While neither Tom Selleck nor Ted Danson have made an appearance this week (nope, no Steve Guttenberg either), it has been a fun and action-filled time.  For those of you who are purely English-speakers, a despedida is a going-away party.  As you can imagine, then, there have been a few ups and downs.  Last week, a friend of mine from the capital headed off to Europe for two months.  I was able to get special permission from the Peace Corps to stay with his family in the capital for his last weekend in Guatemala.  What an interesting new view of Guatemala!  

On Friday the 4th I got into the capital and waited at the office while he finished work, which is interesting in and of itself.  Saturday was a tour of supermarkets, soccer games, and the going away party.  Sunday we salsa danced in the living room and had lunch with his family (including a very precious two-month-old niece).  Monday I headed back to my site and he went off to Europe.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for a post-card even though I have been terrible myself about sending them out to friends and family back home.

Fortunately I didn't have much time to think about goodbyes on Monday, because Monday evenings are my evenings with Liliana (an upbeat and outgoing Guatemalan friend of mine).  This Monday (the 7th) we just so happened to have plans to go to a choir concert here in my site.  When we arrived (a little late) it was a group of kids from the community singing Christmas songs while bundled up in scarves.  It was adorable and heart-warming.  Then, a group of four teenagers went up and sang a couple of songs.  Had it ended there it would have been an adorable community concert.  However, another choir came up and performed.  While I don't know where they were from, I can say that they were amazing.  It was an a capella group called Coro Victoria.  I had shivers watching them and hearing the tunes of some of my favorite songs that brought memories of home and family flooding in with the music.

The rest of last week was spent mostly at my desk working on translating a Project Plan for Peace Corps, writing English lessons and attending meetings.  On Friday night, however, I headed out to the edge of town where there is an organization of foreigners (including a few former Peace Corps Volunteers) who work in construction using recycled materials.  They frequently have volunteers coming and going.  Some stay for a few weeks and some stay for months.  Several of them are coming to the end of their time here so Friday night we cooked pizzas and chatted with people from all over the world.  There were people from my site as well as new friends from Australia, Holland, South Africa, and England.  One newly-arrived individual from LA knew a little bit of salsa, so we did some dancing as well.  While our coordination clearly marked us as gringos, we had lots of fun.

On Saturday morning I was up early and at the house of a friend of a friend watching parts of wedding preparations.  Since I didn't know the bride directly, I didn't really get a good grasp of what all was involved, but the vast majority of the traditions seemed parallel to wedding ceremonies in the states.  The one big exception is a procession through the streets with a band and all of the invitees.  Being at least a head taller than everyone else and the only person without black hair I tend to stick out during these types of events (more than I normally do), and one bus driver pointed out that the wedding had a mascota (which is the word for both house pet and mascot).  The reception involved both food and dancing, and I knew several people, so it was a wonderful time.  I still have bandaids on my feet from all the dancing.  I don't plan to stop dancing any time soon so bandages are likely going to be a common occurrence.  In my personal opinion, the marimba and salsa and cumbia that is played at weddings here is much more dance-able the hokie pokie or JLo's newest tune that gets used to punish wedding guests in the states.

After all that activity, I had planned to stay home on Sunday with mugs of warm milk and a book.  It didn't work out that way because Sunday was the festival of Guadalupe. There is a church on a hill just outside of the city where I live that is the Church of Guadalupe which gets used only once a year during this festival.  It is mostly a religious festival with many people attending mass at the church in the morning and visiting the figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe throughout the day.  However, there is also plenty of music (though no dancing) and food.  I spent the day with Liliana, Jordi (a friend from Holland), and the three Norwegians who are going to be living and working in my site until November of next year.  Who would have thought that a Peace Corps site in semi-rural Guatemala would be such a melting pot?  I'm just going to have to plan a backpacking trip through Europe in future years to visit all the new friends I am making here.

For those of you who are keeping count, I am still one despedida short.  Tonight I am going back outside of town to say fair well to a friend from the states who has been working with the construction organization since I have been here.  She has been a great sounding-board and a huge source of support and I will miss her very much, but I am sure that we will run into each other again and I am glad to have had the chance to cross paths here in Guatemala.