Monday, August 24, 2009

A day in the life....

Adrian and I judging a mural contest on the importance of breastfeeding in one of our aldeas....

Sometimes, it`s just too hard to explain to you what I am doing here exactly… In that honor, here is a daily entry taste of esther, one week in guatemala…
Because nothing in Guatemala is quite ever in order, it makes sense to begin the week off with a….

Wednesday, August 12 , 09

Begin the day with a 6AM Basketball practice with a few of the Centro`s nurses. Women here are really into their basket, and who knew? I am too… It turns out that 5`4`` is quite a height and skill advantage here and my former benchwarming skills are now Alist moves. Unfortunately, no one here really seems to quite grasp the concept of travel or doubledrible, and it can get quite aggrevating as it turns into a free for all… Another anecdote about Basket: it turns normally very passive, docile Guatemalan women into ferocious beasts… I`ve gotten nails, elbows, trips and this morning, I had to stop playing and cool down after I was blatantly pushed… This morning, a health educator and I had to run an errand in the department capital to request gifts and materials from a Cooperative for this massive pageant we are putting together next week for `Breast milk` month. Pageants are really big here in Guatemala, think Miss America, but no plastics, rather culture, mayan traditional dance, language, and of course questions. Our pageant has 13 candidates , women elected from different zones of my pueblo and two other aldeas who are part of Mi Familia Progresa, who will compete and answer questions such as `What is the proper breast feeding position?` Anyway I think the idea is pretty clever and the women are super pumped about it… Come back for lunch and head to Adrians to enjoy the US and Mexico game, and ate massive amounts of what was intended to be pizza but turned more into veggie dough stew…. Alright at the time but we were all supersick today… Fall asleep to BBC`s Atlas of The World `Spirits of the Jaguar` episode about trippy geographic central american history........ The time is 830PM….

Thursday,August 13, 09

8AM Head to the centro; go to the municipality with my Reproductive Health worker to request help from the mayor for next week`s upcoming event, the secretary is cold as usual and surprise, surprise, the mayor does not see anyone on Thursdays… From what I understand the relationship between the health centro and the muni is pretty much non-existent and I hope to try to bridge the gap by the time I leave here… Come back to the centro rejected, head to a radio station in one of the aldeas to do a weekly segment on menopause and guess who did her own 45 mn segment on it? This girl did…. Most of the population in the aldeas only understand Ki`che, and so my compañera translated everything for me… Come back, have lunch at the Centro, I spend the rest of the afternoon translating some articles for one of the young doctors at the centro and give a casual english lesson to these two kids that randomly pop up in the center when they want to learn random english words… Go for a run afterward, trying to beat the rain, hike the hill back up only to be locked out in the rain…. Walk down to Adrians, call the host dad and hike back up before he leaves for 7pm mass… Finally home, getting ready to write this entry, and boom, my light`s out… And so in a dark eery, probably very fleey guatemalan room, I write this, under the shadows of pictures from home and boxes of memories; in 15 seconds I`ll open up `Travels with Charley` by John Steinbeck, struggle with the flashlight, and plunge into dreams I`ll soon forget… the time is 810pm.

Friday, August 14,09

Since I spent most of my night on the toilet puking from what I believe was Wednesday`s Doughy Veggie Stew, I slept in till a whole 7AM (although the rooster usually begins his sweet serenades outside my window at about 5AM). Tummy still grumbly, the morning was spent with my health center educators to give a charla on breastfeeding and how to bake a cake in an oven made out of chicken wire and aluminum foil… Later on, the sitemates and I had an appointment with none other than the…. US ambassador, aka the boss of our boss… We spent the next few hours showing him around the town and a school, where both my sitemates working in the Healthy Schools program. The ambassador, his wife and the entourage were all quite friendly and very much interested in the work of Peace Corps in general, which was a great boost to a Friday afternoon. After the appointment I returned to the health center where I kept working on a gigantic breastfeeding poster to use as a mantel piece for next week`s `breast milk` beauty pageant… After work, I headed to the town next over where two other volunteers live to stuff my face with homemade bread and hummus…. What a tough life for a volunteer on a Friday night….. the time is 916pm

Saturday, August 15, 09

Kate and I headed to our second Ki`che class in one of her aldeas and learned tons of really interesting things, like how to say `Mankaitaj Chom Tot` or `Stop staring at me you fat hermit crab`. The hospitality here never ceases to amaze me, a Ki`Che` lesson turned into hours of conversation, an invitation to atole that tasted like blended up tortillas, then tea, and later lunch, and before we knew it, it was 2 oclock, time to head home bellies full, throats bleeding from trying to scratch out the Ki`che` sounds but nevertheless satiisfied walking home through the beautiful countryside…. The next part of my day was spent on laundry (situation was quite tragic) soaking my wardrobe in soap and antiflea stuff overday and night. Next head to the town next over to see Kate and try out a, can you believe it…. A Wifi place!!!! Headed back over to my town once the power went out and kept Adrian company and waited for the power to come back on and for my homemade pizza for dinner…. Yes, turns out my sitemate is also my personal cook…. Tough life, huh… Still no light in my room, still struggling with my flashlight, and still traveling with Charlie and John Steinbeck…. The time is 1005PM.

