12 julio 2011- martes
Happy belated Fourth of July to my American friends and family back home! Hope the fireworks and barbeques for everyone were visual and culinary successes! As an American living abroad, there is a certain poignancy living so far from my native soil…yet Peace Corps helped us to celebrate our patriotism. All that I missed were the fireworks shows.
On Sat, June 25thI undertook an 11-hr trip across the country to visit my fellow volunteers living in the Oriente (eastern part) of Guatemala….the reason for the long multi-bus trip? A hankering to travel about this country and an invitation to appear on my friends’ cooking program on their town’s TV channel. Yep, pure egotism! Initially I had planned on featuring my tasty and healthy broccoli soup, but it did not pass the neighbor taste test…I love the politeness of Guatemalans (never direct in communications) as the 11yr old son handed off the bowl of soup (as if it were radioactive waste) to his mother, yet telling me “que rico es”…how rich it is. Loved his reaction! His mother avoided commenting directly on the soup, stating instead “un día cuando yo estaba en su casa usted estaba cocinando una sopa que olía bien rico”..in other words referring to another soup that I made another day. I took the hint…I was NOT going to travel across this entire country to feature a soup that Guatemalans couldn’t stand. After some reflection, I realized that they are used to clear broth soups, and this creamy soup was just too strange. Next choice, Chinese fried rice…simple and includes the major food groups. Guatemalans love Chinese food!
After a few days in the Oriente, which was blessedly cool due to the rainy season…this is the land of HOT! it was time to return to Antigua for a few days of training and sharing our experiences as municipal development volunteers. Our coordinator was visibly relieved to hear us report that our towns are fairly tranquillo during this election season…the D.C. office has been expressing concern about those of us working in city halls during this time. All of us are weathering the political propaganda painted on houses, trees, bridges and more, with songs blasted at all hours. Annoying but tolerable. Makes me wonder how it would be in the U.S. if we confined our campaigning to 4 months as it is here…it makes for an intense time …and anyone who is a candidate is related to everyone else in town! All in the family for sure!
The July 4thcelebrations featured our beloved ambassador joining the multitude of volunteers…even going head-to-head with young volunteers in a soccer game. Brave!! My sport of choice was the bake-off…I made a chocolate-banana cake decorated with the beautiful Lake Atitlan and its volcanoes.
The competition was spirited but friendly, and alas, I did NOT win…but I received honorable mention for decorations. I have to admit the “Blondies” by Jesse were extremely delicious, but with the pound of butter, 4 c. of brown sugar, 2.c peanut butter and more…taste buds were pleasantly overwhelmed by this combo. Other activities included a pie-eating contest (pure whipped cream!), bean bag toss, talent contest, and of course, dancing. It was indeed delightful to share this holiday with other Americans….yes, we could wave the flag and feel part of our country despite the distance.
As for the actual day of July 4th, I was back in my site after a week away, choosing to work…somehow it felt more patriotic to be leading a workshop on environmental education with elementary schoolchildren in a country that has such challenges with trash management. I want them to grow up taking care of their part of the world. To demonstrate water contamination, I pretended that I was Rio Chotzague in our town, holding a clear bucket with water…and I had several kids add contaminants to me as I meandered along….laundry detergent from a woman washing clothes in the river, a farmer washing pesticide off his hands, and a man throwing dirty motor oil in the river…as I peered at my now dirty water, I frowned…”No soy tan bonito ahora…ustedes quieren beber de mi agua ahora?” showing my dirty water and asking if they would now drink from me. No! was the resounding reply, although one kid thought his dog might still drink it. I culminated the workshop in showing them how to fill plastic bottles with inorganic trash or ‘ecoladrillos”.
Our project idea is to construct a low wall for a raised garden within the schoolyard using these ecoladrillos as a building material, which is then coated with a layer of concrete, so it will be quite durable. The kids are excitedly collecting the bottles, and their energy is decidedly contagious….yep, a heartening July 4th for me!!