Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Joe is working in construction here in the cumbre, and has been helping the foundation build our eggshell water tanks. He has another project which is seperate from the work of the foundation called Proyectos Sanitarios (Sanitary Projects). He is raising funds from Ireland through his blog, but is short on what he needs to commence the project. Let me pull at your heart strings for a second. I have talked about the differences in life in the cumbre and life back in the States, but I can't stress enough the need for latrines and bathrooms. Many of the families in the cumbre who cannot afford the materials to build these necessities are left with only one option. The unsanitary and (to my friends from the States) unimaginable option of going to the bathroom in the open air.
This is a beautiful project, and with the limitations I have with my work in the Peace Corps, this kind of project is an impossibility for me at the moment. I encourage you all to visit - joesguatemalanexperience.blogspot.com - and assure you that the smallest of donations to Joe's project can make a tremendous difference here in the cumbre (trust me, the exchange rate is in your favor). If you want to help, it's as simple as a few clicks (Look below the map for the "Donate" button).
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression; that every day is a good one, that it’s easy being positive or optimistic all the time, or that everyone here is thrilled with my presence. Peace Corps is not an easy job sometimes. That might be due to the fact that it is a 24/7 gig. I’m doing Peace Corps when I get on a microbus that seats 15, but apparently can fit up to 28 (in my experience thus far). I’m doing Peace Corps when a 7 year old shoeless girl comes up to me on the street selling bracelets and scarves so she can get a hot meal, when she should be in a school somewhere. I’m doing Peace Corps when a man cuts in front of me at the window of a tienda (store), or when a woman pushes past me in the market to get her tomatoes. I'm doing Peace Corps when I'm too sick to go farther than 50 feet from my latrine. I'm doing Peace Corps when I'm homesick. To be honest, from time to time, you can get a little Peace Corps’d out. Some days and some moments will always stick out in a negative way. Occasionally, the difference you are trying to make can feel miniscule. I heard a story when I first came in about a couple of guys who did Peace Corps decades ago. They eventually returned to their old site to visit years later, and although by the end of their service the difference that they felt was made seemed small, they found that, with time, their impact had grown exponentially. I think the town had even named a bank or the main street after them. Peace Corps tries to prepare you for instances of low morale. To remember this lesson; that change can be a long slow process, or that after two years your difference may be immeasurable, but eventually can become something great, is really important in the day to day. I’ve been telling myself this when things get tough, and it’s been helping me keep things in perspective. I’ve really started to believe this too. If I can make a positive impact on one person, that impact can be shared with others. If I can change the tiniest of things for the better, that can create a domino effect. I may not see the difference when I leave, or even 5 to 10 years from now, but I’m sure that someday I will be able to see great changes taking place, and that my contribution helped. It’s a generational thing, I really believe that. The other thing I have learned is that, if you don’t believe this, you will drive yourself absolutely crazy... I'm doing just fine.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
This afternoon, there was supposed to be a meeting with the group in Los Angeles, i.e. my house. It was scheduled by Amy, who had to leave today for a training session at headquarters. I was supposed to take over, but my counterpart called me this morning and informed me that it had been cancelled, and that WE were going to another group, Nuevo Comunidad, close to my house, to make chicken feed from scratch. After that, I rested some more, and prepared myself by reading over all of my chicken stuff from training. I got to the group about a half hour late, still ahead of 90% of the women and Roberto. Its just plain bad integration to be on time anywhere in this country. After another half hour, however, all of the women had arrived and were ready, but still no Roberto. So I called him to see if he was close by. The conversation went a little something like this:
"Where are you?"
"I'm in Nuevo Pinal, there's a new group here."
"Really, so then it's just me here all by myself?"
"So what should I do?"
"Give a charla."
"I don't have a charla ready today, and all of the women brought ingredients for your chicken feed."
"Then make the chicken feed."
"Ok, I have a recipe here, tell me if it's the same: Corn, Beans, Bones, Eggshells, Salt, and Ash."
"No, it's different: Potatoes, Beans, Bones, Eggshells, Salt, Water, and Chicken Poop."
"Yes, week old chicken poop."
"Wait, wait, I'm confused, did you say chicken poop?"
"Yes, you mix it in."
"Well, how much of each ingredient should we use?"
"All of everything they brought."
"All of it?"
"Yes, all of it."
"Schedule the next meeting for 15 days (2 weeks, 8 days means one week here too, don't ask me why), and call me if you need help."
"That's Semana Santa, we have to wait another week"
"Ok, make it the week after."
"Ok, talk to you later."
"Good, take it easy."
"Thanks, you too."
"You too, bye."
