Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 02/07/2013

Stateside Luxuries and Re-entry to Guatemala

5 febrero 2013 martes 

Touching Seattle

Touching Seattle

A very sweet reward for extending one more year of Peace Corps service was being granted a four week vacation in the USA for the holidays. Hooray! Precious time to spend with my children and friends. Despite two previous trips to the US, the duration of this trip gave it a decidedly different character…I found myself at Week 3 grappling with a bit of an identity crisis and wondering “Where is home? Seattle is certainly feeling like home…” then reasserting in my mind, “But, but, I really live in Guatemala!” It was a telling preview for my re-entry to American life and re-establishing what is home when I return in January 2014. I have learned that the concept of “home” is very personal; each of us defines it as best meets our emotional and social well-being….and perhaps we really can simultaneously juggle and accept more than one place in our hearts that serves as “home”.

A salsa dancing family

A salsa dancing family

The mobile nature of American families became very clear to me as I attempted to reunite with my two adult children for the holidays…First, Alex had to jet from Denver to Seattle (thankfully a direct flight), then a few days later we drove 5 hrs from Seattle to Eugene, Oregon to spend five days with Michelle. Hmmm, and why do we accept being so far-flung from each other? Not unlike many American families, my children spread their wings and went off to universities in other states. They then fell in love with their new communities and began setting down new roots far from the mother tree.  Yes, I accept blame, too, because this maternal tree got on a plane to Guatemala after they flew the nest and now I am the farthest flung family member, however, I will pack up my new roots in a year and plant them again in the Northwest.  The next chapter in my scattered family is yet to be determined.

Baking buddies...our treats to share!

Baking buddies…our treats to share!

In stark contrast, Guatemalan kids don’t just live in the same town as their parents, but in the same house until they are young adults. Yikes we might think…dirty clothes strewn about, conflict, privacy issues, economic and emotional dependencies, etc….yet, with this current economic downturn, many American families have welcomed their young back into the nest for some needed protection and assistance.  Perhaps these families have reaped the benefits of these closer ties because everyday activities can truly help build relationships and a shared family history. I see it everyday in San Bartolo.

Stepping back into the USA...a fantastic mural!

Stepping back into the USA…a fantastic mural!

Enough on that musing…so an imaginary reporter thrusts a microphone in my face, and asks the following: Señorita, how does the USA appear to you after living more than 2 years in Guatemala, that little country with big dreams? Well, I answer, Technology certainly continues charges forward, and my new laptop purchased in December 2012 features the wham wow Windows 8. Shaking my head, I add, Alas, this is a bit too new for Guatemala because my modem does not recognize this new operating system…so I must wait for the technology here to catch up.

Mother and son with Kindle tech toys...

Mother and son with Kindle tech toys…

Yet there is hope that the TIGO phone and internet company will adapt because Walmart in Xela now sells computers with Windows 8, and these new purchasers with disposable income will expect internet service pronto…until then, I scrounge around for internet service.

While the laptop was a necessity after the last one died a sudden death last September, the technological goodie during my vacation was buying a Kindle Fire. Wow! Bounding a light year ahead with a cool gadget! Sweet! I stashed tons of free books on my device to support my growing reading habit.

Guatemala coffee!

Guatemala coffee!

Other luxuries I observed…the pedigreed coffees sold everywhere which Americans can enjoy and afford with their $, although sadly Guatemalans don´t drink their own quality coffee and instead drink rather lousy cafe.  For fun I dove into the massage chair in the Northgate mall, although human hands are still a friendlier touch.

At the Seattle Center I observed a family scooting about on Segways, a novelty even by American standards. Yet my awareness extended beyond these rather obvious luxuries.

Walking? Bah humbug...ride a Segway instead!

Walking? Bah humbug…ride a Segway instead!

My eye wandered to the rain gardens sprinkled about the parking lot of Northgate Mall to cleanse the runoff from the parking areas. Excitedly I ran around photographing those, with the intent to share these with emerging green professionals in Guatemala.  In the United States we have the interest and yes, the luxury, to attend to our environment with laws, programs, and projects. In Guatemala, malnutrition and crime are the headline grabbers because the impact is more troubling to the citizenry, however, Climate Change is ushering in more erosion and landslides, flooding and contaminated runoff during their 6 month rainy season.

Rain gardens at Northgate mall

Rain gardens at Northgate mall

I take hope when I meet Guatemalan professionals interested in the environment and sustainable development, but it is an uphill climb because it will take public awareness, money and political will to tackle the environmental challenges here…all in short supply. So friends, be thankful for the environmental progress we Americans have made that is yet to be emulated in poorer countries.

My daughter, Michelle, rolled her eyes when Alex and I ran around Portland, OR taking photos of solar trash compactors, covered bike parking, solar arrays, trolleys and more to share with our respective colleagues…yes, mother and son share the same urban design and sustainability interest.

Rainbow colors from Guatemala

Rainbow colors from Guatemala

Lastly, I wanted to bring some of the best from Guatemala, thus, many of my family members and friends benefitted from the beautiful weavings that I carried with me from Guatemala. These handwoven treasures now brighten their homes…a testament to the patience of Guatemalan women sitting on straw mats, laboring hours and weeks to create this renowned artesania from their country.

Gracias for tuning into my blog…and just in case, next week comes quickly, I wish a todos de ustedes a Feliz Día de Cariño y Amistad for February 14th! The last word is key…it is not a day reserved only for lovers , but also to appreciate lasting and deep friendships.

Enjoy a luxurious Valentines Day!

Enjoy a luxurious Valentines Day!


  1. Thank you again for taking the time to post such thoughtful blog posts. I love to hear what you’re up to but sorry I missed seeing you during your Seattle visit.

    I just returned from a 3 week trip to Vietnam. Wow! We spent most of our time in the major cities where the streets (and sidewalks)a are filled with motorbikes and small scale entrepreneurship flourishes. We saw ladies in conical straw hats selling vegetables from baskets hanging at the ends of a bamboo pole outside an internet cafe where young boys are playing the latest video games. We ate some great food and toured old preserved houses and temples.

    I look forward to hearing more about your adventures this year. Happy Valentine’s Day!
    Nancy B-P

  2. Janet–
    It’s possible your modem problem is not related to your new Windows operating system but to the hardware your new computer. Modems are ‘older’ technology and tend to work with computers that run in 32-bit mode. I’m betting your new computer runs by default in 64-bit mode. I’m guessing your old computer ran in 32-bit mode all the time. If you can figure out how to start your new computer in 32-bit mode, your modem might work.

    This problem happened to me when I bought a new Mac and tried to use my old modem. The solution was to hold down the “3” and “2” keys while starting the computer. This causes the machine to run in 32-bit mode, vs. the 64-bits it runs at, by default. All my programs work just fine when I run 32-bit mode, just a tad slower.

    Hope this helps!

    Mark Buckley

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