Showing posts from June, 2017

Tecpán: One year later

In the grand scheme of things, Patzún and Tecpán are a lot more similar than they are different. They're both relatively small cities (pop: ~20k) in the Guatemalan Highlands separated by only a 40 minute trip on the highway. But after three weeks in Patzún, Tecpán felt like a world apart.

On Monday, June 19th Paulina and I took the short trip in the afternoon to reconnect with our host families from last year. Unlike this year, where we spent the entire month of the Field School in Patzún, last year's Field School was split - 2 weeks in Tecpán learning Kaqchikel in the Wuqu' Kawoq offices, followed by 2 weeks in Patzún doing fieldwork. As some of the only returning members from last year's trip, we thought it'd be nice to pay a short visit to our host families in Tecpán.

The most noticeable differences between Patzún and Tecpán is the population, officially Tecpán is bigger by just 3,000 or so, but it feels much larger than that. Plus, proximity to the Iximche ruin…

Field Work Recipe: Lava-roasted Marshmallows and Chocolate Chip Cookie Smores

Prep Time: 4~ hours (2 hours driving from Patzún, 2 hours hiking, 5 minutes cook time)

1 accessible heat vent on an active volcano (I used Pacaya)Stick for roasting marshmallowsHiking shoes/bootsSpending money for the Lava StoreDrinking water (and lots of it!)
MarshmallowsChocolate chip cookies
Acquire your chocolate chip cookies and marshmallows a day in advance. If you can't make your own, store-bought is fine (Maxi-Despensa in Patzún carries Jet-Puft and Chips-ahoy).Rise at 4am and catch the 4:30 chartered bus from Patzún to Pacaya.Watch the sunrise over the milpas in Patzicia.Upon arrival at Pacaya, avoid the offers of "taxis" (horses)  at the base of the volcano. That's cheating. Take the kids up on the offer of a hiking stick though.Find your guide. He should be wearing a green vest and a Parque Nacional Pacaya badge.Set off up the volcano for 2.6km at 60°F in June, temperature may vary depending on season.Take pictures of Volca…

About our native speakers and elicitations

I wanted to write this blog post about some technical issues of linguistic field work but it turned out to be mostly about the speakers just because all my work would have been impossible without them.
On the second day of the field trip this year, I started doing elicitation with my host mother Señora Irma and yes, she is an amazing consultant! As a medical worker, she is very busy during the whole week but she still found time to work with me almost every evening. She was patient and concentrated and, thanks to her, we could work with the most difficult examples using the pictures (try to decide for yourself how many interpretations a sentence like At least three girls saw some cats has).
Pictures for elicitations on quantifiers
The first elicitation and the first attempt to write in Kaqchikel were hard and exhausting. The second elicitation was a surprise: Kaqchikel translations from Spanish provided by Señora Irma contradictedalmost all the existing dataaboutthe so called Agent Foc…

Wedding in Patzún, June 10, Saturday

Yet another fiesta in Patzún – a wedding. Many of our host families are related to either the bride’s or the groom’s side, and by extension – as their ‘kids’ now - we were invited as well. We know Guatemalans like to celebrate in style so were very excited to see what a big deal a wedding is. We were not wrong.
The wedding was planned for Saturday but preparations started way ahead of time – Thursday morning. The majority of tasks are done by the groom’s side and those of us who fell in that group were expected to help out just as any other member of the family. We polished leaves for chuchitos, wrapped tamalitos, stirred estofado (tested them all too) and hanged decorations together. The Patzuners welcomed us very warmly, shared all their how-to’s and occasionally laughed at our Kaqchikel attempts. It felt like a very important social bonding experience with a good deal of friendly gossiping, teasing and story-telling.
The day of the wedding was very hectic too. It started before the …

¡Matyöx chawe Gilda!

