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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Something Cultural

This weekend I went to visit my friend Claire who lives outside of the Huehue, the state capital of Huehuetenango. I took little Lubu too so she can see the vet and get her first set of vaccinations. She is all of 4.5 pounds and has mange. UGH! The vet gave her some medicine to get rid of it and she should be fine soon. However her little tummy did not like the medicine and she threw up in Claire’s hands later that night. So sad. I am just glad this will get rid of the worms and fleas and lots of other nasty doggie diseases.

I also finally visited some ancient Mayan ruins! I feel somewhat guilty that I have been in Guatemala for 4 months now and these are the first ruins I have visited. Claire and I went to the ruins of Zaculeu located right outside the city. The United Fruit Company was responsible for doing some “restoration” in the 1940’s…aka covering all the ruins in cement. We were thinking they would not be that impressive but we both thought they were great! I could see the whole city layout from the top of the largest tower. We took a bunch of pics and it was a gorgeous day. I love history and I have studied the ancient Mayan civilization extensively in college so it was awesome to finally see some of the things I have studied.

I really had a relaxing and chill weekend with Claire and the doggies (she has a puppy too!). However, this weekend involved a little too much vomit. First, I was crammed into a seat with a lady on the 4 hour trip down to Huehue on Friday and she clearly did not feel well. I do not know why she did not just open the window next to her but she didn’t and she puked on me! Mostly I just got the splatter was it was nasty! Then this afternoon on my trip home little Lubu also did not feel well. She slept most of the trip but I do not know if it was car sickness or still a reaction from her vaccinations but she also threw up on me. Luckily she is so small and it wasn’t much. Other than a little vomit I had a fabulous weekend and I look forward to the next time I get to relax with my friends!

Me on top!

The big structure

Claire looking like a model

soooo excited!

The white part on top is the obvious covering of cement done in the 1940s

We got to play all over the ancient ruins :)

Claire and me in front of some of the ruins!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beauty Pageant and Sex Ed.

Last night Cathaleen and I attended the Miss Salubrista pageant. This is an annual beauty pageant where one woman from each municipality in our region competes to be crowned Ms. Salubrista and then later goes on to compete for the department/state title. There are 4 municipalities in our region. This year the pageant was help in San Miguel Acatan. We crammed all the health post staff into two microbuses and we bumped along a rough dirt road for about an hour to get to the town. We really had no idea what would happen during the night but we were along for the ride. We arrived in the town and went to watch some soccer games. Then my health center women tell me they need more players for the women’s game and of course I can’t say no to a little futbol! I played in my tight jeans and nice shirt and looked ridiculous BUT I scored two goals and we won 5-1!!!! There were a bunch of people from other health centers and a LOT of men so I had to show that the gringa can play soccer too. I had a blast!

After the soccer games we ate dinner at a little family-run place. We all crammed into a small comedor and it was clearly going to take a while to prepare the food. The doctor from our health post, aka the head honcho, went into the kitchen and started helping the women cook. This was crazy for me to believe because most men here do not cook and would never do so willingly. That is a woman’s job. Not this doctor! He spent most of his time helping prepare the food. It was great to see a Guatemalan man that breaks the usual and unfortunate stereotypes. He then proceeded to pay for my and Cathaleen’s meal to say thank you for being in Santa Eulalia and volunteering. I was very appreciative and realized this is a great guy and I am glad to not have a machisto asshole of a doctor and this forward thinking man instead.

It was fun for all the health post staff to join together and cheer for our competitor, Nancy. First the 4 women came out in “traje tipico” or traditional Mayan dress. Then there were a few dances by different groups of kids, some mildly disturbing for the booty dropping in this conservative culture. Next the contestants were escorted out in the evening gown. Each had to answer the question “What does Miss Salubrista mean to you?” They contestants had to answer in Spanish and the native Kanjobal. Then came one of MY highlights for the night. My counterpart, Aurelio, apparently is an amazing singer. He went up in front of the huge crowd and busted out a great rendition of some love song. He was just loving the spotlight so he sang two more! I was highly impressed and it was fun to see a different side to him. Finally the moment everyone had been waiting for…the crowning. It was actually very confusing and no one really knew who won for a few minutes, typical Guatemala, but finally a woman from another town won  Maybe next year. It was great to see the Santa Eulalia health staff cheer on Nancy and pop balloons and throw confetti and cheer LOUD!

