Sorry for the delay and brief disappearance...my gmail was accessed by someone in the Czech Republic which sent out spam to all my contacts and shut down my blog because of the suspicious behavior. But we are back!
As I mentioned my parents came to visit. The luxury of staying in hotels with hot water and water pressure was incredible!...it's the small things in life.
First we hit up Antigua for a couple days. We ate some great food, had some delicious drinks, toured the jade museum, a coffee plantation, visited countless artisan markets and sipped some great coffee in the park. Not to mention my dad went loco for the sudden access to countless Cuban cigars...
My parents in front of the Merced
From Antigua we rented a car and headed over to Lake Atitlan.
We stayed one night in Panajachel, the biggest town on the lake, and one night at a small hotel called Casa del Mundo- only reachable by boat and completely hidden away in the mountains surrounding the lake. It was insanely gorgeous and relaxing.
View of the lake and volcanos from our balcony.
From the Lake we moved north to Uspantan! My parents got a nice look at my life here- met my counterpart, toured the hospital and my office and even went out to one of my aldeas, Sicache, to sit in on a training. I think that my group of promoters felt very honored to have my parents there and even thanked God countless times for their presence at the training...maybe it got a little uncomfortable but it was a genuinely great experience to have them with me out in the community, seeing firsthand the type of work that we doing.
That afternoon Hilary took my parents and me out to a community called Laj Chimel. The village is located about an hour and a half north of Uspantan and is home to a beautiful cloud forest and incredible hiking. This village was hit very hard by the armed conflict, which many refer to as "la violencia" (the violence). We were given a tour of the forests that surround this village by a woman named Maria. This forest housed refugees during the war, including Maria. The resources and protection of the forest became the only means of survival for many during these years. I am afraid I would not be able to do her story justice by retelling it here...you will all have to come and visit me to hear it for yourselves!
Maria sitting at the top of the lookout spot
NYU Dad!...Cloud forest behind
Our next stop was Tikal, one of the largest archaelogical sites of the ancient Mayan civilizations.
A Mayan ceremony in the grand plaza, Temple 1 behind- view from Temple 2
The fam in front of Temple 1
View of Temples 1,2 and 3 from the top of Temple 4
At the lookout on Temple 4
I'm sure the pictures can speak for themselves. Tikal was amazing. From Tikal we hopped over to San Pedro, Belize for a few days of R&R... because thats basically all there is to do in Belize. It was perfect.
My dad and me snorkelin along the second largest coral reef in the world. It was insane- we saw not only the coral but also sharks, turtles, anemones and tons of weird looking fish (I'm not a fish expert)
We jumped back over to Guatemala to spend a night on lake Peten before flying back to Guatemala City where we had a delicious farewell dinner and my parents flew back to the great United States of America...and I went back to "roughing it" as my mother so kindly puts it.
Sunset from our bungalow
View of volcanos flying into Guatemala City (Meredith and Sarah- you will see this in the LIVE in less than 8 weeks!)
The trip was amazing (if I haven't said that enough) and now I am back to my Peace Corps life- void of fancy hotels, airplanes and martinis. I have a very exciting year to look forward to though. My promoter groups are still coming along and this month I started a new training program with the nurses and educators in the hospital, representing all the Health Posts throughout the municipality- there are 12 all together. Every other month we will be doing trainings on how to give workshops using the dynamic and hands-on ideaology that I use in my own work. The hope is to present a new approach to teaching the basics of health and hygiene that will continue when my stint here is done here. Horray for sustainability! The idea is that after each training the participants go back to their Health Posts and give the same workshop to groups within the community. We shall see how the new methodologies work for them. Fingers crossed!
School started last week and sadly, as I have reported before, school funding is a very serious issue in Guatemala. This year nearly all schools were left without sufficient teachers. As a result three schools have asked for the support of the Peace Corps Volunteers in town to give English classes. Hilary and I will be sharing the responsibility of teaching 5 classes at one of the high schools and I will be helping a colleague from the hospital who is teaching English at another high school. It's a bit daunting but the options are: 1. Suck it up and teach the English classes, or 2. The kids don't get English classes this year. So obviously we got guilted into that one...But this year I am also helping with a new workshop series we at the hospital are implementing in the high schools. We will be working with sex education and issues of self-esteem and these English classes will certainly get me in good standing with the Principals. Personal incentives!
One last project to announce. Through a program called World Wise Schools, I have been paired with a Spanish teacher in Milwaukee and will be corresponding through Skype and photos with his students. I am excited to share a bit of my experiences with the students and the goal is to educate not only on the work that we do in Peace Corps but also about the culture and languages found here in Guatemala. Hopefully I'll be able to get some of my coworkers on Skype with the classes to teach them a bit of K'iche!
Go Steelers!... I have to travel 3 and a half hours to see the Super Bowl but by gosh I'm'a do it!