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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Walking Away

For the past few months I have been tortured with the decision to stay in Peace Corps or walk away. This has not been an easy decision to make and I still have a knot in my stomach thinking about it. I feel it is the right decision for me at this point in my life. I am terminating my service with Peace Corps.

In November, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, probably due to the high altitude and the stress of Peace Corps (not speaking dialect, drunken men coming to my house during the night, travel, lack of safety…). I visited a cardiologist in Guatemala City who warned me that I am far too young to be having these problems. I also have a very devastating family history of heart problems. I went along with the advice of the Peace Corps Medical Office and started a regime of medications. In January, I went back to the PC Office to have my blood pressure checked again and unfortunately it was still just as high as before. The doctor informed me that if it does not come down in the next few months Peace Corps will have to “Medically Separate” (sent home for medical reasons) as I would not be fit to serve. I could stay and hopefully my BP would come down but that was not guaranteed. I was in limbo.

This news devastated me. First, I do not like being told that someone else gets to decide whether I can stay or I must go. I must live my life for myself. I had a few rough weeks but ultimately I decided I would rather leave on my own terms. I have not been happy in my site for a long time. I can point fingers and say my site was not ready for a Volunteer and Healthy Homes Volunteers should not be put in sites without a Health Post, but I want to take responsibility for my own actions. My site was HARD. It was. I still do not have a working latrine after 8 months. My unofficial counterpart was a drunk and drank himself into a diabetic coma for 2 months. I am so far away from other volunteers. And the drunken men…the harassment I received was simply too much for me. Too much. I did not feel safe when bolos would come to my house and try to break-in during the middle of the night. All these things led me to walk away from my site. I know there are things I could have done to make things better-moved houses, studied dialect more, just be out in the community more. However, I feel it is too late.

It breaks my heart that I am not completing my 27 month commitment to Peace Corps. I do not like to quit things once I start them. However, sometimes it takes more strength to walk away from something than to stay and be miserable. I could keep chipping away at my site knowing I get to go home in a year and a half, but I’d rather walk away with my head held high. I have accomplished the true goals of most new sites- the people understand Peace Corps and have met and lived with an American. I have built trust within my community. If nothing else, I have learned from the native Mayan people and them from me.

And now I move on. I began the steps to apply for a few graduate programs for a Masters in Science with Environmental Education. Working on the “Eco-Block” project made me realize how much I love the environment and I think this path is where I belong. I hope to someday have my dream job of leading outdoor, educational excursions for young students or working with community outreach for an environmental NGO.

I will go into the Peace Corps office on Monday and begin the paperwork to “Early Terminate” (Peace Corps lingo for resigning). I have to do some medical tests and write a few essays and then I will be free. I am not returning directly home. I will go travel to Honduras and Nicaragua with a friend of mine who is also done with Peace Corps. Then my momma comes at the end of March and we will travel through Guatemala. I also am working on sending little Lubu home to the States. I cannot leave my beloved street dog.

So that is it. I do not know if I will continue to blog or not. Right now I cannot think past tomorrow. I hope my blog readers understand my situation and respect my decision to leave. However, if not that is fine. No one understands situations except the people who live in them. I have made internal peace with my time in Guatemala. I would still recommend Peace Corps to others but with a grain of salt. Know what makes you happy and do not sacrifice that. Live for yourself because if you are not taking care of yourself you can never help others.

With that…I’m OUT! Peace and Love to all :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I was my sister for a day

Today I went over to Cathaleen’s new community to help her with a water system project. Her town is in the process of putting in tubing and a water tank so the community has water (right now only two houses have water!!!!). The town has been working diligently and Cathaleen decided to solicit the help of an NGO, Agua para la Salud, to come help as well. A civil engineer came all the way up to Cat’s village and is spending the week doing measurements and figuring out the hydraulics of the system. I understand the basic concepts of the whole projects but there is still a LOT more for me to learn about water systems.

We first traveled up to the first spring where we measured the flow rate. We then had to measure the distance of that spring to the point it will join a pipe from another spring. We had to do this piece by piece since PVC pipe can only go in a straight line. I was in charge of holding the tape measure as Cat walked as far and she could. The engineer figured out some other measurements using a compass and some other thingy. I honestly did not understand that part! Something to do with figuring out the change in altitude, I believe. To get to our destination we had to cross the stream/go in the stream, climb through bushes and try to do it all on our feet! Luckily no one fell in the river, except Lubu.

We did the same flow rate measurement for the other spring. We then measured our way back to the town. We had to break for lunch after about 3 hours of this. After lunch we finished up. It was very interesting to get to help today because I have read a lot about water systems and my sister is a Civil/Environmental Engineer but I never really understood until today when I was there helping. I only wish we got to wear the orange vests and hard-hats like surveyors in the US. Maybe I should introduce that to Guatemala!

On another note, I am doing various presentations in my community, as well as neighboring communities, to promote the “Bottle Puesto de Salud.” All the PCVs in my muni are collaborating to attempt to expand the current health post in the main town using “Eco-Blocks” made out of plastic bottles filled with plastic trash, like candy wrappers and plastic bags. I am really excited about this project and I hope it actually gets off the ground!

Getting the flow rate

Measuring distance for the water tubes (me with the yellow tape measure)

View from Cathaleen's community looking over to my community (30 min walk)

Cute little girl hollering into the empty water tank


Monday, February 7, 2011


Ok I am not going to brag or anything but I might just be the coolest and/or luckiest PCV in G-Country (aka Guatemala). I received a phone call from the lady at the Peace Corps office saying I had a package waiting for me. I couldn't think who would send me a package at that address since its 10 hours from my site. I told her I will come and get it in time. No worries, it can't be important. She was very insistent it was important and said it was from the US Ambassador. I assumed it must just be the photo of our group and him from reconnect. She said no, it is a regalito (a little present). Say what!?!? A regalito…I’m excited.

Cathaleen picked up my regalito from the Xela office for me this weekend and it was more of a regalo! It was a cute little Santa wine holder filled with peanut M&Ms, a dog bone for Lubu and earplugs. Also, Ambassador McFarland put in a little note saying he is a fan of this blog! I feel so cool! (“I’m so popular, I’m so cool!” –UD) Who knew I would basically become a celebrity here. I sure had no idea! Kidding!

Long story short…THANKS Ambassador! You still ROCK!

Lubu and me with our Christmas present from the ambassador!

Bubu Lubu

Claire and Cathaleen holding onto Mora "the lap dog"