August 1st – hard to believe the summer’s already winding down and I’ve been here over two months. As always, it’s been a hectic few weeks, but we’re finally wrapping up our last week of SECorps programs. After an exhausting first field week (two office campaigns, one traditional field campaign, and one “bonus” campaign at a gastronomy and artisanry festival across the lake in Santiago Atitlan – in addition to some complicated APF projects), Bo and I woke up early with our team on Monday morning for a four hour drive up to Nebaj – the town in the Ixil region of El Quiche, where our organization was founded. We had a delicious team lunch at El Descanso, the restaurant that Greg Van Kirk (our co-founder) first started while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nebaj, and then packed up our micro with a new group of students for another four hour drive back to Pana.
This last field week has been going FAST. Our new group is focusing on some pretty specific improvement projects for the SolCom Centro – organizing the glasses, developing a system for keeping track of stove interest, and putting together a map to display where we have completed stove projects thus far. Our main campaign this week is in San Antonio – possibly my favorite town across the lake. The traje that the women wear is a beautiful deep blue, often embroidered with little colorful pots (the town is also known for its incredibly pottery), and the views of the lake are just unbeatable. And since San Antonio is just two towns over from Pana, we just hopped on the public pick-up trucks for the short but scenic trip over.
Then we went to El Triunfo – Juana’s community – for my last time this summer. Lunch at Juana’s is something that we’ve done with every group and it’s something I always look forward to (and that the students always recognize as one of their highlights of their time in Solola). Juana is the only member of her weaving cooperative, Sanik, who speaks Spanish (the rest of the women speak only Kachiquel), and because of their isolation – the community is only accessible on a windy, mountainous dirt road, which Juana has to climb up in order to reach the highway to catch a camioneta to get to the office or anywhere else shee neds to go – the women constantly struggle to find markets for their products. But it’s always a lot of fun to see how excited the SECorps students get when they see Sanik’s beautiful products, and it feels great to be supporting a cooperative that we’ve all had a chance to get to know, if only for a short amount of time.
Since I’ve been in El Triunfo quite a few times in the past few weeks, I’m also starting to get to know some of the kids in the community. It took me a few minutes to explain that I was NOT in fact Michelle – but now that they know who I am, I love hopping off the micro and immediately hearing cute little voices shouting my name. One of the older girls, Lydia, has become my photography assistant – setting up little mini photoshoots with the other kids in the community, and asking to use my camera to take some pictures herself. I promised her I’d make her prints of some of the pictures we took – it’s pricey here, but so worth it!
This weekend should actually be pretty relaxed – Saturday morning is our campaign in San Antonio, and then we’re giving our students Saturday afternoon through Monday morning off to enjoy the lake. So that means I get some time off too! We’ll be heading back to Antigua on Monday afternoon, enjoying a group beach day in Monterrico on Tuesday, and wrapping up our four week program on Wednesday and Thursday. Then…my work for the summer will be done! Because of our crazy hours this summer, we’re all being given two weeks of paid vacation, and I’m excited to take advantage of that time with a little “stay-cation” around the lake followed by a quick trip up to Belize. Then back here in late August to really dig into my field consultant job, continue getting to know my region, and follow up on all of the work that my students did this summer. Exciting!