Monday, June 18, 2012

Hasta Pronto Guatemala

" If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Lilla Watson

Hasta pronto Guatemala.  It's been a beautiful, interesting ride.  Tommorrow I board a plane and walk off onto a whole new life.  How do you say goodbye to three years?  It's difficult to explain all this goodbye business to you.  We come in to this country as naive gringos, some looking to spread the love, others looking to build their resumes.  I think most of us just realized one day that something just wasn't quite right, so we hem..  joined Peace Corps.  We land in Guatemala, and for the first few months, we doubt ourselves many times whether we can actually make it those whole two years.  Through the first few months of training, we are like children again - learning to communicate, eat, be healthy and share cultures.  At 18, we swear-in - we're on our own, off to our communities, spending our first few months getting to know our communities and culture.  We learn to live simple, and that many of the harsh realities we see are intertwined with beauty and aweness.  We grow wiser and by our second year, we find ourselves giving advice to newer volunteers ans find that we actually know what we're talking about.  We now feel more at home in our village than when we've come to visit you in the US.  We learn that nothing, no money, no donation can ever help Guatemala if we are not empowering, involving its people and its culture.  We learn to grow cynical of money, hippie backpackers, IPHONES and of outside influence in general.  Slowly, we learn to share their laughs and feel their pain.  We come to be dependent upon our community and we realize that hey, dependency can actually be a GOOD thing.  We teach, and yet we learn even more from people who have not even graduated high school. 
 
It's difficult to pin an exact point through that whole process where we've exactly fallen in love with our country and its people - whether it's those moments that you feel like you're in a bob ross painting, or singing word for word that new reggaeton song.  But you fall in love and soon after that, you are told to actually go "home."  Somewhere between that airplane and landing back in the US, we'll be back to age zero again.  Once again, we'll have to readapt to a new culture, learn how to communicate, eat and live again.  As for myself, I'll probably be some sort of hybrid child, not quite the one you remembered and a shadow of the person I was in Guatemala. 
 
Gracias por hacerme nacer Guatemala.  Y para Violeta Istacuy, una verdadera luchadora para la justicia y desarollo de su pais, que sigues luchando en el cielo.
 
Hasta pronto Guateland,

Esther

Monday, March 26, 2012

Moving Forward

It's been three months. I'm very sorry. I know you have all been losing sleep every night anxiously waiting for some news. The truth is that the news pertaining to these last few months was so overwhelming that I just couldn't quite form nice, pretty words for you. I was afraid that if you read me last February or January, you would miscontrue many of the events happening in Guatemala. So I waited to write until I felt ready.

I'm ready. Last time we spoke, I was gearing up to spend my one month vacation leave with my family in Brazil. I left and came back to a Guatemala very different from the one I had left. Due to increasing security concerns, Peace Corps D.C. implemented a number of changes that would affect literally almost every volunteer in the country. As a result, many volunteers were forced to change sites and many others were required to leave a few months early. What does this mean? Very angry volunteers. Super Oober Chaos. Disappointed, demoralized staff. During that time, I was very angry too. I didn't feel ready to write to you. I felt heartbroken, cheated. How could I, a "senior" third-year volunteer, show optimism to other volunteers looking up to me? I still don't know what the answer to that is. There wasn't really a "quiet after the storm," rather a massive flurry of volunteers getting their things together, changing sites, and many others closing their service and pre-returning to the United States. In the middle of it all though, I heard a common voice - "Well, ok, this is happening to me. And you know what? I am going to be ok." I know it sounds cheesy, but I sort of look up to these volunteers and staff as they rushed to deal with the 1,001 problems being passed onto them. I look back at these last two months, I look back at all the challenges and tears, and I feel better, I feel stronger. I really hope other volunteers can do the same.

Let me make one thing clear - we are all very safe. But Peace Corps, like any other government agency functioning on taxpayer dollars is a bureaucratic agency, responsible for the children of many anxious parents who are seeing their "babies" fly from home from the first time. Peace Corps has changed, as has the world and society that we live in today. We are dependent on technology, being connected, and lawsuits. So is Peace Corps. I don't know if I have exactly forgiven Peace Corps for what happened in these last few months but my point is this - It is an agency that has become a direct reflection of our society. It is an agency full of safety and security regulations that mirror our own co-dependency as a society in the United States. I am not excusing, I have just understood, and I am moving forward.

