Thursday, March 31, 2011

Medicinal Plants at AFOPADI

Medicinal gardens is one of the projects that successfully embodies health, education, permaculture and gender issues at AFOPADI. During my March visit, I was delighted to attend an indigenous woman's fair in which AFOPADI participated. Here are some women selling their medicinal herbs.

I found the product presentation quite elegant. In the close-up below, you can see how the method of preparation & use is described visually since many people are illiterate. The conditions the plant helps are written out.

Some older women have extensive plant knowledge, but without an effort, that may disappear.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Guatemalan Tree Nursery: Pisuche

Here is the nursery located at about 9,000 - 10,000 ft. The newly planted seeds are in the wooden construct front right. Wind is an issue and it comes off the mountain on the left side, just beyond the black plastic. There was an opening there which needed to be repaired. This was the first year for this nursery; the seedlings were started in November as I recall.

Here, there is no nearby water source so the little seedlings above, must be kept alive by water hauled from several hours away. Leaving, we saw this woman carrying not one water jug, but two. I could barely propel my body UP the path.

Tree Nursery in T'umiche

Halfway down the hill, we are closing in on the nursery.

Imagine: Flatlanders like me are "pacing" themselves from the altitude (7,500 ft) and slope.

One reason why this nursery is successful lies in the adjacent water source. This is vital during the dry season (normally: November through April).

The other successful strategy manifests in the protection from the wind afforded the seedlings because this nursery is located in the bottom of a ravine. The other reason for survival can be located in the strong community support.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guatemalan Textiles

This post is for Linda Brazill who is my nearby (Madison) "resident expert" on textiles.

I mention a few random observations to keep in mind while being amazed by the variety and skill embodied in the indigenous women's clothing in Guatemala (here in the western highlands of the villages served by AFOPADI outside Huehuetenango).

1.) Keep in mind that these are the real clothes worn by women while they perform their daily tasks.
2.) Below, you can see how the women weave on their backstrap looms in the midst of their family responsibilities which include taking care of children. Here we are in the lovely village of Xacala. The older girls may be home because education is very limited here, only going through primary school. They would need to walk five hours each way to attend higher grades in the town. Or they may be here because their family does not believe in educating girls. It is not the growing season, so I doubt they are home due to working in the fields.

3.) I took the photo below during an AFOPADI Educational workshop in Casaca. Again you can see the kids are always part of any gathering. Not only does this show a range of huipiles (Huipil is the blouse, Corte the skirt), but, as well, you can see the fun these women are having. Every AFOPADI workshop includes games since people's lives are so lacking in leisure.

4.) Given privacy issues, I have many photos of the backs of women's necks. This was unusual, in that it was beaded with an intricate patterns of rhinestones (?). Even though most women wear the patterns from their region and village, each huipil can be made distinct through its creator's imagination, time and means. On that note, it's important to point out two things. The first is how long it takes to weave these garments, up to months. The second is that many women have only two daily outfits (Trajes), with possibly another for special occasions. In an area where it gets down to the 30s (F) at night, you can see why the women wear sweaters. To me, they are not charming, but they are practical as it is usually chilly except when you are roasting in the hot tropical sun. Some women do still use beautiful woven shawls. All of these textiles are made from cotton.When I accompanied one friend to the market to buy thread, she was very particular about the feel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guatemalan Spring for Northern Gardeners

Some sort of Apple Tree

In the past few days, I've been learning about friends and family in (Vermont, British Columbia and Sweden) and their continued snow. So this post is especially for Altoon, Rosa and Sigrid. I took these photos in the higher elevations of the villages AFOPADI serves. The apple is tough and does not surprise me. The peaches did and I assume that the reason they can grown peach trees on this slope at 10,000 ft. is that it faces South and is protected by the opposite slope on which an actual forest still grows.

Peach Tree

As for the banana, it was growing in very exposed conditions near Casaca at 5000 ft. I mean, really: how could I resist?


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some Images I Like from Guatemala: Quetzaltenango By Car

Or Xela as it is known, has very dramatic weather and shifts of light.

