Friday, September 19, 2008


Sometimes I am so used to being here I forget that other people don’t really know what its like or what it looks like and I’m so used to it I forget to describe it. So I’m going to describe a little bit. We eat beans all the time but they are only ever black beans. Plantains are also very popular and tacos are hard to come by. I am very happy to say though that I do have a taco stand in my town. My town also doesn’t eat tortillas (sad). We only eat tomalitos. This is corn meal that’s wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. They eat about 5 and every sitting and it also serves as their silver ware. You just kind of scoop the food you want onto the top of the tomalito. I feel like I don’t know anyone my age and I realized its because when they are my age they are married with kids, a job and life. The wrinkles have started to form. Women all carry their babies on their backs in a thing called a paraje. It’s basically the shape of a scarf but a lot larger and the baby lays on their back while the put the paraje over its back, tuck it under the butt and then tie a knot in front like an over the shoulder backpack. They are very colorful and sometimes have little dangles on the ends. (I want one). They also serve to cover the women’s heads while they are in church. And the women carry everything on their heads. They wrap a little towel into a circle and put it on their head to help with the balance and then put whatever they are carrying on top. Such as tables, stools, chickens, wood etc…They also all carry wood or heavy objects by putting on a head band type thing so that their forehead carries all the weight of what’s on their back and they lean forward and jog with the load. A lot of the women are often shuffling instead of walking and it’s because their skirts don’t have slits in the side and they are wrapped so tight. Children are basically given coffee at birth. In baby formula mixes and children’s cereal a normal 4 spoonfuls of sugar is added. Baby formula…..yikes. No one drinks water here. They usually only drink coffee, soda, and atoll. Atoll is an amazing hot thick drink that comes in many flavors. You have to cook it with boiling water but when I made a glass for myself using the health center microwave it was seriously a big deal and everyone made a glass. Haha

I’m listening to “Its Christmas time” By the Eagles right now. I just made a delicious dinner of rice, refried black beans and a mouth watering vegetable stir fry. Above my head is my new fly trap that caught 15 flies within the first 3 hours. Once they get stuck they buzz around for a while (this is the part I try to ignore because it actually makes me sad) and then they seem to die. I don’t know why? Do they just give up or is there a chemical that makes them die?

Anyways this weekend was Guatemalan Independence Day!!! I stayed in the city with Ashley and Casey and we had a blast. We bought Guatemala head bands and went to the fair. They rode a ridiculously dangerous Ferris wheel (they couldn’t have paid me to go on it). I indulged in some amazing corn on the cob and we watched a marching band parade/competition in the street. The baton twirlers don’t throw the batons up and some wear the skimpiest clothes and they are like 12!!! And it was pouring rain so many of the outfits were see through. There were a few all girl bands!! Awesome~ Me and Ashley danced to all the bands and were labeled the crazy gringas…the guy standing across the street from us had either a clove of garlic hanging over his balls or a wad of socks…we couldn’t tell but the garlic would be more interesting. We stayed in this amazing hostel and enjoyed a free breakfast of BLT bagel sandwiches! Ugh. Yum. We also met some students who are studying Spanish in the city and they showed us my new favorite place that sells chai tea!!!

We also went to our first Guatemalan soccer game! Whoohoo…super fun. Our team lost horribly but the hotdogs, pizza and caramelized peanuts made up for it. (I know, It doesn’t even sound like peace corps huh?) It was a much needed break.

So about my site and my work: I’m doing most of my work in the schools right now. Which I think is a great way to get to know the community because all the little kids come running up to me and tug on my purse until I kneel down and receive their cheek kisses. This month I am giving a mixture of charlas (classes). Some on drug and alcohol abuse…(MUCH NEEDED), some on the risks of early pregnancy, how to take care of water etc… I also still have my teen group on wed morning and the kids group in the afternoon. Wednesdays I feel like I don’t even get the chance to breathe but they are always so fun! I teach 30 minutes of preventative health and then 30 minutes of English. We play a lot of games and everyone seems to enjoy themselves. (they must because, they keep coming back!) This week we are talking about trash and why you shouldn’t litter and how to burn your trash or burry it. At some point I would like to make a community compost pile and start some tire garden projects.

There is so much work that needs to be done here and I want to take on every project! Before I leave I want every school to have a rain water run off system. We get water once a month and the director of one school told me it would be pointless for me to talk about good hygiene with the kids when they really don’t have the water to shower every day or brush their teeth etc…I’m going to need to write a grant for that project and it’s a bit overwhelming but IM DOIN IT! Also we don’t have an ambulance here and before I leave I would like to have one. We are going to start raffles in the health center to raise money to buy it. I am starting this project in October when the schools have a 3 month break…But I am going to try to get people to donate things that we can raffle off. I would like to see things that could later benefit the family. Like raffling off pigs, goats etc… If you have any ideas let me know. A lot of people I’ve talked to have said “why don’t we just ask the united states to give us an ambulance?” My response is “because we can do it ourselves. Imagine the pride the community would have if they did it themselves. And then imagine the possibilities of all the other things they could do once they knew they could!” Sometimes I feel like they just feel helpless and like they don’t know how to help themselves, but I know they can and I’m going to help.

