El Quiché
category: Jims Guatemala

We talk a lot about Huehuetenango, the departamento (the size of a county, functions like a state in the US) that we live in. Today I’m going to talk some about Quiché, the departamento next door. It, too, is super remote, underdeveloped, neglected, and suffered greatly during the civil war- so there is a sort of brotherhood there. But unlike Huehue, where they speak about 6 or 7 different Mayan dialects, most of the Mayans here speak K’iche, one of the two or three most widely spoken dialects.

andrea.jpgWe spent most of this week in Quiché. The new trainees for Rural Home Preventive Health (our program) are nearing the end of their training, and those of us that have been on station for about a year were invited to sit in on a panel to share our experiences with them. The best part of this was that we were able to have dinner with them afterwards. This was exciting for a lot of reasons: we got to see all our our old friends from training, but also, we got to talk to new gringos that are excited to begin their work here. It’s also fun to see people going through the same stressful stuff you yourself went through, and to lend calming/ supportive words. And I finally got to meet Andrea, the girl who is now living with Froilan and Jovita (my host family from training).

Our panel discussions were held in Kristen’s site, a small village just outside of Santa Cruz, the departamental capitol. The landscape there is beautiful, and it reminded me how different every village in Guatemala can be.

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The buildings were pretty, whitewashed adobe structures with quaint tile roofs, they had a lake with rowboats, and beautiful church. But some things never change: we also saw bolos (drunks) sleeping in the street. One even staggered into our meeting at one point, gesturing wildly and drooling. This was a big shock to the trainees, who haven’t yet spent a lot if time outside of the training areas. “You’ll see a lot of this,” we sighed as the training staff ushered the drunk out the door.


Here’s a picture of Matt, my Emily, Sarah, and Emily Alta as we all left the site at the end of the panel. We had to hop in the back of a pickup for the trip, which is sometimes the only option in the remote villages. In these situations, it’s a beautiful way to see the countryside and big blue sky, hair blowing in the wind. And since the roads are so curvy and rough, they pickups can’t go much faster than about 15 or 20 mph, reducing the danger.

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Once the reunion was over, we thought we’d take advantage of 7-hour trip we’d made to get there, and visit Matt & Sarah’s site. They’re the third of the married couples in our group, and they work in a town about 2 hours out of Santa Cruz. They also have a blog, at www.rigidkitchen.net. Their house is pretty amazing. It has a pleasant courtyard filled with palm trees, tile floors, an indoor washbasin, and… a toilet! They share their home with with two ladies who are only around during the week. It’s funny, usually the married PCVs have the best housing situations. Their weather is drastically different from ours, and feels a lot like Hawaii or the Mediterranean: hot, but pleasant in the shade of the courtyard. We took a hike in the afternoon, and got a feel for how blazing hot it is if you go outside during mid-day. As nice as it is to visit, I’m glad we don’t live there. I’d never get anything done for the heat.

San Andrés Sajcabaja.jpgHere’s a view of their town from atop one of the surrounding mountains. Sarah and Matt are great cooks, so we ate a lot of Indian food, and I fixed some trick breakfasts like scones and nutella/banana crepes. We got something bad last night somehow, though, and everyone except me spent much of the evening competing for access to the one toilet. Aaah, Guatemala. Emily got the worst of it, and we are going to have to spend an extra day here, as she is unfit to travel 9 hours on a bus with no toilet. Once again, glad I brought my laptop.

I will leave you with a few random pictures from the week. The first is a spinning wheel we saw in a shop in Sant Cruz del Quiché. It’s welded together from bicycle parts! Very clever. The next one is a cool caterpillar we found that looks like Fozzie Bear. The last picture is the kittie that lives with Matt and Sarah. Cats like to sit in places that are warm, and places that are in the way of everyone else. On top of my laptop counts as both.

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Posted by: jfanjoy