My second week feels roughly 1000 times easier than the first. I know where I’m going, I know what some things should cost (though I’m clueless when it comes to lancha, or ferry prices which are notorious for ripoffs) and I’m getting to know people better. Updates are still sporadic because slow wifi means these posts take forever (because I love including pictures) and because I’m still on the busy side. But here we go:
First off, some weekly reading
A thought provoking article about social media and women
Eater cheap eats week was lots of fun
Emma has been doing great work in Dallas and it’s fun and weird to see so many friends start such real jobs.
Now here’s what’s going on in terms of…
Work has been really good and really busy. Nick is leaving at the end of next week so having a finished video is a top priority, especially because we are having a premiere party for it next tuesday. We finished all of the interviews, which was an absolute highlight and great in terms of motivating me. I think my main focuses at work will be increasing sales, especially on our e commerce platforms which need some updates. And hearing all of the weavers describe how much they needed this work due to a variety of challenging circumstances (husband was kidnapped, father abandoned the family, mudslide destroyed their house etc.) really strengthens my commitment to work very hard.
This week, I’ve been helping translate the interviews that are in spanish so that the video can have english subtitles and I’ll post it here as soon as it’s done. We also had a fun morning last week to get some early morning shots of the lake-we met at 5:30 am and took a walk around the town which was GORGEOUS and also very early. One of the best parts of waking up early was getting breakfast at La Posada, a gorgeous hotel on the edge of town known for its food. My family is going to stay there and I’m excited for breakfasts. The mornings are the nicest times here because it isn’t raining yet and it’s the warmest part of the day. We’ve also been working on planning our trip to Antigua for the crafts fair in september and the days go by fairly quickly. Usually I work till around 6 and we take an hour or so lunch break, usually with the team from Pueblo a Pueblo. There is a restaurant downstairs from our office that can bring the food upstairs if you want to have a quieter break so I’ve done that a few times as well. This week, because of the feria, we have a half day tomorrow and friday off! I’m very excited about this and we have lots of fun plans.
This weekend was a great mixture of relaxing and exploring. On Saturday, we posted up at Hotel Bambu, one of the two hotels in town that has a pool you can apparently swim in for free. It was pretty cold so I just took a quick dip but it was great to sit in the sun and hang out in a big group. Then we took a flete (the pick up trucks that take you anywhere) to IMAP, a permaculture project focused on food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture. It is such a cool space and we learned a lot about the history of agriculture here and some of the practices they are trying to introduce/reintroduce. Among the things we discussed:
- Every culture comes with an agriculture and when you wipe out one, you damage the other. After colonization, the introduction of cash crops and mono agriculture wiped out lots of diverse farming techniques, including a practice called milpa that they are working to reintroduce. Milpa involves planting nitrogen fixing crops like beans and squash alongside corn and research shows that all three grow better when planted this way.
- There are huge health consequences to monoculture and the use of fertilizers, which may temporarily raise someone’s wages so they can buy industrial food but won’t help a country longterm. The guy who we spoke to suggested a switch in mindset from food security to food sovereignty.
- IMAP sells weekly baskets of organic produce and I’m getting my first one this week which I’m so so excited about. It was a very cool space and they have lots of volunteers living on the property and a huge kitchen and table. It would be a fun place to cook a huge group dinner.
On Saturday night we watched the Departed which I had never seen, a very good movie.
On Sunday, a huge group went to scale San Pedro, a very large volcano. I opted not to because long hikes don’t make me happy but luckily two other girls also opted out. We had a really good day exploring (well I was the only newbie) other towns on the lake. First we took a lancha to San Pedro, which is a kind of hippie town with lots of Israelis and a place that is supposed to have great hummus and falafel.
You can bet I’ll be back even though we just walked through it, stopping to buy surprisingly delicious croissants. Then we did a hike along the cliffs overlooking the lake which had stunning views. It reminded me of the Pacific Coast Highway on steroids and you could adjust the length because you pass through a few different towns. We didn’t do the whole thing because it was about to rain so we got on a lancha to Panajachel, one of the most hopping towns on the lake. It was pouring while we were there so I didn’t get to see much but we got coffee at a cool place run by Koreans and ate japanese food in a beautiful garden (that was covered) before heading back to Santiago, all in all a very good day. The lake is also stunning, absolutely stunning and it’s hard to describe how views sneak up on you living here. It’s not all gorgeous of course, there are flies and dog poop and buses with exhaust fumes, but you can always look up and see a volcano.
The Feria is ON! The Santiago County fair is a Big Deal and it is highly entertaining. For weeks now there has been a ferris wheel set up in the square in addition to food vendors, old carnival games and more. This week is the peak of the events, which include parades, two beauty contests, a weightlifting competition, and some contest where you have to try to climb up a greased pole. There are way more people here than usual and so many of our host families are participating in various ways. I’ve walked through parts of it but plan to see the parade tomorrow before/at work and then go tonight and on saturday. There will be a pregame and it will be an event. All of the events are being broadcast on local television and some people at work have been spotted in the audience.
I also visited something, or someone, Santiago is known for on Monday: Maximon, a saint or devil, depending on who you ask. Every year the shrine to Maximon is in a new house and the way he is worshipped is…unconventional: think cigarettes, grain alcohol, lots of incense. It’s an interesting syncretism between local and catholic traditions and I’m glad I got to see it but stopping in for 20 minutes of a ceremony was enough as the smoke gave me a headache.
All of the PiLAs are here, as of wednesday! I’m excited to get to know everyone better.
Social life continues to be brisk here and this weekend will be no exception, given the feria which means we all have friday off and I have a half day thursday!
The adventures don’t stop.
Reader Q+A from Sophia who asked me about the music here. Basically, there are like 4 songs that seem to be played at every bar and the rest of the music is the top 40 from about 4 months ago (sugar is really popular now). Some of the big hits are
The funny part of this repetition is that whether you’ve been here a month or a week or a year, when you hear the first beat of a song everyone starts bopping up and down and sort of humming, even if the song is just playing in a passing car.
Do you have a question about la vida atiteca? Comment and I’ll answer!