27 April, 2008

Expectations, Wedding, and a little Indiana Jones

The last three weeks have been pretty great. I feel that I am settling into a routine, and that I am feeling perhaps a little too comfortable already, for only having spent four weeks here. Adam left for the States on Sunday, so last week was really all about him saying good bye to people and passing the torch as it were. There were a lot of tears; Adam really did a great job here over the past two years and has set a pretty high set of expectations to live up to, which is great for me because people are already looking to start working!

Last Friday Adam gave his final presentation at INSIVUMEH to our bosses, Gustavo Chigna and Flavio Linares, as well as a couple of other interested parties around the office. It went well, but a large part at the end was dedicated to future work, which is code for what they want me to do. It was good to hear them voice their wishes and I think that I will be able to jump on board.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to be able to jump into work this quickly, as most people I have spoken to about Peace Corps life had me expecting to spend my first three to six months preparing an action plan and getting to know people, but I am finding that I am meeting scores of people every day (which is tricky because I am bad with names as it is, and being introduced to 12 people who tell you their first, middle, last, and mother’s maiden names, the majority of which are slightly difficult to pronounce usually leaves my head spinning by the afternoon. Luckily most people are very understanding and willing to tell me their names a few times.

Friday night I got to spend some time with some other volunteers in Antigua, which was nice considering I hadn’t seen them since we left for site. Saturday I headed up the mountain to my training community with my friend Joey for my host brother’s wedding. He’s been unido (literally united, but used here to signify a common law marriage) for a few years and has a child of about 4, but they haven’t had enough money to get married in the church until now.

It was a very interesting wedding, as it was a blend of catholic and evangelical practices. I should probably start here by explaining that Guatemalans generally fall into one of two religious identities: catolicos or evangelicos, and these very often compete with each other. If you are not catholic here, you are evangelic. To be Evangelic means that one does not drink, generally does not dance, and goes to culto (service) at least once a week. Practicing Catholics go to mass when the priest can make it to town or travel into a bigger city for Sunday mass. Sometimes these practices are also suplimented by traditional Mayan beliefs, but the areas in which I have lived are too ladino to be able to see much evidence of this.

Weddings are said to either be evangelico or catolico based on the form of entertainment, not necessarily based on the church service. Catholic weddings usually include drinking and a marimba for dancing, evangelic weddings have more of a prayer service for a reception, and usually no one dances. In this sense, my host brother’s wedding was evangelico despite his having been wed in the Catholic Church by the parish priest.

The reception was actually much more fun than Joey and I had been led to believe that it was going to be. The wedding singer did focus on Christian music, but he was an excellent singer and apparently has a radio show out of Guatemala City. His preaching breaks were very well done and aimed at practicing good family life, and were peppered with a lot of humor. It was also great to not be treated like a guest in the house for once. We were allowed to help set up, serve the other guests, and to clean up when everything was done. We ate with the immediate family after all the other guests had been served, and we got to share in some of the jokes at the end of the night. We both agreed that we were pretty lucky to have gotten so close to these people.

Sunday morning we met up in Antigua for breakfast with the other volunteers that were in town again, and before I got on the bus, I bought bootlegged copies of the Indiana Jones movies. They are very good quality and have both English and Spanish language tracks, so on Monday afternoon I had a screening for some of the neighbor kids of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I figure that there is no better way for me to share American culture than by exposing kids to real quality American cinema, and not just the Steven Segal crap they see on TV, not that I have anything against Steven Segal.

I actually got to feel like a trained professional that people have been telling me that I am on Friday and Saturday when Gustavo came up to the observatory and told me that I was going to spend the rest of the day installing a DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy) system from NOVAC (Network for Observation of Volcanic and Atmospheric Change). It was actually the same type of equipment I had helped install when I was in Mexico last summer, so I knew a lot about what we were doing and was actually able to contribute some useful ideas. We ended up staying the night up at the observatory and working again Saturday morning.

When I got home on Saturday afternoon I was planning on just doing some laundry and taking it easy, but I was treated to an impromptu marimba concert on my frnt porch. One of my homestay dad's brothers came over with two of his buddies and just started jamming. I was able to pull out my computer and record a few songs, so if I can figure it out, I'll try to post the files.

This weekend marks the end of my first month, which also means that I only have 100 more weeks as a Peace Corps volunteer, so I’m going to buy myself an ice cream cone, and some tortillas for the week. Peace,



Christopher said...

Steven Seagal movies are crap. I'm glad that you got to share something with substance ;)

You should have dressed up in your Indiana Jones costume, and then they would have really been impressed.

Good luck with all the work! Hable and I were just contemplating coming and finding you without warning. Don't be surprised when we show up half starved and excessively dehydrated. :)

Brian said...

Hey my man. I just wanted to say "hey." Enjoy that ice cream cone.

God bless and bless God,

jcvertin said...

dude, you should go with two ice cream cones. :) Fred da Bunny says 'hi'. I'm glad that it sounds like you are having a wonderful experience. 100 more weeks....I'm sure it'll go by a lot faster than most would think. Keep dominating life and take care bud!

jcvertin said...


Me, Bennie, Ben, Cindy, Chris, and Dizzle all compulsively talked about you during Senior Walk weekend. We are living through you buddy. ;)