Being in Guatemala is definitely full of unique learning experiences. And I’m happy to say that I am really adding to my repertoire of useful skills… and to my repertoire of not quite as useful, but still kind of interesting skills.
1. Piñata Making
I made this as practice so I can teach women’s groups how to do it. I won’t lie, I’ve done this before – in Señora Spadaro’s 8th grade Spanish I class. But I feel like I’ve really honed this skill with Mr. Grizzly here.
2. Not Falling Down on Public Transportation
It’s not easy to remain upright while your bus driver speeds up to pass everyone else and then slams on the brakes to pick up yet another passenger or to keep from starting a domino effect through the hard turns and jerky gear changes as you barrel along poorly paved roads – but I’ve done it. Of course, writing that probably means I’ll smush some poor small child the next time I’m on the bus when I lose my grip on the handrail and the bus driver swerves to avoid a tuk tuk or something…
3. Ignoring Waiting in Line Courtesy
Guatemalans don’t believe in lines. They believe in pushing and steadfastly staring straight ahead to avoid the “Really?!” look you are giving them. It’s not “first come, first served”, it’s “most liberal with elbows, first served”. And this was difficult for me to come to terms with. I like lines, I like things to be fair. But I DID NOT like having to wait 4x longer for things or having to get on the bus last and be left without a seat. So, I’ve learned to be a little bit more aggressive. When in Rome.
4. Bags from Bags
That bag is made from chip bags. Mainly tortrix. And, no, I did not eat that many tortrix, they were donated by my coworkers and youth groups – I am now that strange American that takes everyone’s trash…
I know, I know, what the fuck kind of Peace Corps volunteer sits around rolling sushi during their service?! Well, seaweed can be found at the HiperPaiz (which is actually now Walmart…) in the capital and rice and fillers are everywhere. When I saw a bamboo rolling sheet thing for $1 during my trip home in May, I figured it was worth a shot. And, lo and behold, sushi. It’s not Hiroba, but it works.
Yeah, I’m counting it. It’s still not super impressive, but I get by. And that still counts for something, verdad?
7. Being Alone
I spend a lot of time alone. It was awful at first. I felt restless and lonely ALL. THE. TIME. I often felt like I would die if I didn’t get to see some friends ASAP. But I guess I’ve finally gotten used to it. I actually treasure my time alone and often look forward to time spent at home reading or watching some How I Met Your Mother on my laptop. When I go to Antigua I’m often itching to get back to the quiet solitude of my apartment by about the 3rd day. This probably means I’m going to come home a completely maladjusted, socially awkward hermit.
8. Worm Composting
During the All Volunteer Conference there was a “Choose Your Own Adventure” portion and I signed up for composting. They gave us a lot of technical information (layers, acidity, temperature…) but then assured us that it’s really hard to mess this up and, when it comes down to it, is just throwing your organic trash in a hole and/or receptacle with adequate drainage. So, last week when the Peace Corps chauffeur came out to my site to have me sign something, I had him bring me some composting worms. A trip to the tienda for some composting “bins” (really, I got a large bucket and a larger laundry washing type basin) and some awkward conversations with my neighbors about whether I could take a cement block (for a base) and a plastic sheet (for a cover) from the yard later and TA-DA! Composting. I, um, still don’t know if I’m doing it right. But I’m still counting it.
9. Paca Shopper Extraordinaire
Now, I was a pretty great thrifter back home, but Pacas have really honed my ability to unearth treasures at rock bottom prices. I get lots of compliments on my paca finds and even scored a great tie-dye dress (I know, I’m a total hippie peace corps volunteer…) for 5Q last weekend. When I come home I hope flea markets and Savers are ready for me.
I wish I could say that I have gained patience in this process, but I’m still angry a lot about having to wait for people to show up, having to wait for my counterpart to decide she’s ready to do something, having to wait for busses, paperwork, answers… It drives me nuts. BUT I’m still here and still trying and determined to make shit happen. Yeah, you could also call it stubbornness, but perseverance sounds nicer.
So there you have it – almost a year in and I’ve got little professionally to show off, but I still think Napoleon Dynamite would totally approve.