So I gathered the women around, who were just listening to the entire conversation. I explained that my recipe was a little different, so this was new for me, but similar enough to work. I had them add all the ingredients together, most of which have been ground down to powder, except the potatoes, which I had them hand mash. I explained to them what each ingredient was for as they added in in. "The potatoes," I said, "are for energy. The eggshells, bones, and ash are for the formation of minerals and rich in calcium. The beans are for muscle growth and strong eggs. The salt is for the nervous system. And, throw the chicken poop in your compost pile. I have no idea what that's for, but it can't be good." All of the women laughed and joked, they were all a little confused by it too, and suddenly the group was full of energy. We decided to leave the water out of the recipe too, and went outside to test it. The chickens had all roamed away to an empty pasture across some rock walls and the women began a chorus of chirps and random bird calls to lure in the unsuspecting hens. I threw a handful of our creation on the ground and the birds all walked past. Then one of the women did the same and after a minute or so the chickens all dove in. Thirty seconds later, they all backed off, rubbing their beaks on the ground and leaving much of the feed behind. The women laughed again as I explained why the chickens didn't like the feed. "You have to portion out all of the ingredients. It needs less bone and eggshell and more salt. We should have done that before, but Roberto did not have portion sizes in his recipe and in all the confusion, I forgot too." I gave them the proper portion sizes for each ingredient, and then I asked them how their chickens had been doing. "Not good," one woman said, "my chickens are dying. They have diarrhea and some have colds." I asked if their chickens had trouble "para hacer huevos" (which I thought meant making eggs, but it turns out means "to grow a pair" which got blushing giggles). "Si," they said, "para poner huevos es dificil a veces." I told them that I could vaccinate their chickens fairly cheap, but then I asked to see a chicken coop. "It's right there." I turned around to see a large wooden doll house on stilts with a makeshift chicken ladder leading to the door. There was no coop. In fact, it's like that almost everywhere in the cumbre. All of the chickens roam wild and free during the day, and perch in these tiny houses on stilts (and in at least one house I've visited, only in the trees) at night. This goes against everything we were taught during training. So today, amidst all the confusion, poor planning, and impromptu mayhem, a light bulb went off in my head. Amy is at headquarters taking classes on how to solicit funds and plan extensive projects. The people here can't afford to build proper chicken coops, and as a result have high mortality rates with their populations, basically losing money for not having it. Why not plan a project?!
So, with this new revelation, I'm going full steam ahead. I've got plenty of time and need a project to occupy it. Somehow, three lousy weeks and a potentially disastrous meeting turned into one of the better meetings I've had since I've been here, on top of maybe finding a project that is worthwhile for the long term. Something that could really help. Worry not my friends. Life isn't always fun. Things aren't always fair. And I may not be able to breath so well, but things are looking up just around the bend. I may have fallen off of one wave, but I can always catch another.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"After Staging, Alex, Jared, Stephen, Micheal, and I went out for some classic American food (instead of Thai like most of the others) for our last meal at a place called Stan's. Among the items ordered were jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, chili, burgers and fries, and fish that smelled overwhelmingly but apparently was delicious. Afterwards, I went back to my room and caught a couple hours of sleep before waking up for our 1:30 AM checkout. Peace Corps has a 4-hours-early-to-the-airport policy. We arrived two hours before it was even open. The bright side is that we got to mingle and bond. I've only been with these people for 24 hours and I already feel like I know some of them very well. I am excited and anxious about the next few days, but I am most of all confident that things will work out well for me, which is a great feeling. I was even able to carry my guitar on all three flights! Right now I am going from Miami to Guatemala City, running on a few lousy hours of sleep, but too excited to get anymore..."
Then the plane landed on the tarmac. Suddenly there was a buzz about the air, a very unfamiliar buzz. Everyone stood up and began rapidly firing off Spanish. I immediately came to the harsh realization that I couldn't speak a word. Even my fellow trainee two seats away from me stood up and joined in on the conversations. I first thought to myself, "She knows Spanish?" My next thought was, "What have I got myself into?" The next three days were a complete blur. Six months later, almost to the day, I hit a milestone. I, yes I, gave a series of relatively complicated directions to a far away lake, in Spanish, to a Guatemalteco and his family. "Stay on this road. You will go through 4 curves and then you will drive straight for another minute or two. When you see a yellow house on the left, take a left, and then your first right. Follow this road until there is another right and take it. This road will take you to a sign that says "Laguna Magdalena 15km" and you will take a left there. That is as far as I know." Granted I have no idea whether that family made it to the lake that day, but regardless, I was proud of my directions. Especially in a country where you can ask four people for directions until you end up back where you started. The best feeling about it all, however, was that I finally felt like I was home. Not my home in the sense of home, because nothing can replace that feeling of walking into the house you grew up in, to your family, dogs, photos, or that familiar smell, but a different kind of home. I live here now! I've been here for three months, I've got 21 left, and this is now my home. My little two room, cinder block, tin roofed, uninsulated home. When I ride my bike through the mountains, people yell, "David" instead of "Gringo." Well, I still get gringo calls, but I am hearing more and more David's these days. I've been invited to birthday parties, celebrated Christmas in a small room with 40 strangers (who accepted me as one of their own for the holidays), and have seen simple "Good afternoons" turn into hour long conversations until "I have to go before the sun sets." I can't promise that things will always be this good, or that I will always be positive or happy here. I will, though, heed the advice of the volunteer I replaced. He told me to, "Ride the wave." That is what I'm going to do. Hang-ten.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
P.S. To anyone who reads this thing, I know its been a while since the last post, but I will try to keep it updated now that I have the power of internet. Que le vaya bien (take it easy).