In addition to our two wonderful spring break groups from Vanderbilt University, we were lucky to host a former Ecuador PD and his brother. In their short week here, Dunc and Tobin hiked a volcano, helped out with our programs, and shared valuable insights about their previous Manna experience. Here's what Dunc's got to say:
Nothing's changed: Dunc and Hudson, circa 2007.
I must admit, I didn't quite know what to expect upon arrival at the newest Manna site in Solola, Guatemala. After being an active chapter member at MPI-Vandy, spring-breaking at MPI-Nicaragua, and PD-ing for a year at MPI-Ecuador, I like to think I have a pretty good hold on all things Manna. Because of all these great experiences, I had been curious to check out the Guatemala site ever since its creation last year. Lucky for me then, as I sat procrastinating during a break from the books a few weeks ago (plotting my next Latin American escapade over spring break), Orbitz gave me the good news: a super-cheap flight to Guatemala! So I bought my ticket and brought along my trusty sidekick / travel partner / hermano Tobin to Guate.
It's funny how at each Manna site, there are always readily apparent commonalities. MPI-Guatemala once again proved this to be the case. As soon as I walked into the Manna house, I quickly felt at home. Like its Nica and Ecuadorian counterparts, the Manna house was full of smiling gringo greeters, and a white board full of calendars / notes to other PDs. It boasted a kitchen full of fresh veggies and cold-water dishsoap, trash cans next to toilets, showers leaving much to be desired, and a library stocked with English novels, guide books, and teaching guides. And of course, a loungable balcony with a breath-taking view. The first day I visited the MPI-G community, I had the same feeling. As Guatemala again showed me, no Manna site is complete without kids playing English-language learning games (and the requisite candy bribery for class participation), a room full of appreciative, trustful, caring parents engaging in a dialogue with Manna PDs about the viability of new programs, and post-class goofiness between spring-break volunteers and the community kids. Even the whole spring break program was strikingly Manna: long days working in the community and experiencing the local culture, evening reflection discussions, and of course the obligatory salsa lessons.
Even so, just like the other sites, MPI-Guatemala was certainly unique. From the strong influence of the distinct Mayan culture of the community to the "teaching teachers" program to the Manna house location in a quiet town above Lago Aititlan, the new site seems fittingly adapted to its country and community. Although new Manna sites build and learn on each other's past experiences, they also cannot simply copy the older sites but rather must jive with the new location and culture. For me, this is what has made my visit to MPI-Guatemala so interesting: the funny sensation that while I'm somehow in a timewarp experiencing either MPI-Nica or MPI-E in their earlier years, at the same time the site is also distinct. Hopefully, I'll be lucky enough to visit all the sites again in another few years and be able to witness further progress across the organization as a whole.
Until then, it's time to do some mountain-climbing. Volcan San Pedro, you're mine at tomorrow's amanecer.