I would also love to start an exercise class for the “older” women in the community. I’m going to start looking for donations of a TV and DVD player so we can learn yoga, kickboxing, tae beau etc….We can also make jump ropes and go speed walking. Haha I’m excited. I have also been thinking about doing a love your body campaign with the women. Guatemala style. The reasons they love their bodies would be so incredibly different then ours and I would like to display the art work in the states. I just need a bit more time with the confianza building (trust). But I think it would be great for them and I think it could potentially help a lot of problems facing the community, especially alcoholism and violence against women. I think the lack of self esteem, as individuals and as a community, is the cause of many problems.

My mind is exploding with ideas and things I would like to accomplish. I just hope I get a few things done and make a tiny difference. In the mean time I learned how to crochet granny squares! I was sooo excited! I’m going to make an awesome scarf. They say that if you bring a hobbie you’ll be amazing at it by the end of your two years. Well I can already tell that my direction reading abilities are getting better because I have nothing else to do but keep re-reading them, trying to figure it out. I am also becoming quite the reader (weird, I know). I am reading mountains beyond mountains and I recommend it to anyone reading this! I also love reading letters! Hehe so send them this way! I miss you all!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hello Everyone!!! so I noticed no one was home and I snuck my camera outside to take a picture of my bathroom. hehe and the three pigs that live near it..they start making snorting noises everytime you go near, I think they think they are going to get fed. Anyway, The thing with the blue tarp is my bathroom..cozy..

This next picture is of 3 year old Kaley on the left and her 7 year old sister betsy on the right. these are the amazing little girls I was living with before I had to move to the other house. I still see them from time to time and I need to go visit more often. But life here is generally absolutely breath taking and I find myself stopping sometimes and staring at the scenery and thinking....oh my god, Im actually here and Im doing it!

Friday, August 15, 2008


This is a group picture of everyone on swearing in day. My three bosses and all the volunteers. Im al smiles because I had just pinched Janes Butt..hehe And then the next picture is of Emily, Zach, me and Dan. We were at our training center for the swear in and its prety gorgeous there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


So Ive been in site for almost 4 weeks now and im totally slacking on the blog...sorry. So Ill just fill you in...a little bit...

Its green rolling hills....sheep, cows, goats and pigs everywhere!! and dont forget about the roosters... so its gorgeous and freezing and lots of rain.

I am working in the health center and me and my counterpart have given a few charlas on HIV AIDS and STIs and how to use a condom....I am now starting to give puberty charlas all this month...Im excited. I am also starting a group of kids who want to be health promoters...

I also swore in with my right hand in front of the mayor as a representative to my community and to the health center. I am a member of an organization that speaks for the community completely and utterly random that day was....i think you can guess how out of place i felt...haha

There are drunk men and women everywhere at all times of the day...

the people here are sooo nice to me its weird. It makes me remember how un nice people are in big cities in the U.S. Here you dont walk by someone without greeting them and they all seem to know my name. it takes me a while to remember theres.

Im doing great and Ill put another update soon!!!!! love you all

Rilo Kiley puts peace corps into words...

Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can’t move
Awake but cannot open my eyes
And the weight is crashing down on my lungs I know I cant breathe
And hope someone will save me this time

But the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap
And it teases you for weeks in its absence
But youll fight and you’ll make it through
Youll fake it if you have to
And youll show up for work with a smile

You’ll be better
And you’ll be smarter
More grown up and a better daughter or son and a real good friend
You’ll be awake
You’ll be alert
You’ll be positive though it hurts
And you’ll laugh and embrace all your friends
You’ll be a real good listener
You’ll be honest you’ll be brave
You’ll be handsome and you’ll be beautiful
You’ll be happy

Shit may be comin in
You’re weak but not givin in
And you’ll fight it
You’ll go out fighting all of them

of course this is how peace corps feels like only every once and a while...not every day. ...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

more pictures!!!

So on the left is Joe from cali here with his wife Katie....Then me...Then Emily from Georgia, then Jaime from all over also here with his wife....We all live in the same community...Then The next picture I am dancing with Hugo...the son to my host parents...haha This is at a baptism where there was a bottle of rum on each table and I was strictly told I was not to have any....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Sorry for the somewhat crazy blog I last posted...But it really is a taste of life here. some days are the best in uour life and some are the worst. Its a whirl wind of emotions!!! But lately I have been having amazing days and I want to show you all some pictures to prove it!!! I am also going to my site on Sunday and it will be my home away from home for the next 2 years!!! I am very terrified to say the least. But Let the adventure begin!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008


I’m falling backwards. -Down a cliff- I see images of everything normal flashing by my sides as I quickly fall. I focus solely on my hands in front of my face frantically grabbing for something to hold onto. Something normal to soften the fall.

This week I became a new person and It’s terrifying.

