Saturday, February 22, 2014

Peace Corps Language Courses Archive

A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Mexico has asked me to share this awesome resource.

It's a collection of text, audio, and video language-training materials for languages from all around the world, that anyone can access and use for free! Feel free to add materials if you are an RPCV and have something that isn't already on the site.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Last Post - Los Estados Unidos

I keep writing versions of this blog entry and never got around to finishing it, so now it's been three months since I've been back in the States and I am FINALLY finishing my Guatemala blog! I have officially finished my Peace Corps service, and am excitedly looking forward to the next adventure in my life: studying for a Master's in International Development with a concentration in Latin America, at the University of Florida.

I feel very lucky to be one of the (seemingly) few Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who is having an easy transition to state-side life, perhaps because I know that I will be returning to Latin America and development work in my near future. However, I have had a few RPCV moments, and I thought it would be fun to share them.

- Any time my house makes a noise (like a creak or thump - regular house noises) my body immediately braces itself for an earthquake (apparently my house in Guatemala always used to make a noise before a tremor)

- In typical I-just-got-back-from-a-developing-country fashion, American grocery stores at once dazzle and overwhelm me - how am I supposed to know which of the seemingly dozens of varieties of potatoes I am supposed to use for soup, when for four years all I've known is the "market lady" variety? And how are those chicken breasts so giant?? And why are there SO MANY KINDS OF TOMATO SAUCE???? But, being able to buy a month's worth of deli turkey and Ocean Spray cranberry juice (and consume them in much less than a month) now that I get paid more than $400 a month, is great.

- Things I've realized that American schools have that Guatemalan schools don't: textbooks, lockers, locker rooms (for gym class), Special Ed teachers, teacher's aides, substitute teachers, manageable classroom sizes (certainly not the 70+ student classrooms that some of my Guatemalan teachers deal with), cafeterias (and lunch time), heat and air conditioning, nurses, libraries, announcement systems, weight rooms, school busses, teachers that were taught how to be teachers, reliable paychecks for teachers, roofs that you can't hear the rain through (and by "hear" I mean "by deafened by"), and the Pledge of Allegiance (which I've realized sounds to me like a chant specially designed to brainwash children, which could obviously only ever possibly be recited in a country led by a religious military dictator and certainly never in the United States of America where we are not all "under God", there isn't "liberty and justice for all", and where there are several hundred Indian nations that our "one nation" doesn't seem to take into account. Anyway, somehow I never noticed all that before the Peace Corps [maybe because I had been brainwashed].) Now when I hear claims that "American public schools need more resources", it's hard for me not to feel that American schools are quite spoiled with resources already, those listed above and many more that you can probably imagine (except for the Pledge of Allegiance which I obviously feel that American schools could do without).

- Snowflakes (they always have six perfect little corners - how do they do that??) and fireflies are even cooler after not having seen them for four years

- Being able to check the weather is weird

- Having it be culturally acceptable to show my knees and/or shoulders in public (even at work!) feels very scandalous, even uncomfortable, and seeing high school girls (and teachers!) wearing leggings as pants and mid-thigh dresses to school makes me avert my eyes in shame

- I've realized that, when talking about my experience in Guatemala, saying things like "well, I was tear-gassed one time" and "I learned the difference between the sound of a car backfiring and the sound of a gunshot" and "I was a sex ed teacher and I loved it" and "one time when I was sitting on the beach I saw a package of drugs floating toward me and then someone picked it up so it could be smuggled to the States" and "I was in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake" may shock the average American, and should be either properly framed and explained or just not mentioned at all, even though to me these seem like pretty normal things because, to people around me at the time happened, they were normal things (except for the earthquake - everyone thought that was pretty scary).


Anyway, as a final note, I would like to encourage everybody who has ever wanted to apply to the Peace Corps to just do it already! I'm a true believer in that cliche that "when you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did." http://www.peacecorps.gov/ go check it out!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day of the Dead

Although the "Day of the Dead" is a traditionally Mexican holiday (and no, it's not "Mexican Halloween"), it is still celebrated in Guatemala, though it is more commonly known here by it's Catholic name - "Dia de todos los santos". Most Guatemalans go to the cemetery during the day (Nov 1) to leave flowers on their loved ones' graves, and some will eat a meal there, leaving a plate on the graves for their loved ones (most likely, the town drunks will come by later to snatch the free food). Occasionally a family will visit the cemetery at night, but this is less common due to the high probability of the presence of bad guys hanging out in the cemetery at night. 

Guatemalans also celebrate by making a dish called fiambre, which is a cold salad made of pretty much every deli meat, cheese, and vegetable you can think of, with an Italian-ish dressing. I have tried it once (I was out of the country this year on Nov 1st) and I thought it was delicious, but of course every señora has her own version, and deliciousness varies by who's making it.

Here are some pictures of the cemetery in my town:


A mix of Guatemalan an American traditions (Guatemalans don't traditionally carve pumpkins)

Strange orange "flowers"

Cemetery in the foreground, my town in the background





Notice the hole for candles near the top of the grave

Friday, September 28, 2012

Work Update

I forgot that I have a bunch of pictures of me working, here they are:

A student with a booklet with a summary of all the topics we teach.


These girls are too young to be my students but
they wanted us to take a picture of them

Using soccer to teach HIV info to teachers

Myself and another Peace Corps Volunteer leading an HIV training for teachers.

A class where students have to identify and describe one of their long-term goals

Handing out more booklets

A mural near one of our schools - I'm not sure what the deal is with the upside-down cow.

At a restaurant overlooking Xela. Not work-related, except that I work with the girl that's second on the left. 

In a week I'll be home (to visit) for the first time in two and a half years, I'm so excited!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meat-flavored chips. Que?

Again, I haven't posted in a while, but I have made myself a promise to start taking more pictures, so hopefully there will be more blog posts soon! In the meantime, check out these chips:


There is nothing "100% natural" about meat-flavored potato chips. However, they are strangely delicious.

I assume that this is a Guatemala-unique phenomenon, or are there now steak-flavored chips in the US, too?