It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Guatemala for a week now. The “chicken buses”, widowmakers, tortillas and volcanoes have all come to be normal components of a typical day.
Last Tuesday I was in DC for staging, where I basically filled out paperwork and met my fellow trainees. We are currently a group of 32: 16 working on the Healthy Schools Project, and the other 16 of us working in Sustainable Community Tourism. It’s interesting meeting people you know you will be in close contact with for at least the next two years; bonding came fast. You could see most people were dealing varying levels of similar emotions: anxiety, excitement, fear, relief, etc.
Unfortunately we woke up at 1am on Wednesday to leave the States, and after a brief stop in Miami (where I got to see Andrea, Reg and Andre!) we landed in Guatemala City. Exhausted, we were given a basic introduction to the program, safety procedures and health guidelines. Then we set off to host families near the Peace Corps Offices in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas. Two of my fellow trainees and I had the pleasure of staying our first 3 days in the country with a wonderful Guatemalan family. I couldn’t get too attached because last Saturday we headed out to our communities where we will be training for the next three months. Split into groups of four based on language ability and project focus, I will be staying in a nice-sized pueblo about 20 minutes west of Antigua with another amazing family.
Although I stick out among these small women in traditional Mayan dress, I feel quite at home and am learning quite a bit about the local customs and culture. One of the Mayan languages, Kaqchikel, is spoken here and my lessons have so far taught me how to say “thank you”, which works out quite well. My host mom, doña María, has also promised to teach me how to make tortillas and how to weave…hopefully I can rise to the challenge these next few months!