This blog reflects my opinions and does not reflect the opinions of the US Government or the Peace Corps

Friday, December 17, 2010

" But you don't look alike?!?"

My family is here! My sister, Lisa, and her fiancé Rem arrived Sunday night. I took the long bus in to pick them up. We stayed one night in Antigua and then took another long bus back to my site. We arrived in site and of course the children were scared. One grandma even covered the children’s faces when we walked by. I felt like I was back here on my first day. No one can believe that Lisa and I are sisters. We don’t really look alive and never have and for Guatemalans that is a hard concept to grasp. Everyone comments on how they don’t think she is my sister because we are so different. Also, a bunch of community members try to talk to Rem first (because he is the man) but he does not speak much Spanish at all. Family is such an important part of life in Guatemala that I think my village really likes seeing my own family. They wanted to throw us a huge welcome party but I told them that was not necessary. They would not let it go and finally we agreed to have lunch with the community leaders later this afternoon.

I also bought Lisa and Rem to one of my community Charlas on nutrition. Of course the community wanted them to stand up and speak and give some “palabras.” Rem told them all thank you for the welcome and they are happy to be here. All the 100+ women applauded! We only are staying here for a few days and I think my community wishes we would be here the whole time. However, I am ready for a long vacation to some warmer places in Guatemala. I will try to update this a few times while I am gone but no guarantees. So…Merry Christmas to All and Happy New Year! I miss you all and wish I could be in the states to see everyone. Take care 

Lisa and me in Antigua

Rem and Lisa in Antigua at some ruins

This is how I travel on buses with my stuff and Lubu

They brought me a pumpkin ale!

My community Charla with my translator

Rem helping me on the nutrition activity with the women.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

House Update

As everyone knows I have been looking for a new house. I have too much of a problem with drunk men coming by the house at night and bothering me. I went to look at that one house last week but the lack of privacy and the animal abusive children made it less than ideal. I also talked to another family who said they have an extra room but it is really small. The father is also terminally ill and I would not want to be a bother to that family. Guatemalans will offer you the shirt off their back but it does not necessarily mean they want to give it to you. The offer is made to be polite. Learning when “Yes” means “No” and “Yes” means “Yes” is a continual struggle.

However, yesterday there was a turn of events. The Health Commission came to my house to talk to me about this problem. I have been a little disillusioned with the Health Commission because of their lack of support for my job. The men all came and pulled up in a little pick-up on my front yard. We talked about my problem and how I make literally making myself sick with worry at night because of these men. They asked me if I wanted to move and I said I really did not because I feel very comfortable here with my neighbors. Lubu loves this place and I have my privacy when I want it but I also can go visit the families nearby as well. This place is ideal (minus the lack of latrine). The men offered to build me a tall fence that would make it impossible for men to get to my door at night. I had thought about building a fence before but I did not want the community to think that I was alienating myself since no one really has fences here. The men talked in Q’anjob’al for a while and decided they will ask the community to donate supplies and then they will do the manual labor. I was elated! I can stay in this house! I think the community will make the fence for me while I am on vacation. SCORE!

Countdown until Lisa and Rem come…3 days!!!!! My community wanted to throw a big party but I insisted that wasn’t necessary so instead I think they are going to make a big lunch with just the community leaders. I am sure this will be something to write about.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Figuring Things Out

My PC Project Director (aka my boss) visited my site this last Wednesday. He roared up in his Peace Corps SUV with tinted windows. Also, my official Guatemalan counterpart came (who I hardly ever see let alone work with). We sat down in my house and had a very serious talk about my work, my living situation and all the little things that are going wrong. I had a hard time expressing all my concerns because I did not want to be that complaining volunteer. However, certain things must change for me to remain here.

