More Irving and Other Updates

Posted May 2, 2010 by Colin
Categories: Books, Health Ed, Meta, Misc, Pictures

This didn´t seem appropriate to tack onto the May Day post…

The Skype conversation with the PIH coordinator for ETESC seemed to go well.  Nothing is set in stone yet, but I think this was a good and necessary step in the process of getting set up there.

I have finished “Widow for One Year” by John Irving.  It´s my sixth Irving book, and I think my third favorite so far after Cider House Rules and World According to Garp.  Owen Meany and Hotel New Hampshire are tied, I think for fourth.  A Son of the Circus comes in at a fiarly distant sixth (or fifth, depending on how you like it).

Cut C´s hair yesterday.  I´m not sure it was a particularly good idea, but she´s gorgeous enough that my clumsy snippings can´t obscure that.  😉

Looking forward to my third week of classes starting tomorrow!

Saw this the other day:

I think I´ll add it to a gallery I´m calling “Probably Not Licensed Properly.”

More to write, but the day is beautiful and I´ve had enough of the Interwebs for today.


May Day!

Posted May 1, 2010 by Colin
Categories: Guate, Xela

Whoo!  What a couple of days it´s been!

Yesterday was our first “graduation” day.  The school has graduations every week on Fridays for students who are leaving.  We´ll still be here for two more weeks, so it wasn´t our graduation, but we did attend and tak part.  It was Cena Internacional night, which means students were to bring food and the teachers bring drinks.  Cena Tipica nights, on the other hand, are when teachers bring food and the students are responsible for drinks.  C says those nights tend to get a little rowdy.  For our part, we ventured out to the Mennonite Bakery for the makings of PB&Js.

It was suggested, after graduation, that perhaps more drinks were in order.  I was pretty tired already (I have been needing much more sleep than normal here in Guate), but was a little early to retire.  I brought the leftovers across to the hostel, and sat down for  a second before heading out.  I could already feel a headache coming on, but took a couple Ibuprofen in the hopes I´d soon be good to go.

I closed up our room and started off to Los Abuelos, around the corner, where we were going to meeting when I realized I´d locked our only key in our room.  I rummaged through the key drawer, hoping to find an extra, but was unable to find one.  I did grab another set of keys, if only so that we´d be able to get in the front door later.  There was no live in owner/manager, so we´d be without assistance until some time the next day.

I headed out and told C the bad news.  Things were taking forever at Los Abuelos, so we left after just a little bit.  We ended up using the key that I´d grabbed to stay in an empty room.  It was 11ish by then, so we knew that no one else would be checking into the hostel that night.  We were without any of our things – out bathroom bags, clothes  and even our toilet paper were in the other room – but fortunately we made it through the night.  Ironically, it was one of the best nights of sleep I´ve had so far on the journey.  We were able to get back into our room fairly early the next day, just before heading off to the May Day rally in Parque Central.

We headed up to the Parque with a number of other students for the school, and the event was interesting to me for a number of reasons.  Primarily, it was great to see that there were opportunities for organizing and demonstration in Guate.  Most of what I´ve been hearing is that it´s really challenging for people to organize, and that people are afraid to show up.  It was also nice to see that the holiday was being celebrated by working and middle class folks, as well as by women´s groups, youth groups and students.  Some university students showed up in hooded masks as a reminder of a time (not long ago at all) when people who organized and demonstrated had to conceal their identities to avoid being threatened, disappeared or murdered.

It was also really nice because it gave me a chance to take pictures of people for the first time since I´ve been here.  I have primarily avoided taking pictures of people here as it´s seemed really exploitive.  At this event, however, I felt like it was okay as people were out to be seen.  Some of the demonstrators, especially some pretty adorable kids on stilts, were showing off to be photographed!  They were marching as part of a group of adolescent and youth workers.

New Format

Posted April 29, 2010 by Colin
Categories: Meta

I´ve been pondering as to what to do with my older journal entries that haven´t yet made it onto the blog.  I am going to try to add entries and then change the “permalink” to better represent the day that they were written, as opposed to the day they got posted to the blog.  I imagine it would get really distracting if one was trying to read the blog at once, if the stories are completely out of order.  Will be testing soon, so please forgive the possible mess!

Update:  Yes!  WordPress allows this!  So, if you want to read more about the beginning of my trip, check out three posts made today and pegged to April 4th!

Enter the Rainy Season

Posted April 28, 2010 by Colin
Categories: Guate, Huehue, Language, Rants, Xela

The weather continues to get worse.  When C and I arrived, it was not uncommon for the days to be sunny, beautiful and warm but for the late afternoons to be very stormy.  The rain would last throughout the night along, often, with lightening and thunder.  I mention this as a piece of information I acquired today has made the weather quite relevant.

I heard bother from Leah today and from Lindsay, the coordinator of ETESC.  They´re both saying that it looks like we´re going to be moving forward and we´re in the process of setting up a Skype conversation in the next week or so.  The weather is relevant because we´re entering the rainy season (invierno) in Guatemala and Leah´s accomdations seem to be a tent on the roof of the program´s building.  I´m so excited about that part!