I am moving forward. I am finishing my last few months in Guatemala as I prepare for Graduate School in the fall. As I finish, I have come to acceptance about the beauty and sadness around me; the two juxtaposed worlds that mangle Guatemala. As for work? Well, earlier this month, we directed and produced our second-ever multilingual production of the Vagina Monologues with Population Council's Abriendo Oportunidades program. This year, the production was bigger than ever, with monologues being presented in spanish, english and several mayan languages (Kiche', Kechi', Tzutuhil, Mam, kachikel, Poquoman.) It also included the participation of 39 women, ranging from rural indigenous girls, to transgendered women from the capital and peace corps volunteers. We were sold out before the show even started! But I didn't care much about that, what really awed me was the diversity of participants who for the first time in their lives shared an empowered voice through the words they read. They learned about the woman behind the monologue and I hope a wee bit about the powerful woman within them.

The other day, while we were reflecting about the event with Ale, the Director of the Abriendo Oportunidades program, she shared this interaction she had with her small niece (could not have been more than 4) - Her niece went up to one of the transgendered women after the show and asked, "Are you really a girl?" and the woman answered affirmatively. Confused, the niece commented to Ale, "She doesn't look like a girl..." Ale answered, "Well, there are some little boys that grow up to be girls; and there are little girls that grow up to be boys; and there are little boys that grow up to become boys and little girls that grow up to become girls." The niece understood now and she then asked suspicously, "Can they still chew gum?" Ale answered affirmitavely. The niece, relieved, answered in approval, "Oh ok." I don't know why this story stuck with me so much. It seemed so simple in the little niece's eyes. How could we, as adults, not be able to do the same?

Well, I guess 3 months of not writing to you has enabled this blog entry to run a little long. What am I up to today? Currently I am enjoying a nice cafecito at a fancy coffee shop in my department capital and gearing up for a charla this afternoon with a group of local sex workers (I'll update you on this more later.) I am also working on a scholarhip application so I can ACTUALLY afford grad school and am procrastinating preparing a 3 day reproductive health workshop I'm suppose to give in two days. Doble whoops. But it will all get done, poco a poco. It's Guatemala.

Saludos.



Two indigenous leaders of the "Abriendo Oportunidades" program, performing "The Vagina Workshop"


Women from the organization OTRANS from the capital, who work for the rights of Transgendered women in Guatemala


Group shot of the 39 participants!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Slapping dead chickens



You may be familiar with my dog, Tay'in, by now. What you may not be familiar with in that picture is the dead chicken hanging from her neck. Tay'in has always been trouble since I've gotten her, first, it was ruining anything plastic, then it was jumping rooftops, and lately, it's become killing chickens. I emphasize killing, NOT eating because for her, it's just that - Fun, playful, killing. Here's the problem - chickens are everywhere here, every corner, every house, every street. Here's the other problem - chickens are a means of livelihood and income here, so every time Tay'in kills a chicken, a family loses money. I decided this madness had to come to a stop when the latest casualty happened to be a whole family of baby chicken siblings. Naturally, the only sensible thing to do was to tie her latest trophy catch to her neck. By the way, this actually is not a Guatemalan tradition at all, rather one found on Google (It turns out my host family was actually quite shocked by it.) Apparently, the Guatemalan version entails making a home-made remedy made of the chicken's burning feathers and allowing the smoke to blow in the dog's face. But I chose the brutal option anyway, the dead-necked chicken, for one simple reason - there's a good chance that if she continues, someone will kill her (so don't judge me you animal rights activists.)

And so the dead chicken was tied when I was away from site, and so naturally the first thing I did when I got home was to take the dead chicken and shove it in her face, repeating, "NO! NO! NO!" "BAD GIRL TAY'IN." Just about then, I looked up and noticed a few bystanders watching me on the street and realized - Jesus, what am I doing?!?! I would have never imagined myself a few years back being able to naturally grab a half-bodied decomposing chicken with my raw hands and shove it repeatedly in my dog's face. And yes, it turns out that by the time I had gotten home, only half the chicken remained on her collar. Apparently, Tay'in insisted on following my host mom and sister to the store, the molino, all around town and in front of the entire pueblo. The whole chicken didn't quite make it along the way. Most importantly, the whole town watching this spectacle probably thought that my host mom had gone absolutely crazy.

