Thursday, June 25, 2009

Haven





El Descanso, in Nebaj, was built by the peace corps to give local people jobs. It quickly became our favorite hangout in Nebaj, in part because of some delicious food! It also had a great atmosphere-and even wireless internet!

Into the Highlands

Getting to Nebaj, Guatemala, took about 5 hours of windy switchback mountain roads...but it is really a world away from the other places we have been. It was hit particularly hard during the 36-year long civil war. Although it has rebounded more quickly than some other areas we visited, it is a lot different from the urban and/or touristy areas we have been.

One thing that really sticks out about Nebaj is how traditional it is. The population is predominantly Ixil Mayans, who you will notice are quite absent from my photos. Although their clothing is beautiful, most Maya people don't like to be photographed. Also, when you travel in a group of 12, you don't want to be Those Tourists who all have cameras out all the time...so I'll see if I get some pictures from others in the group. We did get permission from some women in Chajul, so I'll post those soon! Anyway, not only do the women all wear traditional Mayan clothing, but it is all pretty much maroon skirts with light vertical stripes. Different regions have different colors and patterns that they wear.

People in Nebaj are also a lot more weary/leery of strangers. The people here have been through a lot and it shows in their response to outsiders. No one was rude to us, but we did have one misunderstanding at a meeting where speakers were very uncomfortable about giving their names to us, let alone talking to us. Instead of well marked and lit offices, like we have seen so far, we have had meetings in unmarked building basements and the like. It made me wonder if you could ever live here long enough to be accepted by the locals. There is a language school here, so there are some foreigners, but not many. Some people in our group really disliked Nebaj. Although I didn't dislike it, it is hard to become attached to a place where the locals are almost impossible to get to know, or even talk to, and regard any stranger with suspicion.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Favorite Picture

This is my favorite picture I've taken (out of hundreds so far) on this trip. It was through a window of a moving van, so maybe it can be cleaned up some. Zoom in, and then look to the center and right. I just love it.

Lamps




We went to a cute little restaurant in Panajachel, with a big tree growing right up through the roof. But what I really LOVED there was the lamps! Since they try to sell you everything else in the streets of Panajachel, I was hoping the restaurant would sell me their light fixtures, but no such luck. I couldn't even find out where to get them. So, if you find something similar, my birthday is in less than 2 months...

Onward to Pana

I was so happy to get OUT of Guatemala City! The next stop was the touristy, but scenic, town of Panajachel, which is right on the shore of Lake Atitlan. The weather on this long day of travel was really rainy, and several people's suitcases got wet, but mine was okay. First, we stopped at a scenic overlook where we could reportedly see the outline of a famous Mayan's face, volcanoes, and Lake Atitlan:

After more long and windy roads, we reached Pana, and found our hostel and roommates...guess who I picked?

That evening we went out to dinner with some teachers who work in a school specifically designed for kids who have to work for at least part of the day to support their families. The next morning many of us got up at 6am to go for a walk before a visit to the school (minus kids. Although all of Guatemala has less cases of swine flu than Colorado, they closed all the schools down 2 weeks early as a precaution). We also had another long van ride ahead of us so it was good to get some exercise! It was a cloudy, but not rainy, morning. Good for picture taking.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 15-17: Meeting Extravaganza, and moving on


I am not going to post about all of my meetings, because there were TOO MANY. Also because of the political situation here, I'm not even really going to sum them up,other than we went to UNICEF, and the Ministry of Education, the teacher's union, and several groups that promote education, especially bilingual education, while in town. And it was exhausting and I learned a lot. Mainly that the education system here is struggling, to put it rather mildly! Maybe I'll go into that later....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Meeting and Museum Madness!

Our first day in Guatemala city was exhausting!!
Stop 1: Museo de Ferrocarril's exhibit, "Porque estamos como estamos," or Why We Are How We Are. It was a look at discrimination and inequality in Guatemala, and it was a great exhibit. Readers, you are about to get a brief lesson on the people of Guatemala. First of all, you have the indigenSous Mayan groups, which compose 50-60% of the population. There are 22 different groups, with completely different languages, as well as varying dress, culture, history, etc. Then there are the ladinos, or descendents of the Spanish when they invaded in the 1500s. Basically, the Mayan groups speak their own languages, yet are taught in schools in Spanish. So, that is one of the problems with the education system in Guatemala. Anyway that is a LONG post, and things are getting a bit busy at the moment-SO-I'll leave it at that, for now!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Guatemala City: day 1

Okay. I got to the airport WAAAAY to early, met up with "the gang" and had uneventful flights through Houston and into Guatemala City. I even got a window seat and daydreamed about sailing while I looked at the green waters, and then over the green, mountainous regions. Our drivers picked us up (HOORAY for group travel! Well...at least in this instance! More on that later..)

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant with live mariachi/marimba music and ate lots of appetizers, before going to our darling hostel, Casa San Jose. I roomed with Amy, who was a great match and I'm sure will remain a good friend. After we got settled, we headed down for a walk/orientation of Guatemala City with one of our trip leaders, Jonas (with and H sound, not like Jonas brothers!).

Here are some things we saw or that I observed....
  • There are no other white people in Guatemala City!
  • There is an obvious distinction between the dress of "ladinos" or descended from the Spaniards, and indigenous/Mayan people.
  • Reminders of the armed conflict/civil war (which lasted for over 40 years) are everywhere. There are columns with the names of those who were killed or "disappeared" engraved into them. Lots of history, lots of tragedy.
So far my pictures aren't uploading but I'll keep working on it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guatemala!

Okay, I am feeling kind of guilty that I gave all sorts of people my blog address and haven´t bothered to update! One issue is that I can´t get online with my laptop (yet) so uploading pictures is a pain. Oh yeah, and we´ve had 3-4 meetings a day with different organizations, nonprofits, and even the ministry of education today!

So, for being "on vacation" I am BUSY! So far it´s been very informative and interesting, though. I´ll have to add pictures when I can, but the internet system in Guatemala is...well...like most other things in Guatemala!

Just thought I´d let y├íll know I´m alive and well. Hope I can get some more detailed posts with pictures up soon!