Take Your Love With Me (Sophie Madeline cover)

This past weekend my friend Hestia came to visit my site. We had a very musical time and managed to produce this gem. I hope that you enjoy!

Cabal en Chimal is a series about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in Guatemala’s department of Chimaltenango. Bi-weekly on Music Monday, this series explores my passion for tonal expression in the birthplace of Guatemala’s national anthem.

Peace Corps Week

On March 1, 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps Act was passed by congress in September of that same year and established a new US federal agency

To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.

Peace Corps is a development organization- but it does not bring money to the process. Instead we work to build capacity among the populations we serve, striving to impart skills and share knowledge. Peace Corps is an embodiment of the time-old “teach a man to fish” adage.

Between the establishment of the agency in 1961 and the latest statistics available from 2013, more than 210,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 139 countries across the globe. I am truly proud to be part of this large American family and global community of internationally-minded people.

Since it’s Peace Corps week, I want to take a moment to share with you some of the activities that I’ve been working to put together so far this year in my site.

afiche-art-exchangeThis is an art exchange that I am coordinating with an organization in my site. With any luck we will receive 25 pieces of art from my elementary school back in Ohio and from other participating schools around the world!

afiche-kf 1-14Kung-Fu classes continue and I really enjoy them. I have a student “Emily” who is super dedicated. She practices with gusto and can reasonably fend off my attacks and throw me around. I’m getting very excited and my hope in the future is that perhaps she’ll take interest in leading beginner’s classes- thus amplifying the reach of the program. We’re starting by having her lead sections of the class that she feels most comfortable with.

Additionally I’ve been working with some organizations in the community- the Health Center is working to establish an Espacio Amigable- a “Friendly Space”- where adolescents can go and work on homework, research, receive life counsel, and ask questions about sexual and reproductive health. Sounds like a worthwhile endeavor but getting the space setup is an incredibly bureaucratic process.

Additionally I continue to have my regularly scheduled conversations groups. I’m very proud of my jóvenes. Last week we read aloud together the encyclopedia article about the Federal Republic of Central America and answered some discussion questions I wrote about why the union dissolved, the pros and cons of centralized government, and whether this governance model would benefit Central America now or in the future. Deep stuff.

I like music. I’ve been working with the local music program to implement aspects of “positive youth development.”


Finally, I’m trying to restart work with my secondary counterpart organization- the CJC with whom I planned most of my activities in Q4 2013. Due to some political nonsense, all the staff at this organization were terminated at the end of the year and the new hires (who didn’t start until mid-January) are still working on getting their act together. But poco a poco I keep being insistent that they get me a copy of their plans, pass them documents that outline my intentions here, and keep them posted on the activities that they could be helping me with if they knew what their own goals and direction are.

I leave you with final words from the late President JFK.

There can be no greater service to this country, or source of pride more real, than to be a member of the Peace Corps of the United States. – President John F. Kennedy

The Menzingers announce “Rented World”

Menzingers @ The Basement, Columbus, OH

Menzingers @ The Basement, Columbus, OH

Today is Tuesday and not a regularly scheduled blog posting date. But I’m excited. Really excited! Today Scranton, PA’s THE MENZINGERS- in my humble opinion the best thing to happen to the punk scene since 2006- announced the release of their fourth full-length record: “Rented World.”

From the streaming track “In Remission,” I have mixed feelings about how this record is going to turn out. It doesn’t sound as hard-hitting or as relatable and close-to-heart as I found “On the Impossible Past” their previous release and a life-defining album for me. “In Remission” seems to lack much of Greg hacking his vocal chords back out of his throat- something that draws attention to The Menzingers’ particularly passionate lyrical bouts.

It’s hitting record stores April 22. Preorder links are below. This sucker is listening.

Vice hits it up pretty nicely:

Two years ago, punk kids everywhere took notice of a little band from Scranton, PA called the Menzingers. It was hard not to. Their third album, On The Impossible Past, had just been released and stunned everyone. Its perfect symmetry of chaos and harmony earned it positive reviews across the board. Plus, a pretty distinct cover image featuring a close-up shot of a woman’s bra-less cleavage made it sort of hard to forget. Even the too-cool-for-school punks scrambled to catch up. “Oh, yeah yeah, the Mensinkers. Totally. I always listened to them. The Metznenggers are my favorite band. The one with the boobs on the cover.”

The only problem was, the band set an incredibly high bar for themselves. How would they go about topping something which many people will forever believe to be their best work? Well, if their new album, Rented World, is any indicator, the answer is: very, very fucking forcefully. The Zingers don’t seem to be too concerned with matching anyone’s standards or expectations on their fourth album. It is distinctly their own, loaded with all kinds of new ways to define their sound and to top their impossible past.