A glimpse:
This week was our “site visit”. We were going to see where we’d be working and living for the next two years. A week of complete Spanish and Quiche. A week in the mountains with corn fields hovering over me. Cows mooing, Goats in the front yard, sheep roaming the hills and baby piglets wandering in the grass. Rain and 6 blankets to sleep at night. A room with two entries and no doors. No shower. Lots of coffee and lots of smiling faces. A feeling of confidence, independence, complete lack of control, and a will to let the wind take me where I’m supposed to be.
On the last day I decide to go back to the main city by myself and spend the night. I had been planning on this for quite some time and I decided I would be ok. I could do it. I say goodbye to my new family and I get on a microbus, roll through the mountains and arrive in the city. I begin asking people how to get to the central park. A kind man tells me I have to cross the road. I ask another man and he tells me to the left. I am now in the market. It’s market day in the second biggest city of Guatemala. I ask a woman and her three kids how to get to the park and she completely ignores me. It’s at this point I begin to breathe a bit heavier. I turn around and am surrounded by taxi drivers whistling at me and asking if I need a ride. I remind myself this would not be a good or appropriate time to start crying.
I had to pee sooo bad, I was scared, I was lonely, I was tired, I was shocked. I remembered the Peace Corps telling me to take things one thing at a time. Take a second and look at a situation then brainstorm on tangible things you can do to make your situation a bit better. I see a bathroom and even though I have to pay, she didn’t give me toilet paper and it was disgusting it took care of one necessary problem.
As I begin walking again I pull out a chocolate cookie that I was saving just for this kind of occasion. I then begin talking out loud to myself for two reasons. One, to hear English and two, because I need to talk myself through tough situations. I count on my right hand all the shitty things about the situation. One, Im alone. Two, I have no clue where to go. Three, I have no clue how to get to where I want to go. Four, I am terrified to spend the night alone. Five, I have no plan…….Then on my left hand I count out loud on each finger the good things about the situation. One, I have always wanted to travel alone. Two, I am very independent. Three, This is the Peace Corps life I always wanted. Four, I’m always going to remember this day. Five, Im proud of myself. And I couldn’t have it equal the number of the bad so I added six, Just breathe and everything will work out.
I’m finally on the main road and I’ve decided I might as well walk the hour to the park instead of take a bus since I have all day to spare. My confidence is up and I have a plan! To walk somewhere!!! Yay….then a truck full of men drive by with their heads sticking out the window…whistling at me. I don’t know what took over me but I flip them off and yell “F You!!!”
OH MY GOD! They are going to turn around and kill me! I run across the street and disguise myself in the crowd. They don’t turn around and I’m embarrassed. I’m that Peace Corps volunteer they talk about. The one who lets things build up and then freaks out!
I cup my hand around my box necklace. Inside it contain an encouraging note I wrote to myself for times like this. I hold onto it as if it’s my life and my sanity. And in many ways it was both, inside the little box around my neck.
I walk and walk and walk and find the first hotel! And it’s only a block away from the park!!!! Also my friends called from Huehuetenango and said they were coming to stay with me!!!!! I get a room with 4 beds….and things are looking up. I take a hot shower and I chat with the hotel lady who wont leave me alone. Now, for some food. I walk about another 40 minutes until I find a tacos al pastor place!!! Yay things are really looking up. But I wish everyone would stop starring at me. I’ve never eaten alone at a restaurant before and I’m reminded of many romantic comedies where everyone feels bad for the girl alone at the table. I ate 3 fantastic tacos and was pleasantly reminded of Mexico.
Then I buy a powered vanilla cookie and search for an internet café. I open my mail and have received a very mean and un-welcomed letter from someone I care deeply about. In a hasty response I say some mean things and I leave the café. My feeling of “it will be ok” has vanished. I am no longer who I was and I am no longer in a world I know. I think of my parents and how they are a world away from me. Im walking on the streets of Guatemala crying. People are starring. I have to go use the bathroom in my hotel two times because I have made myself sick to my stomach. I go to the park to eat my cookie but a band is playing beautiful music and I’m swept away and feel as though I should be in a love story movie. But I’m not. I call my mom and tell her to call me right back. She doesn’t. They don’t know how to call me from Ireland. I don’t have enough minutes to talk to her on my phone. I think of her across the world in Ireland trying to dial my number and wondering if I’m ok. I think of me sitting in a park crying, not okay, and wishing she was there with me.
My friends call me excited and say they are almost there! I wipe my tears and go to meet them right when my mom gets through. I start crying on the phone and tell her everything is ok but I don’t want to cry so I cant talk. Then an amazing friend calls me and I cant talk to him either of Ill start crying. I hastily hang up, hug my friends that have arrived and take them to our hotel.
We find an amazing Italian restaurant and I order pesto pasta. We share a bottle of sweet red wine and we toast to a new life and to new friends. Things are looking up again.

Monday, June 30, 2008

san fransisco la union Quetzaltenango!

