Monday, February 23, 2009

Project Update and Field Based Training

I can’t believe how fast the days are flying by- there’s so much to catch up on! Each day seems to bring a variety of experiences and cultural lessons, both with our host families and in our professional environment as well. As we get to know the women’s group more and more, they have been sharing not only their struggles, but their wisdom as well. I’m amazed at how much they do each day! While most men work from 8-5, these women are at it from at least 5-9, taking care of their families. A few weeks ago they gave us an entire afternoon to do various workshops. The topics were divided up amongst the four of us: working in teams, attending to tourists, promotion/marketing and understanding the costs of production (which is what I discussed with them). After guiding them through various exercises, I came to fine that most of them don’t take in to account the amount of time it takes them to do their weavings, and in the end are paid very little for the work they do. We discussed strategies to decrease costs and increase profits, but it’s very difficult for them to alter their traditional ways. It was undeniably a challenging seminar to give (particularly to indigenous women in Spanish!)

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.
This is a view from a volunteer's site, called Parque Chuiraxamolo, on Lake Atitlan. You can see some of the lake's volcanoes in the distance.
We were lucky enough to go on the zip line at the park, which is 400m long and SO AMAZING! We were able to go across the valley like superman, and it really did feel like I was flying.
One day during FBT we went to an elementary school and taught the kids about environmental education, including a craft made from recycled goods. Our kids made super cute flowers out of plastic bottles and chip bags.
Here's the first park we stayed at during FBT, El Aprisco, in Totonicapan. Incredibly beautiful and tranquil, with a great diversity in birds and trees.
Here's us learning how to build trails with our homemade creinometer (sp?).
Teaching English to some of the women from the group...I love it!
We were also fortunate to be a part of a traditional Mayan ceremony- it was such a great experience to learn more about this part of their culture.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What I've been doing outside of work...

This is my attempt at making 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.

Weaving lessons are going good. Although I'm slow, it's been really fun to learn the process and understand more of what the women here do each day to earn a living. It is A LOT of work. If my tejido turns out alright, I'll post a picture when I'm done.

Let me tell you, it is SO fun to climb volcanoes! We hiked up Pacaya last week and were roasting marshmallows on a rocks that were from a 2008 lava flow. Yum :)