Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Te Quiero Mucho, Guatemala

Well, this is this last blog from Guate. Can you believe it's even happening? Can I? No. Not at all. My bags have been packed, my goodbyes have been said, and I have about a 2-hour window for a nap before I leave for the airport. Ugh. Tomorrow is going to be a rough day.

So, in just a last few words before I hit the hay:

I know that among my loyal blog followers, my description of this place and these people and this year is practically scripture, hah. I tell you about the mundane and the important, and you feel like you're living it with me. But here's the thing -- no blog could achieve that. To understand this year, to really get it, you have to have lived it.

But do take my word on it: lived it we did. I can't count the number of risks and adventures and leaps of faith I took this year. We squeezed every moment for what it was worth.

I have laughed so much and so hard this year -- with kids, with friends, at myself. I don't remember the last time I laughed this much.

And I have loved so so so so much this year. To a million different people and places.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who followed along these past 13 months. I have no idea what comes next, but I'll keep you updated.

And to Guatemala, cuidate. Te voy a extrañar, y te quiero un montón.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Zero Ganas to Blog

Started the packing today. Took down everything from my walls, so my room is really sad now. Tonight's my last normal night here. Still haven't accepted it.

I have zero ganas to blog. Meh.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cupcake Fight

Last night the comedor served cupcakes! We should have been excited for such a yummy treat, but we were mostly just excited to smear the icing all over one anther's faces. It was really mature of me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Leaving Feels Like: 4 Days to Go

Today, leaving feels like this: I cannot actually believe that this afternoon is my official house despedida.

Every time a group of volunteers leaves, the NPH house throws them an official despedida -- an official going-away ceremony -- that every single person from the house attends up in the comedor. Today is mine.

It's our official despedida. We will get official seats of honor on benches in the middle of the crowd. The house will present us with an official going-away gift. The kids will perform official going-away dances for us. It is, officially, the last event we attend as NPH Guatemala volunteers. People start leaving tomorrow morning, and then the leaving is really made official.

Leaving feels weird, because you never actually think the day of your own despedida is, in fact, going to arrive.

Tortrix Volteados!

Alright, here's a food I am going to miss A LOT from Guatemala. Tortrix Volteados!

Tortrix is a popular chip brand, and Volteados is my favorite flavor that they offer. But describing it to you will sound weird. That was your warning. Volteados is the word for Guatemalan refried black beans. Volteados are extremely popular throughout the entire country, but I actually hate them. Just looking at that black bean paste makes me want to gag. Ew.

However, for some reason, volteados flavored Tortrix are just about the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. Who'd have thought?

Muchísimas gracias to Nicole for this big bag present of Tortrix!!! I'm still deciding whether I should eat them over these next few days or try to bring them back to the States and enjoy there. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Leaving Feels Like: 6 Days to Go

Leaving feels like a cruel game of emotional ping-pong.

Sometimes, you wish time would just stand still and stop moving so fast. You can't even keep track of the minutes anymore.

But other times, you wish you could just fast forward and the leaving could be over. You wish this long, long, long and drawn-out goodbye could just please stop being so drawn-out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In Their Básico Uniforms!

A bunch of mis niñas graduated from elementary school back in October, and this week they've just started a new school year in básico -- or middle school.

At the NPH school, elementary school girls wear bright blue sweaters and plaid skirts, while middle school girls wear the older, more sophisticated all-navy ensemble.

So look how cute they are in their básico uniforms!!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

What Leaving Feels Like: 7.5 Days to Go

Leaving feels like: moments when you second-guess yourself about whether you should have extended your year and stayed longer. Not every moment, but enough to make it annoying and just sad.

MIS Niñas

When you first get here, you start out referring to your assigned section of kids just like that -- an assigned section of kids. You probably call them the kids, the boys, the girls, the section. "The girls made me this sign. I'm eating dinner with the the boys. I ran into the section in Parramos."

And then one day, I have no idea exactly when this happens, but one day you wake up and you start calling them the boys/girls/section a lot less, and you start using mis a lot more. Mis. Mine. My kids.

"Last night was so funny with mis niñas. Mis niños got in trouble again. Be sure to take care of mis niñas."

It's not a conscious decision to sound obnoxious to outside listeners. It just happens. They're yours, and you're theirs. And the just starts to sound weird. Too stuffy.

Yeah, definitely mejor, mis.

What Leaving Feels Like: 8 Days to Go

People say that being the last to leave is the worst. That being left behind, having to say goodbye after goodbye after goodbye as you watch everyone else leave, has to be more painful than if you could just be the one to pick up and go. People say that not having your closest friends here, to help you with the leaving process, must be just horrible. And yeah, I guess it is. Leaving feels like that.