Tay'in spent a nasty 4 days like this. Today's her first day of freedom and so far she hasn't killed any chickens. Just Yet. I have my doubts. The dog is a god dang wolf.

In less nasty news - December 1st celebrated International AIDS Day and although I didn't plan on coordinating any activities originally, a few other volunteers and myself were asked to participate in activities with the Ministry of Health in my department capital's central park (Quiche). Although I was originally not looking forward to the activities (we were given less than a week's notice to cook something up), it turned out to be a really great activity, full of games, art, music, dance, etc. It also provided a great opportunity to connect and plan future activities with the local hospital.

To be honest, moving to a new site has been very challenging this third year, especially because so much of my new work entails travelling, coordination and less "field" work, which I love. However, things are coming together slowly and by chance, myself and another volunteer have been able to work on reproductive health education with a group of local sex workers. The experience itself is completely different from that of my first two years of work - most of the women are not indigenous, they are literate, migrant, and don't really believe that they need your help. The first few sessions, I must admit, were kind of a disaster. They were sassy, suspicious and well, rude. It wasn't until the last session that they finally opened up and talked about their problems, real issues and their rights in society. Much to my surprise, all but one had great feedback on the training. Sadly, some had writtenn that they wanted to participate in order "to have a place in society." This literally broke my heart when I read it. Sex workers, especially in Guatemala, have been shunned, outcasted and made to believe that their work really isn't work at all. However, you'd be surprised to find that these women are not only incredibly smart and resourceful but are incredible business women. This is only because they are, after all, working women. Anywho, I could talk hours and hours and probably create my own blog just about this, but I'll keep it short and sweet. I've learned so much from them already and am extremely excited to see where this collaboration takes us.

And just as work is picking up... I'm leaving. Well for a month anyway... To Brazil (Peace Corps makes you take a month off if you extend a third year.) I know poor me right? I'll be leaving next week to spend a month with my family on the beach and am very excited to relax, rejuvenate, spend time with my family and start the new year fresh. Happy Holidays!!!!!!!!!!!


We spent thanksgiving weekend on the beach, where we caught baby turtles taking their first swim into the ocean!!


Chalk Art at Quiche's Central Park for International AIDS Day

Monday, October 17, 2011

Finding America

And so I returned. I had no idea what to expect really... The thought of return was just as scary as my Guatemalan departure over 2 years ago. Anyone that browses these Peace Corps blogs can typically read and re-read about rants and experiences about cultural adaptation or misadaptation. But what happens when the gringo comes back "home"? It turns out that for me and as for most, returning home meant getting sucker punched with acute reverse culture shock.

My two and a half weeks of travel included stops all over NY state. I was perplexed to find each place so unique, changed and yet the same, but still so different from one another. I reacquainted and met with old and new friends, all of whom represented a different part of American society - a different part of the middle-america struggle and what it means to be American today.

The beginning - Cairo, NY.

My teenage years. I remember the freedom of the summers, getting my driver's license, soccer practice, pranks, thinking I had it all. I remember the freedom we felt then. Today, I find it hard to find any trace of it at all anymore in this unchanged small American town. And so I came back down memory lane and was challenged with all sorts of curious questions, you know like, "Hey, aren't you in Brazil?" or "How's Europe treating you?" or, "Hey, wow, you're not fat!?" Some people spoke with me suspiciously and distantly maybe because I had done the unthinkable - not only did I get out and come back but I went somewhere so unimaginable that most couldn't even remember its name. It's the irony of it all isn't it? Standing there face to face with your facebook friend, each one convinced that the other is crazier than the other.

My visit was highlighted by your typical small town america events - A firefighters convention, 9/11 Anniversary, a baby christening, a run into an ex-boyfriend, and tomato planting at my grandmother's grave. At the time of my visit, Hurricate Irene had left its marks throughout the area. It was the first time many in the area had seen anything like this, it was the talk of town. Much to my surprise, I fell easy in conversations, able to revert to my Guatemalan-trained weather conversation starters. If I hadn't now lived thru two seasons of rain, hurricanes and tropical depressions here in Guatemala, I suppose I would have been shocked too. But I wasn't, I was grateful actually... for insurance. Oh America, you're so efficient. And so throughout my visit, I mingled once again with my teenage past and its future - by meeting babies, fresh beer bellies and age-wrinkled acquaintances. There's something so lonely and yet so comforting about coming back to this place. I'm convinced that no matter when I come back, everything will still be there, babies now grown up, teenagers, married, grandchildren, and as the world confuses us and makes everything oh so more complicated, I know that silent Cairo will still be there, right there, waiting for me.


