Thursday, September 10, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Teaching high schoolers about taking care of the environment and the importance of reforestation.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I have seriously neglected my blogging duties lately and for that I apologize. Life has just been flying by at a crazy pace, and I don't even know where to start from to catch you up. Here's a list of some of the major points:
- Two grant proposals were submitted this past week, one for a World Bank competition on climate change, and the other through National Geographic and Ashoka's Changemakers for Geotourism. You can check out the second one online at: http://geotourism.changemakers.com/es/node/24572
It's in Spanish, but for those of you who are able, look it over and make comments; it'll help us out!
- I've been participating in regional meetings for community tourism and sustainable tourism, getting to know strategic partners and the current alliances we have.
- We're trying to improve the signage in the front of the park, so I got a hold of a router and we've been making wooden signs to guide the way.
- I've also been collaborating quite a bit with Chloee, the French volunteer here doing a practicum in tourism, trying to improve kitchen processes and quality.
- I worked with a group of students that came last week to learn about reforestation and then plant trees; we added over 120 pine and cyprus trees to our forest!
- I've also been busy with fun stuff like running diagnostics, cost analysis, and starting a marketing plan...
- Lots of visitors have come my way to spend the night at my house, both fellow PCVs and friends :) Thanks to Erin, Molly, Natalie, Chloee and Rachel for brightening my days! I hope Rachel will forgive me for the craziness we went through trying to get home from Panajachel... I've never scolded anyone in my life like I did that taxi driver who tried to leave us off in the middle of nowhere at night.
- There have been parties galore: in a week and a half I went to 5 birthday parties (my middle brother Chico, one of the cousins, the grandma Mama Lupe, the son of my coworker Marta, and Dona Filomena, my co-worker Selvyn's mom) and we ended up having a big mother's day party too. It's so much fun to get together with the extended family, make tons of food, laugh, share stories and even throw on music to dance :)
- I've been doing lots of baking and cooking, highlights include chocolate cakes decorated with strawberries, chocolate chip cookies, the most delicious granola and prize winning lasagna. It's amazing the things you can do with a toaster oven.
- It's rainy season. That means I spend a lot of time in the rain or trying to avoid it.
So that's just a smattering of life. Each day brings new experiences and of course, many surprises. I wouldn't have it any other way...
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Bienvenidos a El Novillero, un valle con rica historia, donde en tiempos lejanos venían los novillos a pastar. Ahora es un parque ecológico que se llama Corazón del Bosque (Uk’ux K’achelaj). Esta iniciativa local nace de una asociación de la comunidad K’iche’ que se llama La Asociación Agropecuaria y Artesanal Para El Desarrollo “La Guadalupana", las raíces de la misma vienen de una cooperativa que durante la década de los '70 fue modelo de desarrollo en Guatemala y Centroamérica.
Corazón del Bosque cuenta con diversos objetivos y esperanzas: Ofrecer una nueva alternativa de sana diversión al turista nacional e internacional, enmarcada en el turismo ecológico, comunitario y sostenible. Propiciar una cultura de protección y conservación del medio ambiente. Promover el manejo forestal sostenible y proteger nuestra flora y fauna, únicos en nuestra región (ubicada en la parte alta del área protegida de usos múltiples Lago Atitlán) como alternativa a la deforestación que sufre actualmente el medio ambiente de Guatemala. Mantener un proyecto que beneficie a nuestra comunidad, promoviendo la igualdad participativa, el aprovechamiento sostenible de nuestros recursos naturales, junto a la valorización y rescate de nuestra cultura maya K’iche'.
Restaurante de gastronomía típica
Cabañas rústicas de madera
Temascales (baño sauna tradicional)
Observación de aves
El tikalito: un reto para los que aman el deporte
Santuario y altar maya
Día de campo
Aula de la Naturaleza: para eventos y capacitaciones
Welcome to El Novillero, a valley rich with history, where in times past "novillos" (great steers) would come to graze. Now it is home to an ecological park, Corazón del Bosque (Uk’ux K’achelaj) which translates as "the heart of the forest". It is a local initiative that was born in this Mayan K’iche’ community through a group of active citizens called La Asociación Agropecuaria y Artesanal Para El Desarrollo “La Guadalupana", whose roots stem from a cooperative begun in the 1970’s which was the model of community development in Guatemala and all of Central America.
