, and will hopefully be back by 5 pm.

Feria 2009

March 23, 2009

Feria has officially ended. As a recap from last year, Feria is ostensibly a one week celebration of the town’s patron saint, but it normally runs closer to two or three and is more of an excuse for the town to let loose and go crazy. Vendors come in from all over the country selling food, games and cheap plastic toys, the town elects Señorita Flor de La Feria (Miss Flower of the Fair) among a billion other various señoritas, parades run daily, a giant speeding Ferris wheel is propped up on wooden blocks, neighboring municipalities arrive to compete in soccer and basketball tournaments, drinking begins in earnest, dances run into the wee hours of the night (things stay open past dark), fireworks take over, and a few religious traditions occur (like Jesus being carried down my street). Needless to say, it’s kind of nice to have the tranquility of a sleepy rural Guatemalan town back.

I did partake (solely for your benefit of course), in almost every greasy delicious feria food offered, mainly to put in the video I am making of the whole shebang. It’s unlikely I will have this ready however, until after Easter, because I’m heading down to Guatemala City next week to take the GRE, and then hiking through the jungle of Petén for 5 days to the Mayan ruins of Mirador. However, keep a look out for it in the upcoming weeks.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


March 12, 2009

I’m sure in my last two years of blog posts, that I have mentioned the Guatemalans’ love of loud noise somewhere. Its amazing the level of sound they can tolerate, and that there aren’t more deaf elderly. I just left the election of Señorita Flor de La Feria and am now suffering from a major migraine. To drive the point home, please check out the speaker set they deemed necessary for use in a regular sized gym. I was vibrating the entire event, and not as a result of my cell phone. Wouldn’t want the neighboring towns to miss out. I don’t doubt they could hear it… sound travels better here, across valleys to neighboring ridges, and forget sound barriers: no insulation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Niña Parvulos

March 10, 2009

Feria started off with a bang today, with the election of Niña Parvulos and Niña Bilingüe. I was lucky enough to be selected to judge this event which seems to contradict the very conservative Guatemalan culture, although it is very deeply ingrained here. If you thought the US was the only country in the world where mothers dressed their four year-olds up in skimpy clothing and paraded them around like dolls for the world to see, you thought wrong. The girls competed in the categories of Traje Típico (Mayan Dress), Talent (the only talents that appeared were dance and some type of activity with a hula-hoop) and Ballroom Dress. At the end of the day, a six year-old named Marleny, walked away with the main title. Before the end of feria the town will elect the following: Niña Estudiantil, Flor de la Feria, Señorita Deportes, Señorita Magisterio, Señorita Deportes Magisterio, and Hija del Pueblo Mam. Woohoo for beauty contests!


March 9, 2009

The other day I witnessed a disturbing sight. A bola – possibly our one and only – was lying prostrate in the middle of the street in our main square at 11 on a week day. (For all those who don’t speak Guatemalan: bola is the female version of bolo, which means drunk).

This could be deemed disturbing for several reasons:

Someone got so drunk that they passed out in the town square in the middle of the day.
Alcoholism runs rampant here, and there is little infrastructure to deal with it. Most people, when they reach the level of passing out, are abandoned by their equally inebriated drinking buddies, and the powers that be (ie la policia or, in this case, our one and only “traffic cop”) are loath to deal with the situation. Left to their own devices, they crash wherever they are able to take their last step, occasionally piss themselves, and generally lose their cowboy hat to the wind or trouble-making children. Additionally, women technically don’t drink, so it is likely, this woman didn’t have a drinking buddy to cuidarla from the get go.

Could she get hit by a car?
This, while possible, was unlikely. Being that we’re not exactly a raging metropolis, traffic is slow at best. Always putting safety first, our “traffic cop” or some other authoritative figure had taken it upon themselves to place two orange cones around her. Lastly, she was kind of hard to miss; besides being surrounded by the two traffic cones, everyone within a two block radius was staring at her. Women rarely drink (in public), and it is even rarer that one would drink so much by mid-day that this would occur. Hence: a huge spectacle.

