¡Bienvenidos from MPI Guatemala’s new house in Sololá!
During the past three weeks, my fellow PD’s and I have been living, learning, and experiencing San Pedro La Laguna, an incredibly picturesque Tz’utujil and hippie-tourist town located on the world famous Lake Atitlan. Not only were we able to take intensive Spanish classes every morning, but we also soaked up Maya culture firsthand. Our classes were held at the San Pedro Spanish School, which provided an enjoyable (and much needed) recap of Spanish. Working one-on-one with an instructor, each of us significantly improved our conversation skills and developed close relationships with our teachers. (Please note: the Gringa girls still remain undefeated in the student vs. teacher weekly fútbol games.) All of us were sad to leave the school, but I am confident that we will visit often throughout the year. Plus, for our farewell graduation “speech,” the six of us changed the lyrics to Luis Enrique’s “Yo no sé mañana, and performed it in front of the whole school.
|Our graduation song presentation|
While taking classes, each of us stayed with host families that lived near the school. All of our families were welcoming and friendly. My host parents not only owned a laundromat and a restaurant (so the food was great), but they also used to work as tour guides. Listening to their abundance of stories about Maya legends and traditions, I received an amazing first taste of the local culture in the Guatemalan highlands, and grew even more excited to work in Chaquijyá for the upcoming year.
For the afternoons and weekends, we spent our time exploring the natural beauty of San Pedro with an eclectic assortment of fellow travelers local residents. Between scaling the Indian Nose mountain to see the sunrise, bathing in solar pools, horseback riding, attending salsa lessons, kayaking to the neighboring organic town of San Marcos, and learning to make paper lanterns, we all kept ourselves quite occupied. My favorite excursion was our visit to the annual Feria held in Santiago Atitlán. Just a brief lancha (boat taxi) ride from San Pedro, Santiago experienced numerous tragedies during the brutal 30 year Civil War. Because of the atrocities committed during the Civil War, the government now forbids the military from entering the town.
I am continuously amazed by the outlook of the Maya peoples despite the recent tragedies. Practically every Maya alive today lost family members and fled their homes, yet these same people are the most generous, amicable, and positive people I have ever met. An interesting fact, despite the lingering horrors of the war, Guatemala ranks #4 on the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index. Hearing the stories of the local people and observing daily life, I'm inspired by their resilience, and I am filled with awe at the Maya’s ability to maintain their traditions in the face of discrimination and violence. Although we will be leading various classes in the Maya community of Chaquijyá, more importantly, this year will be a cultural exchange and learning opportunity for us both.
|An array of onlookers as Jared tries his hand at one of the games at Feria|
For me, the past three weeks have provided the perfect transition to our new life and work in Sololá and Chaquijyá. Not only have we been able to come together as a group and improve our Spanish, but our time in San Pedro has also allowed us to better acclimate to a new lifestyle and society. Now, as we nest in our house and begin to discuss our programs and positions, my excitement for the upcoming year continues to swell, and I am even more grateful for the opportunities and lessons we have been given throughout the past few weeks.
|Relaxing at the top of Indian Nose Moutain|
Ginny Savage & the MPIG team