Corazón del Bosque has a diverse array of objectives and guiding principles: To offer an alternative form of entertainment to national and international tourists, by way of sustainable community tourism; to initiate environmental awareness; to promote sustainable forestry by taking care of the region’s flora and fauna (located at the highest point of Lake Atitlán’s protected area), in order to mitigate the deforestation that has been damaging Guatemala’s environment; and to maintain a project that benefits the community by promoting equal participation among its inhabitants, sustainable management of natural resources, along with an effort to conserve and preserve the culture of the Mayan K’iche’.
Restaurant with typical cuisine
Temascales (mayan saunas)
El tikalito: a challenge for those who love sports
Sanctuary and Mayan altar
Plant and tree nursery
Nature salon: for events and trainings
Monday, May 4, 2009
As I pass the four month mark here in country, I’ve picked up on some interesting cultural tidbits I thought you might all find interesting…
Being indirect is always preferable.
If I generalize, Guatemalans tend to shy away from direct communication. Even if the news is positive, confrontation is avoided at all costs. What this usually amounts to is a string of words and phrases, painting a picture of the general idea the person wants to communicate. For those who speak Spanish as a second language or are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the culture, this means getting lost in the forest of vague explanations and unclear directions. Fun times.
Yes often just means no…in a nice way.
People here hate saying no. When asked to participate in something, many people say they will think about it and get back to you. For me this has always, always turned in to a negative answer. I’m not sure why “no” isn’t just said in the first place. But even better is when people commit to going somewhere, doing something or give you permission….when they really won’t go, won’t do, or don’t want you to do what you’re doing.
So this phrase has turned out to be the bane of my existence in Guatemala. It doesn’t have a good direct translation, meaning something like “look here”, or “fix on this”. But my problem isn’t with the phrase itself, only what comes after it- always some type of excuse. Like, fíjese que I would have finished cleaning but someone suddenly came in or fígese que we ran out of half the things on the menu. My co-workers have caught on to my dislike and now use this to torment me, but I have noticed many have stopped giving me crazy excuses...
Monday, April 13, 2009
So as time flew by so fast, I didn't have time to finish my tejido myself; lucky my host mom Maria wove the birds and the patterns at the top. It's now proudly hung on my wall!
Friday, April 10, 2009
What I’ve been asked to do is help the association keep these projects sustainable through increased quality control, promotion and networking so that the community can not only reap the benefits of the income generating activities, but also conserve their land and resources for future generations. I’m sure there’ll be many challenges along the way, but I am very lucky to have solid support from the staff at Peace Corps here, from my professors at SNHU, and also from my fellow volunteers (several of which are in the area).
As far as life things go, it’s also been pretty hectic. I’ve moved in to the room where the previous volunteer April lived, with a wonderful family that has 3 teenage boys. There was overlap with April which was such a help, as she was able to pass on helpful tips, strategies and lessons learned.
The strange thing about where I am, is that it doesn’t quite feel like the Peace Corps experience most people typically imagine (a mud hut in the middle of nowhere, without water and electricity). But then I have my own little adventures: I’m always washing my clothes by hand, I’ll sporadically find myself in a cold shower, I’ll pack in to an old US school bus with three times as many people as should be there, I’ll dream of something shaking and wake up to a little earthquake, and I have yet to get tired of beans and tortillas :)
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
So there's so much to write about the ecological park where I'll be working....since I'm short on time I'll direct you all to their website to check it out:
Oh, and swear-in is this Friday, when I actually become a true Peace Corps volunteer...pretty exciting!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Can't wait to have visitors....
