Monday, September 27, 2010

Clean Burning Stoves

Great news from my leading lady, Secretary Hillary Clinton.

The effects of wood-burning stoves and open-fire cooking are detrimental and seen all over Guatemala. Passing through villages one can always spot the houses that do not have improved stoves- the walls of the houses are stained black all the way through to the outside.

While this project doesn't seem to include Central America (sad) hopefully the trend will catch on!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Besides the terrible news of our fellow volunteers at the beginning of the month and the dreadful storms, September has been a pretty solid month. I am already exhausted.

I failed to mention that September 3rd was national health worker day. All the health workers in the department of Quiche met in the cabecera (the capital of the department) to participate in a parade, soccer and basketball matches and a ‘Miss Health Center” competition. My dear friend Susan was the contestant from her Health Center and got to ride around Quiche on a HIV-prevention themed float. Fancy!

The events were pretty fun and ended with a huge dance with 2 bands to ends the festivities.

Susan as her float passed the church in the central plaza of Santa Cruz el Quiche.

Our float for Uspantan.

My fvorite float of all. What is with the ostrich?!

My work so far has been very encouraging. I just finished a few days of work up in Zona Reina presenting the health promoter program to over a hundred interested people! So far I have 6 groups of health promoters formed in 6 different villages and have started giving the health workshops. I kicked off the health promoter workshops in 3 of my communities this week and presented the program to 2 others interested communities.

This is Don Domingo one of the technicians in the hospital. He is working with me out in one of my communities, Poblaj.

Children in Poblaj crowding around to watch a presentation on oral hygiene. These is the traditional ‘corte’ that the Mayan women wear.

Student's muddy shoes. (Side bar- I realize I have not been posting pictures of my health groups and this is because taking photos can be considered offensive. I am waiting to build a bit of credibility in my communities before I go around flashing my camera in people’s faces)

Thank goodness next week is feria in Uspantan. Every community has a patron saint and each saint has a day dedicated to him/her…which of course turns into a week of celebration. Our beloved San Miguel will be celebrated next week with carnival rides, vendor booths and pizza stands. As I type this there are men walking around on stilts in the town square. And since everyone will be at the fair, no one will be available for workshops which means I basically get the week off.

Speaking of feria, earlier this month I hopped over to Nebaj, a municipality close to Uspantan and home of the Ixil people, to check out their feria which was going on at the time. It basically looked like your standard flea market-meets-county fair but on crack. People, food stands, games EVERYWHERE. I will be sure to take pictures of our fair this coming week. One thing that did catch my eye however was a photo backdrop at which a man was charging people a few Quetzales to stand in front of while he took their picture. It reminded me of school photos in middle school where we chronicled our yearly growth and development for our families in front of fishing or beautiful flower bed backdrops. Except the people of Nebaj were able to pretend that they were magically transported to America! How fun! And this is the image of America that was chosen:

I wanted to hang a disclaimer next to the backdrop: “Please note: This is rather offensive and anyone who has read a newspaper in the last 9 years will know that you didn’t actually visit the United States this year. Thank you”

Ohhh Guatemala, never fails to entertain.

One of the many storms this month rollng into Uspantan. View from my window.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ups and Downs

Hello everyone,

I know some of you receive the 'Friends and Family of PC Guatemala' newsletter (Sarah and Meredith you are adorable) and got wind of some very sad news. Last week 2 volunteers were involved in a tragic car accident. The volunteers are fine and in the US with their families. They were travelling with their health center staff for an outing to celebrate national health worker day. Unfortunately, the crash took the lives of their Health Center doctor and 2 nurses. Thankfully the Peace Corps Volunteers are well and recovering.

And, just to bring the tone down a little bit more right before I bring it back up, now the country of Guatemala is in a state of national emergency after this hot mess happened: We are expecting more storms this week.

But not to fret. I am home in Uspantan just waiting it out. Trust me, Uspantan is a decently sized town NOT located on the side of a cliff- where, unfortunately, many people are forced to set up shop in Guatemala. Dirt+cliff+water= BAD. For the record.

Now for a sprinkle of good news- I got a call from my counterpart this morning to tell me that 60 people showed up to register for the health promoter program I am setting up in one of the 3 communities I will be working in out in the Zona Reina. That's a lot! And that is just 1 of 3! It can be difficult to mobilize communities to become involved in programs such as mine so when there is such enthusiasm shown it is very exciting. This particular community is in a lot of need; they have no electricity or water. Such a positive response on the part of the community is very encouraging.