Published: April 21st 2012April 1st 2012
I have no good excuse for the long delay in writing. Lots to share. Here goes.
Until recently I was volunteering with the organization in Chimaltenango that helps kids who either work or are ex-workers. I spent a lot of time with one of the social workers, visiting a small town called San Jacinto. The program in San Jacinto provides educational reinforcement, activities, and trainings for the kids who live out there. We would take the chicken bus out there, which is a long and bumpy ride, especially the last stretch downhill into the town on a dirt road full of potholes. The view along the way is beautiful, through green hills, fairly dense forest at times, crops and fincas. Pulling into town one is reminded of an old western movie, almost a ghost town. It is very hot, dusty, rural, and there is a kind of tranquility and silence . There is only one bus into town in the afternoon and it is driven by the mayor. If you miss the bus out at 4pm you are spending the night. The mayor wears a huge cowboy hat and cowboy boots and is huge himself. In San Jacinto there are lots of men with cowboy hats slowly herding their cows through the streets. There are chickens, dogs, boys walking their goats, and kids playing soccer in the field in the center of town. Most of the women dress in the traditional indigenous clothing which is very colorful and striking.
When I was not in San Jacinto, I was hanging out with the lawyers. A project called the Center for Labor Rights was headquartered with the organization in Chimal. The project is run by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and works to defend workers' rights, provide education and training, and accompany workers with wage claims through the administrative process or in the courts. Unfortunately, soon after I started as a volunteer, I found out the project was being pulled from the Chimal organization. Before it ended a few weeks ago I was able to observe lots of hearings and help with legal trainings. CRS gave the Center for Labor Rights project to an organization in Guatemala City called the Office of Human Rights of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, which is a really cool place that runs a ton of different programs. I might keep volunteering there, but everything is up in the air right now.
I am not sure if I will be staying past May or not. I am looking for paid work, either teaching English, but ideally doing something legal. I´ve applied for a bunch of stuff back home and here. We´ll see what pans out.
Semana Santa has come and gone. There was an ENORMOUS amount of people in Antigua. Too many, it was nuts. And hot. Not for the claustrofobic or crowd-averse.
I´m having a lot of fun living in Pastores. The best way to describe life there is in Spanish, es alegre.
Literally, ¨it´s happy¨. The people are very open and warm, there´s lots of animals making all kinds of noises, lots of party music (usually the radio station La Sabrozona, my favorite), lots of tortilla making in the house. They take good care of me there.
Last week I helped out with a conference in Antigua on migrant workers. I met a lot of cool people and learned a lot. The whole first part of the conference was on security, meaning the security of human rights workers in Guatemala. I already knew it was dangerous to do certain kinds of work here, but it was still pretty mind-blowing. There is a special organization here that trains human rights workers on how to be safe and avoid the various kinds of threats they might face.
Anyway, I´ll let you all know if I am going to stay longer or come home! Here are some long overdue pictures.