Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Nebaj

I spent Xmas in Nebaj which is a pueblo in the Ixil region located here in the department of El Quiche. Don, an older gentleman originally from the hills of eastern Tennessee, owns a restaurant and hostel called Popi's. Every year he makes traditional rice tamales and distributes them to the hospital and jail. A group of us gringos, some PC volunteers and some trekking guides, helped hand them out on Xmas eve (noche buena). Then on Xmas we partook in a wonderful duck dinner and were joined by some travelers from Israel and Italy.

The next morning I woke with a stomach ache (duck is a thick and greasy meat). I stupidly ate a big breakfast and topped it off with a piece of apple pie. Then I got on a micro to head back to my site. It's a long, windy and bumpy road. With that combination I proceeded to barf after I got off the micro to wait for a connecting ride. Thank goodness I was able to hold out until I was outside. So, that was my Xmas.

I came to understand that Xmas is a big holiday here and everyone stays up to midnight on Xmas eve. There's lots of partying, fireworks, music (blaring music!!) and general clamor in the streets. Glad to know people are having fun but I wish I had my ear plugs. The music didn't stop until 3am. There seems to be a phenomenon here were people use public space in any which way they choose and either disregard or don't consider the people around them. Their short term goals outweigh the overall desire or health of the community as a whole -- Tragedy of the Commons I suppose.

Hope you all had a great holiday and that your New Year's celebration is fantastic and safe.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ungowa! Introduction

Thanks to everyone who requested I start a blog. Now you guys better read it and post some comments! I'm glad that we now have a medium in which I can share updates, thoughts, and photos and have them available to a wider audience.

I have been living in Guatemala now for over 4 months. I spent the first three of them in the department (equivalent to a state in the U.S.) of Sacatepéquez training for my assignment and the last month here in my site. I don't think I can mention it's name due to Peace Corps rules. I should mention that I'm a PC volunteer working in the area of municipal development. More about that to come.

My site is the largest, in regards to area, municipality in all of Guatemala. It's the birthplace of the Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. But nobody here seems to really care about that. I'll explain why in a future blog. If you're interested in the subject, I recommend you read "I, Rigoberta Menchu." And then read the book, "Rigoberta Menchu: And the Story of All Poor Guatemalans" by the anthropologist David Stoll.

I'm located in the northwestern highlands of Guatemala and my site is about 80% indigenous Maya. The predominant language is K' iche' (kee-che) and most people speak Spanish although they would consider it their second language. Makes for communicating slightly difficult especially when I'm shopping on market day.

Well, that's all I have time for today. I'll make sure to post a longer blog next week when I can dedicate some more time to it.