But leaving feels like something else too.

Leaving feels like the coming back, miraculously, is going to be a little bit easier. Because when I crash into the "Oh God, this is really over" moment, I realized I'll be crashing into lots of former-volunteers-turned-good-friends' upheld hands.

The number of times I've been told by them in the last week to hang in there, to call them as soon as I need to, to remember they are there for me, to let them help me through this whole miserable process -- is amazing. It's incredibly scary to feel like I'm stepping off a cliff into a giant post-January-25 abyss, but it's incredibly comforting to feel like they're already standing at the bottom of that cliff with a safety net for me to fall into.

So, being one of the last to leave. Maybe not ideal. But when you're lucky enough to have the ones who went before you standing there, turned around, waiting to help when it's your turn, well, there's something kind of awesome about that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What Leaving Feels Like: 10 Days to Go

Leaving feels like you are at your birthday party, or your graduation party, or your going-away party. Some event where the first five minutes are all about you. After a little while, your parents come over and say, "Honey, could you get up from that chair? And help us drag it over to that girl over there -- do you see her? She's going to be our new daughter when the party is over."

So you help them give away your own chair to someone you don't even know, and won't ever know. And then you're left standing in the middle of the party wondering if anyone even notices whether you're still there or not.

Leaving feels like my NPH family, little by little, is making me give away my whole life to some new person: my job, my kids, my friends, my room. And they're making me actively help with that entire heartbreaking process. It feels like any day now I'm going to wake up here and have nothing left to call "mine," and then I'm going to be left standing in the house wondering if anybody has even realized whether I'm still here or not.

Leaving sucks.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tortilla Tutorial

You can ask any NPH Guatemala volunteer, and they will tell you that there are two tortilla habits that you very quickly pick up from the kids here. They are things you would never have thought to do with tortillas before you got here, but after just a few months, it's completely second nature. 

1. Use your cup as a tortilla holder. Your plate isn't big enough to hold your tortillas without them soaking up the other food, so what do you do? You copy every other kid at your table and put it on top of your cup, for safekeeping.

 2. Roll your tortilla. Why did we never think of this one before? The most efficient, most delicious, least messy way to eat plain tortillas. Genius, and we swear it tastes better.

So yeah. I'm gonna have to watch myself when I'm back in the States eating at my first Mexican restaurant. Especially #1. That could be awkward. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Awww! I Love You Too, Girls

Last night Marta called me from Nicole's phone to tell me to Ven! Tenemos una sorpressa! Come down here! We have a surprise! I assumed she was just making up the whole surprise thing in order to get me to come visit the section.

And then I got there, and I actually got my surprise!

The eight girls who used to be in my section but moved up last month to an older section -- the eight girls I invited to come back to my despedida on Tuesday night -- had made me a sign! It says "We Love You, Carrie." And the stickers also tell me I'm Girl of the Year, that I have a long list of goals, dreams, and friends, and that I'm a heartbreaker haha.

Awwwww. I love it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh, and Two Quick Videos

I think they had fun last night?

The Despedida, Part 2

So, here's what we did! Last night, we had a pijamada! A sleepover. And we made those adorable pillows I've been saturating my blog with. Here's how it went. :)

We started off by eating dinner in the section. We brought food down from the comedor and all gathered in the sala. All of the Fatima girls were there, plus the eight girls who just moved out of my section last month, plus three tías, plus an año de servicio, plus me. We had a full house! We'd also dragged all of the girls' mattresses into the sala, creating one massive bed for all 30 of us to plop down upon.

I'd kept the whole pillow project a surprise, so when we'd finished eating, I finally revealed to the girls what was in the two huge bags I'd toted down to the section earlier. They'd been poking at them (Girls! Don't sit on that bag!) all night trying to figure out what was inside, hah.

Earlier this week, in authentic pijamada fashion, I'd made each girl a goodie bag! In her goodie bag, everyone received her two pieces of heart-shaped fleece, a card I'd written her, some photos I'd printed for her, and a couple of polovorosa cookies. And oh MAN were they excited to get 'em. I felt like Santa Claus pulling out goodie bag after goodie bag, calling out the girls' names. So much shrieking and freaking out and hoping I called so-and-so's name next. It was adorable.

 Many thanks go out to the panadería in Parramos that made me a special order of 70 polvorosas!
 Goodie bags!

