Since I’ve last written on here, I have acquired not one, but TWO awesome site mates! The first one, Colby, came here in late August/early September and the second one, Abby just arrived last week. Bill is closing up on his service, which is definitely giving me a lot of anxiety and sadness. A service without Bill is going to be a major adjustment. However, I’m really lucky that I have two site mates that are both really chill and will be around for a bit 🙂
Great news! Antonio Rolando has recovered. When I first met him, Antonio weighed 9.9 lbs at 11 months old. He is now no longer malnourished, but is still in a vulnerable window period. I am not sure what Antonio’s weight is now, but I will continue to monitor his growth. At 1 1/2 years old, he is still susceptible to any type of illness that could set his growth back (i.e. cold, stomach virus) and he could become malnourished. Not that him being 3 or 4 and having these symptoms is any better, but at the least, he can fight more. It is truly the biggest joy to see a child who has light and life in his or her eyes. Helping be a part of Antonio’s recovery has been the highlight of my service and has reaffirmed why I am here to serve.
Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
In Guatemala, Día De Los Muertos is celebrated by flying kites. People believe that kites are the connection between the mortal world and the heavens. On Día de Los Muertos, people spend the day at cemeteries eating and reminiscing on loved ones who have passed. I’m used to spending Día De Los Muertos in Hollywood Forever cemetery and participating in Mexican traditions. So it was cool to see something different, but I did miss the dancing, singing, and the amazing Mexican food!!!
This was my first Thanksgiving away from home. So, that being said I needed to go to a warm hot beach and chill out somewhere. That somewhere was Livingston, Guatemala. Livingston is primarily populated by the Garifuna community. Garifunas are Black Caribs, and unlike other narratives from the Diaspora, the Garifuna people were never enslaved. The Garifuna inhabit the Eastern coast of Guatemala, Belize, St. Vincent, and I believe Nicaragua as well? Not sure about that. The food was great, we ate tapado which is a soup made with fresh seafood and coconut milk. We also tried some Gifiti which is a distilled rum that is also used to heal people and can also be an aphrodisiac.
I definitely got to relax and spend time with most of my closest Peace Corps friends. However, the sun only came out for one day, the first day we were there. The rest of the time it was cold, cloudy, and rainy! As Outkast said so simply, “you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” I did plan this vacation, but I did not expect the weather to be so wonky. Needless to say, despite the weather issues, we had a wonderful time getting to explore new parts of Guatemala.
- Guate Trip
Peace Corps prohibits us from going to Guatemala City unless it is for medical reasons or going to the airport. VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee) planned a trip to visit Guatemala City, which was very fun! We first went to a museum about textiles and Mayan culture. Then, we tried to go to another museum in Central Park but it was closed. On the bright side, there was a FREE concert in the park with the one and only La Miseria Cumbia Band. Me, being drawn to musical venues and dancing was dancing on the sides by the stage. The wife of the lead singer saw me and told me I could dance on stage with them. So I brought two of my friends and we got to dance with Miseria Cumbia Band! It was AWESOME, and I was also freaking out a bit because my Guatemalan friends got me jamming to their music!
After that, we went to Bougie Central or Cayalá mall. Cayalá is similar to the Grove in Los Angeles. It is a huge outdoor mall that has amazing (albeit very expensive) restaurants and even a..wait for it..STARBUCKS. Even though I enjoyed a day of pampering, it was really odd to go somewhere and see not one person in traje, or tradition clothing. I later found out that Cayalá is specifically zoned so that no one without a car can access the shopping center, hence taking out “the undesired crowd.” Economic inequality is very tangible in spaces like Cayalá because compared to where I live, Cayalá is like another world with kids on bicycles, STROLLERS, Starbucks. For a second, I almost thought I was in the US…
- Día De Los Niños
So in Guatemala, it seems like there is a day for everything, mothers, fathers, teachers, health personnel. You name it, there’s probably a day for it. I digress. Día de Los Niños, or Day of the Children is a celebration of the wonderfulness of children. To celebrate kids and all of their awesomeness, Bill and I went to a school called Chuixacol to play games and do other fun activities.
