CHIditarod XI

Friends, family! I am happy to announce that I will be participating in the 11th annual CHIditarod.

CHIditarod is Chicago’s 100% volunteer-driven epic urban shopping cart race, charity food drive, costumed beauty pageant, talent show and chaos generator, all in one. It’s a micro-grant fundraiser for the CHIditarod Foundation, and probably the world’s largest mobile food drive, benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

I will be braving the ice and snow of Chicago’s winter to dress as Scooby-Doo with 4 other valiant RPCVs. As the Mystery Team, we gallivant about the world attempting to solve various social issues each member holds dear to their heart. Community gardening, women’s empowerment, marine conservation, and animal rights count among these causes. Together we unveil that behind each of these seeming intractable ails of the modern world- just like the other ghouls, goblins, and ghostly apparitions our town fears- there is a reasonable solution.

Mystery, Inc. is about to embark on its latest adventure, the quest to vanquish an alarmingly large villain in our own backyard: Hunger. Through their participation in the 2016 CHIditarod, we hope to raise as much non-perishable food for the Greater Chicago Food Depository as possible. To date, this event has raised over 100,000 pounds of food for our Chicago neighbors.

Chiditarod 2014 & 2015

Please support us by making a donation to the cause via our team’s page on Razoo.

Your generous donation supports grassroots, hunger-fighting initiatives. CHIditarod parters with food banks, urban farms, educational programs for children in Chicago Public Schools, mobile farmers markets, and more!  Thank you so much for your generous contribution, it makes a world of difference.

Upon commencing a sabbatical from Mystery Inc., the five members traveled across the world in pursuit of fulfilling work and the promotion of world peace. Their colorful history as a crime-solving team had oddly prepared them well to tackle social issues far and wide. Join the Mystery Team in their latest adventure against an alarmingly large villain: Hunger. ZOINKS!

As Peace Corps volunteers we engaged in the search for creative, fun solutions to difficult problems. After service, we remain committed to confronting hunger, a major issue in our new home of Chicago.

Fred Jones, worn out from the stress of Mystery Inc. and overwhelmed by the tightness of his ascot, set out for Senegal, West Africa, in search of a new experience. Upon the return to his motherland, Fred has enjoyed bicycling to breweries and pursuing the search for the perfect new ascot.

Miles Conant as Fred Jones

Danger-Prone Daphne, after being evacuated from Ukraine, has set roots in Chicago. Despite being back in the US, her love for vodka and adventure continues! Daphne can now be found marathon training with Scooby. By the way, after Daphne was evacuated from Ukraine, she returned to an active war zone to pick up her dog who now lives safely in Illinois.

Rachel Story as Daphne Blake

Velma jetted off to Morocco to solve a mystery when she lost her glasses back in the US! Luckily she solved the mystery of Moroccan Arabic and got a new pair. When she isn’t solving mysteries Velma likes sing with her choir, work on her cooking skills, and day dream about her next adventure.

Lexy Huber as Velma Dinkley

Shaggy, having been surrounded by a perpetual haze all of his life, awoke one day to find his aspirations dissipated into smoke. Realizing nothing of merit had been accomplished in his life thus far (beyond training a dog to giggle); he joined the Peace Corps and took off to the other side of the world. He’s recently moved back to Chicago. Shaggy has since donned a tie, got a haircut, and found a real job while still attempting to maintain that hippie spirit.

Mike DeLadesmo as Shaggy Rogers

Scooby Doo recently arrived in Chicago after pursuing good food and cheap beer in Guatemala. Between snacks, he can be found pursuing his passions for scuba diving and marine conservation.

Yours truly as Scooby-Doo!

For those of you in the Chicago-area, the CHIditarod will take place on March 5. You can come out and support Mystery, Inc. in the battle against hunger!

Please support us by making a donation to the cause via our team’s page on Razoo.

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Puebla: Birthplace of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de mayo, or “cinco de drinko,” as more commonly observed in the United States, is not the Mexican independence day. Like many other countries in the region, Mexico formally became independent from Spain on September 15, 1821 along with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

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Source: wikipedia

Cinco de mayo, observed on the 5th of May, commemorates the Battle of Puebla. This historic battle ended in a victory for the Mexican Army against the French during the French Intervention in Mexico. While French forces eventually overran Mexican forces over the length of the campaign, the victory at Puebla demonstrated a resilience and strong spirit of the Mexican people which endures to this day.