After the pageant came the dance. Now I must also say that we were originally told the whole night would end by 11pm which is already 2 hours past my bedtime but I sucked it up and went anyway. We later find out we are not leaving until 1am! O man! The dance barely started by 11pm. I am not a huge fan of dancing but I figured I would watch and enjoy the music and the company. Boy was I wrong. The two gringas in the room were the sought after prize. I had so many men ask me to dance. Some were nice and not too creepy but others were just…ugh. I went out there with one guy and he proceeded to spaz out on the dance floor. I felt like it was a joke and I was on a hidden camera show. This 5 foot tall man looked insane with his arms flailing and his body shaking. I did not know what to do other than to pray it was going to be a short song (and go figure it wasn’t)! I probably danced with 10 men and for those of you wondering, no there was no potential in any! I just went out there and moved my feet and shook my hips and looked like a rhythm-less American. O well. We finally made it home by 2am and crashed and went to sleep.

The judges for this year...the contestants from last year.

Dancing with the contestants in their Traje Tipico.

Our judge from Santa Eulalia

Middle School students dancing

Disturbing dance with crossed dressing and too much booty-shaking and shimmying for most Guatemalans

Our contestant, Nancy, on the right

My counterpart, Aurelio, belting out the tunes

Santa Eulalia health staff cheering on Nancy

Today we luckily did not have to get up early for Kanjobal class. I got to sleep in a bit after my long evening. This afternoon I went to Temux to help Cathaleen with an HIV/AIDS workshop with middle school students. Becca also came to help since the whole thing is about 3 hours long and takes a lot of work. Everything went well overall but we finally understood the true lack of health and sex education in this country. These students asked what the words breasts, penis, testicles and sexual relations meant. We were shocked to realize no one had ever talked about these body parts and they literally had no idea how they work or where they are. We were there to talk about HIV/AIDS but that is next to impossible without understand the body parts. The students were very interesting in all the information but it was just too much for them to grasp. They asked us intense questions like, What is a homosexual? When can you have sex? What is a condom? Where are your breasts, penis and testicles? What is an okay age to have sex? Some of the question we stumbled through the answer because we have to give the correct information while still being very sensitive to the religious, conservative, closed culture. We decided this group of students needs a puberty and sexuality talk. I think we are going to try and set something like that up in the future. It was an eye-opening afternoon to say the least. The days like this make me realize what I am doing here. I realize I am helping the people and if we are not here to educate about these sensitive subject, who will?

Cathaleen with HIV/AIDS vocab words

The skit about how HIV works

Me trying my best to give a breif overview of the anatomy of a man and a woman

What is HIV?

I truly hope these students took something away from today. They were very intelligent and eager to learn.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Death as a Part of Life

It is said that losing a child is the worst pain one can feel. No parent should ever have to bury their child. However, that is so common-too common- here. Last week, I was waiting in town in the bus to head to my aldea and a funeral procession came through town. I was looking for the pallbearers and the coffin when I suddenly realized the coffin was merely two feet long and rested on the single shoulder of a father. I immediately felt a ping of pain in my heart at the sight of this family walking with their dead child to the graveyard.

Also, this week there was a death in the extended family of my neighbors/host family. A 15 year-old boy was shot dead by robbers in Guatemala City. He was the nephew of my neighbors. His family is originally from here in Pett but they have been living in Guate for their jobs. The boy was so young. The family transported the cadaver the whole 10 hour car ride so the boy could be buried here. Almost all of the neighbors continuously came by the house and there was a constant wake going on. I went over and talked with the family. The boy’s parents and his two younger siblings were in town. I noticed right away there was not the overwhelming, hovering sadness that accompanies wakes/funerals in the States. Everyone said they were sad but they did not show it. It was more of a time for the family to gather. I was invited to the burial but could not go due to Kanjobal class.

