I find it hard to believe that I haven’t written a post since the fair. The time has certainly flown by, but in a way it seems like that happened ages ago. Part of the problem is that I have, as usual, been very busy. However, it is also because I have moved out of everything-is-so-new-and-different-I-can’t-wait-to-share-this mode and into this-is-normal-life-why-would-I-write-about-this mode. In fact, I’m writing this as I am sitting on my back patio sipping a mocha and nibbling on garlic sea salt bagels. Before you start writing your congressmen and women about the financial crisis and the cushy lives of Peace Corps volunteers, I would like to clarify. I made the bagels myself (with the help of an early-Christmas kitchen present from Aunt Jeanette XO) and the mocha is a concoction of powdered milk, cheap cocoa powder, instant coffee, and sugar. I would be happy to share the recipe for either, but I think that for most of the people reading this a trip down the street to Breuger’s Bagels would be much more convenient ;). However, for those adventurous individuals who want a taste of the Peace Corps (Morgan style) here they are: (just for fun I’m also throwing in a salsa recipe that I winged for a party last night)

Moca Mix (Thank you, Lourdes!)
In an averaged size mug (not one of those Giant Gulps from the gas station that hold enough coffee to surely cause some sort of caffeine poisoning):
3 Tablespoons Powdered Milk (you may have to go to the Piggly Wiggly for this one)
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (the cheaper the better)
1 Tablespoon instant coffee (again, the cheaper the bitter.. I mean better)
2 Tablespoons sugar
Fill mug with hot water to an inch from the top and stir well. Serve with beans and huevos rancheros.

Bagels (Thank you, Travis!)
4.5 Cups Flour
2 Tablespoons Dry Yeast
1.5 Cups Warm Water
4 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
Mix the flour and yeast. In a separate bowl, mix the water, 3tablespoons of the sugar, and salt. Pour this over the flour mixture.Beat together for 3-4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl. Turn it onto a floured board and knead for 6-8 minutes. Add more flour or water as necessary to form dough. Cut the dough into 12 portions and form into balls. Punch a hole in the center of each one, pulling gently to form a larger hole in the center. Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise for 20 minutes. Boil a pot of water with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Put 4-5 bagels in the water at a time and boil for 7 minutes. DRAIN THE BAGELS WELL. Bake for about 30 min at 350F.To add a topping like cinnamon and sugar, sesame, or sea salt, sprinkle on the bagels before baking. These also work in a Peace Corps oven (known to the rest of the world as a Dutch oven). Feel free to mix your own fun ingredients into the dough as well, and let me know what turns out well! NOTE: For real Peace Corps flavor, cream cheese and butter are allowed nowhere near these bagels.

Pineapple Salsa Dip (This one is my own and estimated in a big way, use at your own risk.)
2 Tablespoons Sunflower Seed Oil (or other oil that has a high burning point)
2 Cloves of Garlic Finely Chopped (4 if it’s the small garlic bought in the markets in Guatemala)
1 Large White Onion Finely Chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper Finely Chopped
2 Jalapeño Peppers Finely Chopped (seeded, unless you’re brave… which I’m not)
1 Small Pineapple Finely Chopped
½ Cup of Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Block of Cream Cheese (I know, I know… this throws the bagel rule out the window, but I looked all over and made a special exception for this recipe)
1 Bag of Mucho Nacho Tortilla Chips (Sorry, for all you people in the states, you’ll have to find a knock-off brand. ;))
In a large pan over low heat, cook the garlic, onion, and peppers in the oil until onions are clear and peppers are well cooked. Add the pineapple, salt, and sugar (and chili powder to taste if you want an extra kick). Stir occasionally and cook until most of the water from the pineapple has evaporated. Allow the mixture to cool. Place the block of cream cheese in a serving bowl and pour the pineapple mixture over the top. Serve with tortilla chips or saltine crackers.

So, along with spending lots of time in the kitchen I have also been nestling into my wonderful little house. I finally made a trip to the “lumber yard” and bought a few 8’ boards to make a long block-and-board shelf in my room. This means that my clothes and books are no longer in piles on my floor. Small project, big difference. I’m also figuring out how to make hanging pots out of plastic balls that the kids buy at the stores here for around 3 Quetzales. For less than 50 cents, they don’t last terribly long as balls. I’ll be sure to post pictures when I have some herbs growing. I’m also working on finding some old tires to make some little vegetable gardens. Again, when I have them figured out I will be sure to post pictures.

While I have certainly been settling into my home, I haven’t spent all of my time in my house. The past month I have been working with the Municipality on a campaign to get people to put their inorganic garbage in plastic bottles. Right now we are focusing on 6th grade and kindergarten students. Two weeks ago we held a workshop for 6th grade teachers (between 20 and 30 showed up) and this past Friday we held a workshop for kindergarten teachers (around 50 showed up). At each of the workshops I gave a presentation on non-formal and environmental education and we handed out a manual that I had written (all based on Peace Corps training, I just put it on paper in Spanish). Then, the municipality introduced a competition between the classrooms to see who could collect the most plastic bottles filled with inorganic garbage. The top three classrooms in 6thgrade will win 100 lunches from the Municipality for their graduation ceremony. The top three classrooms in Kindergarten will get piñatas from the municipality for children’s’ day. The teachers have to sign up with the Municipality in order to be part of the competition and each of the children in the classroom and the teacher sign and “agreement” with the municipality saying that they take responsibility for their part in taking care of our environment.

After they are signed up, each classroom gets a bin in which to keep their full bottles, t-shirts, baseball caps, stickers, and tri-folds about the environment. So, as a part of that I have also been going around to classrooms to talk to the kids about what we are doing and to help hand out the materials that they get for signing up to be a part of the competition. I have been absolutely amazed at the initiative that the teachers and students (as well as the Municipality) have taken!Almost every classroom we visited already had dozens of bottles filled with inorganic garbage! I put the information down on paper, and threw out a few ideas to get the ball rolling, but SO much of this has come from the Municipality and the community, and I am just tickled pink! To me, small projects that will continue in the community long after I am gone are a much bigger accomplishment than any big thing I might be able to do on my own. I don’t have words to describe how proud I am to be able to share time and experiences with such a wonderful community of people.

For those of you wondering why in the world we are encouraging people to put garbage in bottles (and spending a good chunk of time stuffing garbage in bottles myself), you should take a look at the website www.puravidaatitlan.org. We aren’t working directly with this organization, but the website is a wonderful example of just what can be accomplished with trash. Currently, Long Way Home (another US organization) is working on building a school with the bottles we are collecting, and in the near future we hope to be building our tourism office and artisan market from bottles filled with the trash that is currently littering the streets and streams. It’s a big project, and a big problem, but there are numerous benefits. I am hoping to share this technique with individuals in the states when I get back.While it may not be used there to build houses or schools, it could be used for sheds, chicken coups, planters, benches, or whatever you can dream up!

I tell the kids here all the time that they have a lot more power than they know. What they do and model affects what their friends and family do, and what happens here affects the whole world.Conversely, the choices you make in your home affect Guatemala.We’re all in this together, and I am proud to have such excellent company!