Hello everyone! I am sitting on my bed. Its Saturday and I have a free day!!! YAY- Right now I have some company. Galia is sitting on my bed with me and we both just ate saltines and nutella that I have hidden in my top dresser drawer…Thank you Kelly and Lisa. Galia loved it! Haha We had to scrape all the crumps off the bed though before don beto saw it..hehe
Anyway!!! I Know where I will be living for the next two years. Its interesting here. I feel like choosing to come to the peace corps I gave someone the ability to decide what the rest of my life is going to be like. On wedneday, the day we found out, I couldn’t help but think “the next three words that come out of this mans mouth are going to change my life forever.” And surely it will. I am going to San Fransisco la Union in the department of Quetzaltenango. I am very very excited. Quetzaltenango is definitely not one of the poorest departments in Guatemala but it does need help and I guess that’s why Im going. I am going to be working in a centro de salud with a doctor who knows Spanish, K’iche, Japanese and English! Ahhh My counterpart, the person I will be working with for the next two years is a woman and shes a tecnica in salud prventiva. I am not really sure what that means though because that’s technically what I am too. Well, that’s what I am supposed to tell them I am when they ask me! HAHA
For the last week I have had classes de K’iche in the mornings and classes for Spanish in the afternoon. The people in my site speak Spanish as a second language! Just like me! Haha And it is mostly the men who know a lot of Spanish. The women get less schooling and therefore primarily speak in K’iche. I will need to know some catch phrases to be able to build the confianza….trust. I know how to say good morning, xsaqarik. Good afternoon, xs’eq’ri and good night but I forgot how to spell it. Also thank you is matiox. I really like it so far!!! Im nervous and have a lot more to learn!
Some details, I will be living only 40 minutes away from the second biggest city in Guatemala….movie theaters, restaurants etc…Im assuming. And I am 30 minutes away from another volunteer named Ashley who I love! So that will be super fun. Emily is about 4 hours away from me though. She is living in Huehuetenango, One of the poorest departments. I will have electricity!!!!! I will have water but only during certain hours. I will also be living near a post office! But I have no clue if there’s an internet café around?? I hope so! This community has ever had a health volunteer. They had an agriculture volunteer 10 years ago. The major problems that face this community are malnutrition, gastrinol disease, ad respitory problems…This kind of scares me because I know nothing about the last two things!!! HAHA…I hope there’s some pregnant women around too…
On Tuesday I will be going to my site for a week and Im going to stay in the doctors house! He is supposed to help me find a house to rent with a family. And I am supposed to introduce myself to the mayor, firefighters, postman, and all the people in the municipality. There are no police in this community- we’ll see how that goes. Wish me luck! I have gotten so comfortable in my house with my family and it will be weird to leave my comfort zone again. Who knows what the bed is like, the shower, the bathroom, the food. The people!! Ahhhh!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

This is me an our chonpipe.......Before we killed it. Little does he know in minutes his life will be taken...But we were super nice and we made it drink a whole cup of rum before we killed it. For 2 reasons....1) It would hurt him less when don beto chopped off his head and 2) It would make his meat taste better!! haha He was a delicious turkey. It was a weird day and I tried to be open minded about killing an aminal. It didnt bother me as much as i thought and I think its because of the respect they had for the turkey and It was their pet. They were very excited to teach me how to kill it to and they insist that when I go to my site and have my own chonpipes I am going to want to eat them....even though I swear I wont want to eat my pets! haha Anyway, so don beto chopped off its head, then we hung it upside down to drain...then we put it into a huge pot and poured boiling water on it and me and dona rosa plucked off its feathers...then we singed off the rest of its hairs over a fire and then we went to mass......I got sick from the smell....and then when we came home we opened it up and began to de gut it!! I got sick again from the smell and I told dona rosa it was the smell bothering me and she picked up the guts and smelled them and then said ¨they have no smell¨haha...Anyway Theres a littl epack in the turkeys belly that holds all its food before its digested and it was filled with full pieces of corn! really weird. Then the next morning we cooke dpepian with the turkey! It was amazing. I have the recipe and Im going to give it to you all and see who can make it! I have a picture of me smashing up some seeds on a rock in the kitchen...I love you all....I miss you all! I HELD A TURKEY! HEHEHEHEH (and in this picture behind me is our outdoor bathroom and shower)

Friday, June 13, 2008

my frist HIV-AIDS charla....VIH SIDA

Wow- sometimes life hits you right in the face….and this seems to happen much more often when you’re in the Peace Corps.

You really begin to know your limits and by that I mean you begin to realize you have no limits and it’s an amazing and terrifying experience.

No matter what country I’m living in I always roll out bed…I shower… I eat…I do what I’m supposed to do that day. No matter the circumstances sometimes just getting out of bed and having breakfast no matter what time it is, no matter what food you eat, no matter how freezing cold the shower is I am still doing the things I did everyday in the states. …..Its weird how far away from everything normal you are but you still have a routine.

Well today I had a moment where it was like someone pressed mute on the video of my life and I was able to simply observe. I was giving a charla in Spanish about HIV AIDS (VIH/SIDA) and I was being understood in this other language and I knew what I was saying! I had no idea this is what Id be doing in the peace corps. I really didn’t know what I was signing up for and now I’m standing in another country…striving and growing~ Its amazing.

There were about 70 kids, their teachers, and about 7 health promoters. We went to their school in a town close to ours and we gave them a charla about HIV AIDS. We had the gender and development group from peace corps (which I am going to join) train us how to give this charla….they showed us games to do etc….and then I found myself doing these games with the little kids! It was sooooo scary!!!! And sooo much fun! I had them get in a half circle and then I had 8 volunteers. One was a kid who signified a healthy human body and then three kids held hands around him and they wore signs that said globules blancos (white blood cells) and then we had three kids wearing signs that said “diarrhea” “parasito” y “gripe (common cold)” try to enter the body but the globules blancos fought them off….The kids acted this all out and had a ton of fun! But then this guy decided to have unprotected sex with a woman who had HIV…..then all the diseases were able to enter and the white blood cells died and then the kid wearing the human body sign had to wear a sign that said SIDA….It doesn’t sound that good written out but it was super fun and it’s an easy interactive way to really show what happens…We had a lot of other activities as well and the whole thing lasted a little longer than 2 hours! But all 4 of us shared the charla so it was less stressful.