First, my living situation. I have not written about this on my blog because I know it will make people worry back home. DON’T WORRY! (I DO have my black belt ya know…) My current house is on the main road through town and everyone in my town and every town on the road know that I live here and I also do not have any close neighbors, just cornfields. For the first two months everything was peachy. I had my privacy and I also had plenty of people to go visit when I wanted to. It was exactly what I had wanted in a living situation (minus the fact that I have no latrine). Once the rainy season ended a new problem started. Drunk men, called “bolos” here, started coming to my door in the night. The first time I about had a heart attack as he knocked on my windows and then on my door, around 9pm. I hid under my covers. He was slurring his words outside my door and I knew he was drunk but it still frightened me. I told my neighbors and they told me the next time I needed to call them and they would come to help. The next time came all too soon. This time someone came to my door at 3am. I freaked. I hid under the covers again, as Lubu barked her head off, and called my neighbors. The man continued to knock and in English say, “I am your friend, just let me in.” He finally went away right as my neighbors came. This is a scene I will never forget: all my little indigenous women neighbors in their corte carrying HUGE sticks and machetes coming to my aid. Also the men came but I expected that. One of the women saw the man in the road and ran over to ask him why he was bothering the Gringa. The man responded that “we are friends.” BULLS***!!! I do not know him. He wasn’t even from my town. And 3am to visit your friends…I think not. Aside from these two incidents two other drunk men came knocking and every time my hearts races and I get scared. What if this time he can get in? I knew I had to move. In my head I tried to tell myself it will be okay and I can stay in the house but the more and more I thought about it I must move. I cannot live in fear for 2 years. I will have to give up my privacy and space to go live with a family but at least I will be safe. Today, I went and looked at a room that is in a house of a lady I work with. It is VERY small but I really do not have many options. The worst part is that there is no direct ceiling so it’s a huge house with walls but no room has its own ceiling so let’s all hope it stays mostly quiet with the rest of the family( doubtful…who wants to send me more ear plugs?) I will probably move in after my Christmas vacation.

The second thing we discussed was my work. I am not satisfied with the amount of work I am doing. I want to have something to do most days of the week whether it is a community heath talk or working in the schools. We decided the huge community health talks I am giving now once a month will not work if the town wants to receive projects. I am going to split the town up into three smaller groups and do a health talk every other week with these groups. That means instead of having one health talk a month I will have 6. MUCH better. Once the school open again I will be able to fill my time there as well.

I feel like I am starting over. I will be working in a new way and with different people. I will be living somewhere new. Hopefully, I will be much happier and healthier. I do not know if these situations will improve everything in my site but I can only hope. I am not ready to give up on this community so I have to figure out a way to make it work.

Finally, the countdown until my sister and her fiancé arrive is on…7 days!!!! YEAH!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Medical Stuff and STUFFING!!!!

I realize how popular I am (“I’m so popular, I’m so cool!”) on this blog when I don’t update it for a week and I start getting little nudges here and there from people back home. I feel the love and I love it! So here it is. A long time coming and hopefully worth your 10 minutes you are about to spend reading.

This last week was a roller coaster of emotions but not the small little, green dragon roller coasters you find at the county fair but the legit Hurricane-Screamin’ Eagle-Thunder Mountain-Ring of Fire kind of roller coaster. After Reconnect I was told I needed to return to the Peace Corps Office and to Guatemala City for some medical issues. Basically to make a long story short, after 2 days of tests and meetings with doctors I am stressed! DUH! With stress comes lots of side effects I will not go into but let’s all hope things change a bit for the sake of my heart.

After these doctor visit days I headed to Lake Atitlan to celebrate Thanksgiving with a few PCV friends. I met up with Kelsey and we took nearly every mode of transportation (bus, pick-up, boat) to get to Santa Cruz La Laguna and a little place called La Iguana Perdida. The hostel is owned by a British woman and her American husband. Mostly all the people who work there were guests a few weeks ago and just stayed on a few more weeks or months. The lure of the lake is so strong I completely understand how someone wouldn’t want to leave. We sat and watched the sunset over the Lake looking at the two Volcanoes. It was peaceful, serene and just what I needed after the last few days.

Thanksgiving Day was a lazy hang out day. Shannon and Melissa made it down to the Lake and then we went for a swim. Actually I was the only one to take the full plunge into the algae ridden lake which may have been a bad decision (story to come…). The traditional American Turkey dinner was served in the afternoon. I must say it was delicious and just what I needed but not the same as my Mom’s cooking. We met some other PCVs who happened to be at the same hostel and we all ate together and it was fun to celebrate with new and “old” PCV friends. There was even a TV lounge with satellite TV from LA so we got to watch some football too.

