I know, don`t judge me, it`s been a while. But sometimes writing a simple blog entry can be overwhelming. Where do you start when days feel like a lifetime? My brother once suggested that I post a picture up on every blog entry, and just write about that. Well here goes nothing: The picture above was taken by Alex, a ´boy or perhaps a young man, with down syndrome. Alex is the only disabled boy I know in my town and in all of a Guatemala. Alex has never gone to school because there is no ``special education`` for him; his education lies within his eyes. He is the eyes of San Andres, watching, walking, spending his days and nights observing the happenings of the town. He, of course, has taken a liking in us Gringos and I often wonder if even he can understand the cultural differences between us.
As you can tell, Alex is an amazing photographer, which I must say did not surprise me much since he spends his 24-7 on details and beauty that most of us never even bother to notice. The photo above takes place at my feria, my town`s annual celebration of its patron saint. It is a week`s full of madness, street vendors, fried food, drunks, mass, fireworks, concerts, marimbas, street dogs and strangers who think I`m a stranger in my own town. The man in the picture is part of a company of masked dancers from a nearby town, hired to dance drunkenly out of rhythm. San Andres is known for its factory of musicians and so our feria turned into a monton of concerts, accompanied by these comical and somewhat drunk dancers sweeping away our main plaza (and yes the one in the background is in a disguise I believe made to resemble Osama Bin Laden – it`s ok really… cultural sensitivity doesn`t translate well here sometimes, so don`t take it personally). Anyway, I plan on buying Alex a disposable camera soon, and who knows, if he actually really takes a liking and proves to be responsible with it, maybe I`ll opt to fundraise to get him a digital camera.
I also met a new Peace Corps volunteer, well a returned PCV who had served in the 1970s in Guatemala. I was lucky enough to meet him and discuss how his experience had been so different from what we have today. Today, we have easy internet access, dependency on cell phones, printers, memory sticks, laptops and this blog. It makes you wonder really how technology has just completely changed what it means to be a Peace Corps volunteer… for better or for worse. The good news is that due to technology, you get to read this, but as volunteers we also tend to stray away from our communities more than we ought to because we have the United States on our cell phones and computer screens (I`m not judging, I`m guilty too.)
But enough about that, now for the juicy work stuff: while one of my youth groups is still holding up strong, I`m starting to have some trouble trying to keep the other one alive in my aldea, whose kids keep wanting to just learn about music and painting, and not about the goodies of HIV, domestic violence, et al (can you blame them really??) Speaking of domestic violence, I spent the last week giving charlas on the topic to mothers of family. While it was all well and rewarding, the problem is still evident: how can we educate the husbands???? For one part, I`m trying to get a hold of the different professional associations comprised of men in my town (they are big weavers and painters here) and capacitaring them. And I am also trying to plan out a monthly attendance requirement for husbands of families receiving money from the government with my health center educators.
So, what am I up to this week? Doing a radio show and workshops with my youth groups on HIV-AIDS, in honor of international AIDS day Dec. 1st, and preparing for my first health promoters group next week. I am a little nervous to see who, if anyone shows up, because I`ve put a lot of effort in advertising and getting my muni involved during the midst of feria, which has been extremely difficult. But as we say in Guatemala - saber! What will be, will be….
Since the last time we met, I also found out that my counterpart will be leaving the health center due to budget cuts, which as you can imagine, really sucks. But I`m not giving up on her yet, and will naively do everything I can to save her job. Good news is that I nominated her to be recognized by Peace Corps for her work with HIV-AIDS education and she got it! Current status: trying to get through to the boss man in the area de salud.
Talking of reproductive health… Congratulation to Amber and her little Aidan, whose birth made me actually want to be back in the States real bad (well just for a moment).
And on a final note, one of my goals here in Peace Corps was to write a book, as talentless as my words might be, and well I`ve finally started. It turns out it`s not about Guatemala at all, as I had planned it to be, but about my family. Cheesy, I know, but distance and alienation has a twisted sick way of making you reflect.