Saturday, February 25, 2012

Work vs. Play

Valentine's Day soul train!
The month of February has been incredible. We started off with a bang exploring bat caves in Semuc Champey (see pictures in last post), followed it up with a lively boat cruise, Valentine's Day dance-off, hike to a Mayan altar, and confetti-filled Carnaval celebration. Dream vacation, no? Try, dream job. Let me paint you a little picture:
We're all invited to the Valentine's Day celebration in El Basico (high school) in Caserio Central. We come bearing varied mugs and candy for the friendship gift swap. Cam is put in charge of the kids' dance contest. However, it's not surprising that these shy, angsty teenagers are repulsed by the idea of dancing in front of their peers. (Let's take a moment and reflect back to our own awkward teenage years and then compound that by a large factor due to the fact that we are in a small indigenous village.) Cam's brilliant solution? The PDs will have a dance battle instead. Well, I can tell you that we are great at making fools of ourselves, and that I may have done "the lawnmower" a few times too many. The day continued with a more familiar teenage dance scene where boys and girls occupy different sides of the room and walking across to the opposite territory is like committing treason. Emily confessed that she herself was an 8 out of 10 on the uncomfortable scale.

Tomas explaining the significance of the four altars
One of the most interesting things about living in Guatemala is the Maya influence. It's a religion, lifestyle, and culture--all three unique to this region, so we're always eager to learn more about it. On Tuesday we hiked up to a Mayan ceremonial altar with Celso, the principal of La Primaría (elementary school) in Caserio Cooperativa, and Tomas, the local mayor. Tomas is a spiritual Maya priest and helped build the altar himself.

After a short hike up, we listened to his impressive knowledge about the Mayan calendar and rituals. The next day happened to be the start of the new year! We descended through Cooperativa talking about MPI, Chaquijyá, all we've done together, and what more could be done in the future.

Carnaval is Halloween, a circus, tag, and a dance party all rolled up into a ball... and then rolled in confetti and flour. Immediately upon passing through the front doors we were assaulted with bits of paper, glitter, and unidentifiable powders. Confetti-filled eggs were smashed on our heads and kids of all ages used us as jungle gyms. The costumes were incredible, the laughter unceasing.

What's funny about life here is that all these events, and many others, are mandatory. I'm sorry, but you must participate in the dance off, you must attend the costume party, and you must hike up to see a beautiful view of Chaquijyá...

It seems a bit odd, but these community events are where our best relationships are made, with teachers and kids alike. And we count on these relationships. These relationships are the foundation of all our programs, current and future.

The best and hardest part about the PD position is that the line between work and play is blurry at best.

Mama D


  1. Great stuff. That Mayan altar looks surprisingly Incan to me. Like the 25th picture in this album from Machu Picchu:
    Did Celso explain the significance of the shape at all?

  2. Craig, you're right, I do see a striking resemblance. Celso was talking about the center piece as a depiction of the Maya calendar and its nahuales ( I think the circle in general often represents the cycle of life. Thanks for reading, as always!