Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Finding Out What "Rustico" Means

I started writing something about the visit to my new site and how it went and what everything was like and all that stuff but then I realized the vague details were incredibly boring and even my umpteenth machete joke couldn’t resurrect it. So instead I will give you a short overview (and pictures!) of everything and a long description of one thing.

Short Overview (and pictures!) of Everything:
As I said last time, my new site is in a place called Xebé (Chay-bay) and it is just outside of Santa Maria Chiquimula (Chick-e-mula). To get to Xebé I need to ride in the back of a pick-up truck with about 20 other people the about eight kilometers from Santa Maria. The truck drops me off for roughly a ¾ mile walk to my house past mud-brick houses, barking dogs, and very confused indigenous people.

The family I will be living with is the family of Don David Chacoj who works for the same organization, ADESMA, for which I will be working. He has three kids and a wife, a brother and his family living about 20 feet up the hill, his mom and dad living another 20 feet up, and sister completing the circle just off to the north, all within shouting distance. He and the whole family are really excited to have me there and watch my every moment to make sure I’m comfortable. The whole town, and pretty much the entire department, speaks Quiché, especially in their houses among family. So, for the most part they kindly spoke in Spanish when I was around as much as they could and I taught them how to say things in English and they laughed at me when I tried to say things in Quiché. It’s ok though; I’m going to have to get used it.

My work will be going around to different communities and helping them (mostly the women as the men usually go off and work in the countryside) with their family gardening projects, composting, and organic solutions to some of the problems they’re having so they don’t have to buy expensive and unhealthy chemical pesticides or fertilizers. A number of secondary project ideas came up throughout the few days I was there so I should be able to stay busy.

The area itself is a pine tree, mountainous region with houses and towns speckled all over. The people are all really kind and it seems to be a very safe place where everyone has known everyone their whole lives. Check out the pictures! for what my room and house are like. Sal, the guy in charge of the agriculture program and in charge of placing people, described my site and dwelling as “rustico.” I’ll let you label it what you want.

Long Description of One Thing:
On Wednesday Don David invited me to go to church with the family. The family and the majority of the town is Evangelical. Although I had not yet been to an Evangelical service here I have heard plenty of them walking down the streets or just hearing them going late into the night from my bedroom. The first time the church by my house had one Don Raul and Doña Olivia told me that I wasn’t going to sleep that night. They were right. One of the volunteers we visited during training said that living next to an Evangelical church has been her biggest challenge over the last two years. Basically, what I’m getting at is that they are loud, very loud.

When I showed up to the church the reaction was eerily similar to when the gang from “Animal House” showed up at the roadside bar to see Otis Day and the Nights. The moment I walked in was probably the quietest it got all night. Everyone wanted to see the white guy that was a foot taller than the next tallest person so much that kids were running from the far end of the church and standing on pews to stare at me. One little girl exactly in the dead center of the church stood up on her pew and pointed at me for a good ten seconds with her head cocked and a very confused look on her face. On the stage (it was more of a stage than an altar), was a band and on both sides were two sets of GIANT speakers blasting the music. On one side behind the speakers was a guy playing bass but I could only see the neck of his instrument and therefore he couldn’t see me either. Not to worry, as I was taking my seat another little girl ran up to him, tugged violently on his pant leg and pulled him out behind the speakers so he could see me and give me the same baffled look everyone else was giving me. The first hour or so was about like what I would imagine a Bruce Springsteen concert being like. Actually, I think the best way describe the guy leading the music would be the Guatemalan Bruce Springsteen. (That’s right, he exists.) They played a couple songs that everyone was getting into and then after one of them, everyone, without cue, left their pews to go and stand at the base of the stage/altar. Apparently we needed to get even closer to the giant blaring speakers. We went up there for a song that would have put Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gatta-Da-Vida” on repeat five times to shame. (During this marathon song I was contemplating what would inspire someone to write a song as long as this or “In-A-Gatta-Da-Vita.” I came up with only two theories: god and LSD).

As the song hit its 17th and final outro, people started moaning really loudly, some fell to their knees and held back tears and others yelled out in things Quiché (I have no idea what they were saying). Meanwhile, as chaos was breaking out all around me, I very awkwardly stood there and clapped with the beat. (The song was so long that I actually got a hand cramp from clapping the whole time. Since everyone was watching my every movement I tried not to let it show.) After the things had calmed down a little, we went back to our seats and the aforementioned bass player got up to the microphone and started speaking in Quiché. Next thing I know the entire congregation is laughing and staring at me. I still don’t know what he said about me but I hope it was that I did a great job keeping the beat for the past hour. Next, the preacher went into a sermon that was somehow, unbelievably even louder than the music. The majority was in Quiché so I couldn’t understand it but he did start it out in Spanish by personally welcoming me to the community. After that he yelled for about an hour and a half. I really needed subtitles. This was followed by another really long song where we once again gathered around the speakers, clapped and wailed and then went back to our seats. Finally, Don David got up there to give the final announcements and I was once again welcomed into the community. At least I think so, at this point I think my ears were bleeding a little and I felt like I had spent the last five hours in the front row of a Metalica concert. We got to the church around five thirty and left at eight thirty. All in a day’s work.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Hey, everyone. On Thursday we finally found out our sites for the next two years and then I wrote something to put up here but never did and now I don't have my thumb drive. So this will have to be short because I am about to go visit the site from today until Sunday. I will have more to say when I get back.

Anyways, my site is in the department of Totonicapan and I am outside of the town Santa Maria Chiquimula in a place called Xebe. It is an Indigenous community of the Quiche ethnicity and 75% speak the Quiche language and 25% speak Spanish. I think it is safe to assume that 0% speak English. It all sounds really good so far and yesterday two women from my counterpart agency came to Santa Lucia and I got to meet them and ask them all kinds of questions. It sounds like they are excited to have me and I'm exicted to go. In a couple hours the three of us are heading off by bus to Totonicapan. I'll fill you all in on how it goes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Photos

Hey, I scraped that last photo sharing page and started a new one. Check it out if you want. http://picasaweb.google.com/stephenjcoliver/Guatemala#