The Smiling Gringo

Report from the Village. Sorry no pictures yet. And the program director told me the people are asking “who’s the gringo who smiles all the time?” Better that i am smiling than letting them know i don’t understand 3/4 of what people say to me.

I’m doing fine. it is so awfully hot here in Yucatan that i can barely move from 11am until 7pm. am not sure if i am cut out for the peace corps lifestyle but i am giving it my best shot.

I came into town tonight to send some emails and take care of some business via internet. Am in the village of Ek Balam about a half hour from here (Valladolid) for 3 weeks helping the people there who are very poor. No cell reception or internet there. there are two volunteers also there. I eat my meals with a Mayan Indian family and the grandmother makes delicious tortillas by hand but she cooks them on an open fire indoors made from wood they have collected in the forest. There’s a lot of respiratory problems with the people because of this way of cooking. Am learning some words of Yucatec Maya and it’s even harder than spanish.

The first day was pretty scary i have to say, not from a safety standpoint but from the idea of what the hell i had gotten myself into. the job they have given me is to help them improve the hotel of 12 bungalows i am staying in. the hotel failed the first time around (it’s owned by the families of the town) because they didnt really understand how to run a hotel or customer service. So now they have me! poor things. well i don’t know much about running a hotel but I am doing my best to help them: working with the newly appointed quality coordinator of the town, Don Fidel, diplomatically making suggestions about how the property is maintained. like showing where weeds are growing through the sidewalks, holes in the mosquito nets above the bed, that kind of stuff. I helped them write a guest evaluation form. there’s a group of 12 people coming on saturday to stay at the hotel so we are trying to spruce up the place, and i’m working alongside them. Hope Don Fidel gets some help for us tomorrow or it will just be him and me!

Can’t complain about many things: i have my own room. it has electricity, running water and a toilet. the people are very nice and are genuinely grateful that I have come to their village.

That’s the story from Ek Balam. This weekend I may go with the program Director Eric who will be visiting another village in the project, this one a fishing village in Campeche about 3 hours from here. Thanks for sending me all your good thoughts – i need them. love george

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