Why is no one taking it upon themselves to move her?
This I cannot answer. I was not readily moved to take up the call either. My site mate and I discussed the matter, and decided that two gringas moving her out of the center of the road would only draw more attention to her, which is the last thing she needed. Whether this was to make ourselves feel better for not moving her, or was really in her best interest, is up to debate.

This does not inspire a great lasting first impression of the town.
A Trainee was visiting my site mate to get a better idea of what her life would be like once she swears in as an official volunteer in a couple of weeks. Bolos don’t create a great impression, but bolas even less so because they are so rare. Also, because no one was moving her, it didn’t make the people of the town seem very considerate.

I could go on, but I will try to prevent this blog post from becoming too long.

I am sorry to admit, the only living creature with any sort of compassion was a chucho (stray dog), who lay down to cuddle and support her in her moment of shame. (I apologize to anyone who would have loved a picture of this, but it just didn’t seem appropriate).

I feel incredibly sorry for this woman, who is the known bola in our town, and whose social status can sink no lower. It is frustrating that there is no organization or person who can provide her with the support she needs to overcome her alcoholism. It is frustrating that her children are being left without a mother or family to raise them. It is frustrating that people seemed to view the situation with humor rather than with any form of empathy.

She was finally moved on to the steps of the municipal building more than an hour later, by the aforementioned “traffic cop” and one of several bystanders, when a delivery truck needed to pass. I saw her again the next day, stumbling around, clearly drunk again, possibly unaware of her humiliation the day before and without hope or the likelihood of overcoming her addiction.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Estados Unidos or BUST!

February 26, 2009

Xpint is causing me endless grief. I’m trying to figure out how to send him home… but of course, no one can give me a straight yes or no. Some airlines say he can go in the cabin of the plane, but he has to be able to stand up and turn around in a height smaller than 9 inches. Since he measures more than 12, I’m not sure if this disqualifies him. I put him in a case that measures 8 inches in height and he can definitely turn around… but standing up is a matter of opinion. I suppose I should have followed the Kohls’ example and limited his food intake as a kitten so he didn’t get so large (Disclaimer: This is an inside joke people! The Kohls never starved their cat). He’s going to need to go on a severe diet between now and May, or we might have to remove his paws.

Going below deck carries all these temperature restrictions, and since he’ll be traveling through Houston or Miami in May no one can really guarantee that I’ll be able to send him. I would like to thank both Continental and American Airlines for giving different and contradictory answers every time that I call, using up all of my saldo (Q 300!!!), and leaving me more confused after each conversation.

So the matter is settled. We’ve decided he’s going to be a true Guatemalan and go mojado. Anyone know a coyote? Andrea thinks due to his querulous nature he’ll have trouble in the desert, but I disagree. Since cats are naturally desert animals I think he’ll have more trouble with the river.

Seriously though, he’s getting there somehow, someway, even if it causes me to go gray in the process. If anyone knows someone at Continental that can guarantee I can bring my cat in the cabin, I would love it if you could put me in touch!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


February 23, 2009

Xpint is preparing for his trip “home.” Poor thing, I don’t think he enjoys it much. I wouldn’t enjoy sitting in a cage barely big enough for me either, but the vet says he has to get used to his travel accomodations. Since Xpint can’t go home in July due to heat restrictions, we are looking into sending him home in May, and since May is rapidly approaching, I am having to prepare.

This weekend Andrea and I took our cats into Xela for vaccinations and to buy Xpint’s new cage. Just for a moment imagine the oddity for Guatemalans of two gringas on a bus, each carrying a cat. For lack of a better comparison: imagine two one armed people carrying squirrels on public transportation in the States… you get the idea. I heard whispers the whole way there…. GRINGA! GATO! Not that it prevented people from approaching us. Odd doesn’t begin to describe the trip.

Actual Conversation:
Guy: Where are you from?
Me: The United States.
Guy: Oh! I need a passport. Can you get me one?
Me:?? No, sorry, I don’t work in that area.
Guy: Are you married?
Me: YES!