Then we talked about blood to blood, mother to child, and unprotected sex and everything you could think of! We even talked about sex that includes, anal, oral and vaginal. These kids were about 13-16 and Believe me I never got the education they all got today in the states! We even demonstrated how to put a condom on a broom stick! Haha

And then it was time from question and answer…..and man did they have questions!!! Very very intelligent questions too. For a very conservative culture they really are un-conservative if that makes sense. To put it better, They are a very realistic culture. Anyway this one kid asked where they can buy safe condoms that wont break etc…and then a health promoter (older woman) got up and said they don’t need to be having sex….they shouldn’t be asking questions like that etc….and as we were all looking at one another to decide what we should say to her….another Guatemalan boy raised his hand and was like we are good kids and we simply want to be safe and have answers….It was amazing~ AMAZING….

Also, the best part was the one little girl who was wearing indigenous clothing (the others wore school uniforms.,.) she asked us what medicine is in birth control and we kind of half assed the answer because none of us are doctors….and I felt bad and like maybe she was scared to use birth control because she had heard bad things about it or something…so after the charla I walked up to her and her friends and I said “I want to clarify that birth control is not bad for you and It has chemicals that are already in your body they are simply in strong doses…” and then the girl and her 2 little friends leaned into me and said “Once a woman loses her virginity will everyone be able to tell?” I had them repeat the questions about three times to make sure I was hearing right before I said no very strongly….haha…I was like “no no no….no one will know unless you tell them.”
It broke my heart seriously to know that these girls were getting this information from their mothers in order to scare them into not having sex…..and then when they do decide to have sex they wont have any clue what a condom is or how to wear one etc….Its a very odd world here.

My friend Emily also talked to the three little girls later and they asked her the same question…They also asked is there’s a test to tell if someone is a virgin…and if a woman bleeds a lot. Young people are very smart and they are getting messages about sex from many different angles and Im glad we could clear up a few things for them because if a young girl began asking those questions to someone else she would be told it was inappropriate and she would never get the right answer and then she would go out and have sex anyways!

It was simply an amazing experience and I felt like maybe today I actually made a difference.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


The top one is don beto, dona rosa and the cute neighboir boy giving vaccine eye drops to our turkeys and chickens!! It was soo hilarious! The next is me next to Anne Jr. A pine tree I planted at a little tiny rural school in quiche..where we had our field based training. There are more pictures of this on the way. The last picture is my house!!!! and its gorgeous! I love you all

This is Galia, 5 and her little brother Allen who is 1 year and 2 motnths!!! They are sooo cute and fun! They live attached to us. Don beto and Dona rosa are their grandparents. Aren´t they sooo cute! They are playing on my floor.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Field based Training

Hello everyone!!! Right now i have a huge wad of money in my bra and its poking out! haha I juyst used the atm and got out a shit ton of money for my host family. Here in guatemala you can hardly ever use a check because they check the signautres sooo closely and if they dont match your family will have to pay 70 Quetzalez...thats a lot!!! Anyway while I was using the atm my friend matt walked up and then some other guatemalan guy walked up-...I tried to hide my pin number and I fgot my money.. then matt used the atm and the guy was totally trying to see his pin ever though he truned his shoulder to hide it. I am sooo scared my money will all be taken out. the guy was totally sketchy too' I hope everything is ok. Anyway.......We just got back from a whole week in Bueatiful Quiche. It was field based training week. We spent the whole week builing everything and anything!! My job for the first year is going to be to give lectures to people and educate them...then for the next year part of my job will be to help them build the things i taught them about. so this week was hands on training. We built a rain water catchment system that went into this huge cement tank for storage and then attached it to a pipe that connected to a pila (a hand washing station) for the little kids to wash their hands. we also built a ramp for them to walk on. We planted 8 pine trees.....and also gavce charlas (lectures) to the little kids everyday about the importance of washing your hands. We also built a cement floor for the bathroom and a seperate rain water run off system so they can use the water to cook with. We ALSO built 2 stoves. we were only able to complete one stove in time but another volunteer will finish the other one. It was sooo exciting though because we worked with 3 current volunteers and they were all very nice. The stoves were built in the kitchens of two local houses. One of them was down this crazy forrest trail and it was absolutely gorgeous. Everything was so peaceful and quiet and then had a tiny little house with dirt water supply....a ton of chickens and a little farm. It was so amazing to be able to work with them. And they hardly spoke spanish. The language spoken was quiche and I couldnt understand any of it....although now I know the words for pig- HAGK and Water- HAK. haha Anyway they were very nice and tried to communicate with us as much as possible. the little kids all had these wart things growing all over their arms and hands though. Im not sure what they were but it was sad and weird.We stayed in this hotel in the capital of quiche. sometimes we had water sometimes we didnt and it was always freezing. And if we were lucky there were 2 toilets working! haha for 16 of us! We had eggs and beans every morning for breakfast and beans and rice every night for dinner. We had to go shopping for our own lunch everyday and bring it with us. so everyday we ate peanut butter, honey and banana snadwiches...hahaAlso we were supposed to pack super light for this trip.. so I brought my little backpack. and then dona rosa asked me if i would like to bring some snacks...of course I said yes and she shows up in my doorway with 2 mangos, 2 pears, 4 bananas, a cantelope, and a papaya for me to take!! haha It was hilarious and super nice. We all shared the fruit during lunch time. During this week we also had our interviews with our head honcho guy named basilio. He pulled us aside one by one and asked us questions about what we would want for our future sites. I did my whole interview in spanish and he had already heard me give a charla once....but I think it went really really well. He asked me where I learned spanish.....told me I spoke really well.....and then when he asked me if I wanted to learn a mayan language ( which essentially means live in a community where spanish is a second language) I said I wanted to be fluent in spanish before I leave here buit I would like to learn the basics of a mayan language so I can say goodmorning and build trust with the people....To this he replied.....well....youre pretty much fluent!!!! ahhhh. I was very happy. to hear this from the boss!!!!!! But now Im terrified im going to be in some rural rural place where spanish doesnt exist....ugh but life is an adventure and I'll live either way. I also told him I wasnt sure if I wanted another site mate and that I didnt care if I was close to a city of not. He asked me how important electricity and water were and I told him the only thing I need is a cement floor! haha Now Im freaking out with excitement and Im scared but I made all these decisions before I got scared so I knew I was saying the right things. I will know by the end of the month where my site is going to be! I love you all. Ill post pictures soon.I found out about Hillary losing while I was in Quiche also and It was horrible. I started crying in front of my roomates. I just felt so disconnected from the world I once knew. I also semi feel like me and Hillary are walking the same paths and to see this happen to her made me very scared. Im also scared for the future of our country and it all hit me too fast. But even though Im thousands of miles away I am also working for the future of our country and everything will be fine. Love you

