You can find me today living in the moment of a Friday afternoon, or whatever time zone you are now reading this, listening, once again, to a very super cheesy Mexican Ranchero singer blasting from my centro`s reception. A lot has happened since we last encountered and I`m not too sure where to begin. Well for starts, I did go back to NYC all in a dream-like minute trip. While I was really nervous to go back, I found it pretty easy to acclimate back (despite the initial shock- being around so many water fountains, shiny, oh so juicy fruits and garbage pales.) I was a little bummed to leave everyone, all of whom I saw for a split second, but as soon as I stepped on Guatemalan soil, I felt great again.
Since being back, everything has sort of fallen into place and work has piled up; I`ve started working a lot with my health NGO that covers most of my aldeas. The initial contact comes to you as an awkward story: I had been trying to get ahold of this NGO for quite some time now, and when I received an invitation to one of their meetings in Xela, I was super stoked; unfortunately the invitation giver was not going to be there and so I just showed up to the meeting unannounced, to no one`s knowledge at the headquarters and you can imagine the welcome party was well, non-existent. The health educators would barely look at me and I forced myself to stay, pretending to work on a poster until I finally received an invitation to help with a hygiene charla the next week.
What can I say it was one of the most awkward moments of my life, but much of the work here is forced and while I hated every minute of that meeting, it is always worth your time at the end of the day, especially when you are trying to establish relationships and work. Long story short, I ended up showing up to the charla the next week well-equipped with a gigantic toothbrush, mouth poster, and huge paper candies. The charla was a hit, and while I had to leave the next day for the States, the NGO asked me to leave the materials for them to use in the following days.
And so now a week after being back from the States, I find myself in great status with both the NGO and the Centro, both of whom have a hint of rivalry toward one another. I believe the slight animosity stems from a serious lack of staff within the NGO, all of whom work in the poorest of places (we are talking only 3 educators, 1 doctor, and a hipodermist for thousands of people), it also doesn`t help that the NGO funding is always at threat of being cut.
Anywho, peace corps here is much like showing up to work one day saying you got the job, although they were never even having interviews, or well, they were never looking for anyone at all…. Moral of the story: Being forced out of your comfort zone is always worth it (well so far).
Malnutrition has been buzzin` about Guatemala`s ears, and most recently I got personal with it. Most of the worst has hit the East, which is on the other side of me, but my municipio is not that better off. Last Friday, I was introduced to a 13 pound 1 year and 10 month old baby, and was told to give them a consultation by my NGO. I did the best I could to give this woman and her drunk husband the best advice I could, what type of alimentos to give, how many times a day, et al, but blank stares were all that were reciprocated. It was clear that the baby needed to go to the hospital, the kid was barely alert, let alone walk. I convinced them to meet me at the health center this week, only to be told by my boss doctor that the kid would not be accepted into the hospital because beds are super limited and his case was not acute enough to be admitted…. The area nutritionist did recommend to go to another government office where the baby could at least get a medicinal milk that would inject his body with carbs and at least help him to start eat again. Unfortunately, that office only advised me that the milk is only being given now to 3 month olds or younger, and that older ones should instead take vitacereal (supplemental cereal provided by the govnt), which is great advice really, given that my municipio has been out of vitacereal for almost two months now.
I spent the entire day running around with this family to drop them off empty-handed. The only thing I can do now is to follow up with weekly home visits, but the whole experience has taught me a lot about the way that bureaucracy works around here and has me thinking about reworking my work to fill in this empty vacuum for these family that have no access to health education and whose kids are only deteriorating away, waiting to be accepted in the hospital on their death bed. The challenge is just incredibly overwhelming, and it`s not something that I can just do on my own obviously. But it`s making me think and plan.
And it all makes you wonder really, billions of foreign dollars are flowing into the country in order to help with the malnutrition crisis, but where is this money going? Keep throwing it in E.U.
I know this is a really charged entry, but as I said earlier a lot has been happening, and while overwhelmed with the fact that there are oh so many needs and that I am only one body, I feel ready to refocus my work in my aldeas and confront it… poco a poco.