It’s been a minute. At the beginning of November I traveled to the Peace Corps office in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas for our first in-service training event known as Pre-Service Training 2. The name is not only misleading (as we’ve already begun our service) but the experience was entirely overwhelming. I was force fed an undigestible amount of information about our project framework encompassing my official goals and objectives as a part of a US government organization’s project- much of which is common sense when working with underserved youth demographics: use condoms, stay away from drugs, have self-confidence, and school is cool. The technical aspect of the experience was equatable to two weeks of bureaucratic thumbscrews.
To compound the challenges of the training event, all 26 of the 27 of us who originally arrived in country last June were all together for the first time since swearing-in as PCVs and moving to our permanent sites at the end of August. While it was joyous to see so many good friends all again at the same time, the reunion quickly devolved into a cliquey pity party where all involved simply bemoaned the more oppressive aspects of their Guatemalan experience. But more than simply channeling this experience towards each other, many of my colleagues (and even myself at times) were guilty of directing this energy at each other. To make matters worse, about halfway through the event we learned that our missing cohort and two more individuals would be leaving service and returning to the States for good. Unquestionably, that had a major morale impact on Baktun 2 (the attempt at an affectionate term coined for our training class by the training manager as a replacement for the “Guatemala Spring 2013″ name assigned by Washington).
A picture from swearing-in with Ambassador Chacón
Angela and Sergio being clowns
The worst punk friends a PCV could ask for
My training host sister Adriana and her new friend Molly
Juana (middle) and Caroline (PC/G’s training manager) in traje típica
While it was fantastic to see some people, nice to see others, and less nice still to see fewer, I am certain that we were all ready for the event to be over. At its conclusion we attended the All-Volunteer Conference (AVC). At this event I was flattered to be asked to do two of my mini Kung-Fu/ self-defense classes that seem to be rapidly growing in popularity. As I’ve mentioned before, the application of this skill is particularly useful for touching upon the themes of confidence, respect, and self-esteem while offering the opportunity to talk about communication, peaceful conflict resolution, and the sanctity of one’s own body in terms of sexual health and substance abuse.
We also had a scavenger hunt. This is my team after learning we just got second place by a few seconds.
After the AVC I took some much-needed personal time and traveled to some old and some new areas of Guatemala. I spent four days at Monterrico beach in the Santa Rosa department. It was a relaxing time where I was able to sleep in hammocks, drink cheap beer, and eat seafood to my heart’s content. The two pictures below are at the entrance to the town and the view from our hotel.
We also woke up at the crack of dawn to go on a boat tour of a mangrove swamp at 5am. Here we are looking handsome and I with my shirt picked out just for the occasion.
I also volunteered at a sea turtle hatchery called ARCAS on a place called Hawaii, yes Hawaii, Guatemala. The girl who is the volunteer coordinator there is awesome and from OHIO (Cleveland Heights) so she didn’t charge PCV Sybil and I to spend a night with them helping turtles hatch, weigh, measure, and release them into the ocean.
Me and PCV Devyn just before releasing some turtles into the Pacific.
After that came THANKSGIVING! I spent it with my PCV friends Sybil, Laura, and Patrick. It was pretty awesome. We cooked everything together from scratch. Slaughtering a turkey, making our own broths, brines, gravies, stuffings, deviled eggs, pies, etc. The whole nine yards. It gave me a newfound appreciation for the amenities that we enjoy in the States and the borderline slave labor that Kim Sethna does for us hungry hordes every year. While I missed my family and friends like nothing else on that day, I was so grateful for the opportunities that the people of the United States have afforded me to travel and share our culture with the people of Guatemala. I miss my family and friends and thank them for their enduring love and support.
Turkey step one
Turkey final step
Table settings with PCV and HCN families.
And finally after Thanksgiving, I went to hang out at my favorite place- Lake Atitlán where I spent the weekend at the Iguana Perdida, an eclectic dive shop come hostel where I spent the weekend fraternizing with foreigners, hiking beautiful lakeside cliffs, and reflecting on the meaning of life.