Saturday, May 31, 2008

my first charla

My first Charla:

So I am working with two puestos de salud in my area with 3 other peace corps volunteers. Last week we went and followed the health promoters to some houses and watched them give a charla to the family. Overall It went pretty well. This week it was our turn to give the charla, in Spanish, to a family that didn’t know we were coming. Everything seems to be a surprise here in Guatemala. You never actually ever know what’s going to happen. Anyway, we split into two groups and I was with Emily, 6 female health promoters, the nurse, our Spanish teacher and our main boss from the peace corps! We were getting graded today! Yikes. We were so nervous! I was really nervous because I had prepared a charla about breast feeding but in this town we weren’t going to a house that had a little baby so I had to come up with another charla! (Im giving the breast feeding one tomorrow though…)
We were given a CD with charla ideas on it. I chose to do my charla on why preventative health is important and what preventative health is. I think that’s the first step. We went to a small house with 2 kids, a dad and a mother who was a Spanish teacher. These houses were all chosen by the head nurse meaning they were not practicing good hygiene….They all shared a bedroom that was very messy but they weren’t living in the worst of worst conditions. I introduced myself and said I was there to support the work of the health promoters. Then we played hot potato as an Ice breaker and I think it worked really well, it was fun. Guatemalans love to laugh and have fun.
The charla was a story of 4 workers in a factory, their boss, and a nurse. I had them all volunteer for roles.The point was to see who had more money by the weekend. I went through a story one by one about how worker number 1 didn’t cover a puddle of standing water outside his house and so he got cholorea. He had to pay the nurse his salary and couldn’t go to work for the rest of the day. The next person didn’t kill the rats in his house and his wife got sick and he had to spend his money on medication…etc…there was one worker how had listened to the chralas of the health promoters and practiced good hygiene. He was the only one that ended up with the most money. Then I had a poster with different pictures of easy ways to start good habits. Washing your hands, covering your dishes from the flies, boiling your water before you drink it, washing your dishes and your vegetables before eating. (I only came up with the second half of the charla…) But I think it went really well and due to the story almost everyone got to participate and I had fake money to give to everyone etc. It was super fun.
We were supposed to go back to the same houses that we had been to with the health promoters the week before but turns out they were all mad! They felt judged and ostracized. I guess one of the health promoters said hello to a woman on the street and she wouldn’t say hello back….which is a very big deal here! I can see why they were mad though. We showed up unexpected and began cleaning their house. That’s very straight forward for this culture.
I also want to add that I had a hard time writing all this! My English is getting worse and I cant remember how to normally say things. Also don’t pay attention to my grammar because its all out the window now! Haha There are some explanations for things that just simply don’t translate into English! Hahah Its very weird. But It was nice after my charla the head nurse came up to me and said I did a really good job. She said my Spanish was very good but I did still need a bit of tweeking….which I totally agree but it was a very nice compliment. Overall it was a great experience and I think Emily and I both received good grades! Emily did a charla, to a second family, on the importance of washing your hands and the proper way to do it. Also, afterwards we received koolaid and cookies from the health promoters. They are a group of loud, independent, fun, educated women. Their energy and laughter is contagious. In two weeks we have to give a charla to the health promoters and 100 high school kids about Aids. AHHHH- I hope we are allowed to talk about sex! Vamos a ver!


Things I need to get used too:

Oh my god you all should have seen me…I was a frantic wiggling mess….hahah….Really, I couldn’t stop wiggling my body….I felt like If I was moving the roaches wouldn’t want to crawl on me!!!