Well, they loved their cards and they loved their photos (Ay mira! Y quiero ver las tuyas! Aw look! And I want to see yours!) and they loved the cookies and they LOVED making the pillows. They maybe even took it a little too seriously, those little perfeccionistas. Carrie, come help me cut this! Carrie, I'm going to mess it up! Carrie, over here next! Carrie, over here! Carrie, Carrie, Carrie! But in the end, the pillows turned out GREAT!

Afterwards, all 30-ish of us found spots on the giant sala-sized bed we'd created, and we proceeded (with new pillows tucked behind our heads) to watch movies until 2 a.m. It made me remember, haha -- when you're 13, the point of a sleepover is to not sleep. At all.

We slept in this morning until the very last minute and then dragged ourselves up to the comedor just in time for breakfast. The girls and I parted ways for the day, and I think I got more Gracias, Carrie's and Gracias por todo Carrie's than I maybe ever have. The despedida was a huge success, and I couldn't have asked for it to go any better. Man, love those girls.

The Despedida, Part 1

La despedida. It means "the farewell," and as much as we'd like to deny it, that's where we're at now. The beginning of the farewell.

Sometime way back in volunteer history began the tradition of despedidas with the sections. Ever since then, it has become a ritual for each leaving volunteer to do something -- some kind of going-away event -- with their section of kiddos.

Back in May, I blogged about kids and birthdays. I talked about how the road to respect and to teaching these kids that volunteers-don't-equal-cash is...well, it's kind of through being a Scrooge. I said that being a volunteer at NPH means showing the kids, via not giving in, that I am here to share my time with you, not my bank account. And the same philosophy holds true when it comes to despedidas.

As your time comes to a close, the kids will start to tell you what they want you to give to them as your despedida. (There's a word you learn in Guatemala for this: engasado.) They'll ask you where you're going to take them for an all-day excursion or what expensive meal you're going to cook them. And can you even blame them? Odds are, it's what the volunteer before you did, or before them did, or what some other volunteer is doing this year. They're kids, and even after an entire year, they're still going to try to milk you for all you're worth.

But that's where you step in.

Yes, it's scary to tell the girls I'm not taking them on an excursion or cooking them anything -- everyone fears a disappointed kid -- but for me, neither an excursion or a home-cooked meal with my girls felt right. In my personal relationship with them, I wanted my despedida to be right here in the house; that felt right. And anyone who knows me will tell you that cooking for a huge group of people would give me a full-on anxiety attack, so that definitely didn't feel right. I know despedidas are for the kids, but if the entire point of having been their volunteer this year was to be a good role model to them -- just by being myself -- then my despedida should sort of feel like me, shouldn't it?

Besides, I've worked too hard for 12 months to show my girls that "Carrie is not here to give you money or presents or treat you to special things." Why would I throw all that away in the last 2 weeks?

I could tell you why, at least according to some people. Because they deserve it! They deserve something big! Hmm, okay. I mean, do they really though? And is that even the question we should be asking? What about, do they need a big fancy despedida?

Here. I'll tell you what they do need, and what they unarguably deserve: it's my time, my attention, and my interest in them. And those things don't have to be delivered in an out-with-a-bang despedida, at least I hope not.

Soooo, all that being said, read on for how I said "farewell" to the niñas this year... :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Theme of the Year: It Always Works Out

On Friday, all of us leaving volunteers attended a workshop in which we were supposed to look back on our time here...and then think about what life is going to be like next. At one point, we were discussing overarching experiences of the year -- themes of the year, if you will. I blurted out:

At the last minute, everything always works out. Guatemala -- somehow-- always seems to pull through.

And I could not mean it more.

So so so so so many times this year, I have walked into a day or a situation or a task and thought, "There is no way on earth this is going to happen. This is going to be an absolute total disaster. Get me out." And then, as if by Mayan magic, it all somehow works out. And it works out beautifully.

I mean it. Things just have a way of working out in this place. It makes me think of this night and this adventure and this whole crazy experience. It reminds me of the weeks leading up to this, this miracle, the transportation mishaps involved with this, the months leading up to this, and moments like this. See, my blog is just full of proof. :)

So, I think that's my theme of the year: just when I least expected it, everything always worked out.

And so what did I say when I was then asked at the workshop, "And so what does that mean? How has that changed you?"

I answered, "Well, I guess it means I have more faith in life, hah."


Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Whole Year in Front of Me

For my despedida with the section this Tuesday, I'm printing each girl a handful of photos. I've been holding out pretty much all year long on printing them photos every time they ask me, but, well, I've basically run out of time.

