Guatemala - Mi Vida en Tecpán
Today marks the end of my first work week in Tecpán. And what a week it has been. Here are some updates about what life is like here:
My host family is amazing. I’m staying with a married couple named Doña Mercedes and Don Pedro. They are both in their late-50s and are semi-retired. Together, they’ve hosted tons of volunteers from around the world – including a handful of Peace Corps Volunteers!
Before he retired to start his choco-banana business, Don Pedro worked for the Department of Agriculture, facilitating trainings on farming practices in schools around the department, Chimaltenango. Since I’ve been in Tecpán, Don Pedro and I have had many great post-dinner conversations on topics ranging from Guatemalan and tecpaneco culture to Peace Corps to issues in the Catholic Church and more. He has the BEST laugh, as well as sense of humor. Once Don Pedro starts laughing about something, you can’t help but to laugh too. He told me you have to have a sense of humor to be happy and healthy in life. Oh, and choco bananas are delicious.
Doña Mercedes works from home in cosmetic sales. She is an incredible cook, and I’ve enjoyed all of her dishes ranging from chorizos(famous Tecpán sausages) to sopa de verduras(vegetable soup) to plátanos fritos (fried plantains), and more. The dynamic between her and Don Pedro is great – let’s just say you can tell they’ve been married for many years. I’ve found myself chuckling more than once about their bickering and finishing each others’ sentences. She is a very caring person and is always concerned about how she can make other people comfortable in her home. Last night, Rosa – one of our neighbors – came over very upset because her aunt had suddenly become very ill. Doña Mercedes just stood there with Rosa sobbing on her shoulder in the kitchen, rubbing her back and consoling her.
And then there’s Kiara! When she’s not meowing under our feet at the dinner table, she’s doing this:
During the week, I work in La Oficina Municipal de la Mujer, Tecpán’s Municipal Women’s Office. The office is small, with only two full time employees, Ana and Rosi. Ana is an administrative assistant and Rosi is the director. Their mission is to help women become active, healthy, educated citizens and leaders in community development. They do this by working directly with about 15 women’s groups in the area. Myself and Madison (a volunteer from Wisconsin) are teaching English lessons and working with three of the local women’s groups. We gave our first English lesson yesterday which was… interesting. The class started at 2:00pm and men and women filtered into our classroom at 2:15, 2:30, 3:00, 3:15 with polite smiles on their faces and “buenas tardes” tumbling out of their mouths. Since it was the first class, we covered basic things like greetings, numbers, the alphabet, and days of the week.I expected many of them would be late (as is Guatemalan custom) but I didn’t expect how engaged or grateful they would be towards us for offering the classes. After class, a thirty-year old student approached us with his young son who was also taking the class. He thanked us for the classes because he really wants to learn English so he can have access to better-paying jobs and can communicate if he wants to travel to the US. Considering my nerves at the beginning of the class, that was an awesome ending.
Today, we attended the monthly Mayoral Meeting, which includes about 15alcaldes (mayors) from each municipality in Chimaltenango, including Tecpán. It was interesting because Rosi told us to dress in traditional clothing… which I had none of. So, I went early in the morning to Madison’s house to get ready with her, since her host mom is Mayan and had lots of clothes that we could borrow. Not so lucky for me, I was having stomach problems this morning and slogged my way over to Madison’s at 7am only to find out that Mayan dress is incredibly freaking tight. As Madison’s host sister Odi wrapped the cinturón (belt) around me like a corset I thought I was about to… well, you don’t want to know. She laughed and said (seriously), “I don’t think it’s tight enough!” We somehow managed to make our way to the meeting and sit in those corset death traps for 4 hours. And despite the close call, I kept my dignity in tact.
They mayor of Tecpan welcomes everyone alongside the mayor of Chimaltenango
Smiling to hide the pain