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

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Week of ¨Fije se que...¨

This last week has been the week of “Fije se que…” Let me expand on this Guatemalan phrase just a bit. In this culture it is considered rude to be direct in speaking or to just say no. So if a Guatemalan doesn’t want to do something or something else came up they will talk in circles around the reason and use “Fije se que this” and “Fije se que that.” The real meaning doesn’t really translate but more or less it means “look/about that…” and it always precedes an excuse of some kind. On Wednesday we were supposed to go out with Sandra to check the chlorine in the water in and around Antigua but “Fije se que…the Ministry of Health decided to pop on by and I can’t go.” Then Sandra found someone else to take us but he says “Fije se que…the driver is out right now so we can’t go until 10:30am.” On Thursday our Hep A and Dengue charlas were cancelled for the second time. “Fije se que…I’m sick and can’t take you.” Then to top it all off Friday we were supposed to have our weekly Spanish class but “Fije se que…I thought Healthy Homes Volunteers cancelled so I’m in a different town.” Pretty much everything we had scheduled did NOT go according to plan. Maybe that’s why the Peace Corps says flexibility is #1. But really I cannot complain about any of these cancellations because it let me catch a few world cup games! Spain is still my favorite but the US isn’t doing terrible and that’s a plus!

Despite all the “Fije se que” we did actually do a few productive things this week. On Wednesday my group finally ended up going out to check on the chlorine in the water in some communities surrounding Antigua. Mary, Cathleen, Kim and I hopped in the back of the little old Datsun Health Center truck and with the driver Melissa and Arson, the water inspector, shoved in the front we went roaring through Antigua to the communities. It was a BUMPY ride in the back and I’m sure people were wondering why there was a bunch of Gringas in the back of the Health Center Truck. We must have been quite the sight. We visited about 7 different communities. Arson told us there is no method he just goes to the community, picks a house or a store and asks to use their faucet to check the water. Some people were very skeptical of all of us but all but one let us in. More or less we all came to the conclusion that there is no standard for the chlorination of the water. It is the job of the municipality to chlorinate the water but the job of the health center to check it. There is definitely a disconnect between the two. Some communities had no chlorine and others had way too much. That is just one reason NOT to drink the water here!

Mary and me in the back of the pick up

Kim, Cathleen and me riding along

On Friday my group presented the HIV/AIDS taller (workshop) to a group of 30 middle school students. I can’t say it was a complete success but we didn’t do terrible. The kids were really shy and we were just exhausted by Friday afternoon. We struggled to be entertaining and energetic. I also should have practiced my parts before (whoopsie) because I forgot some important things and messed up some words. But oh well it’s over now. I did the “Street Words” section where the kids have to write the slang words for terms like testicles, breasts, penis, etc. Mary and I also did the condom demonstration which of course made the kids embarrassed but I honestly believe it is something everyone needs to know so I’m glad they saw it. Some school directors don’t allow it but this one was very young and forward thinking which was great!

Me with my small group during the HIV workshop.

Mary introducing the definitions of HIV AIDS

Mary and me during the condom demonstration.

Saturday we got up early and went to Ciudad Vieja to help Eduardo (a PC Spanish teacher) with his house that was destroyed by mud in Tropical Storm Agatha. It was a little overwhelming to see his house. It really hit me then how bad the storm was and how here it is not so easy to just pick up the pieces and start over. It has been about 2 weeks since the storm and the house and the yard surrounding it was still just a mud pit. I went inside the house and worked on clearing the living room out. I could see the original mud line that was about a foot below the ceiling. When I went in the mud was about to my chest in ¾ of the room. We took shovels and heaved the wet and heavy mud into a slew of wheelbarrows and then some strong men took them out to the street to dump. We worked non-stop for about 3 hours and made significant progress until someone opened a door to another room and a huge mud flow came and filled up what we had just spent hours clearing. After the morning my body hurt so bad. I had blisters on my hands and mud all over me. I am so amazed that Eduardo, his family, the neighbors and some other workers have been doing this everyday all day for 2 weeks. It was very humbling when Eduardo’s wife came in to “salvage” some pictures off the wall which it was obvious could not be restored. They really lost everything.

Muddy me. The wall behind me is where the mud flow entered the house during the storm.

Entry into the house

The yard of the house

Next week I have another trip from Wednesday-Saturday. We are going in pairs to visit a current Healthy Homes volunteer. We are not getting a ride from Peace Corps but rather going on the camioneta. I’m really hoping I don’t get lost and end up who knows where in Guatemala. Vamos a ver. It will be exciting trying to navigate the camionetas more than just around my town. Also, I officially have less than a month of training left! YAHOOOOO! I am ready to be done with all the rules and classes and everything. I’ll find out my permanent site on July 1st and I am more than ready.

Lindsay and her host sister, Lourdes

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