On the long road from Oaxaca to Mexico City, Puebla breaks up the journey. Yet again, my senses were availed by a historic beauty. This time, the colonial elements of Puebla were subtly accented with a touch of modernity. The central park is adorned with colorful, modern helvetica script proudly proclaiming PUEBLA in front of the state government palace. Pueblans gather to chat, read the paper, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes. A forward-thinking outdoor library has been installed along with a giant sandbox which brings a taste of the coast to the warm town.

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To my luck, the chile en nogada was in season. This traditional Mexican dish, native to Puebla is a giant green chile stuffed with savory chicken and doused in a white coconut salsa. On top, the chile is garnished with cinnamon, cilantro, and cardamom. Not coincidentally, the recipe exudes the colors of the Mexican tricolor, a patriotic homage to the great history of Puebla and the enduring pride Mexican’s have for their identity and history.

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Making Wine (#36)

Currently I’m fermenting my third batch of blackberry wine. Blackberries, a local agricultural stable abound on the local market and are easy to prepare as they don’t have a skin or tiny seeds that have to be carefully strained out. In lieu of a glass carboy I use a five-gallon jug that we would recognize atop a water cooler in the States. Capped with a bung and airlock my parents sent me for Christmas a couple of years ago, a batch takes about 4-6 weeks to fully ferment using locally-available baker’s yeast. While not ideal for wine production, it does the trick and I’ve learned to compensate for the strange aftertaste by using less yeast and increasing the sugar content.

This latest batch has been happily bubbling away for about five weeks and I look forward to cracking it open before leaving Guatemala!

Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.

Garifuna People and Guifiti (#37)

As the brown spirit trickles from the mouth of the glass tumbler, I purse my lips in anticipation of intense bitterness. The harsh burn of alcohol torches my throat and I feel chills that tickle my brainstem. The drummers hammer out a hypnotic rhythm on their drums, palms rising and falling, feeding off the energy of the impassioned dancers around the fire. Different regions and ethnic groups in Guatemala have their own local homebrewed liquors which are made out of the reach of regulatory authorities and without the need for permits or licenses. This is Guifiti, the clandestine intoxicant distilled by Guatemala’s Caribbean people, the Garifuna.

The Garifuna people of Guatemala live in the Caribbean department of Izabal where their own distinct culture thrives. A mixture of African and Caribbean cuisine, music, and dance, the Garifuna people speak their own language-a fascinating Carib tongue considered by linguists to be a member of the Arawakan language family. The particularly interesting bit about Garifuna (known as “Karif” to native speakers) is its atypical use outside of the Arawakan language area of northern South America.

The Garifuna language was once confined to the Antillean islands of St. Vincent and Dominica but due to the Garifuna people’s history involving warfare, colonization, and migration, the ethnic group has spread to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Perhaps part of a larger pattern of northward migration, many Garifina communities have now begun to spring up in US cities as noted by the organization Garifuna Coalition USA, based in New York City.

Guifiti an overwhelmingly bitter beverage with a dangerously high and unmeasured alcohol content is not for the faint of heart. Containing licorice, nuts, cloves, and a variety of other strong and odiferous spices, Guifiti will hit you with the force of a horse’s kick and knock you to the ground for the rest of the evening.

#Guatemala #homebrew Guifiti

A photo posted by Cyrus Sethna (@csethna) on

Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.

Pizza Maya (#39)

Sinking my teeth into a toasted tortilla, beans and cheese ooze out from between the unleavened corn loaves. My host mom cackles gleefully, handing me a napkin, as piping hot globs drip onto my plate.


“Pizza Maya” is an invention by my beloved Señora Juana, Guatemalan chef extraordinaire and my darling host mother in the land of the eternal spring. A delicious snack, tortillas are only about the size of your palm. The pizza Maya is a creative Guatemalan take on a foreign, outlandish culinary concept which involves the incorporation of locally-available dietary staples.

¡Buen provecho!

Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.

