Site Assignment

Saturday 3.13.2010

Yesterday was probably the most exciting day since I arrived in country nine weeks ago. I haven’t written much in the past few weeks, I think because after returning from Field Based Training where we spent a week together in the field learning different tools and tricks for our next two years of life, my daily routine here became just that: routine. It’s not like I was disappointed or bored with my past few weeks here, I have just been ready to get out of this training period and get to work! Well, yesterday that became more set in stone than ever because I learned exactly where I will be, what my town is like, and the type of work I’ll be doing for the next two years of my life. I can’t explain the waves of feelings that have been running through me for the past 13 hours since finding out at 3pm yesterday (yes, the math is right, I woke up at 4am this morning with too many thoughts in my head to go back to sleep so I decided to write and listen to music).

If you look at a map of Guatemala, you’ll see one large squarish department (like states or provinces) on the very northernmost part, the Petén, and then there are four more departments also on the northern line. From West to East we have: Huehuetenango, El Quiche, Alta Verapaz, and Isabel. I’m going to the dead center of the Quiche living in a town of 1,050 people, 100% of which are indigenous (meaning of Mayan descent) whose mother tongue is the Mayan dialect K’iche’ although I’m told to believe that most of them also speak Spanish. I’m told there is electricity and running water as well as a good cell phone signal, which means I will be able to purchase a wireless card for my computer and have wireless internet. I feel like I don’t need to be connected all the time and abuse this internet opportunity by being online all the time , but I think it will be useful having the internet as a resource for my work and I do look forward to staying more in the loop with current events and news. And of course I’ll want to be sharing my photos. I don’t know too much more about the site, but I will be leaving on Tuesday to visit for 5 days so I will write more about it when I get there.

The project is what’s most exciting. I am a first generation volunteer in this site, which means that for most of the people I’ll be meeting next week, I’m the first gringo they’ve ever seen in their life! I will be organizing and managing a Ecological Park in the Cajchival Mountains, focusing on environmental education, internships for the local students, and income generating projects. We have caves and ceremonial alters (whatever those are…) and a lot of other really cool stuff that I’ll find out more about next week! I received a 15 page folder about my site that touched just briefly on each of the aspects of life there; just enough to get me really excited to visit and also really anxious because 15 pages really isn’t much information. I just want to know already! But in all seriousness, the project sounds really great and exactly what I asked for. I said I wanted a smallish town, to work primarily in environmental education and outreach, to be the trail breaking volunteer for the site, and most important, I wanted to be surrounded by green. Whenever anybody asked me what I wanted most out of a site all I had to reply was “verde, quiero ver verde”. I want to see green. When we first got to country we were all scared into thinking that the Peace Corps was like the army; you sign up and then you get what you get. My experience so far has been that they really do observe you and listen to your preferences and abilities and match you with what you’re best qualified to do. I think all 18 of us in my Sustainable Community Tourism program are equally pleased with their sites.

Feeling these waves of a new emotion I’ve never quite felt in my life is pretty great. It’s this incredibly complex mixture of anxiety, excitement, nervousness, happiness, curiosity, uncertainty, and a lot of confusion and looking ahead to this big blank page. There have been so many little milestones, so many times in my past months here where I’ve had that aha moment of, wow, it’s really happening. Yesterday was that aha moment but in jumbo-sized font, bolded, underlined, italicized, in the craziest type of word art you could ever find in Microsoft Word, and then printed up 100 times and posted billboard size all around me. Yeah, it’s really happening.

Two weeks from today I will be saying my goodbyes to my host family here and leaving for about an 8+ hour camioneta ride to my new home in El Quiche. I’m probably not as nervous as I should be. I think I have too many emotions running through me to know exactly what I’m feeling, but I can say that the one thing I was most nervous about, my Spanish level, I’m comfortable with now. I arrived in country at a level of intermediate-medium, and yesterday I tested into advanced-low which means I jumped two levels (I think the actual terminology of the levels is a bit generous). I can get across what I want to say fairly easily using usually correct grammar. I can explain in quite a bit of detail what exactly the Peace Corps is, what my experience is as far as work and school and volunteering, and what my interests and hopes are related to my next two years here in Guatemala.

I can even explain the honeybee waggle dance.

I can explain that, although I’m not Catholic or Evangelical or Christian, the important parts of religion to me (using the term “religion” very loosely) are the community bonds and the fact that everything that has life, all people and animals and plants, came from the same place and all deserve to be treated with respect. It doesn’t make sense to me to divide people into categories based on religion and treat each differently because those differences are so small compared to what we all have in common.

All in all I don’t really know what to expect out of the next couple years, but so far I am so pleased with all the open doors and windows and moon roofs and crawl spaces, and all that good stuff. Looking forward to tamales tonight for my icing on the cake.

No comments:

Post a Comment