HAHA I know mom is freaking out right now. we were at the Centro de Salud in Antigua, the big city I’m near. and we were giving “charlas”, lectures, in English to other peace corps people to practice before we gave the real one in Spanish. It was the morning and it was misty and foggy. The grass was wet and we went and got some picnic chairs to sit on….well, there were cockroaches living between the legs of the chairs!!! Of course I saw this and thought we’d get different chairs but I seemed to be one of the only ones who cared! Haha. I got a different chair but the roaches were now in the grass and I could see them everywhere! Ugh….they were just everywhere! There was one on someone’s foot…one on someone’s leg…. Now it’s a big joke that I can’t stand bugs yet I want to live in the rain forest!! I was wiggling so much!! Haha It was funny but mainly very uncomfortable!

Also every night before I go to bed I end up killing some kind of bug in my room. There are so many I’ve never seen before!! Sometimes I call Don Beto and he either kills it or takes it outside for me! Here the bugs are not shy! In the states we have bugs but they don’t like people. Here, a fly will land on your fork as you’re eating!! But the peace corps has taught us how to make a fly trap out of a 2 liter soda container. What you have to do is cut the bottle one forth of the way down. Turn the part you jut cut upside down and place it in the bottom piece with the point facing the bottom of the bottle… but before you do that put some meat or fruit in the bottle. The flies enter through the hole due to the smell and then to get out they fly upward but there’s no escaping!…because the hole is in the middle of the top not in the corner…..I hope that makes sense!
Also we learned how to make a makeshift oven. I think this would be awesome if some women would like to start a business making cakes, brownies, cookies etc….The ovens here are rarely used. I haven’t had one thing made in an oven that wasn’t bought from the store.
We also learned how to make about 6 bottles of liquid soap out of one bar of soap…a nice little project. ( A lot of families don’t like to spend the money on bar soap because the kids drop it in the mud…leave it in the water etc…and they lose money.)
Also we learned how to make a water filter with sand, a cloth and a water bottle…This doesn’t make the water drinkable but it makes it clear. Once you have clear water you can put it in a clear water bottle on top of something super shiny on your roof for about a day and it’s drinkable for 48 hours! Isn’t that awesome!
Next week we are going to field based training and we are going to learn how to make cement…without a machine! We are going to build a rain water catch system, a stove, and a latrine! I’m very excited! That’s a slice of what I’ve been up to.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Peace Corps experience!

Here I am.

Here I am. In Guatemala. Wearing my black slacks, a nice shirt, and my hiking boots sweeping the dirt ground.

Dirt is their floor.

I was not invited and I am not welcomed.

I can no longer speak and I have to remind myself every 30 seconds not to stare.

There’s a kitten at my feet that looks like it will die any minute now. I assume it has never had food offered to it.

The old woman who answered the tin door is now taking corn from one woven basket and transferring it to another while the wind gently carries away any little pieces. She then dumps the corn slowly back into the other woven basket again and again this process goes on. Whenever she stops for a second to politely pretend to listen to the health promoters a chicken comes over and begins eating the corn…and then the duck comes…and another chicken….and I assume it’s the families dinner too.

There’s a small little river running through the yard. Its contents are brown water, poop, and plastic trash. It also serves as the drinking water for all the animals running around. Some promoters begin to wash her dishes….in the only water she has….brown. I stand there staring. Staring. Staring.

I knew I was coming to the Peace Corps and I knew a lot of people lived in Poverty. But I was standing in the middle of it, in my nice clothes…completely out of place. It was as though I had been cut from a magazine and with a giant circle of tape on my back I was placed in the center of another world.

After about 5 minutes of staring I figured I had come for a reason and I should help clean. I gathered a black trash bag and went at it. I didn’t know where to begin but with my bare hands I began picking up anything and everything I could find. Then I began sweeping the dirt. Sweeping it away from the house along with the trash. The Health promoters followed behind me putting water on the earth. Half of the yard was dedicated to “the trash burning zone…” and the woman who owned the house casually picked up a tiny stick and unsuccessfully tried to move things into the center to light it on fire.

From what I could tell their bathroom was simply four sheets hung up in between trees. Little kids were running everywhere and chickens were in the bedrooms running free. There was a very old withered wrinkled short woman who every once and a while would leave from a room and come back with a pot of water on her head.

When we left all the old woman could say was “Im embarrassed.” And All the health promoters said was “No tenga pena.” Don’t worry about it. And as fast as I entered that world we left.

The context is this: My job is working with the health promoters in little villages. They are volunteers who work at the puesto de salud in their town. This is like a little clinic for those in need. By little I mean One nurse and One room to see patients. I am working with 2 puestos de salud. San Luicito and San Lorenzo. My job during training is to follow health promoters to houses and watch them give “charlas” which means a little lecture. The nurse picks a few houses in poor condition. The health promoters, most of which with no education in health, show up on surprise and give them a charla. The real situation was a bit different in San Lorenzo because the health promoters brought a bag of cleaning supplies to each house. The goal was to get them started. Teach them how to use everything and then they would have a little extra to do it themselves. Im sorry to say that I am 100% positive this did not work.

The health promoters gave a 5 minutes talk on why good hygiene is important. And then we began cleaning. The owner of the house did nothing. I suppose she was learning for watching but I don’t think so. I am really struggling to figure life out here.