Ads after Hurricane Irene


Ela - One of my favorite baby friends

Gone West - Buffalo, NY

For being somewhat of globe trotters, it's pretty funny that my family somehow ended up making Buffalo a home base. How to describe Buffalo? Well I guess in a few simple words: under-rated and quirky. Where do I begin with Buffalo? I guess at the beginning of it all. I'm waiting outside the amtrak office, wondering again what to expect... "Will he pick me up by car, bike? Does he even have a place to live? Am I going to be sleeping in a cardboard box?" And then I see it - that car. I can't believe he even still has it. Yep, it's him, he looks like a french hippie, the accordian player, my brother. As I was brought around all around the music scene - accordion classes, rehearsals, open mic nights, back-room library jam sessions, gigs - I realize that this isn't my scene at all anymore. I'm shy, introverted, and most likely coming off as a boring, snobby A-Type. I'm asked what my creative talents are, if I play an instrument or if I'm left brained. Well, geez, I don't know. I haven't thought about "left-brains" since middle school science class. As it turns out, the only thing to comes out of my brain in Buffalo would be a border-line sociological aspergers disorder. It wasn't just my social scene phobia though, there were simple things too - you know, like being unable to cross intersections on bike rides or actually choosing an ice cream flavor. In the midst of all of this, it finally hits me - I'm a god damn weirdo. I knew I wouldn't quite fit-in in Cairo, but Buffalo, well it hits me by surprise. It turns out that I bond more with my childhood nemesis Yann (now my awesome and quirky Cheesecake factory prep-chep bro.) We bond over the simple things - hikes, mushrooms, fossils and funny enough, our lack of communication with one another.

But Buffalo, oh buffalo, you are just screaming to be different, to be heard through your run-down factories, your ghettos, your yuppy middle-class, your eccentric bums and bohemian artists. It's something to be admired - the fact that Buffalo is living there on its own, a tiny island in the middle of America. I appreciate the fact that Buffalo exists, and it's there because it is, after all, America (now bring it in the Star Splangled Banners please.)


Apparently Buffalo was also home to to the first Crash-test dummy doll.



Cranky Yann = typical sibling fight!!


Back of library open mic night


Suburbia - Long Island, NY

Oh Long Island... Suburbia hub long island. It's the poster child image for hopeful immigrants here in Guatemala. The perfect house, the perfect family, the white picket fence, the 9-5, the kids, the perfect dog, the diners, the boats, the malls, the cars and the L.I.E. Long Island is home to most of my college friends and to be honest, it was never a place I thought I would have called home a few years ago. Long Island quickly (literally) welcomes you with the L.I.E. (think the German Autobahn.) As we passed assembly lines of cars, malls and signs, and so many signs, I couldn't help but to ask outloud "Where is everyone going?", which was quickly followed by, "Hmmmm, I wonder how much those electronic signs cost.." I start remembering the Esther of a few years ago, driving down this same highway anxiously mowing through a 1 1/2 hour commute to work. Gosh, that was silly. We pass more signs, perfect houses, malls, more "Traffic moving ahead Smoothly's" that all seem the same and it then sinks in - I'm back.

I meet them all again, all my old college friends, some with babies, some matured and probably almost engaged, but all of whom form fragments of my old life. We party of course, I drink too many octoberfest-brownhoney-cinnamon-something weird-beers and throw up four times the next day, mostly on the side of expressways. As I recuperate, we make our way to the beach, and snack on Fire Island. I's spotted here and there with yuppy and ritzy city-folk. I blend in too, I drink a Dirty Martini. Remember those? We walk back down on the beach at sunset, it's deserted, it's peaceful, I'm reminded of an old, pristine Long Island.

