Monday, June 22, 2009

The Leftover Falafel burps

A rainy sunday yesterday was spent hours cooking and slaving away, quite simply because I needed to let my host family understand how amazingly amazing falafels truly are. Falafels are a foreign term to them, and I`m not too sure that even after hours of repeating it they still really get it, it`s been called farafa? femana? fafa? among many other words. Anyone who knows me knows that cooking isn`t my thing, but I put in the effort with the host sis to show them what they were missing out on.... Only problem is that half the chick peas weren`t cooked well enough, and left the falafel balls more like decaying rice like balls, nonetheless, it seemed a hit with everyone, although they still couldn`t help letting go of their chapino ways, and kept suggeting to add chile, lime, salsa or salt to the falafels.... The tortellini, also a foreign food, was a hit. Unfortunately, the day ended with a fluorescent pink Strawberry cake that quite simply tasted like the shittiest cake I`ve had in my life. I couldn`t even get myself to finish it although my host fam was gracious enough to eat it and smile while looking at me, my guess is that they just didn`t want to hurt my feelings, because I spent much of my early morning hours today puking ups the bids of the damned pink cake.

Talking of puke, I`m in a band and we`re called the leftover burps. Although a fellow bandmate classifies it as `Spanish punk`, I think it`s sounding more like an indie, hippie satire of livin life as a peace corps volunteer.... You may be wondering, what on earth is Esther doing? Yea, I`m writing tunes and playing a sick wind bird instrument. That`s right be jealous. Anyway the band is a super sweet outlet for some creative writing and music making and I think we`re debuting at the 4th of July fiesta. For those curious souls here is a snipit taste from one of our singles, the Chicken bus roller coaster:

The diarrhea is a`kickin, kickin, kacklin` at me
The bumps are vibrating me vicious, road is dusty
I can hardly see, Rain`s got me soaked and wet
Swamp a×× got me a hot mess
And I think the old senor just groped my chest

Guate.... Guate..... Guate.....

Pero sweet companys gotten me comfy
Yea, Ive got a front row seat., a Front row seat....
To the tongue wrestling match next to me.

The songs are mildly inappropriate, but it is a necessary comic relief. Other tunes include emo songs about not getting packages and of princess tigress, a mutt that follows me everywhere around town. Don`t worry I`m starting to write more serious stuff too....

On the work front, our health promotores started giving their own charlas in front of the group last week. And by start, I mean only one who was supposed to go that day showed up. And although it doesn`t seem that the promotores really get the participative teaching method we are trying to go for, at least they are trying and are even doing charlas about HIV and opening up conversation about STDs ranging from machismo, infidelity to discussing local rumors and myths about sitting on a hot rock to cure a sort of STD that if I got the conversation right, includes pubic lice? Well, you get the point. I`ve realized that much of the work and the methods of teaching we want them to use are things that they have never been taught and goes against everything they`ve learned their whole lives. So what they didn`t get the ciclo de aprendizaje right away? We can`t expect them to change overnight and hey at least they are able to talk together during our meeting about taboo topics they can´t talk about in their culture and at home. And if anything, I think the meetings are fun for them and they are able to let go of reservations, laugh, and I mean laugh a lot, and just be themselves.

In other good news! We were able to get the Mayor to provide us with refracciones (snacks) for our weekly meetings! Which is a huge deal, Guatemalans love their snacks and I think it will give a great boost to all the wonderful women that have been taking the time off from their busy schedule to come to our meetings. I`m pretty bummed we`ll be leaving them so soon.

As for self reflection: well I`ll be off to my permanent site in one month and I wish I could say I am fearless, but truth is I`m scared beyond comprehension.

Additional anecdote on some of my fav. quotes of the last few weeks:

-A fellow volunteers: I want to learn really cool s*** while I´m here, like how to weave and be a Mayan Priestess....
- A conversation between a volunteer and a local niña: -My cousins in the States are adopted Niña - Really? Where did they buy them?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

FBTing it

WARNING- This entry is dangerously long and at times mindlessly boring, a cup of coffee is highly recommended.

Peace Corps loves acronyms and in this case FBT is AKA Field based Training, in other words the halfway mark, the beginning of the final stretch to swearing in and shooting off to our sites. Field Based Training is a week of super intensive, peak brain absorbing training in which the trainees engage, support, and learn the activities of other current volunteers in different parts of Guate. Our program was split up into two groups of eight and went to the departments of Quetzaltenango (Xela as its popularly known in the indigenous community) and Quiche. Our first stop was off to Xela in which we settled in none other than a small town brothel. Yes, a brothel. After a few minutes in, our trainer got the hint from one of the little ninos in the place that the rooms downstairs were often `rented out` on sundays for hummmm couples. But that didn`t blow the whistle, we accepted our fate into brothels and about 10 mns. later our trainer came back telling us that we needed to leave due to security measures, nooo not because it was a brothel but because we couldn`t get keys to any of the rooms. Result: eight gringos rushing out with their luggage from a small town brothel trying not to piss off the owner, although the owner didn`t seem so pissed as amused since he was drunk and trying to take pictures of the gringos. In the end we got a very unique special treat and stayed in the second biggest city in Guate, and a magnet for bohemian backpackers and volunteers where I had the opportunity to bond with eccentric frenchies and lost elderly quebecois among other casts of characters.

