This past week I had the honor of coordinating a group of 19 eager and passionate adults and teenagers from all over the US--but mainly Wisconsin. The trip leaders and directors of Time and Talents for Children, Jody and Greg, and I have been planning their arrival for over a year! To be with this only 7 days was too short, but the trip went with few hitches and everyone left tired but happy!
Construction Team---Bottle Classroom in Janlay to and two new cook stoves. The formal kitchen has been used as a classroom for several years due to lack of space. In the meantime snack was being prepared in large pots over open flames. This is not only dangerous, but also a cause of fatal illness; as respiratory problems are the number one cause of death in Guatemala. So it was decided by the school staff and parents committee that a new full-sized classroom was needed to reallocate the students and reclaim the original kitchen space where we also built to accessible cook stoves.
Living on your own in a foreign country teaches you how to grow up and sometimes this simply means doing things that you always relied on your mom and dad to do for you. Here are a few embarrassing moments of 2011 that have taught me some lessons as well as reminded me of how lucky I am…These are also moments I generally keep to myself and avoid telling my parents about but like any embarrassing story, time has its way of making it not as serious and hopefully more entertaining.
An Ode to Edgar:
My first story happened the day I flew back to Guatemala after spending Christmas and New Years in the states. Like always, I arrived to Guatemala exhausted (mainly from trying to get my money’s worth of free wine in first class at 9am in the morning) and took the $10 shuttle to Antigua from the airport. I hopped into the shuttle and got out my computer to check my email. There were three other people in the shuttle that day and two of them were Peace Corps Volunteers, one of which I know. We chatted and I anxiously anticipated returning home and sleeping. When I got home I feel straight to sleep for a good two hours.
When I woke up I went to get out my computer to check my email and I discovered it missing. In my sleepwalking state I had left my computer on the shuttle. I had no way of contacting the shuttle; I had no company name or phone number. Moreover, since there were only four of us on the shuttle and I was the last one out it should have been obvious to the driver that the computer was mine. However, I did over hear the driver tell his name to the front seat passenger: Edgar. So I had a name, that’s it. I was a mess, nearly in tears I had no idea what to do. I went straight to Chiqui, the owner of the home where I rent a room, and told her what had happened. She got out the yellow pages and started randomly calling shuttle agencies. I started thinking…and I remembered that I had stored the number of the shuttle driver of the very first shuttle ride I ever took from the airport to Antigua back in January 2010. Chiqui called him and he said he knew Edgar. Within minutes Edgar was at my door with my computer. I was speechless for a few reasons: 1. My Spanish was rusty after a 3 week hiatus 2. The way I got it back was pure luck 3. I didn’t know such honest strangers existed….
My Car Won’t Start:
One day my car wouldn’t start. Thankfully I was still in the house and could troubleshoot it for myself. I called over a friend to help me since I had no experience with corroded terminals. We watched a YouTube video and went to cleaning the terminals. Once we were finished the car still wouldn’t start. So we tried jumping the car. That didn’t work either. So then my mechanic, Gunther (yes that’s his real name), came over. Between me calling him and him arriving (15 minutes) we connected my plugged in the battery to a charger. When Gunther arrived he jumped in the car and started it. Just like that. We determined it was the battery and jumping it for some reason didn’t work. It was then I found out Guther is also Chiqui’s mechanic and he took a look at a car of Chiqui’s. Gunther didn’t charge me a penny.
Then the next day I drove to a community an hour away. Everything was going fine until we stopped for peaches. We bought some peaches and got back in the car to take a hidden short cut back to Patzun. The car wouldn’t start. Thankfully I was with a mason who looked under the hood and said my terminals were corroded. Since I didn’t have any tools, we called a father from a nearby school we had been working at and together they cleaned the terminals and the car started. Again, free of charge! But then I did the responsible thing and went back to Gunther’s and got them to clean and completely change the terminals for $10.
A Light-Up and Mooing Cow Serves as Comic Relief:
The other night I was driving a friend home at midnight. We were chatting and I passed a slow-moving police truck patrolling the neighborhood. Shortly afterwards the police truck turned on his lights and siren. There were four problems with this: 1. My car’s windows are very tinted 2. Therefore, we didn’t realize they were trying to pull us over until a good two or three blocks afterwards. 3. I wasn’t doing anything wrong to be pulled over. 4. We were in Jocotenango…and well Joco is scary.
