27 December 2010

una navidad guatemalteca

Alright, faithful followers- Here it is. The long-awaited Guatemalan Christmas report.

About 3 weeks ago, we started our extensive decoration plans for the tree/tree area. Being that the tree is about 3 feet tall, we put it on 2 platforms, covered it in bulbs/ home-made ornaments/ tinsel, and surrounded it by a little Christmas town. Now, I don´t want you to get the wrong idea. This Christmas town included a castle made out of papertowel tubes, a plastic play town, a gigantic Mary and Joseph, tinsel, and allllll sorts of porceline/plastic animals (from ducks to turtles to dolphins to reindeer...) No worries if the scale is off... We just want to fill the space with as many items as possible. We also to a neighboring plot and took about 30 10-foot-tall corn stalks in order to make a fence to surround the whole ¨nacimiento¨ (nativity scene). The fence turned out looking really nice, but it was a real engineering marvel to try to figure out how to make it, let me tell you.

About a week before Christmas, we started the process of making a manger for Mary and Joseph-- way harder than it sounds. We used the corn stalk again, as well as about 10 sticks of glue and like 20 hours that we will never get back. Only after all of this did we check to see if the foot-tall Mary and Joseph would fit inside. They do-- but only barely. A few days before Christmas, we covered the scene with styrofoam snow and singing, colored lights... Very festive; very Guatemalan. Once I got the package, the shiny snowflake decorations my parents sent were hung over the scene, as well as the pop-out paper trees.

Alright, so fast forward to La Noche Buena- Christmas eve. We were cooking pretty much all day, though I have no idea why beacuase nothing we made really needed all that long to cook... But in any event, I stayed in the kitchen most of the evening helping. We made beet/brocoli salad with mayo dressing (it was purple), really delicious fiesta rice, and chuletas de pork... Like I said, none of this actually waranted 6 hours of prep, but we did it all one at a time. Yes, that´s right... Dinner for about 25 people, one item at a time. Good. Oh, and we also had ponche. Lots and lots of ponche-- This is basically apple cider with lots of fruit and sugar in it (papaya, coconut, grapes, apples, pineapple...). SO delicious- Definitely something I want to bring back with me.

At around 7:30pm, we had some snack paches (typical Christmas food, kind of like tamales), and my sister Vale and I made a gigantic cake, 2 cakes in fact. It was some variation on angel food cake-- it was yummy, but then we poured a mix of vanilla extract/white wine on top, and frosted it with creamy pudding stuff... It was yummy, but not exactly like Mom used to make.

So at around 11pm -oh yes, I forgot to mention: Dinner is served at midnight- people started getting a little ansy and hungry, so we went out to the street to set off our fireworks... Everyone: from ages 4 to great grandma. Good. Very safe. It´s a big tradition here to set off coquetes for la Noche Buena, so there were big and small fireworks going off allllll around us-- It was really festive (and loud).

So at midnight, we all went inside and everyone hugged everyone, and the foot-long baby Jesus made his way into the manger (which brought 2 people to tears). Finally dinner was served, and at around 1:30, our cake was served, and Juli headed off to bed.

Christmas day we got to sleep in, and just kind of hung around all day- Santa did not come to our house, and in fact, no one exchanged gifts with anyone that I saw. At noon we set off more fireworks (to celebrate the end of Noche Buena and the beginning of Navidad), more hugs, and just sort of hung around all day, and had a big meal at around 3. On the one hand, I love that the materialistic aspect of Christmas isn´t nearly as prevalent here, but on the other hand, it was hard because the day was completely centered around family time, and it made me wish I could be with my own family...

Anywho... I ended up awkwardly giving my gift (a chirades-type board game) to the family the next day at lunch, and we played for a solid 3 hours... Needless to say though it was a day late, it was a hit!

Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and that God blesses you in this new year!
bendiciones, juli

feliz navidad!

To those who didn´t see... Here´s a little Christmas greeting my fellow YAVs and I made at retreat...


17 December 2010

Rules of the Road *

So it's a YAV rule that we´re not allowed to drive this year, and though I miss Harrison, Here´s a few reasons why I´m glad I´m not driving...

