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

Friday, December 17, 2010

" But you don't look alike?!?"

My family is here! My sister, Lisa, and her fiancĂ© Rem arrived Sunday night. I took the long bus in to pick them up. We stayed one night in Antigua and then took another long bus back to my site. We arrived in site and of course the children were scared. One grandma even covered the children’s faces when we walked by. I felt like I was back here on my first day. No one can believe that Lisa and I are sisters. We don’t really look alive and never have and for Guatemalans that is a hard concept to grasp. Everyone comments on how they don’t think she is my sister because we are so different. Also, a bunch of community members try to talk to Rem first (because he is the man) but he does not speak much Spanish at all. Family is such an important part of life in Guatemala that I think my village really likes seeing my own family. They wanted to throw us a huge welcome party but I told them that was not necessary. They would not let it go and finally we agreed to have lunch with the community leaders later this afternoon.

I also bought Lisa and Rem to one of my community Charlas on nutrition. Of course the community wanted them to stand up and speak and give some “palabras.” Rem told them all thank you for the welcome and they are happy to be here. All the 100+ women applauded! We only are staying here for a few days and I think my community wishes we would be here the whole time. However, I am ready for a long vacation to some warmer places in Guatemala. I will try to update this a few times while I am gone but no guarantees. So…Merry Christmas to All and Happy New Year! I miss you all and wish I could be in the states to see everyone. Take care 

Lisa and me in Antigua

Rem and Lisa in Antigua at some ruins

This is how I travel on buses with my stuff and Lubu

They brought me a pumpkin ale!

My community Charla with my translator

Rem helping me on the nutrition activity with the women.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

House Update

As everyone knows I have been looking for a new house. I have too much of a problem with drunk men coming by the house at night and bothering me. I went to look at that one house last week but the lack of privacy and the animal abusive children made it less than ideal. I also talked to another family who said they have an extra room but it is really small. The father is also terminally ill and I would not want to be a bother to that family. Guatemalans will offer you the shirt off their back but it does not necessarily mean they want to give it to you. The offer is made to be polite. Learning when “Yes” means “No” and “Yes” means “Yes” is a continual struggle.

However, yesterday there was a turn of events. The Health Commission came to my house to talk to me about this problem. I have been a little disillusioned with the Health Commission because of their lack of support for my job. The men all came and pulled up in a little pick-up on my front yard. We talked about my problem and how I make literally making myself sick with worry at night because of these men. They asked me if I wanted to move and I said I really did not because I feel very comfortable here with my neighbors. Lubu loves this place and I have my privacy when I want it but I also can go visit the families nearby as well. This place is ideal (minus the lack of latrine). The men offered to build me a tall fence that would make it impossible for men to get to my door at night. I had thought about building a fence before but I did not want the community to think that I was alienating myself since no one really has fences here. The men talked in Q’anjob’al for a while and decided they will ask the community to donate supplies and then they will do the manual labor. I was elated! I can stay in this house! I think the community will make the fence for me while I am on vacation. SCORE!

Countdown until Lisa and Rem come…3 days!!!!! My community wanted to throw a big party but I insisted that wasn’t necessary so instead I think they are going to make a big lunch with just the community leaders. I am sure this will be something to write about.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Figuring Things Out

My PC Project Director (aka my boss) visited my site this last Wednesday. He roared up in his Peace Corps SUV with tinted windows. Also, my official Guatemalan counterpart came (who I hardly ever see let alone work with). We sat down in my house and had a very serious talk about my work, my living situation and all the little things that are going wrong. I had a hard time expressing all my concerns because I did not want to be that complaining volunteer. However, certain things must change for me to remain here.

First, my living situation. I have not written about this on my blog because I know it will make people worry back home. DON’T WORRY! (I DO have my black belt ya know…) My current house is on the main road through town and everyone in my town and every town on the road know that I live here and I also do not have any close neighbors, just cornfields. For the first two months everything was peachy. I had my privacy and I also had plenty of people to go visit when I wanted to. It was exactly what I had wanted in a living situation (minus the fact that I have no latrine). Once the rainy season ended a new problem started. Drunk men, called “bolos” here, started coming to my door in the night. The first time I about had a heart attack as he knocked on my windows and then on my door, around 9pm. I hid under my covers. He was slurring his words outside my door and I knew he was drunk but it still frightened me. I told my neighbors and they told me the next time I needed to call them and they would come to help. The next time came all too soon. This time someone came to my door at 3am. I freaked. I hid under the covers again, as Lubu barked her head off, and called my neighbors. The man continued to knock and in English say, “I am your friend, just let me in.” He finally went away right as my neighbors came. This is a scene I will never forget: all my little indigenous women neighbors in their corte carrying HUGE sticks and machetes coming to my aid. Also the men came but I expected that. One of the women saw the man in the road and ran over to ask him why he was bothering the Gringa. The man responded that “we are friends.” BULLS***!!! I do not know him. He wasn’t even from my town. And 3am to visit your friends…I think not. Aside from these two incidents two other drunk men came knocking and every time my hearts races and I get scared. What if this time he can get in? I knew I had to move. In my head I tried to tell myself it will be okay and I can stay in the house but the more and more I thought about it I must move. I cannot live in fear for 2 years. I will have to give up my privacy and space to go live with a family but at least I will be safe. Today, I went and looked at a room that is in a house of a lady I work with. It is VERY small but I really do not have many options. The worst part is that there is no direct ceiling so it’s a huge house with walls but no room has its own ceiling so let’s all hope it stays mostly quiet with the rest of the family( doubtful…who wants to send me more ear plugs?) I will probably move in after my Christmas vacation.

The second thing we discussed was my work. I am not satisfied with the amount of work I am doing. I want to have something to do most days of the week whether it is a community heath talk or working in the schools. We decided the huge community health talks I am giving now once a month will not work if the town wants to receive projects. I am going to split the town up into three smaller groups and do a health talk every other week with these groups. That means instead of having one health talk a month I will have 6. MUCH better. Once the school open again I will be able to fill my time there as well.

I feel like I am starting over. I will be working in a new way and with different people. I will be living somewhere new. Hopefully, I will be much happier and healthier. I do not know if these situations will improve everything in my site but I can only hope. I am not ready to give up on this community so I have to figure out a way to make it work.

Finally, the countdown until my sister and her fiancĂ© arrive is on…7 days!!!! YEAH!