Our first site visit was in a medium sized town outside of Xela. Some cool things: had a session with workers from a day care center and helped them create an `action plan` to help them tackle serious hygienic issues within the day care center among the kids. Many of these kids going to the day care are absolutely filthy, sick with amebas, covered in lice and as a result infect and spread germs and its friends to other healthier kids, seriously shitting up the day care center conditions. These workers, who are paid very little, feel very frustrated about the situation and feel hopeless, not knowing how to intervene and get the parents to improve the hygiene habits of their children and family. By the end of the session, we had helped these workers find possible solutions and interventions to the problem by basically empowering them and bringing out ideas that were already within them. Another cool anecdote: Giving a charla to 20 somewhat energetic midwives (mama must be proud) which went beautifully amazing! The point of the charla was to improve the hygiene and sterilization methods during labor and give them tips on how to use cheap, commonly found resources around them that can help the hygiene condition (ie making garbage bags into disposable gowns, how to disinfect a cuerda de castillo, used to tie and cut the umbilical cord). Most of the women only knew Mam and needed an interpreter (as many of these charlas do, there are 23 indigineous languages in Guate!), but as always, laughter is damnly universal, and had them engaged, and participating by being just silly goofy gringos. I also had the chance to pretend to be in labor and popping out Enrique, the local baby dummy (don`t worry there is a video floating around somewhere).

Other role plays I had to play this week: prentend to diarrhea and vomit my brains out in front of restaurant and meat owners in a charla about food preparation and being an abused housewife in a charla about domestic violence. Who knew the acting skills would blossom in peace corps?

One of the best things about the trip was just to finally get to travel and see more of the beautiful countryside. On our way to the second town, we had time to visit these hot springs perched in the middle of these amazing mountains and relaxed for an hour after days of hard work. The second town visited was in Quiche, much smaller and pleasantly propped in a valley with a recently cleaned out lagoon. Among a number of poppin` events, we gave a taller on HIV, gave handwashing charlas to school kids, another charla to food vendors, visited a filthy chicken slaughter house, a water treatment plant, soccer game, watched High School Music 3 in Spanish (yes, the highlight of our saturday night), became violently ill one day and shit the worst diarrhea I`ve had in my life. Wicked experience of the trip: Teaching women from a poor rural village high up in the mountains how to cook spaghetti with protemas, a much cheaper soy substitute for carne. The women and children were absolutely openhearted to us and as I sat there looking at the amazing view on top of the world I thought to myself holy crap, this is what I get to do for the next two years. So what the dollar signs are few, the only green I need lies here high upon the mountains.

And on the homefront, we arrived back just in time for my town`s feria celebrating SA`s patron saint, which are 5 days of the town turning into a fair ground, fireworks (ive been wide-eyed since 4am due to bombas), with drunks, concerts, games, live bull runs, a ferris wheel, funny and innapropriate songs such as `I like to move it, move it` and `dont want no short d×××× man.` Lots of fun right? But fun complicates work when the municipality is shut down and we are running around trying to find other groups for our HIV taller because school is out early due to the pig flu.

Long story short: Chaos- It`s just another day in Guate.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Charlying the blind

Well the last few days have been sort of an atomic ball of hecticness, excitement, and human pilas... lots of pilas (think human energizer batteries here folks)... Exhibit A: Little Esther is doing her Influenza Charla for the first time in front of her large groups of promotores to the waiting room, aka an audience of one elderly señor..... As I start my `Ah Ah Choo!!!` dinamica (thankfully all the promotores were willing to role play as patients....) I get to my old senor, shoving my big poster in his face.... asking him what the difference is in the two drawings.... I get no answers, I get a whisper of a name, but I keep shoving the poster in front of him, trying to extract an answer.... until I look at my partner Kati in despair and read her lips in English: Esther, he cant see!!! sshittttt, I think crap my only audience is blind and just keep on going with the promotores like nothing happened.... nonetheless the senor seemed to get a kickin kackle out of hearing people take turns saying ah ah choo.... the bad news: it was sort of a disaster.... good news: it was hella funny

Our activities with our group of women is really kicking off and Kati and I are even petitioning the mayor and the munnicipality for some snacks and support for our weekly meetings.... I can honestly say that I really enjoy these meetings and feel extremely close to all of these women.... three new women showed up, one a teacher, one a university student studying to be a social worker, and the other a 17 year old!!! It`s amazing just to be talking and seeing women nodding and taking notes..... Kind of like holy crap!!! the Gringas are kinda damn cool.... Alot of the activities that we do consist of bonding activities, and it sort of feels we`re sort of building a women support team but with a health twist to it in the community.... The women are even meeting next week without us gringas (we will be on a site visit) and our tecnica is giving a charla on self esteem!!!! What a damn pila!!!

Other big news, Kati and I will be giving a large workshop to a middle school in two weeks.... this ain`t no small activity here folks, in the course of two days we will be giving the workshop to 160 kids, and will have to train the school`s teachers.... although this is a requirement of training that we are all doing, I`m pretty damn proud to have been able to arrange this, and although our trainer is really happy with our work, Im pretty freaked out about actually doing the workshop to the sea of antsy annoying preteens.... We`ll keep you updated on the hysteria....

Kati and I have taken to visit a local library that partakes in a sort of afterschool reading program for kids in our pueblo.... Its pretty amazing given the fact that vvery few guatemalans are readers, and am thinking that I will try to start the same sort of program at my site..... I think that books are one of the very few resources that these kids can use to dream, travel, and just philosophize!!!

In supernatural freaky news, anyone that mildly knows me that weird shit sometimes just happens to me.... that is no different here in Guatemala.... ie: doors opening, chocolate necklaces mysteriously opening, et al.... But just another day in the life of Esther.....

Talking of spirituality, the group was able to attend a Mayan ceremony last weekend, which was pretty amazing and left me really revitalized.... The Mayan had it right man, uno a uno con la naturaleza, spirituality, and our ancestors....

As far as for more of inner self reflection, well I guess you can say that I just feel alive finally, and realizing that all the things that have happened, all the fuck ups that is my life have all led me for me to be here, and to do this. Very dramatic I kknow (did you expect anything less?)