Picture this, a grown woman neatly crammed into a large plastic bin for a warm bath…just like an overgrown baby. That would be me, of course. My host mother, Maria, very kindly offered to heat up some water for a warm bucket bath. She knew that today would be an important day, meeting my Guatemalan counterpart, Roberto, so she wanted to help me to look my best. Of course, the protocol is to stand up while soaping up and then use a scoop to splash water to rinse, but I prefer the rare sensation of a warm bath even if I do have to assume pretzel-like flexibility.
Back to today’s meeting…each one of us will be working closely with a Guatemalan, who shall be our professional colleague to help provide entry into this society and our tasks. We, in turn, are responsible for providing training to our counterpart as needed, and help with their professional development…basically, work ourselves out of the scene. They will be the ones who remain to help improve the quality of life in Guatemala, not us, so the goal is to facilitate and promote, but not take the ball and run with it downfield. We are the coaches and cheerleaders, not the players.
All of us now know our destinations for the next two years. We received the news last Thursday after months of waiting and speculation. Upon inquiry, most seem genuinely happy with their assignments, and I have to give credit to our program directors for attempting to match our interests and desires to the various site options…NOT an easy process. Apparently in past years some announcements were greeted by tears from volunteers. Thankfully, not my case!
I will be in a small town of 2,000 in the western(occidente) part of the country at an elevation of 7,000 ft., so flying high! Needless to say, the climate is moderate-cold. Well, I did say I didn’t want a hot location, so I’m fine with this. My town is mostly indigenous but speaks Spanish primarily (good!). A few other features. I am assigned to the DMP (direccion municipal de planificacion) and OMM (oficina municipal de mujeres), thus, both the planning office and the women’s office. I will be the first municipal development volunteer, so I will be trail-blazing for the round of two subsequent volunteers to follow after my act. An added bonus is that 2 other Peace Corps volunteers are at my site and plan a welcome barbeque for me. Sweet! Apparently, the nearest large city, Quetzaltenango is a pretty nice city and I’m not too far away from the beautiful lake Atitlan. Some additional features, a hot springs nearby…hmm, can you say the word “relaxation”? Oh yes, there are warm showers in the home where I will be living for the next 3 months…goodbye squeeze-play in the plastic tub!
Tomorrow (martes) I will head off to my new site along with my counterpart (who will help me trek my vast belongings). I have joked with my host dad that I would like for him to be macho enough to assist me with my luggage, then be a bit less so when we work together. After about 5 days of meeting people, I travel solo back to my current hometown on Oct. 23rd for one last week at the Peace Corps office and my current host family. Oct. 29th brings the BIG event day, swearing in as a Peace Corps volunteer at the U.S. ambassador’s house….then a well-deserved celebration and last night of togetherness before we scatter like windblown seeds across this diverse and interesting country! On October 30th, I head off to my new life and work!