- HIV Workshop
Meg, Bill and I helped co-facilitate a HIV workshop with the health center in Pueblo Viejo, Momostenango and World Vision. World Vision is a NGO that is based in my site that helps combat hunger. World Vision is all throughout what is commonly referred to as the “Third World.” Anyways, the workshop was for middle school kids ages 12-14 and they did round Robin sessions on teen pregnancy prevention, STI prevention, and HIV awareness. For those that don’t know, Round Robin sessions is when you start in a group and sit in on a session and then are rotated for x amount of time (in this case, every 45 minutes) to hear each session. At the end of the day, we did a Q&A session and the kids had to work in teams to present a skit on the themes they learned today. It was a fun activity!
- 1st Annual Toto/Xela Leadership Camp: I got to participate in the first ever Toto/Xela Leadership camp. We had about 50 kids and 20 something PCVs participate in a summer camp to raise awareness about different issues such as leadership potential and also to keep kids entertained on their winter vacations. I was a group leader with Kellen and Miranda and co facilitated a Zumba session with Ardonna. I realized how much I miss working with kids and look forward to doing more GLOW camp and other youth related activities in the future.
- Finishing TSR Workshops this year: We finished our TSR Workshops, yeah! TSR or Rural Health Technicians from across our department participated in a series of workshops on behavior change.
- Arlene’s GLOW Camp: I helped my friend Arlene out with her GLOW camp that was for 3 days in rural Momostenango. About 100 kids participated and learned about reproductive health, nutrition, self esteem, and more. Meg and Bill also helped out #TeamSanBartolo/Pologua. It was really great and I’m excited to do my own GLOW camp next year!
My computer broke. It was stressful. It was expensive. It did not get fixed until I came back to the US. However, in that time, I got to reflect a lot and just chill out. It was nice to spend nights reading books instead of watching movies or TV shows for end. I’m thankful and happy my computer is fixed now, but I also appreciate the time I got just to be pensive and disconnected for a bit.
Everyone is Quitting, #WHATAMIGOINGTODO #existentialcrisis
Within the last 5 months, 3 crucial people have quit the health center. One of my most pilas (smart, go-getter) health educators was transferred. My best friend, the nutritionist quit to pursue other endeavors, and now one of the professional nurses I was close to is also leaving. The energy in my health center is palpable: it is an erratic and often, stressful environment. Currently, my health center is being striked by my community for providing below average services. At the same time, many people in my health center haven’t been paid since July, which makes sense as to why someone may not be providing their best at work.
The last two months has been a hot mess in the health center, and its made me wonder “Is it even worth it to stay here?” Everyone is miserable, no one wants to work, the center is divided. I’ve been trying to pray on it and stay positive. I see a lot of potential for healing and emotional reparations in the future, but I’m quite frankly unsure if people are in a place to hear it or receive it. Because of that, I’ve been feeling down about my service because I’m not really sure about my capacity to handle the fact that so many people are just leaving left and right. When I started, there were about 40 people working at my health center, now that number is more like 25 and counting…which leads me to my next topic..
Return to the States
Coming home has been the best part of the last couple of months. Sometimes, you just need to go home and get grounded again. It has been nothing short of amazing to see my friends and family, to frequent my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, and to feel 100% back in my comfort zone. Home is good. I never realized how much I miss the smell of sea salt, the taste of Mexican food, the warmth of the sun, I could go on for days about how amazing it is to be back where I belong. But all the while that I’ve been home, I realized I am integrated in Guatemalan culture. Moments such as trying to flag a bus down (LOL WHO DOES THAT IN THE US?!) or thinking in Spanish, or even hearing the marimba at church made me appreciate what is my new life. I feel ready to take on 2015 and all its joys and challenges that it will bring.
My first major project of 2015 is doing a gender conference with Comité A La Atención Violencia (a work group that is part of the Área de Salud, or health providers on a departmental scale, that is committed to ending domestic violence in Guatemala) and producing The Vagina Monologues that will be done in Spanish and possibly some other Mayan languages. I’ve been focusing a lot of my energy on this, so hopefully, it will be an awesome event. I am looking forward to collaborating with new people and experiencing new things. As much as I fear going back to Guatemala, I know that God will work through me to bring about good things. Just trying to have faith in my ability to finish my service, a faith like a mustard seed, small but that flourishes and can move mountains. I am going to try to be less hard on myself and feeling like I’m not doing enough, when I should look at all that I have done and that for now, that is enough.
Thanks to everyone who has read this and who has supported me over the last 10 months, it means a lot to me, and I will try to update this more regularly in the future!!!