Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Whirlwind week!

It’s been a crazy week, full of community visits, traveling, and exploring new places. My apologies for such a long delay between blog posts – there never seems to be enough hours in the day here, and my internet has also been spotty thanks to the low pressure system that’s been sitting over us for the past week or so. Silly me, just because it didn’t torrentially rain for two days last week, I thought that rainy season might be over…but this week’s monsoons have proven that that’s clearly not the case…

So regarding work, our new game plan for the next few weeks – rather than trying to squeeze in visits to all 20 OB communities, as was the original plan – is to focus on a select few communities, visiting each of the Nest communities twice and then scheduling additional visits to other communities that the facilitators are particularly impressed with or who make unique or especially good quality products. So last Thursday, we went on a return visit to Morales – one of OB’s four Nest groups – and helped with a catalog workshop in the morning and a jam-making workshop in the afternoon. It was amazing to see the catalog workshop in action, and watching Letty lead it was particularly inspiring. As an indigenous woman herself, Letty kept the women laughing, smiling, and engaged throughout the entire workshop, and it was clear that Letty was able to connect with the women on a level that Darcy and I simply would never have been able to as Americans. 

Then, on Friday, Darcy and I split up – I went just across the lake to San Juan with Mildre and Veronica, and Darcy went to Xeabaj with Letty. San Juan – a community known for its beautiful natural dyes – was wonderful. The women were all so warm and inviting, and the natural dye products were so beautiful! We finished early, so I had a few minutes to walk around the town, but Darcy and I are planning on going back at some point this weekend – rather than travelling, like we have for the past 4 weeks, we’re planning on taking a “stay-cation,” and just sticking around Pana and the lake.

After our back-to-back community visits, we woke up bright and early on Saturday for a 6 AM shuttle to Antigua. We found a great hostel called El Gato Negro, and spent a relaxing three days shopping, eating at delicious restaurants, exploring Antigua’s beautiful churches and ruins, hotel shopping (mom and dad would be so proud!), and doing some outreach for OB by passing out flyers to cafes, Spanish schools, and hostels to promote the presentation that Andrea and Lucia made on Tuesday evening. Like everywhere else we’ve been so far, we met a whole host of interesting travelers, volunteers, and ex-pats, and had a great time sharing and exchanging stories and experiences.

We left Antigua early Tuesday morning to meet the rest of OB’s staff and the women from the Chuacruz cooperative in Guatemala City, for a day excursion that Chuacruz had been awarded for being OB’s best cooperative of the year. For about half of the women, it was their first time in the city, and it was an awesome experience being able to share that with them. In the morning, we went to the Guatemala City Zoo – as we walked around the animal exhibits, Darcy and I started up a language exchange with the facilitators, teaching them the names of all of the animals in English while they taught us the names in English. It was a huge zoo though, and there were some animals that I’d never seen nor heard of before!

After the zoo, we all went to a textile museum. The museum displayed indigenous culture and craft production -  the history and culture of the Maya, their tools and production process, the significance of the different designs on their traje – and watching the women look at the exhibits made me think about what it would be like to see my own life on display like that in a museum, especially if museums weren’t something that I was accustomed to. One exhibit in particular displayed the different kinds of looms and tools that the Maya use – and have used historically – to weave the products that they are still producing, and I could only begin to imagine what it was like for these women to see items that were such an integral and normal part of their day-to-day life on display. 

Today, we went on yet another community visit – this time, to Quiejel, one of OB’s communities that has been producing hooked rugs for the exhibit that will be touring the midwestern United States this coming fall. Though I’ve seen the completed rugs in OB’s store, until today I hadn’t seen the actual process of how they’re made. I was surprised to find out that the rugs are made completely from recycled clothing, and I also found to interesting to hear the women’s excitement at the new project, because it allowed them to work on a more flexible and dynamic project, rather than simply being tethered to a loom and weaving day in and day out.

Tomorrow and Friday will be our catch up days – we have tons of interviews and production guide data to input, translations to finish, pictures to upload and edit, and presentations to plan! It’ll be a busy few days, but then I’m looking forward to relaxing and sleeping in this weekend, and hopefully doing some more exploring around Pana and the lake!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you are doing fantastic work!!! And this blog is amazing!!! Many many years ago I was in Panajachel and spent a week working on a project with Habitat for Humanity in San Juan de la Laguna (I'm assuming that's the same San Juan that you visited?). One of the things that struck me about San Juan is that I had just finished language school and was so intent on working on my Spanish -- and lots of the people in the town, especially the kids, spoke a Mayan dialect rather than Spanish.

    Best wishes with your work and travels!!! And thanks for sharing your adventures and insights through this blog!