This afternoon the parents invited me to visit the grave with them. I am not a fan of death and graveyards but I went because I felt that it was an honor that the family invited me. We walked up to the graveyard and the son’s grave was covered with beautiful Guatemalan flowers. There was still the fresh dirt and fresh sadness. The mother started rearranging the flowers as the father added more. The mother started speaking and crying under her breath. I stood back as I did not know what to say or do. I have not felt that sadness in a long time and I did not even know this child. The father turned to me and said “My boy is in heaven now. He has left this earth.” How do I respond to that? I could see the pain in this man’s face. His first child, his son is now gone due to the reckless violence that plagues this country.

These two things have really forced me to look at death. Here in Guatemalan, death is expected. Death is a part of life. A woman has a baby with the expectation that it may not live. Families send their children to work in Guate knowing it is one of the most dangerous cities in the Western Hemisphere. If someone gets sick, death is the expectation. I have a hard time grasping this concept because in our culture we fear death; we mourn death; death is a tragedy. Here, death is just a stepping stone for another life in Heaven. Here, death is sad but the happiness the soul feels in Heaven outweighs the sadness. I just find it terribly sad because so many Guatemalans do not have to die. The violence is one thing but the infant and child mortality rate is heartbreaking. It reminds me that I am here to do a job and I hope that maybe one family will learn something to prevent senseless death from happening to them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Home Visits and FUTBOL!!!!!!!!!!

I started my home visits this week. In my Healthy Homes program I am required to go around and visit the families in my community to introduce myself, explain my work and see in what condition the families live. On Tuesday morning I walked around with the President of the COCODE, like the city council, and a lady who is on the Comisión de Salud (Health Commission). We walked around Sector 1 of Pett. We literally hiked up and down these huge mountains in more mud. I was carrying Lubu most of the time and I had a few close calls but I managed to stay on my feet all day! We visited about 20 homes. The first house I introduced myself and tried to ask if the family had any health concerns and they were like “No, we are very healthy.” A little more prodding revealed that one child has a respiratory infection, the number one illness in children in Guatemala. I quickly realized though I would need a different approach in going to these houses. The families, mainly women, were all very weary of me. I decided it was just best to present myself and my work and not ask about any illnesses. I tried to take a mental survey of the condition of each home. The main thing I noticed is a lack of a cement floor and also a clean latrine. One home just had a wooden seat constructed over a hole in the side of the mountain as their latrine. I think Sector 1 has the most need of the whole community and this gives me “ganas” (excitement/happiness/desire) to start work. I still have 4 other sectors to visit and after I see the whole community I will be able to assess the community and how I will begin my work.

Today I also met with my counterpart at the health post in the big town. He is going to meet with all the community leaders and discuss our problems and also try to give more information about our jobs just to clarify a few things. Also, he talked about my idea for doing a Recycled Plastic Bottle Health Post. I originally wanted to do it in my community but they want to start building soon so it wouldn’t work. My counterpart wants us, Rebecca, Cathaleen and myself, to have our communities help gather bottles and then expand the health post in the main town of Santa Eulalia. I think this is a great idea because the health post needs to be much bigger and then it will also serve as an example to other communities how the whole process works. I am SO excited to get started on this project!

Finally, I played soccer…err Futbol! Cathaleen and I played with the women who work at the health post in Santa Eulalia. It was an indoor game and I had so much fun. Some of the women were very competitive and aggressive but the little soccer player who still lives in me came out and I showed them a Gringa can hold her own on the soccer field. I even scored two goals. I had a blast and it was nice getting to know the staff better outside of work. Cathaleen and I are going to play on the official Santa Eulalia Health Post team in September when we have a whole gathering of all health posts in my state! Represent!

