Participant Blogs

Galapagos - Settling In

Kyce - Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

galapagosI've definitely fallen into a groove these last couple of weeks. Most days, I just go to school, then a massive lunch followed by a Spanish lesson. Afterwords, I spend a few hours in the travel agency, helping them with their English and any tourists that come in who don't speak Spanish. These last few weekends have been incredible though. Last weekend I went to the island of Floreana, which only has about 100 people on it. There, I hiked up to a pirate cave, swam with sea lions and sea turtles, and saw an incredible view from the highlands. The weekend before that, I went to Isabella, the largest of the islands, where I saw flamingos, penguins, and of course, more sea lions and sea turtles. The day trip there definitely wasn't enough time, so I think a group of us are going to go visit one of the other volunteers on Isabella next weekend. We want to climb the volcano and go to the lava tunnels, which are supposed to have amazing snorkeling.

Recently, two new volunteers have moved into the house, and I have also met some other volunteers who live nearby from the US and from Germany. We pretty much spend the weekends together, going on day tours to the other islands for one day, and packing as much as we can into the other day. We go surfing, rock climbing and hiking, trying to see as much as possible. Last weekend, we went to Las Grietas, which is basically a massive fissure filled with water. I've now been there about 5 times, and I can't wait to go back. There, the water is crystal clear and about 35 feet deep, and the cliffs are about 45 feet high. You can snorkel, cliff dive, and rock climb. We even found a cave about 30 feet up the rock face that we had to climb to. We brought headlamps and explored the narrow chasm, which was so thin you could wedge yourself between the walls and climb. All in all, the other volunteers are a blast to hang out with, but I'm definitely speaking a lot more English these days. My Spanish has gotten a lot better, but the English is taking its toll. But it seems pretty worth it to me. They've really pushed me to spend as much time as possible enjoying what the islands have to offer. Whenever I have free time, there's always someone up to do something fun, which is probably the biggest reason I haven't posted for so long. Well, that's it for now. Until next time!

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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:

HOMESTAY

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.

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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:

WORK

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 Chitmaltenango

They mayor of Tecpan welcomes everyone alongside the mayor of Chimaltenango

 

Smiling to hide the pain

Smiling to hide the pain

 

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