Goodbye Elke
category: Jims Guatemala

elke_hikingSM.jpgToday we said goodbye to Elke Richer, the intern from StoveTeam that has been hanging out with us for a week. She’s the first gringo to ever visit us in our site, and there probably won’t be many more- let’s face it, the trip out here is TOUGH, and there’s not much to see once you get here except Mayan culture and amazing countryside. Even Elke agreed, the trip was even harder than she’d imagined, and she’s done this kind of traveling before. She was so worn out after the journey here that she spent all afternoon sleeping.

elke_incasaSM.jpgIt’s interesting to me how your life in Peace Corps can’t help but mimic your ordinary life. In the US, Emily & I rarely had visitors* because all of our friends are busy and we live too far away to be convenient. But since we like to travel, it’s sortof our lot to be the people who do the visiting. I guess that’s made us appreciate guests that much more.

elke_dishesSM.jpgWe loved having Elke, and having the opportunity to play host. We took her on a few hikes to show her the beauty of this place, and we introduced her to a few local families so she could get a feel for how the Maya live in these parts. She got along fabulously with our neighbors; that was helped because she speaks Spanish well and half of her family is Mexican, so she’s famililar with some of the cultural norms. We also shared some of the mundane parts of Peace Corps life with her, like washing the dishes in the river and bathing in the chuj. She was a pretty good sport about all of it, and even took a few turns fixing meals. The only thing that seemed to slow her down in the slightest was the cold: no one ever comes to Guatemala expecting to freeze their butt off, and this week’s been especially nasty: 30+ mph winds, and cold enough that there was a quarter-inch of ice on the corn stubble in the fields this morning. To be honest, I was pretty impressed with her; it takes a lot of guts to travel around in a foreign country, alone, in the far reaches of civilization.

elkie2SM.jpgThis also has reminded me of how small a world we live in. She is from Eugene, Oregon and my boss/ dapartment head at the University of Oregon is her neighbor; Elke used to babysit her kids. The three of us spent a fair amount of time talking about Oregon in the evening as we sat by the fire. She also talked some about what she was going to do next in life. She wants to get into international aid work, spend more time abroad, learn more about other cultures. When she met our supervisor Basilio last week, he even tried to recruit her! I think she’d make a good Peace Corps volunteer, too.

* a big shout out to Brian Fahs and my mom, both of whom DID come on multiple occasions.

Posted by: jfanjoy