There is a huge El Salvadorian immigrant community on Long Island and I am determined to find a Guatemalan Restaurant. We drive through Brentwood, I see a Pollo Campero! But no Guatemalan restaurant... I feel comforted by the neighborhood even though it's considered the ghetto. I think to myself that if I ever have to move back to Long Island, I'll move to Brentwood. My good friend Allie thinks I'm crazy, but for me, it's a small piece of Guatemala.


Local tradition - Morning-after breakfast diner with college friends


Long Island footprrints


What the what? - NYC

My NYC trip was a whirwind from the very beginning. It started with a lunch with my old boss, a politician. It's nice and heartwarming to see each other and all, but it's awkward... I really don't care about local politics anymore and he can tell. Damn it. I don't know how far I got to be from what I used to be. I can't tell if my old boss is proud or a tad disappointed by the person I've become. Well, that's life I guess. I take a visit to my old office and I see a few peppy mini-Esthers fresh out of college. I look at the zoning maps that I used to know so well, and I feel comfort. I wonder if I could ever work there again. It's a few years later, and it's the same constituent issues - dog poop, zoning problems, tax increases and complaints, complaints, complaints. I guess that's what makes the city work. My brothers and father are in town too and on our first night together, I take them around a sketchy Queensborough neighborhood. We walk past Affordable Housing and projects, deserted warehouses and I can sense that my family is feeling uneasy. We walk to the East Side River and along a boardwalk of factories, generators, lit warehouses, all lightly dimmed by the highrises of Manhattan. We shyly greet factory workers who are busy printing tomorrow's newspaper. And there they are, I think, producing, producing, producing for the highrises that shadow them.

My good friend Deirde offers her place in Astoria, where I used to live. I always thought I'd go back there after Peace Corps, but I'm not so sure anymore. It's changed and yet it's the same. I have a bagel and coffee from Dunkin Donuts every morning on my morning commutes to Manhattan. I try to befriend the Indian workers at Dunkin Donuts and want to physically hurt racist, bitchy clients. I find out that the N and W lines are still having issues even after 2 years. I spend my days with my family and meet with friends at night. I can't stay up past 11pm or past one beer. I cross a familiar past in NYC - Brooklyn bridge at dusk, a star wars NYU party at Washington Square, Museum of Natural History, Central Park, St. Gennaro's, Brazilian buffets, a pregnant friend, and blisters on my toes.

Accompanying and playing with my father's orchestra are members of a famous Brazilian samba school, Vai Vai. Most are favela (slum) kids who for the first time in their life are in NYC. You can tell their excitement... The shopping, Lincoln Center, the buzz and magic of NYC. Their excitement doesn't faze me - I'm ready to leave, I want to go home, I'm cranky and a rather unenjoyable person. Everyone is buying, buying, buying in NYC. My own father is erratic and stressed out about buying an IPAD while there. I too decide I want an IPOD while there, and find myself completely upset when I'm unable to get one. But I'm more upset at myself; I'm angry that I too, have let myself become so irked by an object and a want. And at the want of an IPOD I know that I have hope.. That I'll be able to rehabilitate and adapt back one day. But just not right now.


My brothers and father on our sketchy boardwalk promenade


A ritual - Brooklyn Bridge at dusk


I was scandalized by this ad - "Are you addicted to Cocaine??"


Don't mess with your local angry musician



And then, just like that, I'm home. The plane lands, I feel an adrenaline of emotions, and I just smile. I've been back for a few weeks now, enduring what it seems like eternal days of rain. The highways are blocked up by mudslides and we're not allowed to leave sites. But hey, at least I'm stuck back home.

Well I guess afterall this post is about you and why, after all, I was such a weirdo when you last saw me a few weeks ago. Don't worry, I'll be normal again one day I swear.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oh dear... Year three?


Oh dear... hi stranger. I forgot to write to you. Well I didn't completely forget about you, you were always there in the back of my mind, guilting me into writing a post. Well, I retaliated. And it turns out that my uncouscious retaliation was so rooted that I forgot my own blog address. Well, I found it, I'm here! I had to google myself - it turns out that there are more obituaries and now defunct Jewish Esther Spindlers' than these blog posts on google. Creepy, I know.

