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.

Book Donations

February 11, 2009

I made a day trip yesterday to Chimaltenango with Hugo, our library director, to pick up a book donation from Child Aid for our Mini-Libraries project. I have to admit I wasn’t in the best mood as I stumbled out to the town square in a mental stupor, bundled up in 2 sweaters, a winter coat, scarf, hat and mittens at 3 am (welcome to the tropics of Central America!). Carrying rocks in my pocket as a chucho deterrent, I was cursing myself for having agreed to the day trip and silently praying Hugo would be on time (Guatemalans have a tendency to arrive at least one hour late… to everything).

Spending 12 hours on a bus in one day is never anyone’s idea of a good time, but things began to look up when Hugo was there early. 6 hours, 240 kilometers and one Pollo Campero breakfast meal later, Child Aid made it more than worth our while by donating more than 1,000 new (not used) books. Hugo was absolutely astounded. Making a purchase of that size probably would have cost the library somewhere between Q30,000 and Q50,000. Books do not come cheaply in Guatemala. Included were math texts, literature texts, and a montage of children’s literature for all ages.

Peace Corps helped out by sending a driver to collect the books, as there was no way Hugo and I would have been able to manage them all on the camionetas. Gonzalo, my APCD, will be hauling the majority of them up next week when he comes to assess my site for a replacement volunteer.

I even got a ride home in a car from Xela as Oscar, my friend who works in the forestry office in Xela, was heading up to my site for work. Above are pictures of Volcanoes Tajumulco and Tacana at sunset on the way home.

As a reminder, please donate to the library’s mini-library project for outlying primary schools! Click on the link below for more information, the children will greatly appreciate your effort! Thanks so much to all of you who have already made donations! Unfortunately, I do not receive the names of individual donors until after the full amount has been raised. But have no fear, thank you notes will be coming eventually!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Xocomil Video


February 8, 2009

This weekend I was able to take a break and relax and enjoy myself after a long week of work. A couple of us hit up the water park Xocomil for Laura’s birthday. Shockingly, while it’s freezing in Xela right now, (My nights last week were spent shivering in bed, and waking up to find only my nose protruding from the blankets, frozen as a result.) if you take a one hour bus ride down towards the coast you find yourself in a tropical paradise (the magical difference of elevation)! The five of us had a great time flying down rides and soaking up the sun. And don’t worry Mum, the rides were all very well taken care of. It was like being in a water park in the states, but better… line free!

Fundamentos Training #2

February 4, 2009

Starting off the year with a bang… today I trained 36 teachers on the “Fundamentos Empresariales” program with assistance from my sitemate Andrea. I had been trying to get this training off the ground since last May when Carolyn helped me do one for 12 teachers in Rio Blanco. Fundamentos teaches 5th and 6th grade students basic business techniques: how to save, how to plan ahead, how to calculate your earnings. In training teachers and providing them with program materials and completed lesson plans, we hope that the program will reach many more children. Several of the teachers were very receptive, and Hugo my counterpart would like to tweak it a bit and use it for the basico (middle school) students as well.

On a side note, I am now teaching two classes of basico students the “Como Planear Mi Vida” (How to Plan My Life) program, with Hugo’s assistance, in the library on Wednesdays and Thursdays … although, true to Guatemalan form, the Thursday class has yet to show up. Como Planear Mi Vida teaches life skills and important topics such as self-esteem, planning ahead and sexual education. Hopefully, this will be helpful to the youth development volunteer who will be replacing me in July, opening up a few doors for them ahead of time.