Monday, May 23, 2011


Any move, any transition is generally a mixed blessing. Usually we are moving toward something better (or at least think we are), or we wouldn't be moving at all. I am very excited for my new site in Alta Verapaz. I am excited about my new host organization (a coffee and cardamom cooperative), I am excited about my new site mate, and I'm thrilled to be going somewhere that (reportedly) is very eager for a volunteer and is ready to engage in food security work. 

As much as I'm happy to be looking forward, there are things that I am sad to be leaving behind in my site here. Here are some of the big ones, in no particular order:
  1. Warm-Cool-Cold.
    I have been living at around 2400 meters in elevation since moving to my aldea here in Sololá, and I love it. In the months between November and February I found ice in my pila a handful of times, drank lots of hot tea, and generally bundled up as soon as the sun went down. I like that the cold keeps the spiders small(ish), the mosquitoes few, and the scorpions nonexistent. I sleep well under a sheet, two thick blankets, a coverlet, and a cat. The days have been warm when sunny, cool when cloudy. All of this suits me just fine. I figure you can always add more layers of clothing, but there are only so many you can take off (particularly in a conservative country like Guatemala). My new site will probably be more on a Hot-Warm-Cool spectrum of weather, and will be considerably wetter than where I am now. So, maybe all of you imagining me in a tropical locale may actually be correct once I move.

  2. The Highway.
    This sounds odd, I know, but it's a huge benefit living right by the highway. I know I've not expressed a lot of enthusiasm for travel around here, particularly by way of Chicken Bus. What it has meant for me is that I can take day trips on a weekend to visit three friends from training in Sumpango, who are all scattered along the highway within about 2.5 hours of me. The four of us have been able to gather at least once a month, and have benefited from all the joking, venting, and stress relief that can bring. It also means I can take a quick shopping trip into a city on just one bus, instead of needing to transfer several times. Trips to the PC office are doable in a day, just 2.5 hours away. My new site will be much more remote, but that has advantages, too!

  3. My Cottage.
    It has been such a luxury having my own little space that where I can clean, cook, work, relax, exercise, laugh, cry, be alone, and entertain friends. I've managed a nice nest here, with a few decorations on the inside and beautiful views on the outside. My cottage has been a little oasis for me, where I can control things (other than occasional bug invasions) in the midst of a situation in which most things felt far out of my control. I am moving to A.V. site unseen, so I have a temporary housing arrangement in the the Co-op building while I choose between three options that all need some finishing touches before I can move in.

  4. The Internet.
    I have been utterly spoiled by fairly fast, fairly reliable internet here in my house. For the most part, if there is power, there is internet. I Skype with friends and family at home, keep up on national and world news, and watch the occasional funny video clip. I'm not sure if I will be able to get internet service in my new aldea at all, and if I do it will be substantially slower. I will still have the opportunity to use internet cafes more than once a week. I predict more book reading and guitar playing in my future, and that's a good thing.

  5. Familiar Faces.
    I can't claim that I have developed any real friendships here in town, but I do have the comfort of familiarity here. I see the same people in the street, and they usually smile and respond to my greetings. There are the girls that work in the little shop nearby that learned my name, and tease me about my purchases. There is the town nurse, who has been warm and friendly. There are the truck drivers who look out for me. Over in the pueblo I have my site mate and my K'iche' teachers, the students and teachers at the Junior High. I know I can and will develop such relationships in my new site (and hopefully much stronger ones besides), but it will take time.
So, I am trading out conveniences and familiarity for a new experience, yet again. I think I'm getting a good deal out of this trade, though. If I am able to dig into the social life and work of my new community, I'm sure I will hardly notice giving up a few comforts. Except the heat. I get cranky in the heat. Oh well... here goes!

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