Rented World is out via Epitaph Records on April 22. Watch the video for the first song released by the band “In Remission” below. Pre-order Rented World here. (Seriously, don’t even think about it. Just order it.) Album artwork below.

Music Monday Bonus: Mixed Signals

I would like to share with you a v-log that I discovered today entitled “Mixed Signals.” It’s reminiscent of the Run for Cover Records sampler of the same name, one of my favorite mixed records of all time.

FIREWORKS? Defeater? The Wonder Years? Music festival, all three days? BRITISH POP PUNK? WHO IS THIS AND HOW CAN WE BECOME FRIENDS?

But besides that, the author of Mixed Signals is articulate and well-spoken on the subject of things punk scene. As a fellow aficionado, I can feel her excitement and passion for the bands she like radiate from the content of her review/ update/ verbal gossip column.

She appears to be an ethnic minority, not to mention a woman in an otherwise male-dominated music scene. I commend her perspective on gender roles and equality. If Mixed Signals were ever to come to Guatemala, it would be welcome in my site! Perhaps even warranting an episode on marimba?

Particularly towards the end of the edition, the author shares comments regarding a recent article published by MTV on the presence of women at hardcore shows:

… This article is a JOKE. It is sexist and COMPLETELY disrespectful to women in hardcore. Not only does it dehumanize women, but it also takes the idea of unity in hardcore… twisting it to make the scene seem pretty and shows a cakewalk…

Seriously. What a badass.


The other day my dear friend Cameron posed a question on my Facebook wall:

Are Rise Against considered sell outs?

This simple question triggered a mountain of introspection and pontification of the nature of his inquiry.

What is a sellout? Is it just someone who “defies the punk ethic?” What is that anyway? Do we even have a “code” or some other set of rules? Should we? I think punk rock is about being who you are and not giving a damn what other people’s judgements are. Punk is making your own decisions and doing what’s best for you without dicking over other people in the process. I personally like Rise Against’s (older) albums and consider them to be socially-aware, defiant, and hard-hitting; in my opinion the essence of punk rock. Allow me to provide you with an example. In the performance below the band is partaking in the energy of their fans. There are no barriers, no bouncers, and a cesspool of raw, visceral, and rebellious energy.

Black Masks and Gasoline

Simply because you can breathe,
Doesn’t mean you’re alive,
Or that you really live.
This life has taken it’s toll
And she just doesn’t know,
How much more she can give

But here, at the top of the world, where I raise my hands and I clench my fists,
They stand before me below, demanding the answers with flips of a switch

I don’t understand where you got this idea,
So deeply ingrained in your head
(that this world) is something that you must impress,
Cause I couldn’t care less

A need for revolution’s rising, it comes to the surface, gasping for air,
We’re not putting up with this planet one more day much less one more year

I don’t understand where you got this idea,
So deeply ingrained in your head
(that this world) is something that you must impress,
Cause I couldn’t care less

So here and now, in our rotting nation
The blood, it pours, it’s all on our hands now
We live, in fear, of our own potential
To win, to lose, it’s all on our hands now

And I have an American Dream,
But it involves black masks and gasoline,
One day I’ll turn these thoughts into screams,
At a world turned its back down on me

I don’t understand where you got this idea,
So deeply ingrained in your head
(that this world) is something that you must impress,
Cause I couldn’t care less

Cabal en Chimal is a series about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in Guatemala’s department of Chimaltenango. Bi-weekly on Music Monday, this series explores my passion for tonal expression in the birthplace of Guatemala’s national anthem.

Mail Call: The Latest Christmas Card

So yesterday afternoon in the mail I received my latest piece of correspondence: the latest Christmas card that I have ever received in my life.

20140212-093025.jpgIt’s almost as if the sender knew how late this card would arrive. But not really since she only sent it mid-January! Had it been anyone else, I would have been highly infuriated at the lack of foresight to send my yuletide greeting in a more timely manner. However, some allowances have to be made. For friends. From time-to-time.

However, I’m ecstatic to have received this card. It is hilarious. How could you not love this reindeer and cute little bird? Not to mention it’s printed sustainably with soy inks or some other liberal, eco-hippie buzzwords and other nonsense.