Right now I'm sorting through them and writing notes and dates on the backs, so there are a million little stacks of photos spread across my bed. I cannot tell you how weird it is to look down at them and see this whole year in front of me.

Beh. This is depressing.

Stuck on the Camioneta

Today I got stuck on the camioneta for 45 minutes when we hit random gridlock traffic. They literally turned the bus off, and we just sat there. That was a Guatemala first!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Best Belated Christmas Present Ever

Let me give you a little background information on the girls' section.

They have a TV and a DVD player, but they lost the remote control ages ago. That means they can't use any DVD menus; they just have to play DVDs as they are. But a big majority of the DVDs here come in English and can only be switched over to Spanish by navigating to the setup part of the DVD menus. So, the girls can hardly ever watch regular DVDs in Spanish, which means they are always asking me to bring the volunteers' DVD player down to the section, which means the DVD player is missing from our house on a regular basis. It's kind of a pain in las nalgas. For them, for me, for my housemates who wonder where the DVD player walked off to, pretty much for everyone involved.

So, drumroll please....I bought the girls a universal remote control! Yayyyy!!

I brought it down to the section last night, and good lord was it the most impossible thing to program. Their TV and DVD players are such old/crappy versions that none of the remote control's listed codes would work. Instead, I had to hold the remote still, pointed at the DVD player, for forever so that it could search for the right code. But it found it eventually!

Then, after climbing that big hurdle, we ran into the problem of navigating the DVD menus. The only arrows located anywhere on the control -- just volume and channels -- didn't do a dang thing on the menu screen. Well that figures. Another 20 minutes later, after reading the entire instruction manual and then just resorting to trying every button on the control, I discovered that on this particular remote you use the numbers to navigate menus. (In other words, if you want to select the 4th item listed on the menu, you have to press 4 + Enter.) Who on earth has ever heard of that? Guatemala is so weird.

However, when all was said and done, the instant I got that DVD to play in Spanish, I just started shrieking -- and the girls started shrieking with me. I'm not actually sure who was more excited about this exciting development in our movie-watching experience, me or them.

Later, after forcing Yohana and Estrella to pay close attention and learn to use the remote control so they could teach the other girls, I headed home to bed, exhausting from so much trial-and-error and general brain frustration. But thanks to the new working universal remote, I was in the best mood EVER! :)

Frente, Mejilla, Boca

That's the phrase I have stuck in my head. Frente, mejilla, boca. Frente, mejilla, boca.

It's one of those jump rope games that 12 year-old girls play, and we were playing in the section the other night. You know -- the ones where you chant some lyrics and wherever the jump rope-er messes up decides what boy they love and what their future together is going to be like? Remember those? Those oh-so-official games?

Well frente, mejilla, boca (forehead, cheek, mouth) is the popular one among the girls right now. When I played, I landed on G and they decided it meant Gerber was my one true love. And then I landed on mejilla, so he's going to give me a kiss on the cheek. Hooray.

Frente, mejilla, boca! Man, takes me right back to 6th grade recess! :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Prototype: Success!

Last night in my room piled high of fleece and pillows, I decided it would be a good idea to tackle that mountain of fleece and pillows and confirm that this whole pillow project was going to work. After all, the last thing I wanted was to show up and have 25 girls disappointed that someone (ahem, me) didn't think this all the way through.

So, I made the pillow.

And look how cute it turned out!!!

I am SO excited for this despedida.

Story Update 29

Oh wow, I just realized this might be the last story update I ever post. Meaning these are the last articles I will ever write from NPH Guatemala. Meaning: this is weird.

Posadas - With the Christmas season comes the tradition of posadas at NPH Guatemala.

Christmas at NPH Guatemala - The Casa San Andrés home celebrates La Navidad.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Difference Between Guatemala and the U.S.

Ok, there are about a thousand differences, but here's today's.

This coming Tuesday (yiiiiikes) I am having my despedida (going-away party) with my section of girls. There will be more to come on my despedida, and despedidas in general, but for this post just know that I am planning on making this no-sew fleece pillow with the niñas. It's gonna be cute.


..the preparation has not been so cute.

Now if I were in the States, the purchasing of the two simple materials needed for this project (fleece and pillow filling) would go something like this:

Get in car. Drive to Hancock Fabrics. Find fleece there. Find filling there. If for some reason something couldn't be found, walk four doors down to Wal-Mart and solve the crisis there. Return to car. Dump everything in large trunk. Return home in time for lunch and to continue watching season 4 of Felicity.

