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..........