Guatemalan Compliments

Guatemalans give compliments much different than in the States. Example:

ME: "Good morning!"
HEALTH WORKER: "Ah, hello, how are you?"
ME: "Well. And you?"
HEALTH WORKER: "I'm well also. You are getting so FAT!"
ME: "What?!"
HEALTH WORKER: just laughs...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Caution: Gringa Walking

How is it that all my life I am told I have great balance and I am athletic and then I arrive in Guatemala and I am a complete klutz? Is gravity different in Central America? First issue, lose gravel and hills. Self explanatory. Second, MUD! I am not talking about a little mud mixed in with rocks and grass I am talking about thick, clayish mud that is everywhere. After I picked up Lubu on Wednesday one of the girls in town told me the “quick way” to get back to the main road. Umm ya I should have just gone the long way, it would have saved me time. The “quick way” involved what looked to me like a mud flow that had peeled down the mountain side earlier in the week. With Lubu in my bag I carefully slid my way down the mud. I was sliding this way and grabbing on to bushes and half-way fell at least a dozen times. I had mud all over my pants by the time I actually made it to the road. I do not know how these Guatemalan women walk up these muddy mountains in plastic shoes with a baby strapped to the back and 20 pounds on their head- now that’s balance! Finally, the real icing on my unbalanced cake occurred this afternoon when I was exiting a camioneta. I had my backpack with Lubu in it and a crate with some veggies in it. Luckily I was carrying all of this in front of me because I took a step to get off the bus and the next thing I know I am going clunk, Clunk, CLUNK down all the stairs on the bus. All of the Guatemalans on the bus immediately stood up and tried to look out the window at the Gringa that can’t walk. The people outside the bus on the sidewalk just start laughing. I started laughing too but it hurt. My elbows were bleeding and now I have a bruise on my back. Basically the bottom line is that I can’t walk in Guatemala.

Aside from my embarrassing mishaps I think I have been “integrating” a little bit. The guy who kept waiting at my house invited me to his mother’s birthday and I said I would go with his FAMILY and I would only go in the afternoon. I just pretended I had something to do later. He and his two sisters came to my house and I followed them up a mountain to their house. When I got there I realized it was much more than a birthday. There were lots of people, at least ten women cooking in huge pots and a band playing…and the party didn’t even start for 3 more hours! The man (who originally creeped me out) told me it is his mother’s birthday but also a Catholic celebration of life and his family because the mother almost died while having an operation last year. I talked to the father and he told me he wanted his son to invite me because he wanted me to share with his family. I immediately felt horrible for thinking this man was a creeper/stalker. However I have to err on the side of caution. I sat around and listened to the band play for a while and then the Catholic mass started. The priest who serves the whole municipality came to this small house packed with Guatemalans. I sat and kind of knew what was going on since I know the Mass. I said the prayers in English under my breath and got a few strange looks. After the Mass most people left except the special guests, about 35 people, including myself. We sat and ate dinner and everyone spoke in Kanjobal and sometimes would all look at me and laugh. I am getting very used to that. I just smile and laugh too. All in all I was very glad I decided to go. I felt like the family really extended a hand to me to invite me to such a special event in their lives.

Also, I have been making friends with ALL the children in town. I have been working in the school and I make every class repeat my name so they know me and now whenever anyone walks by my house they call out my name. Two girls have started coming by regularly and they are so sweet. I give them 3 English words to practice every night and when they come back the next day they usually remember all of them! It may turn out to be that some of my best friends here are 6-14 years old! But I will take any Guatemalan friends I can get!

