I’m writing from my room today, a tiny detached space with a desk, a bed, and precious little else. I closed my windows for the second time ever, and I’m hoping it saves my host folks from the noise of the machine I’m using. It’s pretty loud. My former roommates can attest. I’m also using a new ribbon, and while it’s mostly working OK, it’s a little sticky, and about a fourth of my letters are half black, half red.
Life in Jalpan is going well, even if it’s more like a conventional job than I expected. I’m working from 9-6, Monday through Friday, and the time that I’m in the office is more or less spent like my time in my US jobs: writing, organizing, staring at Office programs longer than recommended. On Wednesdays, I head to Piedras Anchas to help prep the audio for Chava’s radio show, Sonidos de la Reserva (I also write his script for the program), and 2-3 of the remaining days I’m with him, driving around the Sierra and working in the schools of some of the 600 communities in the Reserve.
At the moment we’ve got ten groups of Ecochavos, two formed while I was present, and we’re working on getting all of their yearly plans hammered out before the 15th of December. Given that each of the groups has something like 40 kids and we’re trying to plan projects with a variety of activities for all of 2014, it’s pretty messy. Chava shows up, gives a spiel, polls the kids for work they’d like to take on (community gardens, recyclable and battery collection campaigns, workshops, campouts, ecofairs, mural-painting, and sensibilization sessions, among others), sequesters himself with the group’s leadership and breaks the rest into seven chunks. They go with me.
Then we’ve got thirty minutes for each group to chug through their respective part of the Annual Operative Plan, a somewhat confusing and repetitious document that we’ll be using for ourselves and turning into some collaborators in the German version of the Peace Corps. It’s all pretty exciting.
We come back together, share our findings, take names, congratulate everyone and give out my Facebook address so they can find the page we’re setting up for the Ecochavos and so I can tag them in our photos. So if anyone’s been concerned about the upsurge in underage Mexicans on my Face, rest assured—it’s for work.
We spent a full 33 hours learning how to be masters of puppet theater two weekends ago, and I’m surprised to say that 1) It was really actually pretty cool and 2) That our high school age kids really liked the idea of using puppetry to disseminate an environmental message. They were genuinely psyched to put together their own short plays, their own puppets, and to do the whole mess in front of people. I’m thinking adolescence is a little different here than it was back home. Although I guess before Sesame Street there was a time when puppets were truly cool.
As far as town life goes, it seems like I’m integrating a little slower than most. I’m putting that down to me being in the office all day and, paradoxically, to Chava’s being so well connected already. Without a counterpart of his calibre, I’d be doing the usual thing and talking to everyone in sight just to find out where the kids are. As it is, I get to work before the social day starts, and I usually head home long after dark around 7pm. I’m thinking I’m going to start taking one work-day a week to be pure Peace Corps, wandering aimlessly and really trying to conquer the gente better. Because inasmuch as I’m assigned to the CONANP office, I’m here for the whole town of Jalpan and two thirds of Peace Corps’ goals are about personal diplomacy (as opposed to traditional development)
More about second and third goals in the next post, but for now, I’ve found a house (or better said, the wonderful Janessa Hartman has found me a house), and I’m thinking of stealing a kitten.