Friday I woke up and felt really sore and just assumed it was from being a glutton the day before. We took a “chicken boat” across the Lake to the super touristy town of Panajachel. There were a bunch of cool artisan gifts and jewelry and such. We walked around a bit but I started feeling not so hot. We sat and the other ate while I slowly got worse and worse. After lunch we immediately went back to our town on the Lake and I crashed in bed. I am not too sure what exactly I had but it was not a pleasant time. I had the chills and sweats and body aches and the big D! UGH! Luckily I have amazing friends who kept checking up on me and getting me water and rubbing my back. Love you guys!! The WORST part, ok maybe one of the worst parts, was that I had the chance to watch a Boise State football game on TV in the lounge but I literally could not pull myself out of bed. I think watching my boys lose would have just made me feel worse.

The rest of the weekend I just hung low and slept a whole lot. At least I was sick in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I felt better on Sunday and we headed out. It was a good/bad Thanksgiving but one to remember. I had hoped to climb Volcano San Pedro while we were there but that will have to wait. I will also be rethinking my swimming in algae filled lakes from now on.

Final note, my little Lubu got fixed while I was on vacation. She has a purple tummy from the antiseptic solution and some stitches. People in my site did not know that was even an option for dogs. As cute and tranquila as Lubu is, she will be the last of her street dog gene pool.

I could not decide on pics to post so I put up a LOT this time. Enjoy!

Me and Kelsey

Me and Shannon before I jumped in the Lake

The Lake swim was wonderful...but possibly what caused my sickness :(

Shannon and Kelsey at Thanksgiving dinner

Melissa, me and Abby enjoying TOO much food!

An ironic shot, I thought. So much trash in this breathtakingly beautiful country

Me, Shannon, Kelsey and Melissa walking off our dinner

This cannot be comfortable...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reconnect and Re-thinking

This past week was “Reconnect” at the Peace Corps Office. Reconnect is 2 days of technical training, review of the first months in site and lunch with the US Ambassador. When Cathaleen stood up to ask a question he had obviously read her blog and asked about Puchica so, if you are reading this Ambassador, you rock! I loved the Q&A and also took away a lot of valuable information on US Foreign policy and its current work in Guatemala. I also greatly appreciate that the head honcho for the US in Guatemala took the time to come eat some Dominos Pizza with a bunch of idealistic volunteers doing their best just to get by most days. That was most definitely the highlight of Reconnect for me. The rest of the week I had Spanish “class” but I was in a group with two other volunteers who just happened to be two of my favorite people and we got one of the best teachers. The days went by fast and I think the review of some Spanish was necessary since most people here do not even speak the language and if they do, it’s often worse than my Spanish. I also stayed with my old San Luis host family for a few days. I realized how much I have missed them. Also, Camila the baby is getting huge and she is starting to talk. It’s nice to have such a forward thinking Guatemalan “family” to visit.

The few days before I left I was having mixed feeling about returning and seeing my old friends from training and being back at my training site. I was excited but also apprehensive. I have felt so isolated these 4 months since my site is SO far away from most others and I have had internal and external struggles and, like any new PCV, questioned whether I could really accomplish this service. (Side note: still no latrine…BIG external struggle.) I wish I could say I feel much better about my site and my work and my isolation but I cannot. We had time to share with small groups our experiences in our site and my group decided to talk about only good things. We went one by one and I was last. At my turn I honestly could not think of one “success.” This is not to be negative but I feel like I have not accomplished anything in these 4 months. Yes I have “done” stuff but have I “accomplished anything? Define accomplishment. I am still beyond frustrated Peace Corps would give me 3 months of training on how to work with a Health Center/Post and then put me in a site without one. I often feel very lost in regards to work. Hearing all the awesome things my fellow Healthy Homes volunteers are doing with their Health Post educators and Tecnicos makes me a little more pissed! Why do I have to be here without anyone wanting to work with me?! I am slowly learning it is acceptable to stalk people here- call multiple times a day in order to get a straight answer. This is my site and I have to accept it but when will I like it?

Also, it was very strange to be back with everyone from our whole training class. I know I have and will continue to change as a person but those changes became apparent to me in being surrounded my new old faces. These are people I know and love but everyone was a little different. It is like trying to get to know an old friend after a long absence. The love is still there but you have no idea who that person is right at that moment. Strange feelings. On the long bus ride home I popped in my favorite music and had some serious thinking time. I joined Peace Corps to do good in the world and “be the change.” I left my friends and family and came to Guatemala also hoping to “find myself” a bit, or at least find my place in the world. Now that I am here I only feel as if I am losing my old self piece by piece. Maybe that is just the feeling of change. Only time will tell. I am off to listen to some Johnny Cash and knit. Is this the “new me”??

