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

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 piƱata, 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