Today was a full day. We met at 8:00 this morning in front of the Muni building in my town, where we were supposed to be picked up by David, our technical trainer, to go visit our friends in a neighboring town to trade information and skills. However, Guatemalans run on a completely different clock than normal people and we didn’t get to our final destination (a 20 minute walk maximum away from my house) until 9:30. “Hora Chapina” is what it’s called here. It frustrates me because I’m always prompt, and now I understand one of the reasons why it’s so hard to get anything done here, although I do admire the “time is not the only important thing in my life” attitude.

We learned how to make an A-frame for measuring the incline of a trail, because our neighbors’ project is to construct a nature trail for their tourists. Then we dragged them over to our town and took them on a tour of our “basurera”, the location where they take all the trash and compost and recyclables to be dealt with. I learned a lot of new and interesting things this second time visiting the basurera. 85% of all garbage collected in my town is organic waste which can be composted. 10% are recyclables like plastic bottles, paper, and aluminum or other metals which can be classified and sold, and only 5% actually gets torched. But that 5% is still pretty major; it’s enough garbage to keep a fire burning so hot 24/7/365 that not even a heavy rain cools it down enough to put it out. I don’t even want to imagine what happens in all the other towns who don’t separate their organic waste and who set everything on fire.

In the afternoon we had another meeting with the “Red de Mujeres”, the group of artisan women whom we are helping with their fair. This meeting was much more productive than the last and hopefully the next will be even better. The women have only one interest: selling their goods. What we are trying to do is educate them to understand that really their objective is to make money. They can still sell their goods to accomplish this, but their time would be better spent doing other things also like giving classes on weaving, classes on cooking traditional foods, and the like.

They don’t really understand the concept of Cultural Tourism, but I think I did a pretty good job of explaining it to them today. I asked them (all in Spanish, of course), “what do you teach to your daughters when they are 6, 7, 8 years old?” They responded “to weave, to make tortillas, to cook traditional dishes, to clean”. I told them that those are the types of things tourists who are interested in the culture of a particular area want to learn…well, save the last one. They might buy a shirt or a trinket, but what these women teach to their daughters, so that their daughters can then teach their children: that is culture. People are interested in buying experiences. So long as they can take a picture to remember, share, brag, whatever, cultural tourists are interested in buying experiences.

In the future, when I have a better Spanish vocabulary and a better grasp on the grammar, I would like to explain also how little money they actually make on their woven goods based on how much time they put in to them. They can still sell their woven goods, but if they offer services like classes on various things, they can make more money while putting in less time and resources. This is one of the topics the Mayor of our town touched upon during our meeting last week. He said that educating the women gives them more self-esteem. They need this sense of self-worth. If you don’t think your time is worth as much as your husband’s, if you don’t think you are as useful or as intelligent, if you don’t think you have as much to contribute to your town or family than you are a self-fulfilling prophecy. When these women start to value their own time and realize that they do have intelligent thoughts and do have a lot to add to the well-being of their community, that is when progress begins.

I would love to be a part of this progress. I know that I only have another nine weeks at this site so I won’t be able to play a huge role, but just to see the women start to value themselves and become more outgoing would be wonderful. And really, the same phenomenon occurs all throughout Guatemala. I’m sure that when I arrive at my two-year site I will encounter the same mindsets and problems that I’m finding here. But it really is a nice change of pace for me to have an interesting topic to be pondering. I enjoy pondering - sometimes I think maybe I do it too much. It drives me nuts when I can’t come to a conclusion. But usually after writing enough, or talking with enough friends, and especially after reading, I get through the thought process with a decent end-thought. I like having a thorough but succinct response/answer to a major problem or quandary. It makes me feel intelligent when I can clearly explain my beliefs on a given topic.

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