Peace and Love to All

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.” –HH Dalai Lama

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Todos Santos Feria

On Sunday, Halloween, (aka the greatest holiday EVER) I traveled to the municipio of Todos Santos Cuchumatan to partake in the town’s feria (3 day fair/celebration). The town’s name means “All Saints” so the feria takes place on the days surrounding the holiday of All Saints Day. After a long two bus rides I arrived in the town. It is a fair sized municipio and by 5pm when I got off the bus the town was in full party mode. There was constant marimba music and bolos (drunken men) everywhere. One thing that stands out about Todos Santos is that unlike most municipio in Guatemala, all the men still wear their traditional dress, called “traje.” Picture this: every man in red and white striped pants with a white and pink and purple shirt dancing drunk in the street. And when I say dancing it is more of an intoxicated swaying/stumbling often colliding with the other bolos. By nightfall there are numerous (we counted 7 in about 2 blocks) men passed out on the street. Although it is mildly entertaining to watch, it also displays the sad truth about alcoholism and binge drinking in Guatemala.

Back to the fun…Halloween night was too much fun! The PCVs who live and work in Todos Santos rented a huge 4-story house for all the visiting PCVs to stay in. There were about 20-30 PCVs and then a bunch of backpackers from Australia and England and other places who all came dressed up and ready to party- American style. I went as The Pink Panther. Not everyone understood I was not a mouse and not a cat so I walked around singing the theme song a bit as a hint. Nearly everyone had a costume which was fun to see all the creativity since getting costumes together in Guatemala can be a bit challenging. There was a farmer, a piñata, Hermione Granger, a “heart attack” and many other very creative costumes! I loved it!

The next morning we all grudgingly rolled out of our cold sleeping bags (and some w/o bags! Brrrrr) to go see the horse races. Todos Santos is famous for their horse races on November 1st. There is a track that the participants run down then they all take a drink of beer and then race back. The winner is the last man still riding his horse at the end of the day. It lasts from about 8am until 4pm with a 2 hour break. This was the first year they allowed women to ride in the race and no Guatemalans did but two PCVs hopped on and showed everyone what they were made of! It was awesome to see! Luckily the PCVs did not partake in the drinking aspect of the race. By the end of the day men were barely staying on their horses and the majority had completely passed out. Gotta love Guatemala entertainment and festivals! That is how to celebrate the Saints…or is it?!?!

The rest of the time we walked around and enjoyed all the feria street food and street vendors. We also rode the Ferris wheel. Most of the Guatemalans on the wheel were teenagers looking for some privacy to make-out but I quickly ruined that as I decided to scream at the top of my lungs as long as I could. I got a few glares form the young pair ahead of us. Overall, it was just a great weekend where I got to see my buddies from training and meet a bunch of other PCVs. I am now in site for a few days where I have to finish (and by finish I mean start…hello procrastination) my Community Assessment Tool which is a huge report about my town which I will present next week when I travel back to the Peace Corps Office in Santa Lucia for a week of “Reconnect” with my training group.

Liz, Claire, me and Brittany at the "Peace Corps Party House"

Sabiha as Chocolate, Me as The Pink Panther and Claire as Catwoman

Horse races with the drunk men hanging on as best they can

An awesome PCV showing them how its done!

This one is for you Rem! This VERY drunk man was dancing in a CANADA shirt in front of the tourism office! hahaha

Wild Ferris wheel ride!

Masked dancing in the Plaza for the feria

Claire and Susie

Saturday, October 30, 2010


This week I spent a few days in the cabecera (state capital) of Huehuetenango. Becca and I traveled down to attend a few days of training with the NGO Casa Materna. We looked at the schedule for the second day and saw “Cunicultura” as a two hour session. Neither of us had any idea what that meant but both of us saw a relation to a similar word in English that is not so appropriate. Becca later looked it up online and to our relief “cunicultura” means the cultivation of rabbits. Whew. We attended two days of sessions on a bunch of different topics such as how to grow and use composting worms, reforestation and school gardens. The sessions were intended to train the Guatemalan technicians who are working directly with Casa Materna. Each municipio, Santa Eulalia for us, has two technicians assigned to work in the aldeas of the muni. One technician will be working to improve nutrition through education and projects in about 30 different aldeas over a three year period. I am hoping to work with the technician to assist her in her training of the community. It is a very valuable and much needed project. The malnutrition throughout all of Guatemala is horrible (most malnourished country in the Western Hemisphere as of 2009) so I am hoping this project will at least aide the families of my community.

