Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ears wide open

View of my town, on my way to one of my aldeas located on top of the mountain

Sometimes a great work day in Guatemala is to do nothing and simply listen; simply listen to the things you can learn on a daily basis just from being quiet and really paying attention to the people and environment around you. I often hear talks of contemporary issues, inappropriateness, personal struggles, ironies and daily frustrations of a developing nation all fit to be part of an Allende, Marquez book I will inevitably never write. These conversations pass on every day, and I murmur on, telling myself to write them down but, as you may have guessed, they are instead always forgotten and inevitably turned into wondering, vague thoughts in my head… Therefore as a meak attempt to contradict my last statement, the conversation Iremember today takes place at lunch time at my health centro between two of my educators: ``I then asked the señora if her husband was drunk when he beat her, and she responded… `No seño, my husband doesn`t drink, he`s a preacher, we`re evangelicals.``

I suppose the phrase is more tragically ironic within Guatemalan borders but these statements are not uncommon here and domestic violence unfortunately is a huge problem in my pueblo. Guatemala, like many societies, is traditionally conservative, where men`s say is often the only way. Although many just accept the spousal abuse as maybe God`s will, others who may no longer tolerate it, have no idea as to how to even get out of it. After all, there are at least five children to look after, what would it matter what Mama feels? It is neither a topic that is even discussed in the town, let alone confronted by the local or national government. The sad part is that many neighbors just turn a deaf ear to sudden screams or noises. To fight domestic violence here simply begins by encouraging neighbors to report any incidents or suspicion, which may sound easy, but hard when impunity characterizes the judicial system here. Good news is that I have a contact with an NGO that specifically deals with domestic violence in Xela and have been thinking about collaborating with them, even do a march with the NGO and another nearby volunteer in April for women`s month.

Time here flies and I`m finding myself busy even for the holiday and feria season, trying to pull off two vacation youth groups in my urban center and in one of my aldeas. If I can actually get kids to attend, the group would meet on a weekly basis to focus on activities and charlas on health, gender, selfesteem, vices, and eco-friendly topics… The plan is to have at least the groups in my aldea culminate the activities into a large eco mural final project at the school (garbage is a huge problem there, and perhaps a mural might give more of an incentive for these kids to keep the community, their playground clean!)

I also plan to start my health promoter groups in my aldea and urban center within the next two months and need to start promoting, and soliciting space and money from my muni. I have began working extensively with all of the midwife groups in my aldeas and am looking forward to developing a stronger relationship with them and with the help of my oh so awesome midwife mom in the States. I`m even thinking about arranging a Toto midwifery conference as a long term goal for these groups by the end of my service. I`m also beginning to train health vigilantes in the aldeas run by my NGO and am excited to get things moving along with them as well… I plan to have them help me do home visits and diagnostics that I simply have not had the time to do and hopefully if there is time, to help me with construction projects in these communities…. Anyway, in conclusion, I AM BUSY! Which I use as an excuse for the consistent bad grammar in these entries...

I`ve also moved into my apartment and have never been happier about it, although it is pretty much empty at this point in time…. Moving-in day was quite a frenzied saga, Spindler stlye… I of course did not start moving in until 7PM at night, under steady rain… I had planned to use the health centro`s pick up, but surprise, surprise, it wasn`t there and instead, I began lugging some of my things to my house, until I realized that my spaztic hands could not open my gate….Leaving my stuff to soak under the rain, I go back to the health center to see if the pick-up was back, only to realize that a knife I had left at the center (to use for tire gardens I will be doing) had disappeared… Those who know me well may have guessed that I had grown quite frustrated and irritated with the situation at this point, which inevitably turned into an oh so dramatic, tearful, quasi-nervous breakdown… As I kept interrogating over-night workers about my knife, the pick up and its humble driver finally came pulling in (after all this was a favor he was doing for me), to which I am sure that he was sure I had gone mad, almost crying over a knife. All judgment aside, he still agreed to help me, and as we reached my old headquarters, surprise, surprise all the lights were out once again in that sector in our town…. Long story short, we moved all of my things in the dark, tripping and bumping over everything but completing the moving-in mission succesfully with a lot of built up anxiety and nerves. And for the record, I did find the knife the next day, hidden between posters as I had last left it…. Oops…

On a Guatelaman note, today is San Simon day, the controversial indigenous patron saint of booze, cigars and cigarettes…. Our town has our own special altar and as a result, the town is partying and it looks like I won`t get to sleep too soon with the bands and fireworks still raging on… Good news is that the feria stands are up and I can get my oh soooo yummy fix of churros… Oh gracias San Simon…

If not, you will be happy to hear that peer pressure follows everywhere because all over Guatemala right now volunteers are still trying to figure out their Halloween plans… As for me? Staying in site. Yep that`s right, after all I didn`t plan to have Halloween follow me all the way to Guatemala.

And on a foot note… I managed to royally screw up my foot, walking down the steps of my Mercado and now it looks like I won`t be able to run the marathon I was supposed to do next weekend in Antigua… Total bummer and my foot looks like a blown up eggplant.

Off to the cemetery now, it`s Dia de los Muertos and I`m out integrate, AKA stalking Guatemalans in the cemetery adorning and taking care of tombstones.

Saludos pumpkin heads.


  1. AW.... awsome Midwife Mom between US and Brazil..

  2. mehhhh... i am sorry for the marathon... i know how much you prepared for that one...
    you cant imagine how jealous i am of your churros...
    i wish i could have talked with you too :-)
    at least i got the first message here :-)
    I miss you, and dont worry you dont have to be in guate not to celebrate halloween... i stayed home and got some well needed sleep ...

  3. oh crap... i guess ill never be 1st

  4. No it was not teh first message... son...

  5. hey nice pic,,.,, are all of those maize fields?

    putain ta vu ca? elle fais vraiment chier...

  6. bah oui.. elle fais chier... haha you guys are ridiculous.... love u and miss u both.. grosses bises

  7. Awesome view! Happy Thanksgiving, Esther! We miss you around here :(

  8. Also, why not just get a sheath for the knife and carry it on your hip? That way it can't be stolen and you'll always know where it is :)