I left San Luis on Sunday with almost all of my luggage and we all drove up to Xela for the night. Monday morning was “Counterpart Day” where all of our counterparts (the Guatemalans we are assigned to coordinate our work with) drove down and we met up for most of the day and got to know each other and started planning our site visit work. I share my one counterpart with two other volunteers who are around Santa Eulalia now and then also with Cathaleen and Becca who are assigned to aldeas around Santa like I am. Also two representatives from my community and two representatives from Becca’s communities drove down with my counterpart. The day was mostly presentations and expectations of the PCVs and the counterparts. I did start to learn a few words in Kanjbol but I have a LONG way to go before I actually understand anything. From Xela my site, in car, is about 5 hours away so they decided we should only go to Huehue, the capital city of Huehuetenango, for the evening.
Tuesday morning we woke up early and finally headed to our site. Pet is about a 10-15 minute drive from the bigger town of Santa Eulalia. It sits high up in the mountains in a little valley. It is very Sound of Music-esque. Everything is so green and beautiful and it is definitely cold. We went around to each of our new sites on Tuesday and met with the entire town since as a community they all voted to have me come. First we went to Becca’s site and we had to hike down this huge hill then back up another one, trek through some cornfields and finally arrived at the town meeting. They almost all spoke Kanjbol instead of Spanish. And they had us sit up front as the honored guest at a little table with an American flag towel draped over it. O yes. I really have no idea what went on at that meeting but then we had to hike back up the giant mountain and we continued on to my village.
The aldea Pet is much bigger than Becca’s site. We drove up to the town hall area and when they saw us they immediately started setting off fireworks for us. Then the whole town (about 300 people) filed into the meeting hall and I had to get up and introduce myself in Kanjbol with a microphone. After I said a few words in the Mayan dialect they all started talking amongst themselves. My counterpart told me they were saying how impressed they were with the few words I knew and that I would be fluent in a month…ya right! It was a very nice welcoming and I can tell they are very excited to have me work with them. It is definitely going to be a challenge though because they have barely ever seen Americans before.
This whole site visit we have been staying with Jim and Emily who are a married couple who are finishing their service next week. It has been very helpful talking to them because they were the first Peace Corps presence here ever. They know a lot of the important people and they worked with my new counterpart. They also helped find our housing and everything. I have also got to eat some delicious food whole staying here. So yesterday we all went to the official inauguration of the stove project in an aldea that Jim and Emily worked in. The whole town gathered and there was lots of speeches and music and dancing. The little kids dressed in Halloween masks came out dancing and they pulled all the gringos out in front of everyone. We were out there dancing for like 10 minutes and people kept clapping and loving watching us make fools of our selves. If this is what I have to do to integrate I will do it. After the whole ceremony we went and had a delicious lunch. The whole day was interesting and overwhelming at the same time. I felt welcomed but I felt like I also scared them. It really just made me so anxious to get working in my own site.
This afternoon I am moving my stuff into m house and checking out Pet a little more. I will put more pictures up soon of my new home!
Me, Lindsay and Sam "rearranged" our hotel room for a cuddle fest!
The mountains of Huehuetenango
Walking through a cornfield in one of the aldeas near my site