I used to make little notes and lists of daily experiences and odd happenings. New foods, funny encounters, anything that seemed different, strange, or particularly Guatemalan. Now, 1 year and 8 months in, I have gotten so used to my new lifestyle that I forget that people back home would be surprised by certain things that happen down here.
Not until my family came down to visit in early March was I clearly reminded of this. Camionetas, pilas, not flushing toilet paper, not drinking the water, all things I have grown accustomed to, were brand new, exciting, and a little unnerving to my parents and sister. All things considered, however, they were troopers. They put up with me wanting to walk everywhere, drinking out of bags of water because it’s cheaper, even toughing out the road between Chichicastenango and Quiché in public transportation, a trip that leaves even the most hardened travelers puking into anything they can find.
During my family’s visit, we saw Antigua, had lunch with my first host family, hung out at the lake, shopped in Chichi, and spent a few days getting to know my site. I was nice to be able to show them everything I’ve been talking about for the last 20 months, but at the same time incredibly weird to have my two separate world crash together so abruptly. Walking the streets of Canillá, the usual attention that I get as a tall, white gringo was quadrupled. Introducing my family to my friends and coworkers was nice, but hindered by the perpetual clarification, “yeah, sorry, they don’t speak Spanish.” All in all, it was a hectic, fun, bizarre, wonderful week. If nothing else, I realized how much a handful of people down here care for me, rolling out the red carpet to make sure my family enjoyed their stay. Plus, my family should be able to understand me a little better when I act weird or forget to flush my toilet paper when I head back for good in October.
After my family left, I had a crazy week of work, getting ready for In-Service Training in Canillá in early April. Then, a friend from college came down to visit for Semana Santa. Hands down one of my favorite weeks in-country. As soon as he sends me the pics I’ll post them, but we were all over the place – rivers, caves, lakes, volcanoes. After he left, it was back to the grind, organizing everything for a bunch of gringos and their counterparts to descend upon Canillá for a 3-day workshop on project design and management and the construction of a greenhouse, paid for by USAID and built on the land on one of the agricultural promoters with whom I work. Everything went great, thankfully, but after a month straight of running around, I watched movies and slept for an entire weekend straight.
Also since I last wrote, I had to give Griffey away. I used to have a lot of extra space where I live, but they began to pave the road between Canillá and San Andrés, so the spare rooms were rented out to a bunch of construction workers. I felt bad leaving Griffey locked up in my small room all day, and gradually, despite all my cleaning efforts, everything began to smell like dog. After attempting to sell him to a coworker in the Muni (who promised to buy him, shook on it, and then flaked out last minute and stopped answering my calls…Rafa, you suck), I ended up giving him to my old host family, who also has a dachshund. My friends give me a hard time for being soulless and giving my dog away, but he’ll be happier running around with his girlfriend than trapped in a tiny, hot room. Plus, I cant justify spending $500 to ship him back to the States when I don’t even know where I’m going to be living or working post Peace Corps. Sad, but the right decision in the end.
A funny story to finish off this post. After a training a while back, one of my promoters came up to me, and in all seriousness, told me that her brother-in-law has been seeing strange lights emanating from his land at night, and is convinced that there is some kind of buried treasure down there. Of course, being from the States, I would know the best way to go about finding where it is buried, or have some special tool to look below the earth, right? I told her I would look into it. Sounds like a good secondary project to me.