Weeks 4 – 5 Volunteer Visit – Cd. Guzman

Hola Mis Amigos

The more I explore Mexico the more I love it!  This week we visited environmental volunteers (we are Tech Transfer) that are located across central Mexico.  I along with three other aspirantes traveled to Cuidad Guzman.  It is located in the state of Jalisco and is about 2hrs south of Guadalajara.  For further reference Guadalajara is  4-5hs west of Queretaro.  All total we traveled for about nine hours which although long was actually nice.  Usually when I travel for that  long I am in another country but not in this case.  The bus (autobus or camion) system here in Mexico is awesome!  The buses are not anything like Greyhound in the US and are certainly a far cry from the chicken buses they show on TV (although I heard they actually do exist).  The fares are fair and there are plenty of buses to most locations.  The bus itself is new with flatscreen TVs that show fairly modern movies – some were even in English with Spanish subtitles.  There is a ton of leg room and the seats do recline back pretty far but since there is so much leg room you don’t feel like you have someone sitting in your lap.  A small snack or meal is served – depending on how long your trip is and the bathrooms are clean.  The ride was smooth so there was no problem with reading.  What more could you ask for?   Speaking of reading…I think I over did it a little this weekend since I had so much time to kill…I read over 900 pages (three books) in four days.  Not my record by any means but it does seem obsessive.  I was glad to get immersed in books again but I know I can’t make it a habit unless I read in Spanish.

Cd. Guzman was an awesome smallish city.  It was big enough that there were plenty of things to do, good restaurants and two universities but also small enough that you can get to know your neighbors without them knowing what time you wake up and what you had for breakfast.  The volunteers there support a National Park called Volcan Nevado de Colima.

  This park has one of the highest peaks in Mexico and is one of two places where you can actually get snow.  It also has an active volcano that spits out puffs of smoke and ash everyday.  There are about 30 men who work and live on the mountain full time monitoring the park, the seismic activity of the volcano, and watching for fires.  I took one for the team and was riding in the back of the truck most of the time so the guys who worked there thought I was super awesome and am invited back anytime!  It was fun most of the time but I got super dirty and dusty – so much dust that I felt like a powered donut, it took ten minutes to wash my hair and five q-tips to clean my ears afterwards.  LOL…what an adventure!!  Don’t get me wrong, I did get some relief when it started raining on me (and about 30secs of hail)! 

The park/mountain/volcano was awesome but what was even more awesome were the projects that they are working on.  There are several projects including reforestification, fog collectors (for water to irrigate), rain/snow collection, plant classification and general protection (from illegal grazing and logging).  My group was one of five and as you can imagine most of the groups had water projects. I really enjoyed working outside with the team and was even envious that they get to escape to the great outdoors a couple times a week – not to mention that it is significantly cooler on the mountain (only an advantage during the summer though).   This kind of work is what I imagined for the Peace Corps – not working in an office but the work that the offices we support also support environmental issues and sustainability in general for Mexico.  The whole objective of the Tech Transfer program is to help Mexico be more profitable and therefore more sustainable.  The hope is that with bigger and better ideas Mexico can become more competitive in the global marketplace.  Well there will be more on that later once I figure that part out myself.

As I mentioned I adored Cd Guzman and hope to make it out again soon but during our presentations I noticed that the other cities were pretty awesome too and I am excited to explore these other cities myself.  This is also where my comment about being more in love with Mexico everyday came from.  Mexico is SO much more that Cancun, Puerto Vallerta, drug violence and illegal immigrants.  Although Mexico is 34 years younger than the US it is so much more richer in history and culture.  The Spanish allowed the natives to combine their culture with theirs (Catholicism) which led to beautiful cities, murals, churches and monuments.  It makes me wonder what the US would be like if…well lets not go there.  No would have, could have, should have!  Don’t get me wrong – Mexico is in the state its in because of bad leadership after declaring independence but the country and her people are resilient!

On a side note – Cd Guzman is also one of the sites that will participate in the Pan Am games.  They have a large lagoon that will support several events.  If you make it to the games try to stop buy Cd. Guzman!  This week is Holy Week (Semana Santa) and I am really looking forward to participating in all the events.  Most of the country has Thrs and Friday off so things are slow this week and probably will be next week since all the kids are out of school for two weeks.  We get some time off for good behavior but are encouraged to participate.  Several of my classmates have asked to join me for the events and I am more than happy to share what I know of my Faith but I will be learning a lot too!

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