The nearby volcanoes and their activity also make an impression.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Back Home in the Lap of Luxury, the US

Here at home in Evanston, we have running water that does not have to carried up mountain paths as in the indigenous communities of Guatemala.

In our kitchens, we use cabinets and containers...

And for most of us, we also have gas, electricity and potable water. Not to mention an excess of food. Because heavy rains arrived last October, at exactly the moment when the corn needed sun for its final ripening, the previous harvest was very minimal. This means that during these last hot months of the dry season, many people will go hungry. Hopefully the real rains will begin on schedule in May...

These photos portray one of the cleanest kitchens I have seen in the villages. It is in the house of one of AFOPADI's health promotores.

Today, I added images to my three previous posts, which I wrote from Guatemala.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An incredible week in the villages of the Cuchumatanes

We are just back from a week with the AFOPADI projects high in the mountain villages of NW Guatemala. This has been my most incredible trip yet. Because I wasn´t traveling with anybody from the States, my brain switched into Spanish and I believe that helps me remember my experiences more strongly. Although I have to admit, not having been trained in Spanish, listening in Spanish, while taking notes in English is a bit challenging. And then there is the local language, Mam, which I can only barely mimic, let alone understand.

The highlight of this trip was two hot sunny days spent walking up and down the slopes of the higher villages: Xacala, Pisuche and Tumiche. We were only four: one of the promotores in Permiculture, the couple who head up that part of AFOPADI and me. We visited nurseries in two of the villages and ate lunch in people´s homes. It was a very intimate time and I got to feel a small part of life there with no water, no electricity, little education or health care and few rights for women. The men are mostly absent as they are working to harvest products like the melon Mark G. mentioned in his last comment from Madison, Wisconison. Of course, winter feels very distant now even though it is always soooo chilly here in this mountain city of Quetzaltenago. I can´t wait to sleep without a hat! As I mentioned, it is the dry season, but it has rained three or four times this past week. Climate change perhaps. Quien sabe....

As usual, I will start posting photos when I am home some time this week.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sensory Guatemala

After taking a 4 hour shuttle from Antigua at 5 am yesterday morning, I arrived in the western city of Quetzaltenango, known by its indigenous name of Xela. We are at about 7500 ft, ringed by volcanos. Brown dust encircles the top of the Santa Maria volcano. It last erupted in 1902 and formed the smaller volcano, Santiaquito. Now Santiaquito is very active every day and people are hoping it won't erupt. Just one more of the natural activities (including Earthquakes, Hurricanes and the resulting mudslides & floods) that make life in Guatemala a challenge.

I fell asleep to the persistent sound of dogs barking and woke to what I later learned was a woodpecker (pajaro carpintero). As I write this on the patio infused with the gentle but heady fragrance of jasmine, the fresh mountain air and birds chirping are dominated by the sermon of an evangelico as it is miked from a car in the streets: I can tell when he turns a corner as his voice mercifully is muffled for a moment.

This is my first visit in a long while when the three couples who run AFOPADI are all present and together. We celebrated when I arrived with a little snack that included my favorite foods: tortillas with beets, avocados and black beans. The papaya here is also miraculous. But the best miracle is catching up with friends, seeing the children grow and knowing that shortly I wil be up in the villages of the Chuchamatantes and learning more about AFOPADI's projects in Health, Education and Agriculture.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Princess Blog

Some of you will want to know that I've arrived safely in Guatemala. Their weather has been weird: extremely variable with some rain. The dry season doesn´t usually end until May. It all feels good to me.
It is marvelous to feel at home amidst the tropical air, flowers and birds. But it is really the people that give Guatemala its special character.
And here´s a shout out to Wesley that I ate two of those tiny special tamales, one for him. There is something magical about unwrapping the corn stalk that ties the husk, peeling open the husk and then when you eat, finding that morsel of whatever is the daily treat (a little piece of chicken, meat or beans).
I am enjoying the princess life for two days at a wonderful hotel in Antigua before I head off to the mountains where conditions are less plush, but the community can´t be beat.