I am discovering how bad I am at keeping up this blog. So, due to guilt over having not updated the blog for 5 weeks--I will share the latest of my Guatemalan life.
We recently had 2 hurricanes threaten Guatemala, Hurricane Dean and Hurricane Felix. Both resulted in Peace Corps consolidating us to regional checkpoints, where we stayed in nice 4 star hotels, some nicer than others...I stayed in Antigua...and it was heaven!! Swimming pool, gym, sauna, all you can eat buffet, wireless Internet, soft comfortable beds, cable TV...need I say more?! For Hurricane Dean, I actually didn't get consolidated for because it mainly affected W. Guatemala, but I was consolidated for Felix for a 2 night stay in Antigua. Both hurricanes brought lots of rain, but minimal damage overall. Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize were much more affected.
So, no, the river did not sweep me away--as my Guatemalan friends like to tease me :)
I have been in site now since the 20th of July. So, about 6 weeks or so. That time has really flown by. The days certainly go alot faster now that I am out of training and am an "official" volunteer. Because I am in Eastern Guatemala, the weather tends to be warmer out here, but not as hot as I thought it would be, either. Rainy season really saves us here because it keeps the weather very temperate. My biggest complaint is the abundance of mosquitos and constantly having bites which swell, itch, and leave scars. I am discovering the importance of sleeping with a mosquito net, wearing long pants, a jacket, and shoes with socks from early evening on.
Everybody in my town is very friendly & I was the talk of the town there for awhile (and still am to an extent) It is not everyday a blond haired, fair skinned American girl comes to live :)
To further emphasize my point, I have a rather funny antidote from yesterday I thought I would share.
On my way back from consolidation in Antigua, I took a pullman from Guatemala City to my site (about a 2 hour ride). Typically, I take a chicken bus, however, it is always so crowded. You see, the chicken buses here are old US yellow school buses that are used for public transport. When they get full, people sit 3 across each seat, plus are standing in aisles. That means the person closest to the aisles is always "half on" the seat and hanging on for their life when the bus takes sharp curves at a way-too-fast speed. I have gotten pretty used to this, however for long trips, I just can't stand it. I always arrive irritated and last time I swore I would take a pullman for future trips. Pullmans cost a little bit more, but they are much more spacious & make for a much more PLEASANT trip.
So, yesterday, I was enjoying my first pullman ride to my site. I could see that we were getting close to my site, however, my ability to see where we were at exactly was slightly hindered--so I kept craning my neck b/c I didn't want the bus to fly by my stop. When, suddenly, I saw my stop and the bus just zoomed past (about 50 mph). Startled that I missed my stop, I started saying "I get off here! This is my stop! El Molino! (the name of my stop)" So, being the only foreigner on the bus, and a gringa (American girl) at that, I created quite the commotion. Immediately, the other passengers started to tell me that El Molino was further up, and that there was no worries. All I could think was, well, what they call El Molino and what my stop actually is, must be a ways apart. So, I was still thinking I had missed my stop. I accepted the fact that my stop was now a good mile behind us & I would simply have to take another bus back to my stop.
I have my arms/back FULL of stuff from traveling to Antigua for the past 2 days for consolidation with the hurricane, plus, I went shopping on the way back through Guatemala City. This left me with a HUGE hiking backpack full of stuff, plus several bags in my arms. This presents a space issue in a bus, which now had people standing in the aisles. Fellow Guatemalans are trying to help me as I am floundering around the aisles, trying not to fall into people's laps, and balancing all of my stuff (I swear, I am going to start to pack less on future trips!) The "ayudante" on the bus, which collects the money from the people & coordinates all of the stops with the driver was nicely telling me that it wasn't his fault that I missed my stop, that I had told him "El Molino". I said, I understood, that it was my fault, that I would take a bus back....various Guatemalans at this point are interjecting & explaining how to get back....as I am flailing down the aisle with my backpack & arms full, saying "excuse me" to each person as I unavoidably smack them with the backpack on my back with each step towards the front of the bus.
Soooo....I get off the bus, people still talking at me, and I realize THIS IS MY STOP. I was COMPLETELY confused & I hadn't missed my stop after all. I laugh at myself & all of the drama I unwittingly created on the bus & I walk over to where I will catch the last leg of my trip. A little van (my ride) comes along, STUFFED full of people, fellow passengers offer to hold my bags, and I take my half seat which it the only available "seat" left. I am literally bracing myself against whatever possible to not fall out the open sliding door (which is left open during transit so the "ayudante" can hop on and off quickly to let more people on/off). Then, the lady sitting next to me starts to ask me about "Dona Anita" which is a good friend of mine in my site, who runs a comedor (small restaurant). I then realize that she knows who I am, that she lives in the same town as me. A group of about 6 or 7 out of the 15 crammed in the van all start to talk about me & where I am living, etc. When we approach my site, they all chime in to tell the driver which stop I need (I wasn't asking for the help, but it was readily offered). I told them all it was nice to meet them & they wished me a good day.....I then began to realize how many more people in my town know who I am than I realize....they know where I live, who I am friends with, where I work, etc. Which on one hand, leaves me feeling very "on display", yet, on the other, makes me feel very well-cared for. So, although I might be still limping along getting from point A to B via public transportation, the Guatemalans, whether they know me or not, go out of their way to help me out. "Otra aventura" (another adventure) is what my Guatemalan friends always tell me when I come home with my crazy stories :) And many more to come...