When we finally realized we were the only two vehicles on the street and the pick-up filled with at least eight fully armed policemen were pulling us over I started freaking out. I haven’t been pulled over in Guatemala yet but I knew the situation I was in wasn’t a good one. So I kept driving, arguing with my friend about pulling over. Finally she convinced me to pull over. We were on a dark side street and when I stopped around seven armed policemen surrounded my car. It was scary. To make it worse, the main policeman came up to my window, didn’t greet me and demanded me to get out of the car. I asked why and he just kept saying “Get out of the car.” My friend said “Jackie we should get out.” So I stubbornly got out. The angry policeman told me to put my purse on the ground so he could search it. I told him he could search it but I wasn’t going to put it on the ground. My friend asked what they were doing or looking for and the angry man didn’t say drugs but put one finger to his nostril and pretended like he was snorting cocaine. Perfect. Then he went into my car and started ruffling though some maps I have and kept asking if I had drugs…though he never said the word “drugs” he just kept panamiming snorting coke.
I was getting super nervous at the non-traditional stop and asked Mr. Meany if he wanted to see my license and registration like a normal stop. He kinda waved his hands like “sure, whatever” and kept looking in my car for drugs. Like I said, it was a dark street and I needed to find my registration. Thankfully, one of the several thoughtful presents Joan brought me in March was a light up and mooing cow key chain flash light. So I used it to find my registration. The cop didn’t even look at the registration but started asking me questions about the cow. “What was that? Where did the sound and light come from?” ect…
Things like this really happen all the time but there are some stories one tells more than others. These would be the three more told stories thus far of the year.
In other news, I just got back to Guatemala after 11 fun days in Mexico. I was sick for about half of the trip but I got to travel to many places I’ve always wanted to go. Thanks to my wonderful mom and dad I had a new camera to capture the moments…. Enjoy J
Every now and then I have an overwhelming sense of belonging. It doesnt happen often but it did just the other day. At first I didnt know what caused this spark of comfort to occur. Today, however, it occured to me.
Location: Lumber Yard
Now many people, especially women and tree huggers wouldnt really like lumber yards....especially in Guatemala. Men giving you an extra look maybe even a cat-call...dead trees everywhere. The other day I visited the local lumber yard here in Patzun to buy some materials and for some reason the smells and familiarity of the place simply made my spirit happy. I didn't put two and two together until I went back there this afternoon and thought about this while I was waiting for my receipt to be filled out. Duh Jackie...you freaking grew up in various lumber yards in Madison and Culpeper counties.
At the heart of it, lumber got me a great education and a million invaluable experiences in life. Lumber is what my dad has hauled up and down the east coast my entire life. Picking up dad from the lumber yard as a kid and taking him home for the weekend is a sweet memory that I hadnt really thought much about until today.
Scents can tie together forgotten memories and today it was the scent of wood.
Unfortunately, this post is for my dad when it's my mom's birthday in just two days. But in a way it's for the three of us....happy birthday mom!
I started out 2010 wearing a mustach and losing a favorite earring:
Then I drove through some blizzards, spun some records, and roller skated old-school style to Jay-Z's 'Empire State of Mind':
In some ways, these events helped me to prepare for my move to Guatemala on Janurary 28th-ish, 2010. Never in a million years could I have dreamed what life would have in store for me...
Learning lessons, asking questions...
Finding my inner electrician, mechanic, and mason...
Finding my inner acrobat, personal assistant, artist....
There were a few disapointments...
Yet still finding some of the 'bests' I've ever had in this small world of ours....
Best Ice Cream and Best Ice Cream Atmosphere:
Best person to eat ice cream with ever:
One of my best purchases of 2010:
Except mine is navy blue....
I wanted to make this list longer by seem to never have time to think or update. So I'll end it there and try to make my blogs more constant this year...starting now, in Febuary.
Last week nine amazing friends, new and old, went on a trip of a lifetime. Why a lifetime? Because I’ll never do it again…but it was worth it cien por ciento (100%).
