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.