Sunday, November 25, 2007

Swearing in, Chirrepec living situation, and Thanksgiving

After my site visit to Coban, where I met with all of the people from the coop office and a handfull of others, I returned for my last week of training. We went to the main office in Guate for an orientation with reps from USAID, the regional security officer for American Affairs, and the head of the US Consulate in guatemala. Peace Corps issued me a bike (a bicycle: peace corps used to issue out motor bikes but it was the number one killer of all volunteers), which will arive at my site the next time my APCD (associate peace corps director) visits me at my site over the next few months.

My host family, who recently was able to get a visa to visit their son in Boston, threw me a despedida dinner (going away dinner), which included fireworks.

For our swearing in ceremony, we went to the ambassadors residence in Guate. It is an amazing place with a huge garden, which includes a swimming pool and tennis courts. The rear wall of the compound is the old aqueduct of Guate City. Here are some pics from swearing in:

Picture of my training group:

Picture of my host mom and I:

Me and my buddy Joseph with our rockstar boots (about 15 out of 33 of us sprang for some rockstar boots):

After the ceremony, we headed for a night of partying in Antigua. The next morning I took a direct shuttle from Antigua to Coban, which is a million times easier than taking a camioneta to a point in Guate, taking a taxi to the bus station, and then taking a coach bus up to Coban, which was the way I took the first time. The price is about the same and the direct is not sketchy.

I met another ag markting volunteer at his house, for i had left all of my stuff there from the previous visit. The headed to my host families house on the coop (pictures to come over the next week or so.) My host dad is the president of the coop, and is extremely busy with other jobs also. My host mom works at the municipal office in Coban. They have a five year old son, and a woman fot the community that takes care of house hold jobs and looks after the son.

That first sunday, I went to see the coop soccer tournament, went to mass in Q´Eqchi´(i start lessons on Monday or tuesday of this week), and was invited to a graduation party, where I was asked to dance. This was a little awkward considering a previous volunteer at this site married someone from the community. This is not part of Mike´s Peace Corps plan. Anyway...

It is a weird, scary, overwhlming transition from being so close to all of your buddies, tech teachers, and then being sent all over the country to work for two years. Community Based training is supposed to simulate this, but it is still hard. Luckily, Thanksgiving was right around the corner and I was able to look forward to that to get me through the first week. Peace Corps set up interested volunteers with Embassy families, and PC directors for Thanksgiving dinner. Luckily, the ambassador invited 20 volunteers and me and 20 other volunteers from my class got to go. So, I left wednesday morning, met up with most of my training group buddies in Antigua, and went to the Ambassadors residence in Guate. He told us to bring our bathing suits, so I swam, played tennis, and had an amazing meal. The meal was extremely rich compared to the beans, eggs, and tortillas which has been the base of our meals for the past 3 months. So, many of us were queezy afterwards. But is was still awesome to have candid conversations with the ambassador. I spent Thursday and friday night in antigua, and then left for Coban again.

My plan is to live in the coop with the president for at least a month to integrate with the community, learn their customs, increase my q´eqchi learning, and gain some confidence with them. I will also save a significant amount of money not living in the center of coban or chamelco (7km away) So, I´m getting used to bucket baths, and life on the coop little by little. The bucket baths are actually better than the cold showers I was taking in santo tomas becasue they are warm. And, there are a handfull of volunteers nearby, so I´m not out in the middle of nowhere by myself; eventhough, it feels like it sometimes.
  • Completion of training: check
  • Move to my site: check
  • Found place to live for the time being: check
  • First of two thanksgiving away from my family out of the way: check
  • First six months of TB pills out nof the way and three months till I can get drunk with my friends: check

Thank you for all of your emails, packages, thoughts, and prayers. This would be infinitely harder without them. Hope you are all doing well. Keep sending me updates from back home.

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