Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tropical Storm Agatha

As many of you may be reading in the news, Guatemala has had its fair share of natural disasters lately. Yesterday, after another earthquake and volcanic erruption, Agatha hit. My town has been hit pretty hard. After almost 32 hours of non-stop rain, I was evacuated from my site. 4 other volunteers and I were taken into Antigua late last night. We are waiting out the storm here, hopefully going back to San Luis las Carretas tomorrow. Yay first natural disaster evacuation!

It was pretty intense. The river that runs through the town (and directly behind my house)flooded and the main road through the town (that also runs directly in front of my house)was completely blocked off with water damage.

It was very interesting to observe how the town reacted to the storm. There was a tangible sense of excitement along with the concern. The storm and the damage will be the topic of conversation for many months to come. The beauty of small town life.


Spent the morning preparing the chipilin for lunch with Doña Susana.


Unclogging the main drain in the center of the house.


Brenda checking out the river behind the house. It rose 9 feet over the course of the night and morning.


Moving furniture out of one of the rooms in the house after water started leaking through the roof.


Street view of the house.


The main road, not a river.


Wilson is not amused.

Thug Life


Mauricio + Tupac.

Antigua

Last Sunday we had our first free day in Antigua! It was nice to finally have a day off and spend time with the other trainees out of the training setting. Antigua is a great city....very tousity but lovely.






The Sunday group.


Melissa is on site in San Luis with me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

First Earthquake

Yesterday I experienced my first Guatemalan earthquake. It was really small and pretty uneventful...but still!

Also, Volcan Pacaya errupted. It´s cool though. I´m pretty far from it. Apparently the capital is covered in dust and ash and traffic surrounding the volcano is horrendous. Schools in the area have been cancelled until further notice which means I get to hang out with the twins while my workshops on HIV and Hep A are on hold. Schedules should go back to normal early next week though.

Women´s Day on Wednesday was a huge success! My training group presented 2 workshops at the Health Center in Antigua for National Women's Day: HIV/AIDS and Intrafamiliar Violence. The Center provided free doctor consultations, vaccinations, check-ups, psychological counseling and familiar planning all day.


Presenting ourselves.


Participation!


My awesome white blood cell activity.


Kimberly encouraging protection.


Kelly and Cathleen present on Interfamiliar Violence.


Group shot with our Profe and former Spanish teacher's mother!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Santo Domingo Xenacoj

Went to Santo Domingo Xenacoj today. The town is mostly of Cakchiquel Maya decent. Beautiful city!










Cemetary


Overlooking San Luis- my hood

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good News

Ronnie ran over one of the chickens with his moto...1 down, 7 to go.

Celebration song, it´s super popular here and I love it! Jam out:



I have been very busy with training. Last week we went to visit a volunteer on site in Santa Apalonia. She took us to meet with one of her women´s groups so it was great to see someone in action! It was very encouraging.

My training group is now getting ready for national Women´s Day which is this coming Wednesday. We will be giving some workshops at the Health Center in Antigua on HIV and domestic violence....basically everything got really intense really quickly. But in a great way! And this forces me to work on my public speaking in Spanish.

In other news, I went to a wedding today. A family friend´s uncle. Yeah, I felt pretty awkward being there but it was super fun! The groom was a prime 22 years of age and his bride was 14...and pregnant. ESCANDOLO! The groom was the uncle of one of the local police officers in my town. Everyday some 2-8 police officers (depending on who is on duty) eat lunch at my house, and sometimes come back for dinner. It´s rather odd but I suppose it makes me feel safer? They don´t say much to me, just throw their guns on the table and chow down for 30 minutes then leave. My life is a tad rediculous right now.

Also, Guatemala loves Leona Lewis. I hear her everywhere...the buses, the mercado, the internet cafe where I am currently typing this. Neil, this is the country for you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2 week mark


2 weeks down and some 115 to go. I am settling in well and have a good routine going. Usually wake up sometime between 5:30 and 6:30 depending on whether I want to get a morning run or trip to the market in before class. The day starts at 8am and ends about 5:30pm. While in training we are not allowed to be out of our houses after dark, unless we are with the host families, so that gives us some ‘free-time’ of about an hour before dusk hits at 6:30. Super sexy lifestyle. I’m usually asleep by 10 ha.

Monday was Dia de la Madre here in Guatemala and it is a very big event. The mariachis (las mananitas) started making the rounds in the neighborhood about 1am on Monday morning. Then fireworks were set off all through the night and into the morning. You can always tell when there is a celebration or birthday in the town because it is a custom to set off fireworks first thing in the morning….like 4 or 5am. If it’s a birthday, the fireworks are left just outside the birthday boy/girl’s bedroom door. It’s like the reenactment of the Civil War is just outside your door! Happy Birthday!

