Thursday, February 11, 2010

Honey, I'm Home!

Well, tomorrow will mark my 6 month anniversary of arriving in Guatemala. I will head off to Reconnect to meet with my entire training class in Santa Lucia so we can have more technical training, Spanish classes, and discuss our first 3 months in site. It's sort of a Peace Corps milestone, and to talk about a recent milestone of my own, I must first backtrack a tad. On August 12th, my plane left American soil for Guatemala. Nerve racking enough as the plane ride was for me, being only a world traveler through encyclopedias, having rarely left the ground, and having never left the country, I was still optimistic (scared half to death with a smile on my face). I kept a journal almost obsessively at first, and it just so happens that I passed the time on my flight by writing. I will momentarily delve into the private sanctuary which is my journal with an excerpt from the flight.

"After Staging, Alex, Jared, Stephen, Micheal, and I went out for some classic American food (instead of Thai like most of the others) for our last meal at a place called Stan's. Among the items ordered were jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, chili, burgers and fries, and fish that smelled overwhelmingly but apparently was delicious. Afterwards, I went back to my room and caught a couple hours of sleep before waking up for our 1:30 AM checkout. Peace Corps has a 4-hours-early-to-the-airport policy. We arrived two hours before it was even open. The bright side is that we got to mingle and bond. I've only been with these people for 24 hours and I already feel like I know some of them very well. I am excited and anxious about the next few days, but I am most of all confident that things will work out well for me, which is a great feeling. I was even able to carry my guitar on all three flights! Right now I am going from Miami to Guatemala City, running on a few lousy hours of sleep, but too excited to get anymore..."

Then the plane landed on the tarmac. Suddenly there was a buzz about the air, a very unfamiliar buzz. Everyone stood up and began rapidly firing off Spanish. I immediately came to the harsh realization that I couldn't speak a word. Even my fellow trainee two seats away from me stood up and joined in on the conversations. I first thought to myself, "She knows Spanish?" My next thought was, "What have I got myself into?" The next three days were a complete blur. Six months later, almost to the day, I hit a milestone. I, yes I, gave a series of relatively complicated directions to a far away lake, in Spanish, to a Guatemalteco and his family. "Stay on this road. You will go through 4 curves and then you will drive straight for another minute or two. When you see a yellow house on the left, take a left, and then your first right. Follow this road until there is another right and take it. This road will take you to a sign that says "Laguna Magdalena 15km" and you will take a left there. That is as far as I know." Granted I have no idea whether that family made it to the lake that day, but regardless, I was proud of my directions. Especially in a country where you can ask four people for directions until you end up back where you started. The best feeling about it all, however, was that I finally felt like I was home. Not my home in the sense of home, because nothing can replace that feeling of walking into the house you grew up in, to your family, dogs, photos, or that familiar smell, but a different kind of home. I live here now! I've been here for three months, I've got 21 left, and this is now my home. My little two room, cinder block, tin roofed, uninsulated home. When I ride my bike through the mountains, people yell, "David" instead of "Gringo." Well, I still get gringo calls, but I am hearing more and more David's these days. I've been invited to birthday parties, celebrated Christmas in a small room with 40 strangers (who accepted me as one of their own for the holidays), and have seen simple "Good afternoons" turn into hour long conversations until "I have to go before the sun sets." I can't promise that things will always be this good, or that I will always be positive or happy here. I will, though, heed the advice of the volunteer I replaced. He told me to, "Ride the wave." That is what I'm going to do. Hang-ten.


  1. Hi Barrett! You can't imagine the excitment your updates bring to me. I love reading about your experiences and about your satisfaction with life. Hang in there... I think you've heard that a few times throughout the years. I pray everyday that there are angels all around you. God be with you:-)
    Love you LOTS!!

  2. Hi,

    My apologies for posting this as a comment -- I haven't figured out how to send messages through this site. My name is Carey, and I am a physician assistant student in Madison, Wisconsin. I was a PCV in the Dominican Republic from 1998-2001. I'm writing because I am helping to organize a medical mission trip to Guatemala this May, and from my days as a volunteer I know PCVs tend to have an inside scoop on things. Our group will be in the villages around San Lucas Toliman, near Lake Atitlan, from May 18-30.

    I have a few questions about PC Guatemala's interactions with medical missions, about San Lucas, and about Guatemala in general. If you would be willing to answer some of those, or put me in touch with volunteers around San Lucas or those that work with medical missions I would be grateful.

    I'm going to post this on a few other PC blogs, since it is hard to know if or when it will get read, and who might be moved to respond. You can get in touch with me via email: dachik atsign wisc dot edu

    With my full name, Carey Dachik, you can also find me on skype and facebook -- I'm the only one with that name in the world, or at least on the internet, so it isn't too hard.

    Reading the blogs has helped me get a feel for the place and remember what life was like as a volunteer, both good things.

    Thanks, and take care - Carey Dachik