WARNING: LONG POST!!!! (Sorry)!! I know it has been too long since my last blog post but I have been out doing Field-Based Training (FBT) in the department of San Marcos for the last week. We left Sunday morning and drove 3 hours to Quetzaltenango (known here as “Xela”-pronounced shay-la). We ate in Xela and mixed up our community groups into our FBT groups and were off to our respective sites. My group took off for another 2 hours to San Lorenzo, San Marcos. The drive was one of the most beautiful I have ever taken. We just kept going up and up into the highlands. The mountains are all green with a million different types of trees and cornfields all over. We arrived in San Lorenzo and got our hotel which we pretty much had to ourselves. Abby is the volunteer who is currently finishing her first year in San Lorenzo. Abby was super excited about her site and the Healthy Homes project so it was encouraging for all of us trainees to meet someone like her.
View of San Marcos from the van
Monday was the Water and Trash Charla for a group of health promoters given by Lindsay and me. Lindsay did a skit and taught them how to make “porta-pilas” (portable hand washing units out of old pop bottles). I gave the part about trash. The promoters went out in the town and had to pick up trash and then we sorted it by the best method of disposal. This charla was the most difficult for me because there was a man there who wanted to take over my job as presenter. I could hardly get a word in and he took over the teaching and the discussion. It was extremely frustrating for me. It was my first experience with a truly “machista” man but I’m sure it will not be my last. I was just glad to have that charla over with. In the afternoon on Monday we went to an NGO in the town and Susie, Shannon and Megan gave a micronutrient charla. Also Abby and Lauren (another PCV) did a tire garden demonstration to the women’s group.
The PortaPila Charla
Shannon giving a Micronutrient Charla to a indigenious women´s group.
Tuesday morning started with a Disaster Prevention charla given by Dirk and Elizabeth to 5 different classes of elementary students. All of us had a part in the earthquake skit. The kids loved it and it was fun to do since they all had a lot of energy and were clearly amused by the big group of tall white people. In the afternoon we went up to an aldea about 10 minutes away and Abby gave a cooking class to a smaller women’s group. She made the pancakes with half flour and half “incaparina” which is basically vitamin enriched flour since there is a huge nutrition problem in Guatemala.
Me, Shannon, Megan, Dirk, Lindsay, Elizabeth and Susie on the rooftop of our hotel.
Wednesday morning we packed up our stuff and headed about 30 minutes away to a different town named Comitancillo where the other PCV, Lauren, lives who was also great to work with. She has lots of Guatemalan friends and one morning Lindsay, Shannon and I joined her and some of her friends for basketball, which we were huffing and puffing at because of the 9,00ft altitude. The town was much bigger than San Lorenzo and was situated more or less on a mountain top but surrounded by more mountains and had a beautiful cemetery overlooking it all. We did a Risk Map of the town looking at health problems associated with meat shops, fruit stands and restaurants. It was a good activity to do to look at all the problems in the town and break it town and make an action plan. In the afternoon we went to another women’s group of indigenous women and Shannon and Megan gave a micronutrient charla. Most of the women understand Spanish but speak Mam as their first language. After that charla we all drove to a radio station and did a radio spot on diarrhea. This was the highlight of my week! First, Susie read a whole intro in Mam, which is a completely different language and I have no idea how she did it but she sounded great, I think. Then Lindsay, Megan and I did a skit about three little pigs and one is really unhealthy and one is kind of unhealthy and one is perfectly healthy. We all had to make farting noises on the radio and Lindsay lost it and got the giggles. I almost couldn’t pull myself together either. We both could not stop laughing-yes, we are so mature. We somehow finished the skit and then we all sang a song on the radio about washing your hands. It was fun to have everyone involved and we think it was pretty funny too.
Susie and I in Comitancillo with the cemetery in the background.
Thursday morning we drove out to an aldea way up in the mountains where Megan and Elizabeth gave an Acute Respiratory Charla to a group of about 60 indigenous women whose first language is Mam. After they finished our Spanish teacher, Miguel, who speaks Mam went up and went over some things again in Mam. It was cool to hear him speak the language. I didn’t understand a thing. Learning an indigenous language will be tough I know! After the presentation we drove to Dona Hilda’s medicinal garden where some of the group went in the Chuj, a Mayan sauna. In the afternoon Lindsay and Dirk gave a charla to a group of food handlers. We all did another skit and I was the clean vendor, Dona Limpia. The audience liked it and I think they got a lot out of the discussion too. To end the day we had dinner with a Mayan priest who talked about the mixing of the ancient Mayan beliefs with the Catholic religion. He talked about each individual’s protector animal and how the indigenous Mayan people practice all the same things but a lot of it is secret now.
Elizabeth as a dog and Megan as a fly for the food handlers skit.
Friday morning featured the 4 hour long HIV/AIDS workshop with 70 high school students. This was another highlight of the week. We all had about 2 activities we were responsible for. I did the “Palabras de la Calle” (street words) and “Vocabulaio de VIH/SIDA” (HIV/AIDS vocabulary). The street words activity was fun because the students got to write all the inappropriate words for the scientific term and they all thought it was funny. However, the point was to show them not to be embarrassed and with this serious topic we will only use the scientific terms. The rest of the workshop had activities featuring methods of transmission and prevention, understanding white blood cells and my personal favorite the condom demonstration. Megan taught 70 students how to correctly put a condom on and then in pairs they all had a banana and a condom and got to try for themselves. The girls looked frightened out of their minds. I think this was the most beneficial because there is a big problem with girls as young as 12 and 13 getting pregnant. My whole group worked together so well and the workshop was a complete success! In the afternoon Lindsay and I gave the final charla to a group of middle school students about the environment. I think charlas to students are always easier because they just think it’s funny when I mess up my Spanish and they laugh a lot.
Susie, Elizabeth and Lindsay at the coffee shop.
My group was Equipo Mono (team monkey). Susie, Megan, Shannon, Elizabeth, Abby, Me, Lauren,Lindsay and Dirk!
Saturday we packed up and drove back to our host communities. I was excited to get home and back to my family but I was really sad to leave my FBT group. This last week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had in a very long time. My entire group got along so well and there was no tension and no negative personalities at all. We all helped each other out and also had too much fun just hanging out in the hotel rooms and listening to music, eating, talking about our poop and other everyday things about life in Guatemala. This last week has made me really appreciate the people I am here on this journey with. I learn a lot about myself through my friends here. When I had a down day they all were right there. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that after leaving everything and everyone in the states I am making my own little family here. It also makes me a little sad because we are more than half way through our training and in just two weeks I will find out my permanent site and in one month I will be off on my own! I am ready though and after this week I know I will be okay!
The only real swimming pool I´ve seen here. Nice diving boards but no water.
View from the van
Lindsay and me in the van.