Sunday, March 11, 2012

The best going away present

The goodbyes have started. I fly to the U.S. on March 23rd. It is all going by so quickly!

I went to the Zona Reina for the last time a couple weeks ago to do my last workshops with my promoter groups up there and introduce my replacement who will continue to work with them. To my completele surprise my group in La Taña gave me a wonderful thank you gift- a traditional Q'eqchi' woman's traje! La Taña is one of the poorest communities where I work, devoid of resources, and to receive such a beautiful and meaningful gift from them was beyond expected and a bit of an emotional moment. I remember when signing up for Peace Corps hearing from RPCVs that a Volunteer will never feel that they gave as much as they received from his/her host country and community. That was never so true as in that moment when I realized that something that I did had deserved (I hope) such an amazing gift.


My promoters made me put on the traje before presenting the workshop.


La Taña health promoters


Women represent!


My counterparts in La Taña, Jaime and our spectacular translator, Carlos


Full on Q'eqchi'

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bargain

Yesterday I talked the kid who works at one of the used American clothing stores in town down from 60Quetzales (about $6) to 25Q ($3) for a pair of Steve Madden ballet flats. I told him no one else had feet as big as mine in Uspantan and therefore I was the only potential client for the shoes.

Total win.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Srcambling

So many changes.

First off, I had a wonderful New Year´s on the beach with my sitemates and then a fabulous visit from my parents. Then my Peace Corps service came crashing down (a little over-dramatic but not changing the wording).

Two of my closest friends left Peace Corps and Guatemala and last week we received the news that Peace Corps Guatemala needs to cut its number in order to stay open. The reason the volunteer numbers need to be lowered is that Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala (the northern triangle) is the most dangerous region in the world not currently at war. Apparently this doesn´t come off well to our Congress. Understandably so.

A couple weeks ago the volunteers in Honduras were all pulled out while Washington takes a month to assess the security situation and will decide whether or not the volunteers will be allowed to return. El Salvador and Guatemala will go under security reviews after. Instead of pulling out the volunteers, Washington has decided to lower numbers. The way they have decided to achieve this has been by implementing an early COS (close of service) for the groups of volunteers closest to their original COS date. The group that swore in before mine (March 2010) will have to leave a month early and my group (July 2010) will have to exit Guatemala 4 months early. Also, any other volunteer has been offered an early COS- meaning, even if the volunteer has been in this country for 3 months, he or she will have all the same standing as a volunteer who has completed the full 27 months. It has been a tempting offer for many.

In addition, volunteers are being pulled out of various departments and consolidated in the northern highlands. Luckily, my beautiful department of El Quiche will not be affected by this. Peace Corps will be providing a shuttle service for volunteers so that we don´t have to use the Inter-American highway and minimize time on the chicken buses, where the majority of crime against volunteers takes place.

Basically, I now have less than 8 weeks to wrap up everything I thought I would have 5 months to complete. I need to get the committee of the village receiving projects legalized, get my grant application in, graduate my health promoters, transfer my work to my replacements, say my goodbyes and return states-side. I am fortunate that I will have volunteers coming in to oversee the construction on the latrines and stoves but also heartbroken that I cannot be here to see the final product of the hard work that has gone into training the 25 families receiving the projects in health and healthy home infrastructure.

There are many critiques of the way that Peace Corps has approached this decision and the way that they are choosing to reduce our numbers but the decision is not negotiable so I, and the other volunteers affected by all this, will just have to keep moving ahead and try to get as much done as possible in the drastically less time than we had thought.

Already missing Uspantan.