I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask. Later he asked me if Cabrican was far from where we were… while we were on a Cabrican bus.

Conversation in Xela:
Girl (within a group): Can we interview you for a school project?
Me: Um, sure? About what?
Girl: The traditions of where you’re from.
Me: What kind of traditions?
Girl: You know, the traditions of where you’re from.

So specific! For lack of a better topic I picked Thanksgiving. They video taped it.

Perhaps I should have picked animal care… Might have been more fitting.

On the Way Home:
Man: Is that your cat?
Me: Yes (No, I’m just carrying it around.)
Man: Does he always travel with you?

Monday, February 23, 2009


February 16, 2009


Apparently feria is just around the corner. I won’t bore you with the details of what feria is again (yet)… for those interested, check out the blog post somewhere around February or March of last year (that’s 2008). The point is: a year went by really, REALLY fast. I was shocked into this realization by the arrival of all things feria in our town square: video games and foosball. Among other things, I’m halfway through my second dry season, my APCD is coming up to scope out my site for my replacement this Thursday, and I’m into my THIRD season of mangos (mango season is only once a year people!).

… Somewhere along the line my Peace Corps service turned on auto pilot. I’m two and a half months shy of two years in country, and only five months short of COSing (close of service). This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me. I have started to plan my life post Peace Corps—signing up to take the GRE (explain to me how knowing what it means to chase metal is going to help me out in grad school?), organizing my backpacking trip through Central America, trying to decide what to do with myself for the sixth months between applying for grad school and actually start school (providing I get in)—but somehow none of this sunk in until foosball reappeared in my town. Go figure.

This of course is starting to make things hit home: e.g. I am going to have to start making some tough decisions (policy school, law school, vet school?). I can’t keep entertaining them all from now until eternity. Also, there are some things I AM going to miss about rural Guatemala, like being able to make a mango, strawberry, banana smoothie for less than $1 and Vicente Fernandez’s crooning voice on the camioneta.

This stated; I am going to start taking advantage of things while I still have access to them.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


February 13, 2009

I’m languishing in bed due to a super-hardcore cold, and Xpint is lying in utter contentment beside me. He’s accomplished a lot today: torturing a defenseless and miniature gecko to death. I watched the endeavor out of boredom and feel guilty for having not risen out of bed to save the poor creature. My defense: I’m sick. Plus I’m trying not to discourage Xpint from killing things that find their way into my house.

Yesterday morning I awoke to find something had helped itself to my bread overnight. Not the cheap pan frances from Doña Shely at Cabripan either, the expensive pan integral from Hiper (or should I say Wal-Mart?). Sure, it was only Q16 (roughly a little more than $2), but in my world, Q16 = $16, so I detested having to throw the loaf out. What a waste of money! It’s unlikely that I will be able to buy another loaf for at least a week and a half, unless I make a day trip to Xela, which I am not keen on. I made a day trip to Chimalt this week and a full 12 hours of bus riding in one day is enough to keep me off of the buses for a month.

Needless to say, I think somehow, despite having a cat, I have a mouse. Xpint is obviously not fulfilling his duties, which is irritating. The cat has no balls, which I suppose is my fault for having them cut off, but letting a mouse run rampant in his own house? Not to mention backing down today when a neighboring cat wandered into the kitchen and started helping himself to Xpint’s food. All it took was a menacing hiss from something half his size and Xpint slinked off into the living room. No wonder his food disappears at such an alarming rate. Xpint doesn’t have a posse (or a tapeworm), he’s just whipped.

Clearly from the amount of small dead animals he brings home, we have the offense down. Defense is something we’re going to need to work on.

On a side note, Xpint became an uncle this week. His sister Mesha, owned by my “neighboring” PC friends the Kohls, surprised Laura and Justin this week by pumping out 5 new baby kittens!

Segundo Basico

February 12, 2009

Three weeks of teaching basico classes, and I’m a actually kind of enjoying it. All my “eighth” graders (segundo basico) pictured above. The pictures were taken for name tags that the kids are making.