Ohhhh but I'm not in the States. Here is how this goes in Guatemala. Are you ready for this?

Take crowded chicken bus to Chimal. Enter claustrophobic Chimal market. Find fabric stalls. Start looking for fleece. Find no fleece. Ask people if they have fleece. Learn that there is no word for fleece in this country; they just call it "blanket material" or "flannel" (um, but it's not flannel?). Be told to try the other end of the fabric stalls. Get there, be told to go back the direction I just came from. Still no fleece. An hour has passed. Leave the market and go to the other part of the market. Hope for better luck there. Walk the streets for a while. FINALLY find a man selling fleece blankets! He seems slightly intoxicated, but it works in my favor because he gives me a great deal. Buy nearly his entire supply of fleece blankets.

NEXT, on to something to fill these pillows. Ask the fleece blanket man where I can buy some kind of pillow stuffing/filling. Learn he has no idea but can at least tell me the name of what I should ask for. Walk the entire market and have every person tell me there is no way on earth I am finding pillow filling in Chimal. Awesome. Decide to buy pillows and just rip the stuffing out. Search the market for pillows and learn there are none. Another hour has passed. Disheartened, go back to my fleece blanket man and ask him where the heck I can find just regular old pillows. Bless his heart, he leaves his stall and escorts me to a shop that sells pillows! Gaze at wall of pillows. Barter and argue and buy 12 pillows. Allow owners to stuff all 12 pillows, plus 27 yards of fleece, into one huge garbage bag (seriously impressive), tape it up, tie it up with string, walk me to the chicken bus, and throw the huge bag on top of the bus.

Thirty minutes later, back in Parramos, carry massive bag back to NPH, finally reach home, collapse.

HO-LY COW. These pillows better turn out freaking adorable!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

And the Blog??

The other day, some of the other volunteers asked me what is quite possibly the most important question of this entire year (oh just kidding):

What are you going to do with the blog when you leave Guatemala???

That is a good question. I'm not so sure my life is going to be very exciting or at all read-worthy when this is over, so I don't know. Then again, it has become a pretty serious habit, and I realize it provides even better stalking material than Facebook. I guess we'll have to see.

Any votes on what I should do???

Monday, January 3, 2011

11 Things Learned for 2011

Happy New Year! The entire world says it's 2011, but somehow it still just doesn't feel real. Probably because I have absolutely no idea what 2011 will bring. I've never "not known." And that is terrifying.

Yet while I have no clue what will happen in 2011 (beyond that U.S.-bound flight on January 25), there are a few things I can cling to in the new year. They happened in 2010, but I suppose they were learned for 2011, so here they are.

11 Things Learned for 2011

1. Time is about the fastest thing out there. Before coming here I thought a year was such a long time. It was scary long. Now, I have to laugh remembering how intimidated I was by those words: an entire year. The year I thought was going to be the longest of my life turned out to be the fastest of my life. So, I don't think I'll be underestimating time's speed again any time soon. 

2. Although it was painful at times, I, Carrie Daut, can survive 13 months without most of my favorite foods. If that's not a serious revelation, then I don't know what is.

3. I love this job -- writing and blogging and talking and promoting and communicating. It's the kind of work I want to keep doing. I am sure of that.

4. But I don't want to do this job for a fashion magazine. I want to do it for a nonprofit or an arts center or a university or something. I want a communications job that exists because there is a need for it. 

5. AND I hate being ordered to take photos. That will hopefully not be part of future jobs.

Hmm, what else...

6. No matter how good you think you are, you cannot spend a year at NPHG without getting piojos. I learned the hard way with only three weeks left to go. I guess Guatemala was not going to let me get away scot-free.

7. I am not a travel wussy. This year, I have climbed through mudslides, taken boats through tropical storms, spent 36 hours just to reach a destination, and been stranded in foreign towns -- and lived to tell you about just how much darn fun it was.

8. I used to think that after college, you would never find friends who just fit so perfectly into your life. I was wrong.

9. I am a 13 year-old girl at heart, just like my section, and I am not ashamed of that!

10. The things you are most scared/embarrassed/nervous to try are the ones that will never go away if you just avoid them. Better to stop thinking and just do. When it's over, you'll wonder why you ever thought it was such a big deal in the first place.  That's been a daily-life-at-NPH-Guatemala lesson, but we all know it's a real-life one too. 

11. And finally...13 months ago, I thought that after so much bouncing around post-graduation, I'd be ready to calm down after Guatemala, that I'd be ready to kind of stop the adventure. Well folks, I don't think I am...