Today´s class went better than yesterday´s, though I still felt like I was babbling through much of it.  It´s challening when you learn to think in one language and have to shift to an entirely different structure.  It´s also interesting to notice how many idiomatic expression we use all the time.  Many (most?) just don´t translate.  For example, as far as I know, there´s no way to express “spending time” in Spanish.  The expression probably comes from the (US!) American (?) idea that “time is money.”  Therefore, time can be “spent” or “wasted.”  I have heard that there is not equivilant in Spanish for “spending” time, and doubt that there´s a cooralarry for “wasting” it.

Also, I REALLY need to get in the habit of saying “US American” more naturally.  People who live in the US are not the only “Americans!”   (Unlike us “US Americans,” Spanish speaking folks have an easy term to use to refer to us.  It´s “los estadounidences.”  Actually seems more intuitive than saying “US Citizen” all the time.)

Back in Xela

Posted April 25, 2010 by Colin
Categories: Guate, Health Ed, Huehue, Xela

Hooray!  Back in Xela!  Arrived back yesterday and had a nice lunce at Guiseppe´s (pizza).  It´s not particularly Guatemalan, but it was a nice change after the food from the Mountain School.  C and I are back in our old room at Casa de las Amigas and plan to stay there for at least a week while we begin classes.  It´s so nice to be back in a city, and I´m happy to be starting classes again tomorrow.

I felt homesick for the first time last night.  C and I went to what I understand to be the only gay bar in Xela, Pala Life Klishe, for a drag show.  Unfortunately, we missed it.  It hadn´t started by midnight and I was getting tired and feeling a little sad.  I wasn´t longing for Portland in particular, but more for familiar surrounding and my things.  I really wanted to curl up with The Marlowe on a couch and watch The Shawshank Redemption or some Star Trek.  I also felt incredibly foreign in the club, although it felt like every gay club I´ve ever been in.  (The sounds of Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas seem to be part of some sort of universal queer culture…)  It was really nice to be a queer club, it made me feel more like I was in Portland, but there was also something really uncomfortable about it.  It kind of felt like I had shown up at Queer Latino night and was the creepy White fetishist in the corner.

Good news regarding our plans for May.  There´s an organization I probably have mentioned an organization that I´m hoping to do some volunteer work in May and June.  The organization is not actually PIH, but is an affiliated organization called ETESC (Equipo Técnico de Educación en Salud Comunitaria (or Technical Team for Education in Community Health).  C and I met a person who has come down to Guate from the States to be their first US volunteer.  We met her at the Mountain School and it looks like we´re going to be able to meet up once we´re done at the language school.  They´re currently doing HIV/STI education in some schools near Huehuetenango.  In what was a stroke of good fortune, earlier today we happened to run into some students from the University at San Marcos who were doing HIV/STI education in the Parque here and we were able to pick up some recent and locally produced Spanish language materials.  Sweet!

Started classes

Posted April 21, 2010 by Colin
Categories: Guate, San Domingo

I´ve now been at the mountain school (la Escuela de la Montaña) near San Domingo since Sunday, and began classes on Monday. Classes are four hours per day, with another three or four hours of homework each day. All the students sleep at the school, there are 13 of us this week, but receive meals three times a day from families in the community.

Breakfast starts at 7:30, morning classes start at 8:00 and go until noon. Lunch, whether you´re hungry or not, is at 12:30, and then students with afternoon classes start at 1:00. Those end at 5:00 and dinner (Really? I just ate!) is at 5:30.

The families are accustomed to dealing with the bizarre dietary needs of gringos and I haven´t had any problems getting meals sin carne. (I´m somewhat suspicious, however, that the soup that I occassionally eat for dinner is made with chicken broth. Eh. No es un problema grande. One really can´t travel and expect to have the perfect gluten free, vegan, organic blackberry (NOT blueberry) scones that we´re accustomed to having in the States. Well, one could expect them, but they´d be disappointed (and a jerk).

Classes here will continue through Friday and I´ll be returning to Xela next week to start three weeks of classes there. The schedule will be very much the same, though there are 5 hours per day of classes there, and we have a choice between a homestay with a local family and providing for our own accomdations and food. I think we will probably stay with a family that C stayed with before, but probably only for a week or so. The regimented meals are making me a little crazy, and feeling stuffed.

Otherwise, life is very good here. Aside from the mosquitos and a more painful variant of the species, I´m enjoying life at the Mountain School.

Laguna Chicabal

Posted April 12, 2010 by Colin
Categories: Guate, Pictures


The lake is a sacred place. No swimming allowed!

Went on a hike on Chicabal two days ago.  Saw some really amazing scenery, including a beautiful lake near the top of the inactive volcano.  While we climed, we saw San Ignacio, a (fairly) nearby volcano let off some steam.

San Ignacio goes... puff?