During the week we stayed with my friend Claire who lives about 20 minutes outside of Huehue in a small aldea. She is always such a great hosts and lets us crash at her place when we have work in Huehue or passing through. I always have a great time hanging out with her and we got to watch some Disney movies and Becca and she let me sing along! We also took a hike up the hill by her house which provided us with a beautiful view of her aldea, a volcano and part of Huehue. The day was warm and the sun beaming down on my white, flea-bitten legs felt so soothing. It was a great way to end a semi-stressful week of travel and training sessions. Tomorrow I am off to Todos Santos, another municipio in Huehuetenango about 2 hours away, to enjoy a Peace Corps Halloween Party and the famous Day of the Dead celebration! Pics and stories to come I’m sure 

On the bus to Huehue with Becca

Claire with Puchica (Cathaleen's pup) and Lubu and me. Our girl dogs need to learn to close their legs!

My baby girl

View from the top

How can you not love that face!

Lubu investigating the piglets in front of my house

Lubu is not too sure about these things

Lubu and the Mama pig

Sunday, October 24, 2010

From the Fields

Friday was the day I had my community meeting in the next town over. I had made plans to have two women meet me at my house and walk over with me since I did not know this new community. They were supposed to come at 11am which is Guatemalan time means 12pm. I waited until noon then I called because no one was here yet. They said they were on their way. I waited another 45 minutes and they finally showed up. We were so late by this point we had to catch a ride to the town. We got out of the car and walked up this hue hill to the school. As I was approaching I saw all men! Normally, only women come to my talks and men work in the fields. However, since the community had to vote on whether or not they would let me work in their town all the men had to be there since they are the only ones who vote (equality=nonexistent in Guatemala). I ended up talking about myself, Peace Corps and the Healthy Homes Program for half an hour or so and then they pummeled me with questions. Most of the questions had to deal with money and when they would get projects. I had to explain this year I am only doing health education and nothing else. In the end they voted to have me work there. We will see how it all goes. It is always difficult stepping into a new community. It has taken me 3 months in my own community to finally have the townspeople understand why I am here. As long as people come to me health talks and show interest I will work in this new town.

The fact that so many men were there was very surprising to me. Most things to do with health involve only the women. It is the time of year where every man and most children are out in the milpa harvesting their corn. The men had all clearly come directly from their fields because there was not one man at this meeting who was not carrying his hoe, shovel or pick. I must admit I was very intimidated by all the men. They all just stare with leering eyes at this American girl standing up front. As most know I am very VERY jaded with men right now because of all my negative experiences with Guatemalan men. Standing up in front of the men of this town and acting confident was not so easy. I often feel like I am forever fighting the stereotype of the uneducated woman. I usually emphasize to people that I have my university degree and in general I am not full of shit (sometimes I am though…). The men just intimidate me. Period. It’s also frustrating that the women do not have a voice in this community. I want to work with primarily women as they have the most direct effect on the health of their families. I am not sure how this new town will work out but I have to hope for the best because there is nothing else I can do.

Latrine Update: the materials have arrived! I have everything I need to start building the latrine but now I need to find some people to help me figure out ho to lay cement and such. I am being realistic with the whole project and really just hope to have it done by Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I want to write a bit about my new found love in Guatemala named PACA. Unfortunately this is not the man of my dreams but rather stores which sell used American clothing. Most know I am a big fan of Savers/Goodwill because one man’s trash is MY treasure. I am not sure where exactly all of this used American clothing comes from but I am glad it makes it way here. The PACAs are all over this country and even in some of the smaller municipalities. Some are a bit classier and actually use hangers but most just have huge piles of clothing. I always have the urge to run and jump in the piles and throw all the smelly, used clothes around like a child in a pile of fall leaves.

