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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sad School

I went to a meeting yesterday to help plan the “desfile” parade that will happen for my town fair in two weeks. I sat in a classroom for about 40 minutes waiting for others to show up and I noticed the only school rules are as follows:
NOT Permitted:
-bad habits
-being without a uniform
I agree that most of these are good rules but what about respect? Or raising your hand? Or turning in assignments? There are so many things wrong and corrupt with the education system in Guatemala it breaks my heart. These kids want to learn but often it is just not possible because of lack of funding, quality teachers or they have to stay home and work.

Another sad fact for my middle school is there are currently NO teachers! I went to visit with the director on 3 different occasions a week ago and he never showed up, not even once! I was really annoyed and couldn’t understand why he kept standing me up when I was doing him a favor and teaching English classes. I found out yesterday all the teachers got better job offers in other communities so there is no one to teach now. There are 6 classes of students in three grades that are without classes. School was supposed to start the 17th but as of yet, nothing. The town men are meeting on Friday to “discuss the problem” but what can be done?!!? They need teachers ASAP but knowing how slow things move in Guatemala it may be a while before there are teachers for these eager minds.

On another note I was in Xela last week for more medical appointments. The city is the second largest and it felt like it. I am sure used to aldea life. I stayed with my friend Shannon who lives nearby and it was great to hang out with her and see her town. Nothing new to report on the medical side…things are still up in the air. It’s all very frustrating. But I push on….

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Christmas Vaca Pics

Here is my website to view all the Christmas Extravaganza 2010 pics. Also, you can connect to the rest of my albums of my time in Guatemala.

Christmas Vacation 2010

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Back to Reality

Vacation is definitely over. The days of drinking Pina Coladas on the black sand beaches are far gone. I have been back in site a week now and it is funny how things go back to normal so fast. Yesterday I went to the Consejo Tecnico with all the health workers in my municipality and unfortunately there are now about half the number of health workers. The government does not have the money to pay the workers so a bunch of people lost their job over the holidays. Also, the NGOs that were providing health care lost funding so they left too. My town has been without vaccinations and any health attention since October. A different health post has been reassigned to take over vaccinations so hopefully these kids will not be forgotten.

I did my first charla of the New Year this afternoon. I asked Cathaleen to come help me. We focused on food preparation, washing fruits and veggies and chlorinating water. We did a little skit where Cat was a fly who contaminates food with poop and I was the girl who ate the food and got diarrhea. The women laughed and enjoyed it. The women seem to comprehend everything well but unfortunately when I reviewed the important times to wash hands I could hear crickets. No one remembered! Seriously?!?! I have reviewed the 4 times to wash your hands (after bathroom, after changing diaper, before eating, before cooking) but no one spoke up or anything. It was a very frustrating end to an otherwise great charla. It makes me remember that maybe I am doing no good as far as health education. I am entertaining to the women and they enjoy themselves. Maybe that is all a first generation volunteer can really achieve.

Other news, I am off for 3 days of medical tests in Xela next week. I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and anxiety. They think its stress….duh! I am not sure what the doctors will say but hopefully something good. I have not responded to treatment thus far and Peace Corps has given me a time limit to get things under control. On top of the stress of my unprepared site, these medical issues are really testing me. Updates to come.

Finally, I want to thank all of my friends back home. I do not think I would still be here without the support from you. I love all the letters and packages and emails and everything. Thank you so much and know how much you are appreciated 

Saturday, January 8, 2011


The fence finally went in! JAJAJA! The men and a few women showed up around 8am and work actually began at 9am. First, I must say the community bought all the materials and donated their time. I said I could pay but they said that they would collect money from the town and pitch in more themselves. I expected the fence to be done while I was gone but in hindsight I was glad to be around for the building day.

As they worked outside, I cooked inside. I agreed to cook lunch for the 20 people a few days ago. The only thing I could think to cook for that many people on my little two burned stove was chili. I started cooking beans last night and did about 4 batches of beans in my pressure cooker. This morning I borrowed a huge pot from my neighbors and adding the veggies, meat, and seasonings. It all came together in the nick of time. I wasn’t too sure if all the people would like my food but everyone finished it and some even had more. Of course I made too much so I will be eating chili for a few days. This afternoon I gave a bowl to my little neighbor friend who just laughed. She is only 11 but I’m sure she cooks much better than me.

I just need a lock on the gate and I now have a secure fence! The only bad news is that I won’t be getting help to build my latrine until the END of February! GRRR! I said I could just do it but they all said they are interested in learning about it and could I wait and show them about the dry composting latrines…I agreed. Yes, I will have to wait another month but they actually seemed genuinely interested in learning so I will take another month of my sick-nasty flooded latrine in order to promote the sanitary ones.