Noise is a constant here. Music is always blaring, cars and buses are loud, and people are always screaming and singing in the streets. I also have 4 daily alarms: if my watch and traveling clock fail me I have the rooster who gets going at about 3am and Wilson usually has at least 1 or 2 crying sessions a night. Noise is kinda a way of life.

Wilson has been sick the past week. Doña Susana and Brenda have been very attentive to him and took him to the doctor and followed all necessary precautions and what not but on Sunday night Doña Susana shared with me the family secret for curing children. In a frying pan, a healthy pour of Jaguar rum is heated up over the stove. When the run reaches a warm temperature, a piece of bread is placed in the pan and soaks up the rum. The bread is then wrapped in a piece of cloth. Additional dabs of the Jaguar are placed on the cloth and then placed over the affected stomach. The clothed is wrapped into place around the child’s torso. The additional Jaguar is then rubbed behind the ears, on the legs, arms, armpits and hands of the ill child. Then a full lime is taken and peeled back a bit to reveal some of the interior and the lime juice is squirted all over the child. First in the shape of the cross, then all over the child’s body: back of the head, arms, knees, bottoms of the feet, fingers. The lime, along with the bad energy of the illness, is then thrown far from the house (into the river behind the house).

And so the child is cured and will sleep….well yeah! The child was one mint leaf away from being a walking mojito! I’d be fast asleep too! Awesome, awesome tradition. Charlotte, this reminds me of something your mother would pull.

Tallys to date:

Chocobananas: 2

Tortillas made: 4

Tortillas eaten: (aprox.) 20

Days Sick: 2 ( one bad reaction to meat and one bad reaction to malaria medication)

Funerals attended: 1

Babies held: 2 (Sarah- I know, I’m lagging)

Times I’ve heard Justin Bieber on the camionetas: 3

Nearly being hit by a camioneta: 2

Beans eaten at a meal: EVERY

Books read: 3

Seasons of Weeds watched: 2 and a half






Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guatemala!

Sorry for the delay. Peace Corps has kept us very busy.

We landed about a week ago and immediately went to Peace Corps headquarters for language testing and training sessions. The first 3 nights Marlaine, another volunteer, and I stayed with a host family in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas, just down the street from PC. On Saturday we were placed in our host communities where we will be for the next 11 weeks during training.

I am now living in a small town just outside of Antigua, San Luis las Carretas. There are 4 other volunteers in my town. We meet 4 times a week for language training, go to headquarters 1 day a week for skills training and spend 1 day a week at our 'partner' medical center for health training and operations. Tomorrow will be the first day we visit our assigned Health Center and meet the staff. Sunday is our day off.
I live with Don Gavino and Doña Susana who are fabulous. They have a beautiful home and run the adjoining local tienda. They have 5 children and one grandson who all live in their house...it is a bit overwhelming.

The run down: Brenda is the oldest and has one child, Wilson, who is 2. Doña Susana very awkwardly pointed out to me that she is a single mother- How do you respond to that? 'Ohh que bien!'?- I think Brenda is about my age. Next are Julio and Ronnie (cannot help but think of Jersey Shore), who I think are about 20 and 19. Obviously no one has explicitly told me everyone's ages. The youngest are the twins, nicknamed 'Las fotocopias', Mauricio and Luis. Telling them apart can be difficult. They are 14 and are going through puberty- their voices crack at every other word. Im working on a mix for them. They are really interested in 'American' music. I am tempted to throw a Tim McGraw album at them and see what happens. Or maybe Tupac, we will see.

And the kicker, their pets: 8 chickens, 2 turkeys and a rooster. Of all animals....poultry. I am very fortunate though- we have running, hot water and electricity, unlike quite a few of the volunteers.

Some photos:

Church in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas. My host family the first few nights was very devout Catholic. Marlaine and I attended La hora de la Santa on Friday night with them.



Santa Lucia Milpas Altas.




Barrio la Cruz. Brenda, Wilson and I went to visit her Grandparents (Don Gavino's parents). San Luis las Carretas is the valley below.



Don Gavino's father walking the cows down from the mountain. The calf is only 25 days old...this was a big BIG deal.


Julio and Ronnie played in a soccer match on Sunday. This field is also the only place in town where I am allowed to run.


And finally, some of the pets. They wander around the house grounds as they please.