This past weekend Cathaleen and I went to the medium sized town near us and we did a little PACA shopping. I was on a hunt for parts of my Halloween costume so I visited a few stores. This one store was a goldmine! All the clothes were Q10 (about $1.20) which is actually a little steep for PACA clothes. I usually find stuff for Q2-5 ($0.20-60) but the sheer amount of awesome clothes made it worth it. I found too much stuff and had to hold back but I got a few new warm sweaters and all I need to complete my Halloween costume.

The best part of the PACA store was the store owner. Cathaleen was looking through all the baby clothes saying how cute this and that would be for her “baby.” Of course I knew she was talking about her dog (who was tied up outside) but the store owner did not. The lady finally asked some question about her “baby” and Cathaleen and I had to laugh. We told the lady that the little puppy outside was Cathaleen’s “baby.” The lady LOVED it! She handed Cathaleen a pink, fleece onesie and put Puchica the puppy in the outfit. Puchica could not walk without a tail hole and just had this “please help me my owner is nuts” look on her face. But I must say the outfit was adorable and with a little clip of the scissors to add a tail hole Puchica will have some great PJs. The store owner was dying of laughter, as was I, and ended up just giving the outfit to Cathaleen. The whole ordeal was hilarious. People here do NOT understand our relationships with our dogs and this was just another crazy experience.

The only bad…the lady called me gordita (little fatty)! Grrr! Even though she did not mean anything by it, it still bothers me to constantly be called gordita!!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Things are Turning Around!

Isn’t it funny how everything can change in a 24 hour period?!! I have been gravely frustrated with my site the last few months. I knew the first three months in site (which I will complete Saturday!) are the most difficult for most volunteers but I felt as though I had a few things thrown at me that no one could have prepared me for in training. First, I have no health post to work with. This means I am more or less on my own to get people together and work with me. I have the town Health Commission but they are not paid and it is not their primary responsibility. Second, I have no working latrine at my house. I have no problem with latrines (out houses as I used to call them) and I am starting to prefer a clean latrine to a nasty toilet. I have been waiting and waiting for the materials to build a dry, composting latrine for my house since I live in a flood zone a regular latrine does not work here. These are two things I did NOT ask for when requesting site preferences. I had no idea that Healthy Homes sites existed where there was no Health Post and that I would be told to live in a house without a latrine. In addition to trying to “integrate” into a community who does not speak Spanish and the stress of moving to a new place and starting a new job, I had these other 2 concerns weighing me down.

However, there is light on the horizon! In the last day many things have changed. On Wednesday I was notified by my Project Specialist that the materials to build my latrine will arrive this Saturday! I still have to build it which will be an experience I am sure but this is a huge step in the right direction.

Second, I gave my first official community charla on Wednesday. There was a nasty rain storm but about 60-70 town members made the sacrifice and came to listen to me speak about my job. I gave background information on The Peace Corps and some of its work in Guatemala. I described what the Healthy Homes project consists of and what my role will be in the community the next two years (really, only 21 months!!!). To finish, I read the story of Mariquita Cohcinita which is about a dirty girl who gets sick but then learns how to live a more sanitary life without disease. I think the townspeople, and about 95% women, enjoyed the story. I had to use a translator for the entire charla and sometimes I knew she was not saying exactly what I said but that is fine. She knows the community better than me and how to motivate them to be interested in my work. The COCODE also decided that I should give the same introductory charla next Saturday and see if more people will come that didn’t show up to the first one. I was satisfied with the attendance at this one so either way it looks like there are some families who do indeed want to work with me and have an interest in preventative health.

Finally, to round out my amazing 24 hours, I was given the opportunity to work in a different community. I was sitting in my house this afternoon dilly dallying and someone knocks on my door. I open it to a group of about 7 men and two women and my neighbor, Marta Lidia, who is also on the Health Commission of my town Pett. She tells me the others are here to chat with me and then leaves. I am not sure exactly what is going on at this point and am hoping they are not here to run me out of town. Not at all I find out. They introduce themselves as the community leaders of the smaller community over the hill named Yoch. They have heard I am here and working in the town (and I am sure they hear the word “projects” thinking free stuff) and they wanted to ask me to come visit their town and possibly work in their community. This was music to my ears! Were people coming to me asking me to work? I have spent so much time trying and failing at finding work here that this was seriously the happiest work related moment I have had since being in site. The desire of this community to have me will open up so many more opportunities for me. I grabbed my day planner and told them my free days and now I will be going to present myself and my work to their entire community next Friday! Just the fact that these nine people walked the hour to my house, not even knowing if I would be home, to try and get me to work gave me so much hope.