1. Go as fast as you can, but don´t forget to slam on your break the second before you reach one of the millions of speed humps.
2. Turn your radio on and turn the volume up all the way. Afterall, everyone around you surely wants to listen to whatever you're listening to.
3. You have the right of way. If someone tries to challenge that, honk as much as you can, and if they continue, angrily wave your hand out the window. If they don´t back down, just go; they´ll learn.
4. Pass as you please, especially if it´s on a blind corner, or on a hill. No worries-- that lack of a shoulder shouldn´t alarm you. You have places to go, and you definitely can't wait to get there.
5. You must go the second the light changes to green, even if there is someone in the ¨cross walk¨ (extra points if it´s a gringo) -- they´ll move.
6. Turn your blinker on. Don´t worry if it doesn´t coorespond to anything in particular... it is pretty and flashy.
7. Honk your horn if you see a pretty lady or if you think you know a person on the street. Go ahead and stop where you are if you do know them; it´s always a good time to say ¨hello.¨
8. Use your hazard lights if you´re about to do something no one would ever expect.
9. Most of all, just remember that you're the king (or queen) of the road-- your trip is more important that anyone else's, and you'd better hurry up and get there!!

Wishing you all safe travels!
bendiciones, juli

* Inspired by an English-language publication here in Xela. Yeah, I just graduated from college... I cite my sources.

13 December 2010

To the coast!

Well, another trip to ¨the coast¨ and I have still yet to see the ocean...

This time, my trip took me about an hour down the mountain to San Felipe Reu with the end-of-year retreat of my sisters´ Evangelical church. We rode in the lap of luxury (a camionetta, 3 to a seat) and sang hymns on the way down (with no music, by the by, because they believe that instruments are sinful.)

Once we arrived, it was suuuuuper hot, which was a wonderful change from the freezing nighttime tempteratures of Xela! We had a church service of sorts, some organized games (one of which was jumping over a rope that got higher and higher... I think we can all guess who one of the finalists was...), and then the whole afternoon was free time and lunch. Part of the recreation included a (super small) pool, and so I was sitting on the edge, watching my sisters play and just kind of soaking up the sun, when a few teenaged girls demanded I come over. I did, and they asked me if I could swim. I said of course (after all, I was a proud LHP Gator from ages 7-12), and they told me (not asked) to teach them how to swim. I thought they were joking, then tried to resist (being that I really didn´t want to get all the way in the water), but to no avail.

I showed them how to kick their legs on the wall, then with a ball in front of them (clearly there were no kickboards), and then showed them how to use their arms. The result was 3 girls madly flailing around, screaming and laughing. They weren´t about to break any record, but they were swimming! So unbelievable to think thatat about 16 years old, they didn´t know how to float or tread water or do freestyle... skills I learned when I was like 6.

After paying attention, though, I honestly think I was one of like 3 people out of around 60 who actually could swim. But don´t worry, that little detail did NOT stop this congregation from using the pool, in whatever (and I mean WHATEVER) they deemed appropriate for the pool (from jeans to spandex to tshirts... we´re talking all shapes and sizes)

All in all, quite a tiring but fun afternoon... Still hoping to actually see the ocean on of these trips, though...

bendiciones, juli

PS- pictures to come soon...

03 December 2010

Xolpic Visit

Feliz Diciembre!

So we YAVs went to Xolpic for 2 days (approx 4 hours from Xela)-- and let me tell you world, it was beautiful and humbling. It's literally on the top of the mountain, and so we stayed at a very basico hotel in the next biggest town (about 1 hour down the mountain) with 3 Cedepca (Marcia T's other organization) people.

So this community of 80ish families had this severe drought 1.5 years ago ((and MT was the head of organizing relief/ psychological support through Cedepca)) and then this past
summer (rainy season) they were totally flooded... No, global climate change doesn't exist, definitely not. Also, there's no electricity that high up the mountain and they have to walk like hours to get water, and have only just been able to figure out a system of collecting/ storing rain water for all that live there. Aside from those obstacles, because they're SO remote/high, they're SUUUUPER vulnerable to natural disasters/ climate change, hence Cedepca chose to partner with them to support them psychologically and agriculturally for a year. This visit that we joined was the last one, closing out their official partnership, and reinforcing that the community itself has the resources to support each other and to continue on. Very cool stuff.

Otherwise, Christmas-type things are in full swing here (which really began to happen Nov 2)-- including the 8-story Gallo cerevza fake Christmas tree outside the Greek Templo de Minerva by the biggest market in the city. Yes- it's quite a collection of cultures happening right there- complete with Gallo beer ornaments and a Gallo emblem on top. Cheap beer is apparently the official sponsor of Christmas in Guatemala. Good. Christmas time also means that all of our projects take breaks for Christmas for about a month starting after next week-- huzzah!

Hope all are well -- I've heard it's pretty darn cold at home and at Miami-- make some snow angels for me! (It's cold here at night -with no heat- but during the day it's like 50... yeah, you're jealous.)

bendiciones, juli