Monday, August 22, 2011

Who's Bored Now?

It's been a little hectic lately. Closing your Peace Corps service isn't something you can just do in a couple of days. My group had our Close of Service (COS) Conference last month. It's a three day event where PC puts us up in a posh villa to talk about our experiences, feelings, and mainly to tell us all the things we have to do before we can leave. There's the medical checkout, three days of getting pricked and prodded, physicals, stool samples (officially a pro at leaving these), and dental checkup (Just finished up last week, no tuberculosis, no cavities, and parasite free). I have a Language Proficiency Interview that will tell just how awful my Spanish still is after two years (it really isn't that bad I guess). Then the plethora of paperwork: COS Report (10-15 pages, single-spaced, English and Spanish), Description of Service (DOS) Report, the bi-annual VRF Report, updating resumes and job applications, reference letters, press releases, closing bank accounts, turning in supplies and equipment, and getting the signature of virtually everyone on the Peace Corps Staff. That all happens on top of despedidas (going away parties) in site, with host families, women's groups, and schools, and with other volunteers, who are all leaving at different times. My site mate and I will likely be replaced, so we also have to prepare a smoothish transition for the new volunteers and plan their site visit. Guatemala also just had their first round of countrywide elections for the year (President, Representatives, Mayors, etc.) which brought everything to a halt for a few days, followed by tomorrow being Independence Day (one of the biggest celebrations of the year). Chiantla, my municipality, just finished their week-plus long festival last week as well.

Throughout it all, I've been coordinating an appropriate technologies project for a local school. I solicited funding from Water Charity, and in collaboration with my Counterpart NGO (Seeds of Help Foundation), Agua para la Salud (who gave us the design and is sending a skilled mason), and the Committee of Parents (basically a PTA), the project is finally coming to fruition. Materials were purchased yesterday and construction is scheduled to begin this coming Tuesday. We will be building a cement above ground water deposit that will hold 5,500 liters of water, which will be used for washing hands, dishes, cleaning floors, and, with the use of a water filter that was donated to all of our schools through my site mate, clean drinking water. Water Charity provides funding to projects instantly, and receives donations later, which it filters to its various ongoing projects across the world. The maximum amount of money they can contribute to a single project is $555. My project budget was actually more than this allotment, but Seeds is helping cover the rest. Please visit my project page - - to make a donation. Even $5 would be a huge help. I can say that I would greatly appreciate it, but in speaking for the community, I couldn't begin to describe their gratitude and appreciation for your help.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guest Bloggers!!!

My parents came for a visit a while back and I asked if they would like to write a post about their trip. Complete with pictures, which I've never really figured out how to do (but may retrospectively add some if I can), here is another perspective from my favorite (and only) visitors (would have been my favorites even if I would have had others).

Guatemala Rubbed Off On Us!

We went on a trip over “spring break,” to visit Barrett, our son who is a Peace Corp Volunteer. Well, I guess Guate got into our blood… to prove that, this blog is a little late in the coming! Barrett planned the trip from beginning to end. All we had to do was get on a plane. I did an extreme amount of talking to myself before getting on that plane. I said things like, “Don’t scream if you see
a spider, bug, etc.," and “Eat whatever is put before you, or least smile as you move the food around on the plate.” Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised that none of my concerns ever really came to fruition. We were amazed with the beauty of the country, even though we were taken back by all the trash on the countryside and the political paintings on rocks and boulders.

The first morning we awoke to the most beautiful scenery on the lake looking out at a couple of volcanoes. It was just breathtaking. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting Barrett’s friends. After almost two years of keeping up with blogs and facebook posts, and listening to stories from Barrett, we felt as though we already knew them. We really appreciate all the kindness they showed us and how they made us feel so welcome. Meeting Betty was a special treat and we really enjoyed kicking around with Barrett and his “LOVE!” (I had to embarrass you a little!) We will cherish the memories of this trip forever: the stays at the lake, shopping in the markets, traveling (with Bryan driving) through the treacherous roads, seeing a couple of ruins, catapulting out of the underground parking lot at a 45 degree angle onto the street in Huehue, the visits to the women’s meetings and schools with which Barrett works, walking to the “store” (a hole in the side of a house,) the visit to the Peace Corps Headquarters, the “chicken bus” ride, a dinner party at Barrett’s co-worker’s house, and all the other sights too numerous to even mention. Meeting Amy, Barrett’s site-mate, warmed our hearts, as she has literally spent two years in a close relationship with our son. Roberto, Barrett’s closest co-worker, was just as Barrett had described him and a very friendly guy who showered us with gifts he’d made.

Barrett’s host family, the family he rents from, pulled at our heartstrings by cleaning the compound dirt with brush, making boiled potatoes for our breakfast, and genuinely loving our son during his stay in Guatemala. Visiting the place Barrett has called home for the last couple of years was one of the best parts of the trip and allowed us to get a real taste of what life has been like for him. Even so, I can’t imagine living without running water for two whole years or having to climb that wall to get to the latrine in pouring rain, especially if you have an upset stomach. And, I’m thankful Barrett didn’t expect us to hike to all the places he goes!

Visiting Guatemala was not on our list of places to visit, but will most likely remain the greatest adventure we’ve ever experienced. This trip will forever be in our hearts, as we are extremely proud of our son and the man he has become.