Lucky for you, I ended my retaliation a few days ago when an encounter with an immigrant traveler moved me so much that I decided right then to share it with you. It's all quite poetic really, but today, I changed my mind. I realized it had been so long since we last e-did this, that you'd probably be wondering what I was up to. Well, I was supposed to end my service in July, and hem... I stayed. I'm staying here a third year just because I wasn't quite ready for i-pads, car insurance, 3-D TV, and a blackberry.

Here's a quick recap of Spring/Summer '11 - I was busy being a lunatic, trying to finish my infrastructure project (thank you for those of you who donated!!), coordinating regional HIV workshops, and helping with volunteer training. By the time I had to make the life decision on whether to end or extend my service, I realized that I had never gotten the chance to just stop and breathe. How could I bring to fruit my daydreams of Spain, Tibet, graduate school when I was still on fast-forward mode?? There was no real rationality behind my decision really, except for intuition telling me, "Estoy happy."

Thinking about it now, I guess I just never really transitioned into what was supposed to be my last few months of "rehabilitation" into the oh-so modern society. Truth is, I didn't have your cliche "I'm going to find myself writing among mud-hut villagers," type of experience (for the record, that does NOT exist in peace corps Guatemala.) Rather, I spent my last two years living in quite an urban town and meddling myself into any committee, project, work-anything I could get my hands on (don't worry, I think I still found myself.) In the end, I was so busy that I decided I needed this third year just to begin my year-long "rehabilitation" and adaption to this strange world that now exists without me.

I don't regret my decision. I got the chance to move to a different part of the country in a new site, and now I get to travel and visit volunteers, and work with a conterpart organization that I CHOSE to work with (I'll be working in reproductive health with a great organization called Population Council.) Basically, I get to do whatever I want because if you've made it two years, that's just what you get. It's street cred I guess.

My goals for year 3? Take the GREs, apply for grad school, re-americanize?, work on health promoter manuals, work on reproductive health education with sex workers, visit volunteers, and organize field trips - lots of them. So please have high blog expectations! A heart-warming blog entry on immigration is up first! As well as the usuals - ramblings about room floodings, flea problems, travel mishaps, diarrhea (presently active) and cultural awkwardness... You know the deal, get excited folks!

So thank you loyal and probably bored reader for two years of life, laughter, and sharing our own little piece of humanity.

And pictures please---



Picture of a valley on a recent trip to Huehuetenango to visit a volunteer


my new house! with my new Guatemala mum! and Tay'in's two new chucho siblings!


One of the toughest decision of my service - Getting Tay'in fixed.


My now-old health post counterpart and I during a good-bye trip they threw for me!


Myself and two other volunteers, tiara and sarah, during our Close of Service Conference


One of the women from our infrastructure project with her new stove!


Health Commission, families, and village leaders at our infrastructure project inauguration


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drink up baby and look at the stars!

I have a bad habit: I take too many pictures. Which I guess wouldn’t be too bad if I didn’t wait to edit and share them every other blue moon. Well you guessed it, this is what I’m doing right now, deleting, editing, posting pictures of me, my life, my happenings of my last few months. I guess this entry is a pathetic attempt at taking a break and processing. Anywho, going through all these pictures always inspires some sort of glorious, touching blog entry, and well this one is perfect, as I sit here approaching my last few months of service.

I look through pictures of volcanic hikes, health promoter graduations, dog obsessions, hiv meetings, vagina monologues, bottle bench construction, material deliveries, stove demonstrations, random travels and wonder if I’ll ever look back at these, and smile stupidly, chuckling to myself, “wow, I had no idea what I was doing, or even who I was.” You know sort of how we look back now at our college pictures and think, “wow, well that took about 10 years off my life.”

I’ve always liked to look back at my past as a series of different lifetimes, you know there was Esther, the painfully shy child, then Esther, the obnoxious All-American prom queen, then the stubborn, opinionated, college savage, then the lost travelling European bum, which then returned as a jaded, disillusioned NYer, which gave birth to the present Esther writing to you now. Who do I think I am now? I’m not sure, I suppose a sort of strange awkward jungle animal, maybe even an enlightened baboon.