Monday, March 9, 2009
Imagine trying to plan and promote a huge fair complete with exhibitors, food, entertainment, activities and vendors- with only 7 days (excluding the weekend) and in Guatemala, where things aren’t always as cut and dry as we’re accustomed to. I lost count of all the meetings we sat through trying to figure out who was doing what, who wasn’t doing they were supposed to, and just overall damage control (as our trainer David calls it). After hours and hours of stress and hard work, in collaboration with the Muni and women, we pulled off a nice event which included: a Mayan Ceremony; 20 women selling their textile goods; 8 exhibitors of products and services such as eco-parks, coffee farms, my friend Rachel’s NGO Camino Seguro http://www.safepassage.org/, and the new bank that’s coming to town; a traditional folk dance; the game of Pelota Maya; the Departmental Band; traditional food served by the women’s group; and activities such as making tortillas, grinding coffee and taking photos in traditional dress. Although we didn’t draw a huge crowd, the tourists that came loved it and it was an enjoyable learning experience for the women (and us as well!)
We’ve also had some fun times lately, such as going to the beach (beautiful black sand!), watching the first procession come to Antigua during Lent, and having lunch with the US ambassador to Guatemala.
Sometime this week I’ll hopefully be posting very exciting news: I’ll finally find out which community I’ll be working in these next two years!
Monday, February 23, 2009
One thing I’m pretty excited about is an upcoming Cultural Day we’re helping to organize with both the women and the Municipality. We’ll be inviting students from the Spanish schools in Antigua to come to San Antonio and see traditional dances, hear marimba, learn how to make tortillas, grind coffee, eat typical foods and take pictures in the local clothes. We are also targeting regional residents by offering live music and a demonstration of the pelota maya. Our purpose is not only to share the culture of the town with tourists, but to give the women a taste of what it could be like to diversify their income sources. With only a few weeks left to work here, we want to leave them not only an annual operating plan (a POA) with a budget, but also the determination to see it through.
Our work was interrupted last week for field based training where the 16 of us in Sustainable Community Tourism spent a week together visiting different sites to learn more about the environmental segments of our program. Here’s the brief overview:
· Stayed the first three days at the park El Aprisco outside of Totonicapán. It was so cold, even wearing 5 layers to bed with my sleeping bag and two blankets didn’t help! If you think all of Guatemala’s hot, you are dead wrong. And here I thought I was pretty tough, coming from North Dakota. But it was a beautiful place, and we had some great hands-on training (for park management/eco-tourism). We were also able to visit a local school, teach the kids how to make crafts out of recycled materials, go bird-watching and have some crazy campfires.
· Went on to Corazón del Bosque, near Sololá- we were pretty excited to have running water, real coffee, and be a few degrees warmer! Continued our lessons on environmental interpretation and conducted an Eco-camp with local teenagers.
· Visited a volunteer at the Park Chuiraxamoló, overlooking Lake Atitlán, and learned the ins and outs of working despite local politics. Check out my picture below on the zip line!
· Visited another volunteer in Alaska, seeing various projects up close: stoves, wells, school gardens, and playgrounds made from tires and wood.
Here we are helping an elementary school in Baja Verapaz construct a building out of plastic bottles and trash. The kids went in to the community and gathered 4,000 bottles from the streets and river, filling them with around 100 plastic bags and chip bags each. After the bottles are placed together between the chicken wire, cement will cover the walls and there will be no difference in the insulation or durability.
This is a mini recycling center made out of plastic bottles. You can see how they left some spaces so people could see how it was constructed.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
This is my attempt at making tortillas...you can see the ones my host mom made are nice and round. Mine are a little off, but with practice hopefully I'll get there! I've even ventured out with some different shapes; the heart definitely got some good laughs.
Here I am grinding coffee beans. The neighbors across the street have plants in their yard, and after they pick them, they're set out to dry. My family buys the dry, green, coffee beans and then we roast them on the comal. After roasting they are ground on the piedra (which is what I'm doing). Then....we drink it!!! Talk about keeping it local; these beans don't go more than a 100 yards from home.