So, for those of you who are not familiar, field-based training is a week of Peace Corps Training where they pull us out of our comfy training communities for a week of intense (and intensely cold) technical training. In place of four hours of Spanish class we have a week of eight hours a day of learning all sorts of surprizingly fun stuff like making park signs and trails. Don´t worry we had plenty of just plain ol´fun mixed in there too. I´m going to skip over the details of the lectures and highlight the fun stuff. There´s plenty to write about without giving you a crash course in eco-tourism.

FEBRUARY 14: Happy Valentine´s Day! I think I have pictures of the almost 80 valentines that I made for our training group, my whole family, and the staff at Peace Corps Guatemala. We were picked up by the Peace Corps vans again this morning to drive way the heck out into the highlands. I don´t normally get car sick, but this was one heck of a trip through the mountains. It was well worth it because once we got there we helped build the first wall of a building made of plastic bottles. All of the framing is done pretty tradicionally with either wood or metal and then the walls are lined with chicken wire and filled with plastic bottles packed tightly with chip bags and other plastic trash. Later the whole thing will be covered with a thin layer of cement mix so it will look just like a normal wall. It cleans up the community, it´s cheaper than block, and the bottles are more forgiving than block durring an earthquake. Granted, I don´t think it would fly in the states (though it might work for a chicken coup) but it´s pretty darn nifty here. When I got home from my day trip there were several Valentine´s day presents from my family waiting for me. My host mom, Kelly´s host mom, and my host sister got me hand towels (they are a very popular gift for all occations here ). One of my host cousins brough me a beautiful iris. One of my host aunts bought me a bag of cookies that were a lot like Grandma´s jam bars, and one of my host uncles drew me a beautiful card. Also, I got to have a really tasty dinner with Kelly and her host mom, complete with cake and hot chocolate. And to top it all off I learned to cut leña (firewood) with a machete! It was a wonderful day that captured the spirit perfectly! P.S. Start saving up those bottles and chip bags so I can build a house for my chickens when I get back to the states. ;)

FEBRUARY 15: We left for FBT. Lots of crazy driving again. We were just plain exhauted by the time we got to Totonicopan and went to sleep after a quick lecture and a not-so-quick campfire.

FEBRUARY 16: Today we learned how to make paths and trails and park signs. That meant I got to use lots of tools (including power tools, YAY)! We even learned how to make tools to measure the slope of the trails out of sticks and string and rocks. Again, maybe not a life-skill, but something that comes in handy here.

FEBRUARY 17: Today we spent the afternoon taking turns for our first bath of FBT. The women working in the kitchen boiled copious amounts of water so we would have warm bucket baths since it feels like Minnesota in September right now. While one person took a bucket bath, another guarded the door that didn´t stay shut and the rest of us learned how to make arts and crafts from garbage. This included mats made from woven newspaper, candle holders from pop cans, piggy banks made from 2 liter bottles, and flowers made from the tops of 20 ounce bottles. It was just like being in elementary school all over again, which is perfect because the kids here don´t really get exposed to arts and crafts. This is a great way to let them play and clean up the community at the same time. Not to mention what great mother´s day gifts they make. Moms love anything. Thanks moms!

FEBRUARY 18: Today we got to go to a school near the park we are staying at and teach the kids some of the crafts that we made yesterday. Erin and I were in a first grade classroom making bottle flowers. There were 32 kids in the classroom and they were amazingly well behaved and VERY affectionate. As we were working I was going around the room checking on everyone and after each step each of the kids would run up to me, proud as punch, saying ¨teacher look.¨ I need to expand my vocabulary for well done. After finishing our project with the kids, singing a song, and washing a metric ton of glue off of our hands we went outside for recess and snack with the kids. Some of them, usually little girls, would come up to us and give us pieces of bread. Being a rural area I am fairly sure that that was all some of them had brought to suplement the hot milk and corn flakes that the school provided.

FEBRUARY 19 : Today was worth sleeping in the freezing cold for the first part of this week. We got to go on the biggest zipline in Guatemala! This being Central America, and slightly lax on liability laws, we were able to go Superman style attached to the zipline by the back of our harness. One of the other volunteers took videos of each of us, and I´ll be posting mine soon. Words could not do this experience justice. The flight had a great view of lake Atitlan, and I felt just like a bird. When we got back from that we had an ecocamp with a class from one of the local private high schools. We all had a blast, and I think that the kids learned a lot.

FEBRUARY 20: All we really had today was a lecture, but it was pretty amazing. It was given by a man who has his PhD in Environmental Interpretation, which means that he figures out ways to make signs, paintings, demos, or what have you to interpret both environmental and cultural tourism sights! How awesome is that? I even wrote a pretty stellar little piece of poetry as part of a quick assignment he gave us... masters program anyone? I will certainly have to keep it in mind!

That about covers Field Based Training. As usual, I am behind in my writing and I have lots more to share, but that´s all for now folks.

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