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Can you believe it? They do not have a road map for this area. HAHA! But if you noticed on the Map there is a big green square with a lake in the middle near where I live.
The green square is The National Park Lachua, a protected area with a pristine lake in the middle. The organization that I work for again is Proyecto Lachua and its mission is to protect the natural forest of the park and to develop the 50 or so villages surrounding it in the areas of Social, Governance, Economic and Environmental with the ultimate goal of the people live happily with nature.
When I first saw this satellite view, I was amazed how definative the green line is, showing that our efforts are truely working to protect the natural subtropical rain forest.
But more about where I live, you will notice there are no major towns around, you can barely notice any population development. And for a sense of the adventure that I go through traveling to the nearest major town, Coban, you can follow a barely recognizable brown dirt road that twist and turn through the mountains.
So enjoy the adventure with me and virturally visit my village through the amazing technology of Google.
Happy new year to all the friends and family. 2005 came and blew by. It is incredible that it was September 2004 when I landed in Guatemala for the Peace Corps. And now it is already 2006! Wanted to thank you all who have been supportive by keeping up with my efforts through this website.
I am presently here in Taipei until Jan 13th enjoying time with my family and feeling home again in my Asian culture and not having to mumble with Spanish. Just came back from a 5 day New year trip with the family to beautiful Ankorwat, Cambodia. It was like a child's playground for photographers and lover of colorful cultures. Check out my latest photos.
Until then, I wish you all the best of luck and joy to you and your families.
Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) November 1, a big holiday here in Guatemala where people celebrate the dead. Well, that day the spirits of the dead were certainly out in force. My friend Leah from Michigan Bschool just arrived the night before to visit for a week including seeing the celebrations where people gather at the cemetary of Santiago outside of Antigua to fly kites over 30 feet wide with bright colors that are typical of Guatemalan culture.
Click here for photos of last year kite flying
Leah arrived the late the previous night and we checked into one of the most beautiful hotels in Guatemala, Casa Santa Domingo, where Bill Clinton stayed on his visit. The next morning we got up early in the morning to go see the kite festival riding a chicken bus for 20 min filled as usual like sardines. I softly mentioned to Leah to be careful with her bag as it is common to get pickpocketed, while not trying to scare her about the realities of Guatemala on her first day here in country. But luck would have it that the spirits of the dead were not with us on that day.
Click for more photos
Then a few days after eating the bunnies, Zoe caught a ferret-like animal that they call taquacin. I had to yell at Zoe really loud to get her to drop it out of her mouth. The neighbors were happy that we caught it because those animals apparently eat chickens and their eggs. But, the next day, it died as I think Zoe broke its spine when she caught it. I was sad as the animal was so small and innocent and died along with the animal was my dream of owning a ferret since my college roomate had one.
After all the bad luck I had with all these animals, I realized that maybe it was not meant to be!! But a deep innate desire can not be surpressed. I was visiting a friend of the peace corps in his town fair when we ran across someone selling a pair of racoon like things, size of kittens but with a long snout like an anteater. When I saw them, I knew I had to have them! Immediately it revived my dream from reading "Little Rascal" when I was a boy. As a young boy, I always tried to catch the raccoons nesting in our chimney to have them as pets until I found out they bite and have rabbies.!!! But the joy of reading the story of "The Little Rascal" never left my childhood memories.
To get back to the story about the little raccoon like animal I saw in the fair. They were so cute, running around the fair ground playing and hiding under the trailer already used to people. I bargained the price, knowing that I would get them at whatever price he said, finally settling on a price of about $15 for both.
So off I went home riding on the roof of the microbus holding onto the paper box with my new friends and holding on to the railing of the roof with my other hand occasionally letting go as the animals would crawl out of the box risking being swung off the roof of the van.
When I got home, people surrounded with curiousity. I would find out that they are called Pizotes in Spanish and Coati in English. I immediately introduced them to the 4 dogs that we have, and within a short time the dogs stopped chasing it and started to hang out naturally as if they were part of the family. The pizotes quickly adapted to the dogs and the new surrounding, not requiring a leash. However, just to be safe we tried building a huge cage for them, which proved to be useless as the pizotes are tree climbers and very agile. So basically from day one, we were able to let them roam free due to lack of alternatives to keep them caged or leashed- which was my intention in the first place as I never believed in caging animals, believing if you take care of the animals well, they would not run away out of their own choice. Nevertheless I got numerous criticism for buying a wild animal ( an offense in Guatemala) that one time I even got in an arguement how I was miss treating animals when I take care of my pets as if it was my own kid and when the Guatemalans throw rocks at dogs.
So overtime, the Pizotes became members of our village family. They would climb on our laps when we sat down for dinner. They would climb the hammock like it was their jungle gym. The dogs also adopted them well. Zoe would sleep with the Pizotes cuddles on its back and when Zoe got up, the Pizotes would naturally ride piggy back. The female dog, Negra was pregnant at the time and already given milk. Amazingly, Negra let the Pizotes nurse on her ilk just as if they were her pups. So for the last month the Pizotes were the joy of our family. The neighbors all knew them, as they would visit all the neighbors during the day and return at night. They were so playful that we named them after the three stooges, Joe and Moe. We even began to recognize their different personalities eventhough they are basically identical. Joe being the more timid and shy one, and Moe being the more confident and adventurous one.
When I came home from work or woke up in the morning, they would all come running to me to greet me. Just imagine 4 dogs all jumping over you and then the Pizotes climbing up your leg. At time the pizotes were like little mischievious kids, they would climb all over the structure of the house, and often climb all over the kitchen shelves and knocking over plates of tortillas or breaking bowls. But overtime the started setting their own schedule, sleeping on top of the wooden cabin under the roof, and during the day they would explore the surround forest and houses. They were so popular that they were acutally robbed twice, once by a neighbor, and another time by a passing bus which fortunately my sitemate Zack responded quickly enough to get on his bike and then transferring to a motorcycle to chase down the culprit.
I was excited to add Joe and Moe in our littel family in the village. I was also happy that again, I proved that people and animals can live in harmony. But then something was wrong. The other day, I got up and the Pizotes did not come to greet me along with the dogs. Then they did not show up for dinner.. Something was wrong, I had learned Joe and Moe's schedule. I knew they did not run away, as they would have earlier if they wanted to. So yesterday, my worst fears were confirmed. I came home to the news told by my landlord that he had gone looking for the Pizotes but heard that someone had taken a machete to them, mistaken them for Taquacin, the animal that eats chickens. I fell silent out of disbelief. How can somone take a machete to such innocent and small animals, especially when they have overcome their fear of people only to be proven to be its fatal mistake. I keep thinking how cute and innocent they are and how they did not deserve it. What could I have done? Should I have put collars on them so that people know they have an owner? Should I have been home ore to keep watch over them? Should I not have trusted the neighbors with free animals? Should I not have even bought them encouraging animal trafficking?
I definately feel bad and sad. But, I still feel that it is the right thing for people to live in harmony with animals. It is odd how we have domesticated dogs, cats and horses and so forth but when we do it with an exotic animal it is wrong. I am the believer that it is not how we acquire the animals that is the issue, it is how we take care of them! I just wish I could have protect Joe and Moe better.
Thank you Joe and Moe for trusting in People.!!