To sum it up, I couldn’t ask for a better 24 hours. I really needed a day like this to keep me sane. I had been losing steam quickly as I struggled to find work. I had questioned what I was even doing here in the first place. I am here because I want to be a tiny drop in the ocean of change. I left everything I had in the States to come to Guatemala and live in and learn about a different culture. I have learned things here are not easy. It is a struggle to just survive each day. I must try not to lose hope when things go bad. I have had this goal of completing Peace Corps service since high school. Every day is a new day and I must keep hope that I will have more and more of these extraordinary days.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Birthday Bash

Today I attended the 1st birthday party of my neighbor’s daughter, Anayeli. My neighbor, Maria, is one of the 12 children of my “host family” (host neighbors really). First, I must say she is one of the few people in town I can call a “friend.” Here it is next to impossible to form meaningful relationships with friends in town as I would in the States. Women my age usually have at least two children, stay home and work in the house and do not aspire to more in life. This is a generalization because I have also met some amazing female movers and shakers that break this stereotype. However, in my small Mayan village, most women fall into the stereotype. Maria is 22 years old, has her two children and a husband who is working in the States. I was drawn to her initially because she loves my dog Lubu which is a rarity here. Most Guatemalans treat their pets horribly. Maria loves Lubu and has even learned a few commands in English to use with Lubu. She also stops by every single day just to see how I am. I feel that she understands why I am here and genuinely believes it is a worthy cause.

Her second daughter, Anayeli, turned 1 today. About 20-25 people came to her house and there was a feast. For birthdays here the entire family gathers and eats (my kind of party, eh?!). We had two types of soups and all the tamalitos I could consume. Also, there was an adorable pink cake. The whole party tried to get me to sing Happy Birthday in English but I had way too much verguenza so I opted out. I said I would teach all the little kids so next time we can all sing it. I also had my camera at this festivity and they had me take soooooo many pictures. I found it amusing because I had to take a picture with every single adult holding the little birthday girl. You can imagine a one year-old would not be too happy by the end of this photo session. I diligently shot all the pictures they wanted and we enjoyed the cake. After, we all went outside and they wanted me to take more pictures. They also wanted me to be in the pictures with them. I knew that I am “tall” here but until I saw those pictures I never realized how much of a difference there is. It is a nice change from being the short one to being the tall one. They cannot understand that in the States I am NOT tall at all. They just laugh when I say this. The whole afternoon was quite lovely and I had a very good time spending this special day with this family.

On the work front, I actually have something to do this week (whoa crazy, I know). Tomorrow Becca, Cathaleen and I are giving an HIV/AIDS workshop to the Health Post employees. Wednesday is my first community charla. This charla has been rescheduled and pushed back for months now. I am ready to get the show on the road and start real work. I also talked with Magdalena, another of the 12 children, about being my translator. She is 23 (with 2 kids) and studying to be the equivalent of a certified nursing assistant here. She also has to give charlas/health talks and does not know how. I told her I will help her and go with her if she helps me by translating. I think this is a very mutually beneficial agreement. She is the one person who I know understands completely why I am here. We discuss my job and health care a lot so I know she is a knowledgeable woman. She is the older sister of Maria and also another “friend” I have here. It feels good to finally feel like I am making progress with integration and work. I have really been down in the dumps lately and feeling like I am wasting time here but then I have days like today that re-energize me and help me continue on!

My Guatemalan version of rice crispy treat that I brought to the party

Family eating

One of the four Grandmas cooking


Anayeli and her mom, Maria

Abuela (which just means grandma in Spanish but everyone calls her Abuela instead of her name) who lives next door with Anayeli

One of the grandpas...this is about picture number 40 for this poor little girl. She is NOT having fun anymore

Michi trying to sneak some frosting while all the adults are distracted

Eating cake

Leti (who is studying to be a teacher in Chimaltenango about 9 hours away and just arrived back home for "summer break), Magdalena and me

Estefani looking adorable as usual

Magdalena and her two kids, Estefani and Tico

Lucia, me and Anna (I am soooo tall haha)

Lucia, Maria, Leti

Leti, Magdalena and Estafani