Dios mío so much has happened!
It’s been over a month since my last post so I’ll do a brief recap of the highlights!
1.Field Based Training – Quetzaltenango
During Field Based Training (FBT) is the first opportunity a PC trainee has to get a feel for the actual work we’ll eventually be doing in the field is like! Given that we’re still in training, there was a ton of homework to do during the trip. Each trainee is assigned to a currently serving PCV to stay with for 3 days and learn about their site and work.
After a 3 hour PC shuttle ride in a micro bus, we arrived at the second Peace Corps office in Quetzaltenango (nickname: Xela; pronounced: Shayla), Guatemala, where I met Berni, the volunteer I’d get to spend the next 3 days with! Berni showed me all around her community, introduced me to her work partners at the health center and in the smaller health posts, and even introduced me to her favorite bakery man. We went to the community garden that she helped establish with help from the municipality leaders and we learned from a local community leader how to transplant veggies! The purpose of this garden is to not only create a sustainable food source for the community, but also to teach community members about nutritious foods and practices.
After a few hours of garden work, we presented a brief health talk (or charla, in Spanish) on the importance of prenatal visits. Originally this was intended for a pregnancy club, but as things often go in the Peace Corps, no one came! I’m realizing this happens a lot, and it can depend on the day, the time, the other local events going on (i.e. Dog vaccinations!), or just life happening. It happens and patience is key!
2. Semana Santa
This one deserves a post of it’s own! Guatemala is famous worldwide for it’s Semana Santa festivities. Catholics in Guatemala celebrate every week of Lent, but the really big draw is Semana Santa, or Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter. So much so that it’s a national holiday where people get 4 days off from work and school for celebrations and/or vacation.
Two things are key to the celebrations: Alfombras (literally translated to carpets but are really these incredibly intricate creations) and Processions.
The Alfombras are made from colored sawdust, flowers, fruits, leaves, veggies, and really anything that a group or family wants to contribute (one chocolate company in Antigua uses cacao leaves!). These are created in the streets in advance of the processions as an offering to Jesus/Dios and only He is allowed to walk over them.
I was fortunate enough to be able to help build one with my family in advance of a morning procession!
The processions themselves are also quite a site to see! These happen every week, and sometimes twice a week during Lent, and then during Semana Santa there can be multiple per day! There are tons of people, both lining the streets to watch, and marching in the procession. Of course like any good parade, there are floats, music, and people. What’s most moving about processions though, is that these floats are carried on the shoulders of church members. And they’re not small. Sometimes there’s more than 100 people carrying one float, and they move slowly, stopping every now and then to sway slowly with the music so that onlookers can see.
Each procession usually only has one float, depicting religious events during Lent (i.e. Jesus carrying the cross before his death), though others may have several (Jesus’ death, followed by the Virgen Mary and those who kept vigil with her). Only those carrying the floats and playing the music may walk on the colorful alfombras laid down as offerings.
3. Spending time with my host family
Living with a host family has been one of the highlights of my entire time here in Guatemala. I attribute it so much to Doña Fabiana, my host mom. I don’t even know where to begin! I’ve learned so much from her and she has made me feel so at home during what has been by far one of the most emotionally and physically draining experiences of my life. She is a super active member of her church, a leader in her community, and a wonderful friend to so many people. She is verdad, the best.
Her husband, Carlos, is also really well known in the community and is muy chistoso (really funny, but for him, Spanish fits better). Whenever we need to find Carlos, we can just look outside and find him chatting to some person or another somewhere nearby. Carlos has a big family, and even some of his siblings are currently living in the States! He loves marimba and fútbol and is the silly-host-grandpa that everyone hopes to get.
Needless to say, I’m sure there will be plenty of tears when I leave to leave them to move to my next site in 9 days…
Oh, what’s that? I’m moving to my next site in NINE days?! Highlight #4 is that we found out where we’ll be going for the next two years…but that 100% needs it’s own post. Stay tuned!