Haha… I have no idea if my title is grammatically correct, especially being a mash-up of K’iche’ and Spanish, but it is supposed to say “K’iche’, 2 volcanoes and Independence Day” 🙂 Anyway, there’s lots to update about, so hold on y’all!
I am currently partway through week two of K’iche’ lessons, and I’m really, really enjoying it! Learning the language is a challenge – for example, there are often two or more consonants together without vowels, and there are also some guttural sounds (especially the q’!) that I’m still struggling to produce – but it’s so fascinating to learn. On the first day, my teacher told me that learning K’iche’ is really also about learning a new culture and worldview. I had never really thought about languages in that way, but it’s so true! So much of culture is influenced by language, and vice versa. Because of this, he said he loves teaching K’iche’, since through teaching the language he is also teaching a way of life. For example, K’iche’ has many direct connections with the natural world, and many places are named after their surroundings. The town where I’ll be living, Pachaj, means ‘Among the pines,’ which I think is absolutely beautiful. My teacher told me that there are still pine trees there (although fewer than in years past), and I am so excited to be ‘among the pines’ again… just like a little taste of my other two homes, Whitworth and Woodinville, but Guatemalan style 🙂
It has also been a humbling and fascinating experience to learn a third language in my second language. I’m grateful that I can understand enough Spanish to have conversations with my teacher and ask him questions, because otherwise it would be incredibly difficult. It’s also extremely eye-opening when put into the context of English-language learners. I feel like I now have just a bit more of a glimpse into how difficult it must be for people who are new to the States to be thrown into a new context, language, and culture all at once. I’m grateful that my process of K’iche’ learning has been so gradual up to this point, but there will be many great language stories to come, I’m sure 🙂
The K’iche’ lessons are also broken up into smaller bits of time, where my teacher will give me breaks from the language and explain many cultural, political, economic, and environmental realities of Guatemala. He’s told me many different stories about what it was like for him to grow up in el monte (countryside/mountain), the beauties and difficulties of that life compared to life in the city, prejudices that some people still have towards the indigenous groups in Guatemala (there are 24 different languages spoken here, aside from Spanish!), and also some of the cultural traditions and beliefs of the Mayan people. It has been beautiful and eye-opening to learn more about this culture, and I’m so excited to get to experience what it will be like living in a K’iche’ community. I’ll be moving to Pachaj in about 2 1/2 weeks, and I can’t wait to see what my host family and my jobs will be like. I’m very excited, and I know that things will be utz, sib’laj utz: good, very good. 🙂 Not without difficulties, but rich and beautiful all the same.
Speaking of difficulties, last Thursday there was a volcano that erupted within view of Antigua and San Juan del Obispo. Volcán Fuego is one of three active volcanoes in Guatemala, and this eruption was one of the bigger ones that it’s had in awhile. It was puffing smoke for most of the afternoon and evening, and 35,000 people were evacuated from the pueblos closest to the mountain for precautionary measures, since their homes were in the potential path of the lava flow. Thankfully, at least from what I’ve heard, no one was hurt and the volcano settled down by the next afternoon. That day (Friday), the other YAVS, our coordinator Marcia and I all hiked another volcano, Pacaya. It was a beautiful hike, and we could actually get some views of the still-smoking Fuego in the distance. There were men and boys on horses who followed our tour group up the mountain, shouting ‘Taxi, taxi!’ and offering us free rides on the horses in case we got tired. ha ha 🙂 When we got close to the top (groups can no longer summit the volcano, after an eruption that took place in 2010), our tour guide pulled out a bag of marshmallows and we were able to roast them on the volcano! There were a few vents inside the rock with pockets of hot air, which we used as little ovens for the marshmallows. It was so much fun – definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience! -, but at the same time I thought it a bit ironic that I was happily eating volcano-roasted marshmallows when the day before thousands of people had to flee from another volcano within my view. It just served as a reminder of the power of the natural world to affect our lives, and how we can’t take this beautiful world for granted or assume that we’re in control.
The next day, Saturday, was Guatemalan Independence Day! Independence Day here is a huge celebration; in fact, there were parades and festivities in Antigua on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as well! The streets were bustling with people, and there were flags hung from every shop and street corner. Throughout the day on Friday I saw groups of people, young and old, running through the streets with torches, yelling, chanting, and blowing whistles in celebration of their liberty. Even the center of the flag documents their independence: there is a banner which reads, LIBERTAD EL 15 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 1821 “Freedom September 15, 1821.” On Saturday morning there was a parade throughout Antigua, which we got to watch. It mostly featured high school students and bands, as well as some Mayan cultural groups. Some of the drumlines were AWESOME, which brought me back to the good old marching band days 🙂 While we didn’t stay for the whole parade, it was very fun to see the celebrations and the love that was demonstrated towards this country by so many people.
The rest of the day was beautiful and relaxing, which was very much needed! In the afternoon I went with my host mom Ana to the convent in town, and we spent about 45 minutes there having a time of prayer and devotion. It was a gift to sit in a beautiful garden and just be for awhile… sabbath rest. After that, Ana got a yummy dulce típico called manzanilla, a fruit covered in a sweet jelly, for us to split. Qué rico! Even after a wonderful day, I was hit with a bout of homesickness. However, I got to talk with my family on the phone which was such a gift. It was so wonderful to hear their voices, and to see all three of them the next day on Skype 🙂 while I do sometimes complain about technology, it certainly works wonders sometimes!
This current week has also been full of wonderful, wonderful things, but I know that there are even more to come so I’ll just have to post again soon 🙂 Til then, thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and please know that you’re in mine as well! Many blessings and good wishes from Guate, friends!
Con mucho cariño,