Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The beautiful, brand-new, bizarre….and the birds!

Almost a month has passed since I’ve graced you all with the presence of a new post and the reason can be summed up in a single word: research. It’s been a while since I’ve written about my studies (that I’m in the Master’s International program, getting a master’s while serving in Peace Corps). I completed two semesters before coming to Guatemala, and then spent the last year getting to know the people here, the culture and digging in to my work. Earlier this year I decided on a direction for my thesis, which is the next part of the degree and will be consuming my time this next year :) I’m always interested in the economic impact of development initiatives, but since working at an ecological park I’ve also been hooked on conservation so to combine my passions I’m going to try to take a look at the economic impact of conservation activities in community tourism (comparing 3 community tourism sites in Guatemala, one of course being Corazón del Bosque, where I’m working). Unfortunately I don’t have much formal training in this field, so I’m doing quite a bit of catch-up. If anyone happens to know of any good resources or has some input please send it my way…I’d be very grateful!

Now moving on to life stuff…the beginning of February I helped translate and such for the National Birdwatching Encounter, which took place in San Juan La Laguna. The object was to increase awareness of Guatemala as a birding destinantion in the international market. I'm fairly new to the whole birding world, but since last year I've learned quite a bit and have grown rather fond of going to check out birds :) A while back I compiled a list of birds found in the park (from studies by biologists and practicum students)- we have over 70 species, 20 of which are endemic to the area. Birding is a great product for us to offer, as it's a low impact activity with high economic returns...so far it's been difficult for the park to capitalize on, although we do offer a basic guided bird tour through the forest. Anyways, here are a few shots of the event, the first is me with two other members of the Red de Turismo Comunitario de Solola sharing different tour packages with an international tour operator.


I had the chance this last weekend to hang out with some good friends at another volunteer’s site. Jamie works with a municipality close to the Mexican border in their park (El Refugio del Quetzal) which is around 90 hectares of dense forest with lush vegetation that houses Guatemala’s national bird, the quetzal. It’s an incredible bird, and although we only saw its tail for the better part of an hour, our patience was rewarded with the glimpse of it majestically flying through the air. I don’t have pics of that unfortunately but you can check some out on google: link to quetzal pics Below you'll see Jamie swinging on a vine, which I attempted as well with more dramatic results... And also an artificial nest they put in the park, with the male's tail sticking out. He's a modern man, taking care of the eggs while the female is out looking for food.

The beautiful park and friends:

Remember when I lived in San Antonio my first three months in Guatemala? As part of training I worked with a group of women weavers. One of their products is the traditional San Antonio huipil (woven blouse) but it’s also one of the most expensive because of the designs/time it takes to make. Ever since I lived there I’ve wanted to have one of my own, so I saved up and made payments from July to January to the aunt of the family where I lived….and now I have one! Here’s a pic of me wearing it for the first time, with Doña Oralia’s mom.

My brand-new huipil:

I have to admit that since living here I’ve grown skeptical of many things…people tell tall tales more often than short ones? But I always listen and respond with the appropriate, “ah, sí?!” So when last month my family tells me they heard about a Catholic church not too far away where a miracle had taken place, shown by floor tiles that lifted up in the form of a cross, my first thought was that someone was playing a joke. However, the next day we head over with the grandparents to check it out and hear the story from the people first hand. A couple weeks before a couple from a town 15 minutes away had come to the church to pray because the husband was sick with a terminal illness, and the doctors said there was no hope for treatment. While at the altar they felt strong tremors of an earthquake. Scared, they began to make their way to the exit when the tremors suddenly stopped. But what they saw in front of the entrance shook them more than ground moving….the floor tiles had raised to form a peak in the exact form of a cross. When they went outside to tell the people what happened, they found out that outside of the church, no one had felt the earth move. Shortly after, the man’s health began to improve and people from far and wide began to frequent the little rural church, praying for healing as well. Everyone began to praise God for this miracle. Maybe you’re like me and have a hard time believing in miracles in today's world (where we use science and rationale to explain everything), but I’ll honestly tell you when I saw this with my own eyes there was something I felt…

The bizarre: