Yesterday was the big day. The one we had all been waiting for. It was the day the Program Directors finally stopped playing games and told us our sites – the places we will be calling home for the next two years.
Of course, they couldn’t just do it all at once. They chose to go site to site. Clearly, ours was last. Somehow we made it through the morning and eventually found ourselves sitting with Carlos, Carlos and Doris and staring at a huge map they had brought along with pushpins marking the outgoing muni volunteers, muni volunteers halfway through service and us. I scanned it, noting the ones that had been hinted for certain trainees (Ashley up north, Frank in Huehuetenango, Alli and Lexi in Chiquimula…) and stared at the folders in Doris’ hands, willing her with my mind to just hand them over. That would have been merciful, though. They instead wanted to go through one by one. And, just my luck, they didn’t start with me. I was sure that I would be the bottom folder and would be the absolute last person to find out their site, but fate smiled down upon me and I was the next folder and…
I can’t divulge the exact location due to SECURITY CONCERNS!! but I will say that I am in the Department of Santa Rosa, which is south-centrally located in the country (yes, still considered East because it’s east of the Capital). According to the packet in the folder, my pueblo is about an hour and a half from the capital city and is entirely ladino. It has a little over 14,000 inhabitants (smaller than the population of my undergraduate institution, I just realized…) with only a portion of that (maybe 3,000 according to Doris) in the casco urbano (urban center).
So, how do I feel about all of this? First of all, I’m glad that it’s a small site. I think that integration will be much easier within a smaller site and I will be able to make more meaningful connections to the community. I’m thankful that it’s “temperate” according to my packet and I won’t be dreaming longingly of air conditioning every day. I’m definitely looking forward to the ways in which my Spanish will improve without the issue of a Mayan language to deal with. Finally, I think it is really exciting that I will be the first volunteer there. I am going in without preconceived notions of my role and without examples to be compared to.
Though, I have to admit, my feelings are little mixed. There are far fewer volunteers in the east, and only one other in the same department. And getting to the west, where something like 80% of volunteers are, requires going through the capital city and hours of travel. So, I will definitely be a little more isolated than many of the other volunteers. I was also starting to really like the idea of living in an indigenous community. Learning Tejido (Mayan weaving) had really felt like just the beginning of what could have been an incredible cultural experience. I should also mention that my trip last week left me wondering if I would really fit into the more aggressive east. So, yes, I have reservations.
But, if the volunteers and trainers and directors are being truthful and this experience really is what you make it, I choose to make it awesome. And that’s that.