Routines

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Especially with the unpredictability of my job as a Field Consultant, it’s funny how quickly much of my daily life has started to feel like routine. Sundays are always market day – I set aside at least an hour or two to go to the market and to wash and dry all of my produce to have it ready for the week. Mondays are e-mail catch up days. Tuesdays and Fridays are days in the office with Juana.

And then there are the little things – walking up and down Calle Santander, Pana’s main street, multiple times each day. Cleaning and refilling my water filter. Tuesday night 2X1 pizza at Atlantis. Thursday night trivia at La Palapa. Sunday brunch and pool time at Club Ven Aca (weather permitting). Wearing and re-wearing the same clothes over and over. The (still somewhat unnerving) twenty minute camioneta ride up to my office in Solola twice a week, and eating at the same comedor, with the same three or four menu options, each day. Jogging along the same streets every morning. Waving to the same people – at tiendas, food stands, shops, cafes and restaurants I frequent – at the same time, and same place, every day. Campaigns, sales pitches, sales goals, eye exams…so many of these, all of the time. I’m still not always 100% clear on what I’m “supposed” to be doing each day, but somehow, I’m always busy.

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Progress

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Tofficepichis past week has been full of firsts. First time training new asesoras, first solo trip to Antigua on public transportation, first monthly meeting, first Guatemalan earthquake…it’s been hectic, but as always, it’s been exciting.

On Tuesday, two new potential asesoras stopped by our office in Solola for a follow-up training session with Juana and I. I was a bit unsure of the process to begin with, but it ultimately went incredibly well – Juana took the lead in teaching them about our product offerings and then we worked together to demonstrate how to give eye exams – one of the most important parts of our work. With only three active asesor teams in our region, one of our priorities for this fall is seeking out new asesores to increase our reach, and I’m happy that we’re hitting the ground running.

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Support Linda

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Linda

Meet Linda, the adorable granddaughter of Rosa, the head of one of the weaving cooperatives I work with. Linda is three years old, speaks Tz’utijil and Spanish, and is starting to learn a few words in English. Please help me support Linda in starting school at the Atitlan Multicultural Academy, where my roommate and many of my close friends teach, by visiting this site. Johnathon, my co-worker Juana’s son, is also seeking support through the same site – you can support his campaign here.

(Photo courtesy of Sandrena Frischer, a fellow Berkeley grad/traveler who’s been hanging with me in Guate this week!)

Rug-Hooking

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis past Monday, my friend Reyna invited me to help out with an event she was coordinating – a rug-hooking workshop with the project that she is helping to manage, along with Ramona (the former director of Oxlajuj B’atz’) and Mary Anne Wise, a rug-hooking artist/designer from Minnesota. Check out this website for more information about the project!

The workshop brought together around thirty different women from seven different cooperatives, varying in ability from expert rug-hookers (each cooperative has one teacher of their own, an artisan who learned directly from Mary Anne in one of her earlier workshops and who is now helping to teach the other artisans in her community) to brand-new students. Mary Anne purchases all of the rugs that the women make, and then sells them in the states – for hundreds of dollars.

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Festival de Gastronomia y Artesania

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Festival de Gastronomia y Artesania

Last month, we held a mini-campaign at a gastronomy and artistry festival across the lake in Santiago Atitlan – a huge success not just for glasses sales but also for making contacts in a new community. After our campaign, I spent some time checking out the different food and wares being sold, including these beautiful hand-embroidered telas (pieces of fabric).

Back in Action

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It’s been a great, relaxing two weeks – a big contrast from the long, hardworking weeks of summer, that kicked off as soon as I arrived in country a few months ago. Here’s a quick update of what I’ve been up to:

DSCF0368I guess you could say my vacation started even before the SECorps programs completely wrapped up, with a quick day trip to Monterrico with my co-workers and our G4 students. Monterrico is a small beach town on Guatemala’s pacific coast, just a few hours away from Antigua, known for its black volcanic sand, endangered sea turtles, and rough, warm waves. It was a perfect way to wrap up the summer – swimming in the waves, lying on the sand, and enjoying some delicious micheladas (a very popular Guatemalan drink, made of tomato juice, spices, and beer – sort of like a Guatemalan bloody mary) and super fresh ceviche.

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Anna, Bo, Jorge and I at Monterrico. Missing Holley (wrapping up her student group in Huehue) and Krystal (helping with a business program in Nicaragua)

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What Do I Do, Exactly?

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A lot of people ask me what it is exactly that I do, as a field consultant for Community Enterprise Solutions/Soluciones Comunitarias. And it’s not an easy question to answer. Of course, by now I have my “elevator pitch” prepared, in both English and Spanish – I support the work of a social business that offers solutions to health and well-being problems, by offering free eye exams and selling life-changing products like eyeglasses, water filters, improved cookstoves, solar lamps, and more. So yes, a large part of my work is sales – I work two days a week in the SolCom Centro in Solola (our local store/tienda), assist our asesores with weekend field campaigns (in which we take our products to rural regions with limited access), and come up with new strategies to increase our sales and our regional reach. But my job is so much more than that.

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Leña Delivery

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Two young girls from San Antonio Palopo look out as women from their pueblo collect their leña – wood – from a truck outside the cooperative where our campaign was based. One of the best things about our estufas mejoradas – improved cookstoves – is that increased wood-burning efficiency will save families so much time and money in purchasing and transporting wood.

Winding Down Summer

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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.

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Bananas and Volcanoes

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A truck full of locally-grown Guatemalan bananas parks outside of the outdoor mercado in Panajachel, overlooking one of the lake's bordering volcanoes in the distance - an image that calls to mind so much of the country's tumultuous history of land conflicts, inequality, and ongoing economic, agricultural, and political struggles.

A truck full of locally-grown Guatemalan bananas waits outside of the outdoor mercado in Panajachel, overlooking one of the lake’s bordering volcanoes in the distance – an image that calls to mind so much of the country’s tumultuous history of land conflicts, inequality, and ongoing economic, agricultural, and political struggles, much of which remains pervasive today.