Bienvenidos from Guatemala! I apologize for the giant size of this blog and the lack of pictures. There is lots to write about, and I promise that I will be sending pictures soon. Since there have been so many things going on I´m going to try to break it down by days since I last wrote. For those of you who don´t have a whole lot of time you can read a day at a time and make it last longer :).

JANUARY 15: I am beginning to learn the Rosary in Spanish fairly well. Many afternoons when I get home from class the whole family is in the common room just outside my bedroom doing the Rosary. It does give me time to write. Being in the Peace Corps is a little bit like being in a tame warp. Most of the time I feel like I have so much time on my hands, but when it gets to the end of the day I look back and it has gone so quickly. An average day so far has been waking up at 5 when the buses start running and enjoying the warmth of my bed until 6 when I get up to take a shower. I go into the kitchen to talk to Doña Eva and eat my breakfast around 6:30, and then pack my bag for the day and head out for class, training or work between 7 and 8. If we are close enough I came home for an hour to have lunch and then it´s back for four more hours of class, training, or work. I get back about an hour before dinner and work on something in my room while the family is in the common room. I gets dark around 6 and dinner is usually at 7, so that´s the end of the day for me. I am happy to go to bed early because I know that tomorrow will always be a busy day.

JANUARY 16: Today was, overall, a good day. My shower this morning was pretty cold, which was a bit of a let down after the other night´s hot shower. I was early for Spanish class which gave me a chance to pal around with Kelly, the other female volunteer in my group. We are working on the preterit/imperfect which is still a bit difficult for me. Lunch was quick and then the whole group was off to the municipality in San Lucas Milpas Altas to meet with Don Roberto, the director of the park where we are working. We interviewed him about the attributes and pitfalls of the park, it was fun and he is very willing to work with us, but all we really learned is that he doesn´t really see the park as having any pitfalls. That may be a little interesting. He also invited us back to San Lucas for their patron saint day in October. After the interview the four of us stopped at a little cantina so the boys could have a beer. It was great to sit and get to know my group better and relax a little.

JANUARY 17: Today in Spanish class we watched a movie called Voces Inocentes about the war in El Salvador during the 80s. It was one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. I was shocked that something like that was going on while I was growing up, and I don´t remember hearing anything about it. I guess I was busy being a kid, and it certainly made me realize how grateful I am for the childhood that I had. After the movie we hiked up to the park (which is a 20 minute hike up a forty or fifty degree incline). This time we actually got to walk around the trails in the park, and it is more amazing than I imagined! There are rope bridges and tree swings that swing out over cliffs. Of course, we all had to try those out. Again, I will be sending plenty of pictures soon. I really don´t even have the words to describe what an adventure this park is. When we got back to San Bartolomè Doña Eva brought me over to her sister-in-law´s house to make real tortillas over a fire. I love spending time with the women here.

JANUARY 18: I got to sleep in a little today since mass doesn´t start until 9. However, sleeping in here really just means staying in my nice warm bed since only the dead can sleep through the busses honking their horns down the street :). After mass was the most fun I have had since I have been here (with the possible exception of swinging over cliffs yesterday). Doña Eva and her sister-in-law (a different one) Doña Marzia (who lives next door) took me to see the ruins of San Fransico cathedral in Antigua, and then we went to the market in San Felipe which is an aldea outside of Antigua. Doña Eva bought me this amazing woven purse that I haven´t put down since, and then we had atols (which are any thick hot drink and very popular here) in the open market. Doña Marzia´s daughter Christina came with us and Christina´s three sons who are 11, 9, and 6. The boys were a ton of fun to joke and run around with. My atol was arroz con leche, which is a lot like a runny rice pudding and reminds me a lot of home. Doña Eva also invited me to help with dinner when we got home, which is a first. I´m starting to really feel like a part of the family.

JANUARY 19: Today was exhausting. It was my third big day in a row. After having so many things to do I keep thinking that the next day must be boring, but it never is. Eventually it will sink in that every day is an adventure here. Toady's big trip was to Guatemala City which is the capital of Guatemala. With the exception of group trips, specialized medical needs, lab tests, and trips to the embassy it is off limits to Peace Corps trainees and volunteers. To be completely honest, I don´t really mind. The city can be best described as any large American city with subtitles. On the upside, I did get another fantastic cup of coffee (which always makes my day) and a book in Spanish. I am sure it will take me forever to read, but it will help with my Spanish. Not to mention that the longer it lasts the better because books are a little hard to come by here.

JANUARY 20: I´m sure that today was a big day for everyone. I hope that you all had a chance to watch the inauguration, so I won´t bother filling you in on that. They rearranged our class schedule so that the whole group was able to watch Obama´s speech at the Peace Corps headquarters. What an amazing place to be for such an astounding event!

JANUARY 21: Today was Doña Rosa´s birthday. Doña Rosa is Kelly´s host mom, and she is an amazingly sweet lady. She made lunch for some of the neighbors, our group of four Peace Corps volunteers and our teacher. It was a beautiful day out, and after lunch Kelly, Enrique (one of the neighbor boys), and I played with the poi that I brought. Kelly and I then headed to the Internet with every intention of working, only to be sidetracked by a game of basketball that turned into an afternoon of basketball. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and (exhausted) I headed home for dinner. As we were finishing dinner, someone came to the door asking for Doña Eva who is a type of community nurse. I haven´t quite figured out what she does or what organization she is working with, but we have a family health organization sign outside our door, and people frequently come to the house for shots or medical questions. On this occasion she needed to leave the house and asked me if I wanted to come with her. We ended up riding in someones pickup further out in San Bartolomé than I have ever been to a small house. The room we entered was almost entirely occupied by a bed, and in the bed was a woman almost lost in blankets. She was the same woman about whom the municipality had been making announcements all day. She is in need of surgery and since the family did not have the money to pay for it the municipal building made an announcement over the loud speaker asking people to donate at the office until the need was met. I can´t yet understand or explain all the feelings that I encountered being in that room. There is an amazing sense of community and family here that is, at times, overwhelming.

JANUARY 22: Phew, after yesterday this is short. We had technical training this morning and met our mentor who is a current volunteer at a sight that does volcano tours. This afternoon was Spanish class as usual, except that we convinced Jesse to give us a brief ukulele performance before we all went our separate ways.

Briefly, I want to also let you all know that I know that these e-mails are getting a bit long. In the interest of saving everyone´s inbox, I am thinking of moving all future e-mails to a protected blog. In other words, instead of e-mailing everyone I will simply post to a website that I will grant access to. If really important or awesome things come up I will certainly still sent out e-mails. I will also be able to post pictures to the blog. I will let you know as soon as I get it set up.

Vaya bien,

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