Well, the last week has been nothing short of a hot mess. Last Wednesday, all of the Peace Corps trainees set off to embark on Field Based Training or FBT. During this time, trainees are paired with current volunteers to see what a typical week looks like during service. At first, I was really anxious because I had no idea how rural my site was going to be. It may seem really trivial, but being in too rural of an environment makes me very anxious, so I was hoping to be placed somewhere rural but still had some urbanity to it. Thankfully, I was placed in Cantel, Quetzaltenango with Habie, another Maternal and Child Health volunteer. The idea of FBT is to be placed with a volunteer in the project that we will be joining so we can understand our role (or what it could look like) for the next two years.
To start off Field Based Training, we went to go visit Área de Salud Chimaltenango. Side note: There are a lot of departments (think regions) in Guatemala that end in – tenango. Tenango means “lugar de” or place of. Anyways, we went to visit the Área de Salud which is the main arm of the Ministery of Health in Guatemala. ADS determines the content that will be distributed to health centers, posts, and hospitals. They also help implement programs on a macro level. The tour was really informative and interesting; we met with specialists in HIV, malaria, malnutrition, and sexual/reproductive health. When we came back from our two hour tour, we were all so amped for lunch as well as our bonding camping trip.
WE GOT ROBBED.
I can’t really even encapsulate the feeling of getting robbed, or the feeling of coming back to the van and seeing the radio, air conditioning, and most of our items looted. The robbers broke into both Peace Corps vans, stole a plethora of items, and then made a run for it. Some people cried, I started feeling self conscious at first because I felt like I was being a brat to be mad about material items. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a trust fund baby who can easily get money and things back ASAP. I just felt stupid getting upset over items. I got pissed that some fools stole our stuff in broad daylight and not one person “saw” the accident. But then, I just started thanking God that the robbers didn’t come at us at gun point or with a knife, that this situation was out of our control, and that we did have some financial capital to replace our stuff. For me, I was lucky that I had all my valuables on me and that they did not take all of my stuff, including medicines. Only my clothes, my Nikes, and my boots I bought were taken. This was still bad because I’ve been having feet problems and now I don’t have comfortable walking shoes. We stay walking in the Peace Corps, so I’m in need of new shoes!!!! Still, it was a really bad feeling to have that happen, especially for the first time in my life. It was bootsy to say the least, but God is good. We got reimbursed for lost goods and even got to buy clothes. The next day we went off to FBT.
I was really proud of our group because we really pulled through and started FBT with good attitudes, considering we were robbed the day before and had to get up at 5:30 AM the next day to head out into the pueblo.
We went to the Peace Corps Xela office and listened to presentations about reproductive and sexual health, as well as about a NGO called Pies Occidentes. They seem super awesome, and I liked their message a lot. Habie was presenting, so after we all ate lunch and went to site. At first, I was really anxious about going to FBT because its a complete change from the Training model that we have become accustomed to. I am so happy I was placed with Habie, because she really made me feel that I could be a Peace Corps volunteer.
Right now, it’s all been theory and learning about our project, but I have gotten comfortable to my life in Training. FBT was like being thrown into the lion’s pit and having to fend for yourself in comparison. Habie is really the type of volunteer I want to be. She was really effective and took initiative. In my short time at her site, I went to a comadrona (midwife) meeting she facilitated, cooked awesome food, and co-facilate a charla (health talk) on cervical cancer. We went to so many pueblos and I got to meet her family. Another treat was getting to be with my friend, Hestia who is another awesome volunteer. Hestia is working on Youth in Development, so I got to accompany her to one of her youth groups. I would say that was one of the biggest highlights of FBT, because we got to work with young boys (probably like 9-10 years old) about gender issues. Jordan, the facilitator, really did a great job of trying to break down gender norms and characteristics we ascribe to people based on gender to a group of slightly hyper-active kids. However, I really enjoyed hearing and observing this activity and getting to spend time with Hestia.
We also got to go to a baño, which is a hot tub in a room (essentially). We each got private ones and it was nice to have some time to reflect on the last 5 weeks in country. I also had my camera stolen two days after my stuff got robbed. When it happened, I felt really upset (in comparison to the first time). My camera was in my backpack, and the zipper on the backpack came undone. My camera fell out without me realizing it, and Habie pointed out to me 45 mins after we walked out of the aldea (small village) that my bag was open. Upon reorganizing my bag, I noticed my camera was missing. We retraced our steps, and I asked everyone had they seen my camera. At first I said black bag because I didn’t want to say my camera was in the bag, but then I did. I felt so frustrated because no one “saw” my camera, yet it disappeared. I had my camera in my hand, put it in my backpack, and was ready to go. This incident made me feel honestly really vulnerable and mistrustful of my environment. I’m more upset because I really took nice pictures of my family and my time at FBT — and I survived being robbed once, only to set someone else up with an opportunity to take my stuff. Now, I’m going to be extremely vigilant with my things. Despite all the wild nonsense that occurred, I had a really great time at Field Based Training. I still can’t believe we only have 3 more weeks of training, and in 3 weeks, I will get to know where I will be placed for the next two years.
It felt so good to come home to my training community and just spend time with the family. I really missed them and will really miss living with them. Today, we all watched the Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona game. My home stay dad got so psyched that FC Barcelona won, I’ve never seen him that animated ever. It was good to be with my home stay mom as well as play with Danny and Sofia. Sofi had a fever before I left, and I was really worried about her. Danny and Sofi both have nasty coughs, but at least no fevers! Big sister gene will never leave me, I love Danny and Sofi as if they were my real siblings. Speaking of which, I really miss my sister. She went to Brazil for spring break (#baller #jealous) and I miss talking to her.
This last week has been nothing short of wild, but I am still happy to be here and glad to be challenged and growing each and every day.
Sorry for the lengthy post, my journal was robbed so I have nowhere else to document my thoughts!!