In progress

Everyone that helped

My delicious chili

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Holiday Vacation: Bombas, Dinosaurs and Sea-Turtles

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I must write about my long vacation and I will try to keep it interesting. After a few days in site, Lisa, Rem and I traveled to Huehue and visited the Zaculeau Ruins. After the day eating street tacos and sightseeing we headed to my friend Callie’s site about 40 minutes away. There we were able to hike around, swim in the pools and drink some delicious wine. I also got very good at impersonating the Turkey at her house…Gobble Gobble Gobble (trust me, it’s much better in person).

Zaculeu Ruins outside of Huehue

The lovebirds at Zaculeu

After a few nights there we headed off to Coban. This is where the shit hit the fan. The national government decided to issue a “State of Siege” on the department where we intended to spend the next week. The government wanted to take back the cities run by narco-traffickers. After numerous phone calls to Peace Corps staff and many tears on my side we decided to change things up and head up to Flores instead of visiting the Limestone Pools of Semuc Champey. We arrived in Flores and found a hotel with a lovely view. Unfortunately the tour people in and around the town were vicious and would not leave us alone. I guess everyone is always trying to make a buck. We spent the next day hiking near the island and then hitting up the many bars for happy hour.

The next day we headed up to Tikal. The national park is about an hour outside of Flores. We decided to spend the night at one of the hotels located in the park (thank you Lisa and Rem!). The place had a pool which combined with some afternoon Tequila led to some fun photo sessions.

Lisa and Me underwater

Rem and Me

Claire and Rem

We headed into the Tikal Ruins in the afternoon. The park was HUGE! You could easily get lost in there. We wandered around and saw a bunch of different old temples and got to climb some very scary stairs to reach the top of Temple #5. The view was amazing but I was feeling a bit nauseous looking down. Claire and Rem just walked around like it was no problem. Lisa and I stayed close to the ground. From the top of the temple you could see for miles and miles and it was just pure jungle. We saw a few more temples and the main plaza and watched the sun go down. It was cool to be in this place that 2000 years ago served as the capital city of the huge Mayan Empire. It makes everything else seem so new.

I also officially believe dinosaurs still exist. I know the signs said that the Howler Monkeys make very loud noises but the things I heard at night could no way have come from a little monkey. Those were noises of T-Rex and Raptors! Sleeping in the jungle (ok in a hotel really) was an amazing experience and I am so lucky to have experienced the dinosaur noises and all!

View from the top of one of the Temples

Some Ruins

Lisa and Me

Lisa and Rem

Lisa and Rem


The horribly terrifying stairs to the top of Temple 5

The next day we returned to Tikal and saw some more ruins. After a few hours of climbing up and down we headed back to Flores. We hit up some more happy hours and enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve dinner. I slept through it all but I am told I missed World War 3 status fireworks at midnight. Guatemalans love their bombas.

The 4 travelers: Me, Claire, Rem, Lisa

View of the island of Flores

Me, Sabiha and Claire

Christmas day brought Mass and some more eating and swimming in the lake. We then took an overnight bus to Antigua. In Antigua we visited my old host family, toured a coffee farm and climbed Volcano Pacaya. The volcano was a really easy hike but it was a beautiful view from the top. We actually couldn’t go all the way to the top since Pacaya exploded last May. Too dangerous they say…I would have gone though!

Me on Volcano Pacaya with Volcano de Agua, Volcano de Fuego and Volcano Acatenango in the background

Rock art

A few days before New Year’s Eve we headed to Monterrico, a small town on the Southern coast. The weather was warm, the waves were decent sized and we saw baby sea turtles. What else can I ask for? It was amazing to bask in the sun and hear the sounds of waves all day. We also got to eat some delicious fish and shrimp fresh out of the ocean. We took it easy on New Year’s Eve and just sat on the beach and watched all the fireworks. Once again, more bombas. One of the last days we took a boat tour of the Mangroves in Monterrico. It was very early but we saw some interesting fish and birds.

Baby sea turtle

The nightly release of the sea turtles

Lisa and Me at sunset on the beach


Lisa and Rem

Wildlife during the Mangrove tour

We returned to Antigua the night before Lisa and Rem flew out. We had Indian Food and went out for a beer. They had to leave the next morning ridiculously early. I was so sad to see them go. I cried for far too long that morning after they left. If I have learned one thing since I have been in Guatemala it is the value of family. Seeing my sister made me realize how much I miss my family.

To finish this long post I must update on a few things. I still am having medical issues and have to go in for more tests and such. UGH! I was super healthy before I came here so why now?!?!? It is hard to focus on my job when I have so much other Peace Corps official stuff to deal with. Now that I am back in site I am really trying to make more of an effort to get out. I am going to walk my dog every afternoon to see more people. I am hoping once school is back in session I will be able to teach some English classes as well. A new year and hopefully a new start.

But still no fence and no latrine…some things never change.