This blog post is about my host mother. I think it makes sense to talk about her and her wonderful family because there’s no doubt that the success of this field station goes hand in hand with the exceptional quality of the families that welcome us into their homes. 
My host mom is a superhero. Mother of three beautiful and (almost all the time) well-behaved children, she holds various different jobs, multitasks practically everything, and is devoted to many political and sociocultural issues related to indigenous women’s rights, Mayan identity, and culture in Guatemala and Patzún. Gilda (who agreed to have her name published in this blog post) is a very active person. Every week, she helps her mother at the family business, which makes the best chiles rellenos in town. She also spends a lot of time and energy working for a cooperative of indigenous women called Ajsu’m. This cooperative not only provides a community of women with work, but also aims to offer workshops and train…

Documenting Kaqchikel Ritual Language

Last Sunday, I traveled to Sumpango to launch a very exciting project, in collaboration with Yolanda Estrada and a group of Kaqchikel Ajq’ija’ (Spiritual Guides) led by Delfina Solloy and Valerio Toj. The group is called Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ and is comprised of several guides from Sumpango and Santa María de Jesús, who meet every three weeks for a ceremony. Yolanda, who is a professor of history at Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala (USAC), has been working with Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ for over a year, documenting their educational practices and life philosophy. This year, we were awarded a grant from the Firebird Foundation to help the guides record their ceremonies from June-August.

The primary purpose of the project is to ensure that this special type oral tradition is preserved forever; we will thus provide the guides with a thorough documentation of their ceremonies (audio and video), so they can use the recordings in the future for the training of new guides or for dissemination with their…

Visit to Iximche'


Earthquake update

Just a quick update to let everyone know that we're all alive and well down here in Patzún following this morning's earthquake!

Visits to the doctor

Recently, I came down with a stomach bug and had to go to the doctor. I'm alright now, but when I needed medical care, it was really easy to get, especially with the help of Pedro and my host-mom.

Pedro took me to my first doctor's appointment, and after a simple test, they prescribed me a mountain of medicine, which I was able to buy several minutes later in the same building, for way cheaper than in the U.S.

Fast forward two days, and I have been feeling better, but I seemed to be having a different problem, so I went to the doctor again. This time my host-mom took me. We had to go to a different doctor than my first visit because it was Saturday, and very few doctors were seeing patients, but luckily for me, the doctor we went to was close by and only had one patient ahead of me. My host mom took a picture of me waiting in the office:

I made sure to bring my Spanish-English dictionary because Pedro wasn't there to help me and my Spanish concerning medical terms is basi…

Lajuj Kaqchikel Gavagais

Try to guess what these words mean... This is what we have been doing for the last two weeks!

(janila matyöx!)

Kaqchikel Sounds

¡Xqa q’ij, k’a!
¡Buenas tardes!

We recently just finished our first week of Kaqchikel classes. Woo! It has been a whirlwind of information from amazing teachers and peers in a very beautiful country! As other posts point out, we have been spending this time either listening or attempting to speak Kaqchikel and rarely speak any other languages, although sometimes revert to Spanish when we need translations of sentences or something of that sort.

This past week, consequently, has been spent making all sorts of fun and new sounds. As non-native speakers of Kaqchikel this has been quite the challenge for us. More specifically I am referring to the lovely ejectives that exist in Kaqchikel. Ejectives, according to the very indubitable Wikipedia, occur in approximately 20% of the world’s languages, and most of these languages are minority languages that are not very frequently heard outside of their own speech community. Ejectives are stops made without using air, i.e., holding your breath. I…

Host Family Goings

Life with my host family has been great! They include me in daily tasks and special events. My host-grandma taught me how to tortillar, but I still need some practice!

I was also lucky enough to be invited to my host-grandpa's birthday, where they had me cut the cake.
My host-mom also did my hair one day, and lent me the traditional traje of Patzún another. 
I feel like I have a home away from home with my host-family!

June Visit to Wuqu' Kawoq projects

This morning we convened at 6:30 a.m. and drove to Tecpán, where we listened to a brief presentation on some of the work that Wuqu’ Kawoq does in the region. From there we boarded a bus that took us up into the mountains to view Wuqu’ Kawoq in action.
The bus snaked up narrow, unpaved roads that had us leaning away from the cliffs in an effort to keep the bus on the road.There was a collective gasp when we rounded a curve and caught our first glimpse of blue mountains rolling out into the distance. The clouds above them were active and playful, changing shape by the second, revealing and hiding every new formation of earth. My ears popped as we ascended. The scenery was simultaneously dazzling and puzzling, with greens and blues softening the tops of the ridges, a seemingly impossible sight at such high altitude. Most mountains I’ve been on have had a tree line somewhere before 6000 feet, and here we were at 7000 feet surrounded by greenery. I sat in the window seat I had strategicall…