However, the best part was reading the guts of the card. Oddly, that’s usually the best part of written correspondence: the words themselves.20140212-093042.jpgMy host family asked me why I was laughing to hysterically- maniacally even. The likely answer is that I have finally lost my mind here in Guatemala. But the response I gave in the moment was that my friend Jessica from the States had sent me a really hilarious Christmas card. After asking me aloud why the card had taken until mid-February to arrive, they promptly suggested that I translate it to Spanish. Replying that it would likely offend them, they seemed unfazed. The vaguely confused and unsure whether-or-not to be offended facial expressions they exhibited upon conclusion of the Spanish-language dramatic reading only amplified the situation’s hilarity. Thanks for the laughs Jess!

Cabal en Chimal is a series about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in Guatemala’s department of Chimaltenango. Bi-weekly on Ventura Viernes, it is my goal to share the happiness, joy, and good fortune that I’ve found through my work and travels.



Jornada médica comalapense

On Monday as I was on my way into the center of town, I saw that there was a huge line of people waiting outside the local girls school. I had called Anton, one of the Germans volunteering with the Aula Musical and asked him if he was inside his office located on the second floor of the school. Wanting to drop in for a visit, I pushed past the throngs of people queuing up outside the school, inside the stairwell, and up to the second floor where I saw droves of gringoes in scrubs wielding clipboards and stethoscopes. Immediately taken aback by such a large mass of white in an otherwise brown town, I hurried to Anton’s office and closed the door.

“Dude, what is going on here?”

“It’s some kind of free clinic that these Americans have organized for Comalapa. They are traveling around Guatemala to one town every day for a couple of weeks doing this kind of thing,” replied Anton. “Don’t worry, I already took the liberty of informing them that there is a Peace Corps Volunteer posted in this town and that you would be by soon to visit.”

Great! I guess that means I should stop hiding in the corner and go out and try and ascertain who is in charge of this event and managing its teeming masses. After a bit of searching, I learned that the event was headed up by two doctors- one from Dallas, Texas and the other from Kansas State University (the other KSU).

I went on to discover that in addition to scores of pretty residents and third-year medical students, these two doctors had coordinated a fully-functioning pharmacy dishing out prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs many people in Comalapa have likely never heard of- let alone used. Además they brought with them optometrists, pediatricians, gynecologists, and orthopedic doctors. This was truly a full-service, one-stop-shop for many of Comalapa’s impoverished residents.

Even more admirable, these people did not seem to come on behalf of any organization or religious group. They wound up in Comalapa and will continue to travel through rural Guatemala completely off their own volition. They derive intrinsic satisfaction from the work that they do: helping people who rarely receive individualized medical care.

Returning with one of my more-gifted students with me to help with translations between English-Spanish-Kaqchikel, I spent the afternoon helping fellow comalapenses explain their ailments and understand their diagnoses and treatment plans. I learned a lot about public health in Comalapa, average education, and exposure to healthcare themes. I also understand that if I were ever to get more serious about interpreting, I really need to take a class on medical interpretation. Though I only spent the day getting a handful of first names and will probably never see nor hear from any of these people ever again, I really admire their work and commitment to service. These young professionals are honoring to the fullest the true embodiment of the Hippocratic Oath.

Cabal en Chimal is a series about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in Guatemala’s department of Chimaltenango. Bi-weekly on Trabajo Thursday, this series highlights the triumphs and challenges of development work in the Guatemalan context.

India Quiché

This Friday evening I find myself in the Guatemalan department of Quiché in the town of Nebaj. This post will be co-authored by my friend Molly who is also visiting from her site in Quetzaltenango.

India Quiché is a soda that can only be purchased in the department of Quiché. Currently we are sipping the orange and cream soda varieties.8-001_0


Molly: This soda tastes exactly like every other soda.

Cyrus: Why yes it does. The orange India Quiché is vaguely reminiscent of Orange Crush or Slice. I’m glad that we traveled over six hours for this experience.

Molly: It’s not “vaguely reminiscent,” it’s cabal Orange Crush. I mean, why not? It’s in the blog series title.

For those of you who have not tried Orange Crush, the initial sip (and all successive) hit you hard with an intense rush of sugar. The upside of India Quiché is the inclusion of cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. This is also true of every soda in Guatemala. Though really, there is no way of knowing if this is actually true because the ingredients are not listed on the bottle. India Quiché could be sweetened rat poison for all we know. The orange soda leaves a lingering aftertaste of sugar and a dry mouth from the aggressive carbonation. This makes you drink the soda quickly and then buy another one because you are still thirsty.

The cream soda variety is exactly the same.

Molly: Isn’t that true of every soda?

Yes, yes it is. Very astute.

Cabal en Chimal is a series about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in Guatemala’s department of Chimaltenango. Bi-weekly on Food Friday, this series focuses on my love of eating and trying new foods… all within PC medical rules of course!