Friday, May 29, 2009

Good days

Volcano on Lake Atitlan...
Teaching high schoolers about taking care of the environment and the importance of reforestation.

My tree I planted in the forest!Walking the trails and climbing up Tikalito- 192ish stairs up the mountain.
Rachel taking a break.
Mama Lupe's birthday party (she's on the right). My host mom (Dona Oralia) is on the left and my host dad (Don Miguel Angel) on the right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How time flies

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:

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

Quick history

We've been working on putting together a quick history for new menus, pamphlets, etc and I thought I'd share it with you all.

La Historia…
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'.

Nuestros servicios:
Restaurante de gastronomía típica
Cabañas rústicas de madera
Temascales (baño sauna tradicional)
Senderos interpretativos
Observación de aves
El tikalito: un reto para los que aman el deporte
Santuario y altar maya
Día de campo
Eco campamentos
Vivero forestal
Aula de la Naturaleza: para eventos y capacitaciones

The History…
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’.

Our Services:
Restaurant with typical cuisine
Wood cabins
Temascales (mayan saunas)
Interpretive trails
Bird watching
El tikalito: a challenge for those who love sports
Sanctuary and Mayan altar
Picnic area
Plant and tree nursery
Nature salon: for events and trainings

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cultural Tidbits

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. 

Fíjese que…

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...