Now 48hrs in Guatemala, I can share some of my initial impressions. We arrived around 1pm on Wed. to a sparkling new airport in Guatemala City…clearly a wise investment for welcoming tourists and others. We boarded an ¨adventure bus¨, a converted schoolbus for the 1hr ride to the Peace Corps compound just outside of Antigua, located in the communidad de Santa Lucia Milpas Altas. Yes, there was the congestion of a typical highway with cars, trucks, and buses vying for space. Mostly large retail and some small industry along the highway…not a place I would want to walk. I caught a glimpse of portions of an old stone-brick aqueduct as we zoomed by…unclear from what era.
Soon we were heading upwards into the mountains, with lush tropical greenery…leaving the large expanse of Guatemala City (nicknamed Guate) behind us. Approx 2 to 3 million. Mostly we rode in silence, absorbing it all…fatigued and fascinated. Then we saw the walls for the Cuerpo de Paz (Peace Corps) compound, with the door swinging open to let us in. There is a security guard to ensure safety for all of the employees and volunteers. Inside it is like a mini oasis with gardens and meeting rooms and offices.
This is the rainy season (called invierno) until the end of October, so the air is heavy with humidity but the temperature ranges from 65 to 72F each day. Have been wearing long sleeves actually. At Santa Lucia we are at 7000ft elevation, so quite high. Come November it will be the dry season for 6mos with no rain. Water availability is a concern here…families have a open tiled tank of approx 100 gallons called a pila..holds water which runs down from the nearby volcano for most uses, but not drinking. There are two electrical wires which attach to a shower head that works as an on demand hot water heating…so yes, I have warm showers now.
We have been eating very well…small flour tortillas of 5¨ at each meal, with the noon meal (almuerzo) the largest. Today I ate with 3 other volunteers in our host family home…chicken with rice and tomato based sauce. Pina juice and watermelon. A lot of black bans and avocados…hey, I love this!
I need to finish up and get back to my host family…we are not to walk around after dusk for safety reasons. Tomorrow morning we move out to new communities for the next 11wks…called community based training. I will be with 3 other volunteers, also munis (municipal development advisors) for starting work in a community. All of us in my group speak Spanish quite well, and we will be assisting each other to improve. Maybe we will start on some phrases in a Mayan language soon.
I´ll leave you with a last humorous image…we took a break from Spanish classes today to burst open a pinata of Barney. Whoa…the Americans really let him have it! Will try to post photos next time…I am working at an Internet cafe right now. Price is 5 quetzales an hour, or about 75cents. Not bad!
Hasta la proxima!