Sunday, August 15, 09

In honor of lazy Sundays, I`ll keep it short and sweet: the day is started with a visit by Kate, which turned into a funfilled morning of Yoga, breakfast, chats, interpretive dancing, broadway belching, irish step dancing, zumba, all at my sitemate`s house… The afternoon was spent hanging out at a zoopark with my fellow bandmate writing out and coming up with some new tunes… the time is 9pm, I still haven`t washed my laundry and a little stressed about next week`s flurry of events at the centro…

Monday, August 17, 09

6AM date with my hands, washing half the laundry I deflead over the weekend… In the morning two educators and I went to a nearby aldea to do this month`s charla on breastfeeding and the homemade oven-cake. The women there are superpilas and are even more excited about tomorrow`s breast milk pageant which was really great to see… After the charla we were invited to two different homes for lunch and as a result had to take both offers and eat two lunches, which not surprisingly were the same: chicken and rice… You may be wondering how my newly vegetarian diet is doing here, well let`s just say I`m eating chicken… People here in Guatemala offer all that they can give to strangers, and often times it`s a homemade lunch and honestly, the thought of offending anyone is graver than getting sick from eating a bit of meat once in a while… After the two lunches, we headed back to the centro and went to rehearsal for tomorrow`s pageant at the Muni… While there, I took the opportunity to sweet talk the secretary and got myself an appointment to see the mayor at 3! Which was great, except for the fact that I was the last person to be seen…. At 5:15… Patience is worth everything here, because I not only got the chance to personally introduce myself and my program to the mayor but I scored an invitation to the next COMODE meeting this Thursday with all the assistant mayors. So two hours of waiting got my foot in the door to what hopefully can open up a relationship between the centro and the muni... Ended the day with Yoga at Samra`s… Week is packed as I spend the rest of my night, making a photo collage of the educators and women from Mi Familia Progresa to use as decoration for the Pageant mañana.. A laughing gaggle of children are out playing late tonight and are providing a semisweet playground-like soundtrack to the rest of my night. The time is 845PM
Tuesday, August 18, 09

Part 2 of my 6AM handwashing date today and spent the rest of the morning prepping for the pageant event in the afternoon. Flashback to yesterday: it was probably a really great thing that I had two lunches because we were so busy decorating and prepping the salon today that I didn`t even have time to eat. The crowd rolled in around 2ish and pretty soon the salón filled up with over 500 women and their children resulting in absolute mayhem; people were overflowing into the outdoor halls, balcony, peeking in through the window, so much so that they covered the runway that the contestants were supposed to pass through. Long story short the event was a huge success! Besides the usual traje tipico and dance that they have to do the women all had messages to give about the importance of breast milk and family planning; some were even brave enough to show how to properly breastfeed with their babies right there in a crowd of 500! The head of the Area de Salud in all of Toto came to be one of the judges and seemed to be quite impressed. Although it was one heck of a day and we had a lot to clean up, I was superproud of our team and went home exhausted but even more happy with the day. Spending the night still with no light and thinking about my charla for mañana for a forum on vices and addictions. The time is 831PM…


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dear Esther:

Let's face it you're last blog entry was quite depressing and probably scared off ure loyal followers (aka your mom, brothers and maybe one friend)... For the next entry, I suggest you write about the 10 greatest things about Guatemala:

1. Every chicken bus is a moving altar to Jesus.. Seriously who needs church when you have your own movable icons and live sermons while being transported!

2. Having a volcano you'll surely hike soon in plain view from your window

3. Great nearby volunteers and sitemates- one of whom is cooking for your lazy bum as we speak

4. Guatemalan health educators and their nonsense, craziness, and pervertness

5. Getting used to making up words and forgetting english, ie: see bullet #4

6. Guatemala time- sure it can be aggravating always waiting around, but hey the NY 9-5er stress is worse

7. Inspiration to write and.... get writer's block....

8. Having the creativity and freedom to decide what, when and how I want to work and not the other way around

9. The spontaneous, unplanned and random incidents and conversations of the day

10. Seeing the horizon from the top of a windy but yet breathtaking mountain and thinking "this is where I work"



Tuesday, August 4, 2009


They say Peace Corps service is sort of like a rollercoaster, ups and downs, and I've had my three month high, and third week in at my site and it hits me... the dreaded lows, questioning what I'm doing here, what I'll be doing the next two years, and my role in general... Anyone who even gives the littlest of damn in the world, idealizes peace corps and humanitarian work and has the noblest of idealistic thoughts to make a change in the fd upness that is our world... I suppose that's why the rich love to donate, to somehow feel that they are changing the course of things....

Unfortunately, it's alot different on the ground work and on my third week in, I'm dealing with semiperverted centro staff and a counterpart who has been MIA for a few days, and could probably care less to work with me... But why would he? From the Guate point of view, what would a gringa know about their culture and how to improve their standard of living?? And so for the first time in her life, little esther is wondering what to do next, no plan, sitting in the backseat she stares out the window and ponders....

But the good news is that every single volunteer goes through this and this is all probably stressed due to the fact that I've decided to spend the week in one of my aldeas, to live within the community and with the people I will be working with... Again, very idealized right?? But it's sort of trying to learn how to walk all over again, in addition to no running water, a graveled-like cement latrine with feces and toilet paper surrounding it, and puesto staff who have nothing for you to do and are wondering what you do... And while the humility of the people is awe aspiring, it somehow doesn't compensate the sadness I see from a people who have been so ignored and impoverished.... Where do you start changing centuries of these conditions?? How can one gringo do that???

The mental state probably isn't helped by my witnessing a crazy camioneta accident aftermath last week, in which a bus crushed a mother and her baby into a wall after the breaks went out coming down the mountain from my aldea... Brain splatter, blood, cadaver and all left me a little shook up...

Ok so it's been rough but this is what we signed up for, to be challenged and to try to overcome it; so we´ll be lost, but it's the only way we will find ourselves right??? So heads up for now, I'm surrounded by a really great group of other volunteers and hey, I have two years to get my crap together in the land of eternal spring.