The whole time I was sweeping I was asking myself…Why am I here and what is this lady learning? The only way I could feel good about it was thinking that this woman is going to have pride maybe just for one day in the way her house looks. Pride is one step in the right direction huh? All the other volunteers in my town who went with different health promoters had similar experiences where we all felt our point did not get across and we were all shocked. Next week It’s out turn to give the “charla” in Spanish to these families and the promoters are going to watch. I am also giving a charla on healthy breast feeding to a mom who has a 5 day old baby next week. I am excited but I have to learn a lot of new words in Spanish for this one! J

When I am a volunteer my real “job” is going to be teaching the health promoters how to give charlas in a way that the people will respond and learn. It’s going to be very interesting and complex. Training is really getting me prepared for the things I am going to encounter as a volunteer in my site. This is a very long journal entry but I hope you enjoyed it! Life here is amazing and everyday I see something new, smell something new, taste something new….everything is amazing. Eye opening and Real.

Friday, May 16, 2008

the littlest things...

HAHA so the other day I walked into the house and I didnt recognize the guy sitting on the patio.........Turns out it was Don Beto *my 75 something year old host dad* wearing a black bandana with a sjull on it................I was giggliug to myself sooo much! I thought it was totally random ahha but no one else seemed to think so! haha Its the funny little things like that that I love...

Also, I was asking them if they like Mc Donalds....cuz they are everywhere here!!! and they had no idea what I was saying.........They thought I was saying mecanico.......haha and then they figured it out cuz I started to try to say it with a spanish accent.....and then they taught me how to say it right...its mahc donnhalds....ahaha.....Its just so funny wheny ou find yourself at a kitchen table in Guatemala trying to say mac dohnaths......and then mahk Donaaaalds..........ahahah and its just not workind and everyone is laughing! haha

Im having a great time and I am going to have pictures very very soon....probablly tomorrow!!!!!!!!! yay! I love you all-

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Im here! and its amazing. Ive already had so manu experiences I cant name them all. Im living with dona rosa y don beto their son and his wife and two kids....Juanita, juego, allen (the 1 year old baby) and galdia (5 years). I love them sooo much! Done rosa has made flan for me!!! and she made arroz con leche! my favorite drink in the whole world. she also makes tortillas by hand and tamales. She needs 3 chairs stacked to reach the height of the table! Everyone in guatemala is very very nice and everyone greets one another. its refreshing from the U.S. I have been doing sooo much and my days are packed that I havent been able to reflect. I think im being spoiled right now becasue my living situation is very sanitary and safe! and when I find out where my site is going to be that probablly wont be the case. Also they told us we will all probablly have to or should learn a little bit of the indigenous culture.. and since Im a health volunteer I will be placed in the mountains...but suipposidly it only gets cold at night time....Everyone is very nice that Im here with too...we are all experiencing this together!!

A few of us were wondering why people just throw trash out the window or into the street etc....and also we found out most places dont have garbage vans to come pick it up so it goes in the river...but it goes way back to mayan times...when you bought something it was wrapped in a banana leaf...when you had soup it wwas in a ceramic cup....and when you threw it in the eventually did go away! But in these past years they began using plastic..and eating chips etc...thanks to the U.S. and the mentality is still to simply throw it down river and it will go away...Very interesting and I had never thought of it that way.

Also Ive been feeling a bit odd. I love this culture so much already I feel like I would never want to ¨change it¨ or have an impact..but I have to remind myself that the impact I hope to leave with is healthier people and children! So thatd be good! haha

I come from a country of good hygeine but im learning so much here! I brushed my teeth before breakfast one day and then was getting ready to go to church and done rosa came up to me and was need to brush your teeth again and I said...but I already did and she said....before and after anne...AHAH AND!!!! I dont wash my clothes (espècially pants and skirts) everytime I wear them but she did my laundry for me and I didnt put my skirt that I wroe to mass in the bin cuz I was going to rewear it! haha and then she came up top me and was like ¨anna, you didnt give me your green falda to wash¨haha I pretended like I forgot to give it to her! haha Here, you wash your clothes everytime! its the little things Im learning! I love it..........

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On our way to Guatemala

After a few busy yet amazing days in D.C. we are on our way to Guatemala..Tomorrow morning at 3:30am!!! I am very excited...I also feel ready to go after getting the "GO" from the President himself. haha Weird is a funny thing and it takes you places you never imagined.

I am right where I want to be in my life. Let the adventure begin!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It Begins!

So- How do I explain to people that I am beginning the rest of my life on Sunday? (tomorrow?)

How do I put all the emotions I am feeling into words?

I think it might be impossible. But I do know I am about to embark upon the craziest life changing journey of my life! My future will be shaped...dreams will be made and some dreams will become accomplished.

On my way home from Flagstaff for the last time I was driving down Milton Road thinking about how much I had changed in college and how it had all flown by...and then I saw Wendys off the side of the road..and I remembered crying inside wendy's as my family and I shared our last meal before they left me at NAU. I was so excited yet terrified to start college. Throughout my 4 and a half years in Flagstaff I never really thought twice about the experience at wendy's...But this time it was like it hit me right in the face...I had come so far since that day in Flagstaff when my parents dropped me off and now Its time for a new journey! It was truly a proper goodbye to an important chapter in my life and its time to turn the page.

I cant wait to see what fills these next entries! I can't even begin to imagine! Enjoy-