Finally, an update on the latrine situation. They finished my latrine and then it filled with groundwater!!! The water table is too high here for a regular latrine. I talked to my boss and he explained to the town leaders what a dry composting latrine is. He is going to help me with the money and supplies to build one. So now I have a latrine but I can’t use it…back to the Milpa for me!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Healthy Homes

Anyone wondering why I up and left everything for two years?!?! This is a great video done by to volunteers who just finished their two year service. My program is called Healthy Homes (formerly Rural Home Preventative Health) and this shows why I am here!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I got a puppy! It wasn't one of those spur of the moments, I am sad and lonely and want a puppy. No, I have wanted my own pup for quite some time now. I brought little Lubu home this afternoon after a few complications. Cathaleen got another puppy from the same litter on Sunday and told the family I would be back to get one too. I really wanted a girl and there was a girl and a boy left. I fell in love with the girl right away. The family said I could just have her so I left with her and went to visit another family in the small village. While I was at that family's home a lady came and told me that the girl had already been sold so I couldn't have her. I was really sad as little Lubu has been sleeping in my arms the last 30 minutes. I didn't want it to be an issue so Cathleen took little Lubu back and brought me the boy. The boy was also cute but I really wanted a girl. After another 30 minutes I was about to leave with the boy and then the same lady said she talked to the boy who bought the dog and he said I could have the girl and he would take the boy. At this point I didn't even care. They kept playing games with my heart! In the end I left with the girl and now Lubu is sound asleep in her bucket bed. I think she may be a bit sick and underfed. I had to hand feed her tonight and she hardly ate. I am hoping she eats more tomorrow. I am just so excited to have a little friend in my life!

If you are wondering where the name came from let me explain. There is a candy bar here named the Bubu Lubu. It is not in every store but somehow it was in the Peace Corps training office vending machine. One day my friend Sam and I were SO hungry but neither of us had any money. We look in the machine and the absolute cheapest thing is this Bubu Lubu candy bar. We then go on a machine to scrounge up the Q2.50 to get the candy bar. After asking a bunch of people and realizing the machine doesn’t take 10 cent coins we finally got our Bubu Lubu. I don’t know if it tasted so good because we worked so hard to get it or if it actually is good. Now Sam and I are addicted to Bubu Lubus and mostly we just like saying the name really fast a bunch of times in a row. So that is how my little baby girl became Lubu.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend Welcome Party

This past weekend was the welcome party for El Quiché and Huehuetenango volunteers. I was so excited my state was combines with El Quiché because most of my best friends here are in that state so it was an excuse for all of us to get together. The party was held in my state capital, Huehue. Also a few other volunteers from Quetzaltenango made the trip up just because they knew it would be a good time- and it was!

Becca and I traveled the 4 hours south early on Friday morning. We have been more or less stranded up north for 3 weeks so we had a lot of errands to run and needed to hit up the big supermarket to get some important things, like cumin and chili powder! Friday night my loves from El Quiché, Susie and Sam, got into town. I think I almost knocked them over when I hugged them. It is such a great feeling to be reunited with my friends here. My friends keep me sane, give me the advice I need and understand what I am going through because they are here too. Without their support this whole thing would be impossible for me. Anyways having them there this weekend made all my stress from site disappear. Friday night we had dinner and went out to a bar in Huehue.

Saturday some more friends came into town and all the volunteers, old and new, went to these pools in Aguacatan, a nearby town. It was amazing to finally get in a pool. I have spent every summer of my life in a one piece suit either with swim team or guarding and the last few months just haven’t felt like summer without that. Sam and I were like kids in a candy shop when we saw the pool. We dropped our bags and dropped our pants and jumped right in! There was a slide and a Guatemalan style diving board and I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon. I hardly got out of the pool the entire day. Ahhhh sooooo fun!

Saturday night we went out to the same bar and took over the place. The bar tenders let us put on our iPods so we had control over the music and we were all getting down on the dance floor. After a few drinks there we went to another dance club. I did not stay long since I am sick and was losing my voice. But I had a great time this past weekend. It was the break I needed. I am here to work but I am also here and fun can be had so I am going to have it! I now have the energy to work hard for another month until I can see my friends again!

Sam and Susie putting on first!

Me and Sam having WAY too much fun! I need to work on my air time (but i did only jump off the side, not the board).

This is an action shot of me jumping out of the water but my face is just so extremely hideously comical I felt everyone needed to see it. We laughed for a good 10 minutes straight after seeing this one.

I am just SOOOOOOO happy to be in a pool!!!!!!!

