Today, I write this at my health center, pretending to work on super important things so I don`t have to help my educators work on bureaucratic paperwork madness they have to do many times of month for their Mi Familia Progresa program… You might think that it`s a pretty bitchy thing for me to do, but people are still trying to figure out where and with whom I fit in here and so I spend a lot of time here trying to define my role in the health center, and it`s therefore important for me to hint (in a non-direct Guatemalan type of manner) that I am not part of the Mi Familia Progresa program nor here to fill out massive amounts of paperwork, although I am here to support them…. I really do love my health center staff and I am pretty convinced, after talking to other volunteers, that they are the craziest bunch here, which suits me just fine because I am not the most normal of people either…. As I`ve said before, we are supposed to build shovels full of confianza here within the first few months, which turns out you can achieve with many things taken for granted in the States. Exhibit A: technology- my camera is the newest phenomenon of the health center, and my computer memory drive is filling up with innumerous America`s next top model shoots at the center, in the garden, in the office, out on the field, by the church, well you get the point….
There are also other non-convential ways to bond…. For instance in the last two weeks, I`ve gone to the beach and a water park with health center staff…. These are activities that are organized by the centers every year, and so yea, it was important for me to be there… (no matter what you`re thinking, yes this is work!) For instance, people started realizing that Americans can have a sense of humor after I started responding to inquiring ride attendants that I was the Guatemalan and that my center compañeros were my visiting American friends…. I didn`t think it was that funny, but they couln`t stop laughing and talking about it for the rest of the day…Some people were also impressed by my skills to navigate the park, when the rest of them (who had been there many times) could just not figure out where they were… And then came the inquiring questions about my tattoo, which was impossible to hide with a bathing suit… Tatoos are associated with gangs here and it was a topic I was sort of stressing about, and after explaining and reexplaining why I had gotten it, people seemed to take it quite well (although I had pre-emptively devised a post-apocalyptic story about the US government branding their citizens abroad in case the world was ever at threat of extinction)… So, yes, it was work, and it was bonding and I gained major confianza…. If not, you will be happy to hear that waterparks in Guatemala still smell like chlorinated French fries and are filled with groups of frolicking preteens and bored, probably sleeping under-payed lifeguards…. Some things are just damned universal.
On the site work-front, since we last spoke, my non-working status with my counterpart has not changed, although I am taking more of an initiative to make the relationship work … I`m continuing to work with my educators and my reproductive health worker, and had the opportunity to participate in a forum with another volunteer I invited, Michelle, to speak on vices and drugs to middle-schoolers. The activity was really fun, but I think what impacted everyone the most was when I spontaneously shared my story about the death of a close friend. It was my first time really talking about what had happened in public and although it was hard not to get emotional, I think it really made an impact on these kids. Sometimes cultural barriers make it hard for people to really listen to you and I think sharing personal stories makes them understand the common humanity of it all… I also got the chance to do a taller, with two other volunteers I invited, on self-esteem to University students studying to be teachers in Xela. The taller was also heaps of fun and received great responses to it, some people told me it was even the best of the day! I`m always very nervous going into these talleres but the end result is always worth it. I always love the fact that we are creating an open comfortable environment for participants to talk about things they often do not talk about in other circumstances and I always walk away learning something from the people and the activities…
We also had our town parade we organized in order to commemorate the winners from last month`s ``breast milk`` pageant … The whole town woke up and watched the 500 women marching through town with breast milk and reproductive health signs…. Quite a beaut! Among other things, I´ve made a few home visits to talk about diarrheatical diseases and flies as pugnant fecal diseased carrier and taught women how to make fly catchers from a soda bottle... One of the things I love about Peace Corps is creativity and arts and craft put to use!
Minor negative thing this month: my keys were stolen from my health center, but the good news is that I got leave approved to go to NY to see my family in the first week of October…. Although I had no intentions in even returning to the States in the next two years, life has a funny way of making you do unexpected things… I`m excited to see my brothers and my half brothers who I haven`t seen since I was last in Brazil 6 years ago!
On a personal note, I`ve also decided not to drink for the next two years while here in Guatemala… I`m in an area infested with other great, outgoing volunteers and as a result, it`s really easy to sort of lose track of why you came and what you`re here for… So I`m sober sally for the next two years to completely immerse myself in what I came here to do (whatever it is) and I feel absolutely great about it!
I could write on and on and on, as you probably know, but I`ll stop here, I`m getting bothered by one of the workers to look at the 1,000,000,1 pictures on my computer and I need to finish preparing my awesome new exciting charla on Menopause... oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaa
I will leave you with my latest obsession: Bruce Lee who once said: The key to immortality is to live a life worth remembering…. Or something like that…
RIP - BRUCE LEE