Monday, February 8, 2010

Life is Beautiful

I am so thankful for the life I have and for what makes it up: the unique experiences, the wonderful people I'm blessed to have around me and the incredible lessons I continually learn.

The view from my tent in the early morning, camping with the family on the mountain near where we live.

Enjoying the night eating and talking by the fire. A little cold but way worth it :)

Picnic by the river! We decided to make grilled chicken, salad, guacamole, etc outside one Sunday afternoon as a sort of goodbye party for Eddy and one of the cousins, before they took off for other cities to start school. Here we have Fatima and favorite girls!

Doña Oralia making lunch with me in the shade.

I taught the boys how to throw an American football...super fun! Now we head out occassionally to go play.

Before I headed home for Christmas, we were visited by April (the volunteer who was here before me). It was a grand surprise that I struggled keeping for several months. In honor of the visit we of course had a party :)

Found this huipil from Santiago Atitlan super cheap at the market and wore it celebrate the birthday of the Virgen Guadalupe.

My dear friend Patty from San Antonio Aguas Calientes made the trek out to visit me. Unfortunately it was one of the coldest weekends in December and we stayed outside till late watching the fireworks/firecrackers in Santa Lucia Utatlan for their fair!

On a random trip down to San Marcos La Laguna with Selvyn and his family...the new baby (Mariajose) is absolutely adorable!

Eddy was the only one who'd go on the ferris wheel with me. I think I've determined that half the fun is the movement of the wheel and the other half is the rush of wondering if it'll fall apart.

Fatima's 4th birthday. My favorite is when they make them take the first bite out of the cake.

Mayra (on the left) came to El Novillero from the coast to work for a time with her sister. Mama Lupe and I put her in traje to take pictures to remember her time with us.

I know it's late, but here's a pic from Thanksgiving. We have Molly, me, Luis, Beberly and Erin- good times, good food and good friends.

The first of November there's always a huge festival in the town of Sumpango, with giant kites intricately decorated.

Chico, Oralia, Braulio and Luis hanging out at the marimba concert during the fair.

Again during fair week, watching Braulio play soccer again a team from the capital. Marta (our accountant at the park) lent me this pink traje (for those of you who know me well will be surprised, as I am definitely not a pink person!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Work...almost too much fun :)

Corazón del Bosque is part of the Red de Turismo Comunitario de Sololá (the Community Tourism Network of the Department of Sololá). Last November the majority of the members sent representatives to visit Ak'Tenamit (, a developed site of community tourism (one of its many programs) on the eastern coast of Guatemala, in Livingston, Izabal. One other volunteer (Erin) and I were given the opportunity to accompany the group with the goal of learning all we could from the interchange to improve not only our own sites but to strengthen the network overall. It was a quick 4 day trip (two days of travelling!) that included several meetings, a visit to their fair-trade store, restaurants, a community stay and a stopover in Rio Dulce. Here's most of us visiting the Castillo San Felipe.

This is the view we had on our boat ride from Livingston back to Rio Dulce- it's almost breathtaking to see the cliffs covered with trees that plunge down to the water's edge.

We hiked two hours to a community, spending the night at their "hotel", sharing a meal with community members and ending with a marimba concert/dance party. The community's called Plan Grande Quehueche ( Don't worry, I didn't hike in my skirt...this was on the way out, which was in a pickup.

The ceiba, Guatemala's national tree.

One of the many interesting bugs we found in the jungle. It was great to explore a different ecosystem and be reminded of how diverse Guatemala is. It felt like a different country compared to my neck of the woods (all mountains, and pine/oak forests).

So I don't have a picture yet of the finished product, but here's a little taste of the playground we started building last fall. It's made of recycled tires and wood from the forest. They went a bit crazy on the colors, but what can you do. Now we're only lacking a few finishing touches, benches and flowers. I'll post when that's done (hopefully soon!!!).

Another project we started last fall was a course on making handicrafts. We started out teaching a group from the community, mainly women, on how to kill rabbits and cure the skins to use the fur. I would have included some of those pictures but wasn't sure how people would react...especially my animal rights friends! I have to admit it still makes me a bit squeamish...I'm much better at murdering chickens. But anyways, after we finished learning about furs, we moved on to making baskets, jewelry and such out of pine needles.

Here are some examples from one of park workers, Don Martin. Absolutely beautiful and 100% natural pine! If the group gets a little more formal I'll start helping them make contacts, as there's already a domestic and international market for such products.