Sam and I underwater


Melissa and Sam

Susie, Sam, me, Cat and Melissa loving life.

Sam and I acting like 9 year-olds at the public pool. We had to do the George Washington hairstyle.

Sam on the slide...SO happy! SO much fun!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The School

Yesterday I began working in the elementary school of Pet. There are 19 teachers and a LOT of students. Each grade has 3 sections of about 30 kids per classroom. I met with the school director in the morning and he told me the classes I would teach in and then he sent me out there. I did my lesson 4 times to 3 classes of 3rd graders and one class of 4th graders. The kids paid great attention while I was speaking but the trouble came when it was time for questions. The Peace Corps teaches us to use the Experiential Learning Cycles which requires the active participation of the students. Unfortunately, here in Guatemala children are taught to sit quietly, copy notes and not participate in any way. Because of the years of this type of teachers the kids are too embarrassed to speak in class. It is especially noticeable with the girls. I asked a very general questions and one girl muttered what I thought was the right answer so I asked her to repeat it for the class to hear and she just shut down and put her hands over her face and would not even look at me. Women here are taught to be so submissive it kills me. I want to just tell all these girls they are smart and they should be proud and they are just as good as the boys. However, society is a much stronger influence than my tiny little voice and so many of these girls will never feel proud to be a woman.

Today I was supposed to return to the school to give health talks in 5 more classes. I arrived and found the director and he told me, “oh today they actually have exams so maybe you can come back next week.” So typical. I really wasn’t that disappointed though because I have plenty of time here to do health talks. I did stay and chat with the director for about an hour. He turns out to be a very forward thinking, down to earth man. He talked all about the corruption in the government here and how it affects the education system (negatively, obviously). He talked about how sad it is that Guatemala is slowly losing its culture. He has worked at the school in Pet for 17 years and he described the changes he has seen within the town and with the school itself. I feel very luckily to be in this site. So many other volunteers live in big town where most of the population is ladino (not indigenous) and there is not the striking culture difference. As many challenges as this site has already given me and will continue to give me I am thankful to be here. I am learning all about this culture by really living with the people. This is very truly Guatemala is all of its beauty.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I am finally getting to do some work! Yesterday I went to the school and met with the principal about doing some charlas with the students. Of course the only thing he actually wanted me to teach was English but I told him that I am only here to teach about preventative health. Every conversation is becoming a replay of the previous- I am here to teach preventative health NOT English. One of the male community leaders came with me too but arrived late. I will continue that story later. I held my ground about why I am here and I am giving charlas to 8 different classes over the next two days. They did not seem to understand doing the same charla 8 times in a row was just too much. However I think I have the support of the principal and I am excited to work with the kids. Some know my name and yell at me from across the school yard while others look at me and run away giggling.

In the afternoon yesterday I met with all of the community leaders. It was a group of about 20 people that belong to different committees and commissions that I will be working with. To my delightful surprise the majority of the leaders are women! This is very unusual because men dominate society here in every aspect of life. Some Guatemalan women are even forbidden by their husbands to leave their houses. To see that many women with power made me smile a bit because it will make my job a little easier! During the meeting I presented about what the Peace Corps is and what my job entails. However during the two hours I maybe understood all of 15 minutes of discussion as the leaders all prefer (and some only know) to speak their native Kanjobal. I sometimes could understand the gist of the topic but mostly I was lost. The same male leader who went with me to the school in the morning translated everything for me but I know I was missing some details since it came down to 10 minutes of translating for an hour of discussion. At the end of the meeting it was decided I am going to meet with the whole community again and then start doing home visits next week. The meeting felt productive and at least it got the ball rolling a little bit on my job. I told them I want to focus on health promoters, womens groups and youth. Afterward, one of the female leaders, Candalaria, who works as an auxiliary nurse, invited me to accompany her on her rounds the next day. I jumped at this opportunity.