I guess all this philosophical jargon is my attempt to explain how far I am from who I was, or who you knew.... as me. I find it hard to even remember who I was before coming to this country. Who am I now? Well I guess, I’m more patient, believe it or not, but still very much erratic and spontaneous. I go to sleep at 8:30PM, I get woken up by an anxious dog who lives day and night for me to take her out every morning. I hike to work now, and I still think of things I miss on the way up the mountain, snowboarding, fast internet, efficiency. I spend my day trying to spit out a mayan language about .000000001% of the world knows, just so people here like me (I think they do, they do!) I spend my days accustomed to seeing bare-footed children, dogs pying on fresh lettuce in the market, and being fed strange, mysterious meat. I spend my weekends between hiking mountains & volcanoes and of course, hanging out with friends, and bitching about well, what exactly we’re doing here. And yes, I’m still single (surprise!!)

The truth is I feel completely happy here, I feel at home. So people ask me almost every day what will I be doing when I leave? Well, I don’t know, I suppose I can just stay. The truth is I don’t picture a life outside of this Guatemalan bubble here anymore. Am I scared? Not sure really. Maybe I’m scared of not being able to tick fast enough to the world’s clock again.

Alas, you know me… I’m always looking for a new adventure, a rebirth, and thus far, these include - teaching English to Buddhist monks in Nepal, learning how to sing like a gypsie in Spain, volunteering in a health program in Liberia, learning Mandarin in China, and definitely not going back to school…. Just yet.

As usual, all of this can be summed up in one song, actually this time, it's an Elliot Smith lyric: “Drink up baby, and look at the stars.” I haven’t stopped saying this to myself lately, and as I drink and thirst away (don't worry not literally) and absorb all that’s Guatemalan around me, I keep looking at the stars, rather they be Liberian, Nepalese, Chinese, Spanish, Cuban or just plain Guatemalan stars.




A 6AM view of Guatemala, from the tallest peak in Central America - Volcano Tajamulco, which I just hiked recently.


Volcan tajamulco's shadow from the peaking sun behind and the super moon still awake ahead!



My dog, Tay'in and I, on top!







Little Juan Carlos, a regular on the blog, and his mum, during material delivery day for my stove and cement floor project!



Girls playing on our jumbo eco-bottles during our bench construction

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Good Night Ms. Guateland

For a person who loves to write, you'd think that I'd be a weekly blogger. Obviously, not the case - proof: I'm wishing you happy new year! in... March. Jesus, I'm a terrible writer. It's not you really, it's the whole blog thing. I'm suppose to sit here and write about daily happenings of my last few weeks on some sort of simple, superficial level that's cheeky, funny and yet sincere. Well god damn it, that's hard.

What I really want to talk to you about is what's going on inside...me. So this blog is an ode to me, old narcistic me. I've been involved in a pretty serious relationship here, with a country I call Guateland, and while I try to explain to you blog after blog what it's like, narsicistic Esther decided that today I should instead share this poem, song, or whatever you want to call it - Good Night Ms. Guateland (and please don't judge, I'm not into the whole rhyming bs):


Another night, a day´s fight
I take a drag, I exhale
The watchful night
I try to listen, I can´t tell


Between Full moon whispers and
Sleepy rooftops, dying fuels, burnin’ bolos,
Hopeful evans, rusty trumpets,
Quiet chuchos, mayan mountains,
Rambling ghost and Lost souls….
I´m nowhere, but I´m with you
Good night guateland

I´ve got a skeleton
Deeper than your grave,
I keep my eyes open shut
Because the more I see,
The less I hate
I quiver a sweet song to you,
With winds that whisper
“Mi dulce guateland”

My love, my hate, my sadness,
My hope, my Jesus, My god…

My god, you´ve ripped my jeans,
Stained my sleeves,
You´ve torn me raw
My heart bleeds,
Bleeding, bleeding you
I am you, I am nothing, you are..
The dream I lived in my sleep

Between Full moon whispers and
Sleepy rooftops, dying fuels, burnin’ bolos,
Hopeful evans, rusty trumpets,
Quiet chuchos, mayan mountains,
Rambling ghost and Lost souls….
I´m nowhere, but I´m with you
Good night guateland

You´re my bittersweet love song
Ms. Guateland
I sleep, I sleep, I dream, I wake..
I wake, I´m awaken
But I´m tired now…
I mumble lost letters
Of a dying song…
Good night Guateland.


So just a few words this time folks, but hopefully you'll spend some time figuring this poem out, I'm still trying to grasp my head around it.

Saludos,

Esther