Mar 15, 2011

Welcome to town!

Photo: Steve Winter
National Geographic
 So I am a few hours away from the end of Week 1 working in our Quetzaltenango, I mean Xela, office. Wait, I mean Quetzaltenango. If you didn't know, Guatemala's second largest city has two names - the original Mayan name, Xela (shortened from Xelaju), and the more official name, Quetzaltenango. Don't worry, this brief history/etymology lesson has all been confirmed by Wikipedia. I haven't decided which name I'm going to stick with yet; you pretty much hear both of them used equally. Xela is easier, but with the other one you get to say "Quetzal" which makes you think of the majestic bird, and that makes you happy. I'm still looking all over the place for a quetzal. They wouldn't have named it Quetzaltenango without there being quetzals hanging out in every tree, right? Ooh, be right back, I heard a bird chirping outside! (this is foreshadowing for an inexplicable quetzal-obsessed theme that may or may not run throughout this entire blog)

Anyways, I'm really excited to have started working down here and I'm really appreciative of the opportunity. I'll be working out of this office for about four months, taking occasional field trips to sites where EcoLogic implements its projects. My main role at EcoLogic is to write about our work - what we do, what we're planning on doing, and what we've done. It's actually really exciting for me because I like what we do. I like knowing that we're addressing complex issues; issues that arise when you're concerned with both protecting unique ecosystems and improving people's lives. I like knowing we're tackling them head on. But usually, I'm writing at my desk in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Even though down here I'm still at a desk, in front of a computer, it feels different. There's something different about writing about our work from one of the countries where we actually do the work, being surrounded by my colleagues that make it happen on the ground. Being here makes our work come alive even more. More of that to come later, when I visit our project sites...

So overall, settling in here as been quite easy. Sara, my wife, and I have a great apartment, which is in walking distance to her language school and EcoLogic's office. And Skype and Logmein make working in another country a cinch. And wireless internet abounds. Pretty amazing. I'm really excited for what the next four months hold, and hope you enjoy following me along the journey. Even if the journey for now is me typing at a desk in an office. And occasionally running outside in search of quetzals. I'll have some photos coming your way soon, too!

Hasta luego!

- Chris Patterson, Program Officer for EcoLogic
Chris collaborates closely with the senior program officer by writing grant proposals and project reports, investigating potential funders, and following trends in philanthropy, conservation, and international development. Chris was a fellow for the Ford Foundation's Difficult Dialogues Project and has documented his time working from EcoLogic's regional office in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala from March to June, 2011. 

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