We headed to Todos Santos Cuchumatan (TSC) to see, celebrate, and experience their famous November 1st horse races. We tried to make plans before going, transportation and lodging, because we knew it could be rough and expensive doing it as we went. But as we all know plans often don’t ever work out here…so, how do I put it? The plans fell through at the very last of minutes and we fell into winging-it once again. What happened doesn’t need to be expressed in any detail other than to say…
Forgiveness isn’t a natural instinct.
At least it isn’t for me.
The unraveling of events that led us (for a brief moment) with nowhere to stay made me question (and I’m still pondering) many things: people, intentions, institutions, fear, belief, diversity, quality, reactions…
Basically, when we have the opportunity to be open and hospitable, to learn and share with others….don’t screw it up if you happen to be a person and/or an organization who celebrates diversity.
Although I’m still stunned by the unmentioned event, our group of ten did not let it deter us from having a wonderful adventure in TSC amid the celebrations of death and life.
TSC is a small but famous village located in the western highlands of Guatemala and is known for little but its November 1st celebration. The story goes that back during colonization the Spanish didn’t allow the indigenous peoples to ride horses. One day (or night) someone in TSC got really drunk, hoped on a horse and showed those Spaniards that they too could ride horses. The modern day version of this is celebrated on November 1st, All Saints Day. A part of a road in town in blocked off and drunken men ride their horsed back and forth all-day-long----
It isn’t really a race because there are no winners. Anyone can participate (as did three of our ten). Spectators are basically waiting for someone to fall off or for a funny scream from a rider. If someone does happen to fall off, get trampled on and then die it’s considered a sign for a good harvest the next year.
If you can’t already tell, for me there was much more to this weekend than the drunken horse “race.” There was even more to it than seeing a new part of Guatemala (because TSC is VERY much like Nebaj). For me it was a weekend of making incredible new friends, having great conversations, playing games, and creating memories. Our group was diverse, four Guatemalans, an Australian, an Englishman, and four North Americans.
For me, it was wonderful to experience TSC though their eyes. Sometimes you need a new perspective ---a positive one--- to reawaken all that you loved about Latin America to start with. Sometimes you need to stop judging and start appreciating. Sometimes you need to relax, laugh, and let go.
A few people I shared this with:
Check out Connor’s site about TSC---he even made a video!
Designer, Ana Karen’s site
Once again, crazy is the only way to describe my life over the past two weeks but it’s the good----no even GREAT---type of crazy, don’t worry!
I’ll try to put this in some sort of order but here we go: what APS and I have been working on….
Due to my persistant recommendations, we’re most likely getting two Healthy Schools Peace Corps Volunteers to Nebaj in March 2012!
The 30 Healthy School/Rotary Club project is coming together poco a poco…
I have been linking together several major organizations (not sure if I should name names?) to work together on school sanitation projects all over the country!
I quickly organized an event in Nebaj’s plaza for Global Handwashing Day on Oct. 15th! Although I was unable to attend and participate it was a HUGE success combining three other organizations around Nebaj and the local public who happened to be passing through the park. What happened? We took flyers and soap to the plaza where people washed their hands in the fountain! Check out the photos!
I was reminded by my wonderful friend Joan that Oct 15th was also Blog Action Day. Blog Action Day picks one topic and elaborates on it. This year’s theme was WATER! Joan shared this link with me, check it out! Now I’m trying to play catch-up and do my own Blog Action…
I’m going to work on a radio initiative with Cultural Survival to get messages out about hygiene and water issues. The messages will be in Ixil (the language spoken in Nebaj) and possibly other indigenous languages! It’s a great and simple tool to communicate with the local population as in many parts of Guatemala and the WORLD it is the only source of information rural communities have. Celebrate radios!
Another exciting update is that Jodi and Tristian Moss’ hard work back in April as PhotoPhilanthropists has come to fruition on the Peer Water Exchange website! Check it out and especially the links to the stories on the left side! We are excited to host another PhotoPhilanthropist in November!
My personal update would be that I’ve been busy, doing site visits, giving health lessons at schools, saying goodbye to good friends, welcoming new friends, and really getting comfortable in my new home. Siobhan has been a tremendous help to this process too as she surprised me with a completely made over living room when I came home after a weekend in Antigua. She even made an excel sheet with all 620 books and plans to classify them! Also, I bought Scott’s bed after he left and now I’m sleeping like a rock instead of sleeping on a rock…
Thanks for being involved!