Sunday, October 24, 2010

El Ultimo!

Well, I think this will be my official last posting on this blog. Since I last wrote I made the journey to Florida where I spent 4 wonderful day soaking in the wisdom and good cooking of my spritely grandmother. It was a perfect buffer between the old and new lives-- providing me a few extra days of the trilled sounds of Spanish and of warmth on my skin.

I now find myself bundled up in fleece and wool by the rotund potbelly stove that provides heat to my parent's house in Warren, New Hampshire. The Baker River and the kaleidoscope leaves are a perfect backdrop for all of the thinking and sorting-through that I'm doing. Two years of memories and images are dancing about in my head. People like to ask "so, how was it?" I wish I had some sort of concise answer. Peace Corps told us to memorize a 3 sentence answer to that question, but every time I try to, I come up with too much, or too little. So mostly I respond with something like, "It was great! Two years is a long long have you got to hear about it?"

I'm expecting an eventual wave of emotion once I realize that I won't be returning to San Sebastián anytime soon, but for now I'm thankful to be among those that I love and am reveling in the autumn colors and the comforts of home. I thought that I'd have pages to write reflecting on all that I learned and gained in Peace Corps, but in the end I think I'd rather let the stories contained in these pages speak of my journey. It's been a wild one, with more twists and turns than I'd imagined, but I've made it to the other side and am happier and (hopefully) wiser for it. Peace Corps was one hell of an adventure; here's to the next one!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On My Way

I'm sitting in the airport, sipping Guatemalan coffee and thinking about what the past two years have shown and meant to me. It's been totally wild. Like almost any worthwhile experience, my Peace Corps life has been an adventure and a struggle. I've learned about myself, about others and about the way the world works and where I fit into the big picture. The next few weeks will find me in Florida, Massachusetts and New Hampshire soaking up family and reintegrating into America. It will hopefully provide me some time to process and people to process with, so I'll be sure to post some post-Peace Corps thoughts and pictures. Thanks for sharing this adventure with me, for your emails and comments. I'm so glad to have been able to show you a little bit of this wonderful place that's been my home!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Adios Pueblito Querido

A view I will miss

My bags are packed. The house is cleaned and I removed my key from its spot on my keychain. In exactly 9.5 hours I'll load my enormous bags into my friend's car and say goodbye to SanSe for the forseen future. I don't have words to explain what I am feeling, it's something akin to heartbreak, that kind of feeling you get when something difficult and amazing is ending-- incredible nostalgia and sadness mixed with hope and a face pointed toward the road ahead.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

5 Days and Counting

I'm down to five days left in San Sebastián. Five days to spend with friends, to get in all the hugs and chats and tamales I can fit into my memory and stomach. I honestly never thought about making it here. I've dreamt about the coveted "Returned Peace Corps Volunteer" title and about life after my service, but the last week and the goodbyes were absent from those thoughts. Now that I'm here and staring down my last week, I'm nervous and sad and totally bewildered. This place, this strange and different land that I've been living in for 24 months has become my home and it's nearly impossible for me to imagine life outside of it.

I'm used to the honking of camionetas being my alarm, Saturday nights always providing a tamale and piping hot cup of coffee, holidays meaning firecrackers and late nights. I've learned the way certain neighbors ring my doorbell, I've grown accustomed to the scream of "carrrrllllooootaaaa" from the street meaning that kids want to read books; I am a part of a family, of several families, and the idea of going away and unlearning all of those things is starting to break my heart. I love this place. I love my life. And even though I know it's time to move on, to live close to my blood-family and put down some semblance of roots, I'm having trouble saying goodbye. So I'll say "see you in a year" or "see you at so-and-so's wedding," because that makes it easier.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Promoting Multiculturalism

One of the things that I've enjoyed most about being a PC volunteer, and also one of the values that I hold most dear is the idea that culture is important and worth sharing. Technology and increased travel to far-flung places are both great things; I've benefitted from both. However, one of the pitfalls of those things is an increased homogeneity that has us seeing African kids wearing Tupac shirts and Guatemalan girls playing with Barbies (oh the lovely things that seem to spread most rapidly from our culture).

One of my goals as a volunteer has been to share my culture and others that I'm familiar with in a way that's authentic and engaging- and also that doesn't include pop music, crappy processed foods or English swear words. The world is filled with rich cultures that are worth studying and sharing, foods that are worth tasting, and music that no one can resist the urge to tap their toes or dance to. When we learn to embrace differences and appreciate what we don't understand, we learn empathy and the value of individuality. We also end up absorbing and learning a whole lot of really cool things. As such, I shared the secrets of Sushi with my Guatemalan friends a few weeks ago and loved watching them learn to make rolls and use chopsticks. So they ate it with tortillas...maybe that'll be the newest fashionable fusion food.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saying Goodbye to the Ladies

I have had the amazing privilege of working with incredible women during my time here. My job in the Municipal Women’s Office has included organizing and legalizing groups of women in each village and then getting them together on a monthly basis to train them in topics ranging from self-esteem to voting. They are women who are chosen for their leadership and their desire to improve the situation of women in their communities.

When I first started working with them they were incredibly shy, none of them wanted to talk in front of the rest of the group, and giggling was all I got from them when I asked questions. Now that we’ve been meeting semi-frequently for two years, the women trust me and each other and share stories of their lives and ideas for the future without fear. I have loved watching that transition and sharing in lots of great moments with them—my personal favorite being a game we played where we had to pop balloons with our bodies without using our feet or hands (try it, it’s hilarious).

I recently had my last meeting with them. They gave me hugs and asked me to come back next year. I’m going to miss these ladies but leave them knowing that they’ll continue meeting and that they have the confidence and creativity to make their communities and their own lives better.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Baby Carlota!

I returned from my recent trip to the U.S. to find a very special surprise. My friend Doña Dora had given birth to a baby girl and she named her Carlota, the translation of my name into Spanish. When I arrived to Dora's house to meet the new baby she put her in my arms and said to me "when you leave we want to always remember you, so we named her Carlota." It was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Here in Guatemala when someone names a baby after you, they are called your tocayo, or namesake. Here are a few photos of Carlota and her older siblings- Vilma, Dorothy, Froylan and Viviana.