two-week whirlwind

After that last absurdly wordy post, today’s update will hopefully be mostly pictures!

First, an update about my project: I’m going to be working in Xeabaj II! Thanks for all your words of affirmation and advice. My project for Oxlajuj B’atz’ (OB) is to help create an asset map of the community. Asset mapping, as I’ve learned over the past week or so, is a grassroots development strategy that seeks to map out the various kinds of human and social capital in a community, in order to link them together more effectively. The fundamental idea is to get an idea of a community based not only on its (often overwhelming) needs, but also on its (often ignored) strengths and sources of untapped potential.

Basically, I’ll be doing lots of interviews with women, asking about their skills, interests, goals, and generally their perspectives on their community. In the end, what I find will help the Xeabaj women and OB come up with a sustainable  income-generating activity for the group. I was concerned that this job would be a digression from my larger Watson project, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this kind of active learning project will put me right in the middle of what I proposed to study: how to craft a community, how to piece together a sustainable enterprise that values and utilizes women’s skills.

Things I’m excited about:

-Talking to women about their lives and stories

-Weaving lessons! I’m so anxious to get started on these

-Walking in the mountains

-Moving to a new, still-to-be-determined place

Things I’m nervous about:

-Working through a translator

-Developing Spanish lessons for illiterate women (yes, I’m going to be teaching Spanish lessons…ayy)

Two weekends ago, I traveled north to the town of Nebaj, partly to check out the region’s well-known, unique weaving style, and partly just to see another part of the country. The road to Nebaj is my new favorite route to travel by chicken bus: lurching around sharp turns, winding through pine forests, our three-man team (a driver, a horn-honker, and a little boy who leaned far out of the open door, signaling each time we passed another vehicle by waving his arm) navigated us, more or less safely, through the mountains.

In Nebaj, I met a friendly weaver, Tina, who promised to teach me how to weave the local brocada designs if I come back to town. The amazingly intricate brocada patterns are woven into the cloth, not embroidered later.  Here’s a huipil, which you might recognize as the banner image for this blog:

And a cinta, with its amazing pom-poms, which is worn wrapped and twisted around the head:

I hiked out to a waterfall in the pouring rain, and took bad self-photos (this is a skill I should really work on) of me and the lush green countryside:

I also spent a lot of time wandering the market. I love markets!!!

You can see from this picture how women in Nebaj wear their cintas (sorry for creeping, ladies at the market!):

On the way back from Nebaj, I changed buses in Santa Cruz del Quiche, where there was a feria! I have no idea what this festival was celebrating, but I took advantage of the abundant food stands and had a strawberry-pineapple licuado, a tamale, and some sesame candy.

The feria!

Shiny licuado stand:


On Friday, OB had a baby shower for one of the facilitadoras, Maria! I received advance warning that Guatemalan baby showers involve lots of games, and that my participation would be required. There were lots of games (many involving impersonating babies/pantomiming baby-care skills), lots of decorations, and lots of cake, and it was an alegre afternoon full of laughter.

Blindfolded “mothers” feeding blindfolded “babies”:

For my last week in Pana, I’ve been living in an apartment and basking in the glory of having a kitchen. On Sunday, after a locking-myself-out-of-the-kitchen ordeal, I made a delicious brunch of French toast with homemade cinnamon-pineapple syrup and homemade mystery-citrus juice.  I ground the cinnamon myself!  And I picked the mystery citrus myself, from the trees in the garden. I also picked an avocado, because it was too tempting to resist, but it’s not actually ripe yet. Does anyone know how to tell when avocados on a tree are ripe?

Pretty views from my roof:

My other new pastime is shopping in paca stores, which sell used American clothing that arrives in big bales, pacas. Ostensibly, I’m shopping for warm-weather clothing (I did buy a sweater!) but I also get distracted by great stuff like gold lamé wrap dresses and neon ’80s parkas. If only my backpack size allowed, I could put together a sweet costume collection.

Walking around the neighborhood, I stumbled upon this boat on a roof.

The writing on the side, Espero Proximo Stan, means “Waiting for the next Stan,” as in the hurricane. I laughed, but it’s barely a joke– earlier this summer Agatha wiped out all seven bridges that used to join the two halves of Pana and dumped multiple houses and stores into the riverbed. The peaceful river at dusk:

Hasta luego! Que le vaya bien!


4 responses to “two-week whirlwind

  1. what wonderful adventures, photos, and great food! …but certainly a gold lame wrap dress could come in handy in egypt???

  2. Maddy — your trip sounds so fantastic, and your pictures are just wonderful! Learn how to weave! I’m so proud of you!

  3. maddieeeee

    ultimate misses/ i miss you but it looks like you’re having a stellar time. the internet says avocados are ripe when they “yield to gentle pressure” or are as soft as the palm pad of your hand.


  4. Hola Maddie, Justin acaba de decirme that you’re in Guatemala. Sounds really, really awesome. I also really like the idea of community asset mapping, have to think about that one more…

    But anyways, I wanted to say that I’m in Honduras for the year, about an hour outside of Tegucigalpa, so if you’re passing through Honduras at any point (I have no idea what your itinerary is), digame and maybe we can grab a drink or something! Pero pues, de todos modos, buena suerte en tu avenutra! Estoy seguro que será really awesome!

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