This morning I walked uphill for 45 minutes to a very small and remote village named Onona. Candalaria and her team gave vaccinations to many of the town’s children. One of the men in town asked me if I wanted to work there too and I said yes I would be more than willing to come give some charlas. I hope this doesn’t fall through as it was apparent to me this village has a much greater need than Pet. After the vaccinations we visited the small two room wood shack of a school house. They asked me to “entertain” the kids so I went in there and sang a health song about washing your hands to the tune of Frere Jacques. The kids loved it! They wanted me to stay and sing more but I do not know any more songs! I told them I would learn more and come back. I had a mini discussion after the song and we reviewed the most important times to wash your hands. Hopefully at least one of them will remember!

After the school visit we went to visit two “senoras” who are widows and are taking care of a mountain of children. The first lady was 79 years old and was very sick with respiratory infections. Candalaria took her blood pressure and gave her some vitamins. The worst part was that she had some sort of flesh eating infectious disease on her nose. He middle bridge part of her nose was utterly gone and only black, caved in flesh existed in its place. I can only look at this woman and imagine the lifetime of struggles she has endured- losing a husband, losing children, a civil war, diseases, no food, no bathroom, barely having a place to sleep and who knows what else. It makes me appreciate all the small things I do have.

Finally, back to the story about the male leader. This man has been on point with every meeting and was one of the community men who came to Xela to meet me for Counterpart Day. He is a smooth talker and gets things done. Without him I would have already been in a few sticky situations. He clearly understands my job here and helps me explain to the people who I am and why I am here. He is a great ally to have. So yesterday morning he shows up to the school meeting late and clearly hung over. My suspicions were confirmed when the principal made a joke that he was sick with “Fiebre de Gallo” or Beer Fever. I was upset because I had hoped and hoped that he was not like every other Guatemalan man and did not drink too much. Unfortunately he falls prey to the Guatemalan alcoholism. So many, and I mean almost all, men are binge drinkers. It is very unfortunate to see and hard to deal with. I have a hard time trusting any man who may or may not show up drunk. He did profusely apologize to me but still…GRRR! However that afternoon he redeemed himself at the community leader meeting when he remember all the facts about the Peace Corps with JFK and 1961 and 1963 in Guatemala and 200 volunteers here now. That impressed me and showed me he does care about my job and takes it seriously. It is just frustrating for me to never know when one of these great men will fall off the bandwagon. I wish there was some lesson I could give about alcoholism but it is such a huge problem and I do not know if I have the “ganas” to deal with it. As long as this man can keep his head on straight most of the time that is all I ask for.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Latrine and Loneliness

I finally have a latrine with my house! Now I do not have to pee in the cornfield or run to my neighbor’s bathroom 100 yards away. It took 2 weeks to get everything settles with money and materials and labor but once it was started it went right up. A man worked on it for about 3 days and now it is all done. The style of the latrine is about as simple as possible- a deep hole in the ground with a little wood hut on top. And when I say little I mean LITTLE! It is probably about 5 feet tall which means I have to duck every time I use it. It also has this weird backward tilt to it so I feel like I might slide off backwards. However those are minor annoyances. I am just so thankful to finally have a latrine.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Finally DONE!

I have officially been in site 2 weeks and a few realities are setting in. First, I may never learn the Kanjobal language. I am trying to study but it is so difficult and I doubt I will ever become conversational in it. My host grandmother does not speak much Spanish and whenever I am over there she just talks like I understand her. Maybe this will help me learn it but who knows really.

Second, I am very isolated out here. A little bit of loneliness has been setting in. I am sometimes surrounded by people who want to talk but the problem is I cannot share completely with them how I feel due to language and cultural differences. Sometimes during the day I have nowhere to go, no work to do and I get a little too lost in my thoughts. I am trying to journal to help with this but it is difficult. The one good thing is that I now have internet all the time. It is so ironic that people out here have nothing but everyone has a cell phone and with cell reception I can use my internet modem. I have been able to Skype with people and send e-mails which I think is going to keep me sane the next 2 years. On that note…I would love to hear from all of you via e-mail, Skype or regular mail! Keep me updated on what I am missing in the states!