Fair Weather (#42)

The festivities, spanning the length of the last week in June are a beautiful flurry of religious activities including alfombras and processions. But also, appropriate homage is paid to Comalapa’s other cultural fortes such as music. Roving bands parade through the streets cheerfully tooting trumpets, glockenspiel-esque representations of the marimba, and plenty of percussion and soul.

A photo posted by Cyrus Sethna (@csethna) on

Parades, pageants, and the town dance highlight the week as all-important occurrences in the social lives of all- young and old alike. Street food vendors and souvenir peddlers cram into every available inch of space in the central park. Mechanical rides and typical “try-your-luck” carnival games abound- though structural integrity and safety standards are dubiously observed (at best).

First published here on csethna.com.

Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.

Tienda Accessibility (#44)

Yes, I need a bar of soap, three pounds of beans, a roll of toilet paper, a razor for shaving, two cans of beer, oh—and can you mill my corn for tortillas?

Tiendas or stores, can be found in Guatemala every couple-hundred feet. While they all stock the same basic array of products ranging from junk food (chips, crackers, ice cream, candy, etc.) to food items (bread, beans, noodles) to household supplies (diapers, napkins, batteries). Everyone in Guatemala has the tienda that they go to. It becomes their store. I only shop at my store and the owners know this and appreciate the loyalty. In turn the relationship leads to being first to know when a new case of wine gets in or there’s a special prepaid cellphone offer becomes available.

Around the corner from my house is the Tienda y adornos Rosy a store which sells “products for daily use” (a “convenience store” we’d say in inglés). Located on the 1ra calle B 2-22, zona 1 of San Juan Comalapa, José Davíd and his wife Maria Fidelina always greet their clients with a smile, fair prices, and a large stock.

Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.

Master Taster’s Club (#45)

Maynor is an inspiring man who crafts myriad brews- forging his own recipes as well as bubbling loved and well-known styles like the irish red, belgian tripel, and Columbus IPA. In his Master Taster’s Club, members are privileged to try Maynor’s take on craft recipes from well-known breweries such as Rogue. Aside from bringing new ideas on what beer entails to the people of Guatemala, Maynor’s club is a welcome respite for ex-pats like me who long for a taste of home and its ale.

Recently in Antigua, Maynor opened his brewpub called Red, White & Brew. Maynor, a Guatemalan, worked for over 30 years in the USA brewing for Miller. Upon retirement, he returned to his home country and became reaquainted with the dismally similar beers of Guatemala. Rather than simply complain about the lack of variety, Maynor identified a need and has taken steps to fill it. It’s always easy to complain about problems, but it takes a special kind of person to do something about it. For this reason I admire Maynor for much more than making delicious beer.

Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.

Xela Pan (#54)

XelaPan refers to “Xela”- how Guatemalans affectionately call the Republic’s second-largest city: Quetzaltenango. Pan being the Spanish word for “bread;” thus the name was born. XelaPan bakeries, found throughout the city are either standalone venues or build in-front of XelaPan restaurants.

As previously covered in my rundown of the different types of baked goods commonly available in Guatemala, XelaPan stocks a number of floured, sugared, scrumptious delicacies. However they also offer a type of bread regional only to the Quetzaltenango-region: Shecas.

Fresh cheese-filled shecas ready for sale. One costs about Q3.50 or $0.50!

A sheca is essentially a soft dinner roll baked with wheat flour and dusted with more flour. They can be as simple as that but my favorite kinds are filled with beans, cheese, or jam.

My favorite kinds are the ones made with cheese!

A beautiful cheese sheca with some of Xelapan’s local, freshly-ground coffee.

My friend Nicole, a third-year Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL), and her favorite bread: “una piedra” which means “stone.” Piedras are chocolate and cinnamon piece of bread, glazed with chocolate and toasted hard on the outside while remaining soft and moist on the inside.

¡Buen provecho!

Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.

Tayuyos (#61)

Similar to the chuchito, a tayuyo is a cooked package of corn dough filled with beans, cheese, or sometimes both.

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Goodbye Guate is a blog series celebrating my last 100 days of Peace Corps service in Guatemala. A beautiful country known as the land of the eternal spring and named as tempting the limits of the possibly picturesque, Guatemala has inspired great changes and tremendous growth within me. I hope to share with you the 100 things I will miss most about this charming and pastoral Central American country.