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.