Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm a sucker for shelters.

I'm a sucker for shelters. I've always been. This last week, I finally finished shopping with two psycologists who work with kids at a domestic violence shelter in a city near me. My brother and mother raised $250 dollars back home which was oh so plenty to buy toys and school supplies for the many kids hidden away at the shelter (thank you inflation!).

When I walked in, it was great to see all the kids running toward me, holding my hand, smiling, as I saw them play with all the toys we had bought a few months prior when we did our first round of shopping. When I walked in to the psychologists' office, this is what I saw (all bought with just $100):

Lesson learned folks... Cherish your dollar! For these kids, it's bought alot... Not just ordinary games, but stimulation that help these psychologists work and open up these kids to talk about what has happened to them.

I didn't stay long, but walking through the shelter never ceases to surprise me.... The smiling kids, and the girls.... The girls who should just be kids at the shelter, but are actually mothers (many as a result of a father's or brother's rape)... I'll never forget that image - Their young faces, pre-teen bodies all laying there staggered among the patio, taking in the sun, altogether unphased by my presence as their children happily ran around on me...

We all have our soft spots I guess and as I said I'm a sucker for shelters. I've always been. I guess it all comes from my own inner philosophical debate... What makes me so lucky to be me? Why should I be so lucky, while others not? How could I not do anything to help?

Anyway back to the point... Most recently I came into contact with a hospice looking after orphaned children with HIV/AIDS, and now well... damn it, I can't stop thinking about it. I'm even thinking about spending my christmas there. HIV/AIDS is not a hot topic in Guate, although the country has one of the highest infections rate in Latin America. Although there are over 13,000 cases reported to the Ministry of Health, UNAIDS estimates over 60,000 cases in Guatemala. Many will never know they have HIV/AIDS as access to health care, resources, and education are so very limited here... HIV/AIDS education is virtually non-existent especially in the rural indigenous communities where PCVs work since many organizations focus their work out of the capital city. Many of these communities also do not speak spanish.

PC Guatemala has an HIV Committee, which I am part of, that mainly promotes education initiatives in part of the volunteers and their counterparts. And the truth is, we are way in over our heads as workshops have increased in large numbers, and we'll be coordinating a host of activities with upcoming PEPFAR funding....

But as I said, I'm a sucker for shelters. So drumrolls please.... Finally, to the point of this entry... I'm hoping to organize an activity or fundraiser for the hospice for christmas in part of volunteers and the HIV Committee here in Guatemala... I'm sort of fixated and very excited about this.. So I guess that's all I got for now, that's what I wanted to tell you.



Monday, October 18, 2010

Heart to heart with Loneliness

It´s October. It´s fall in NY, and somehow I find myself nostalgic. But yet, I´m not, I know that the world I left a year and a half ago is changed. I´m changed. I´m anxious too - I have 9 months left of my service. I know this seems like a long time to you, heck that´s an entire pregnancy cycle I guess... But to me, it´s all coming fast and yet so slow at the same time, which is resulting in a minor self-reflection crisis.

This minor self-reflection crisis has led me to the following potential conclusions for my future: getting a Masters in Spain/Belgium, becoming a hermit and writing a shit ton, studying Buddhism in Nepal followed by a sneak entry into Tibet, becoming a real socialist in Cuba, going back to NYC for a 9-5 job, working in the amazon with displaced indigenous populations, being lazy in Brazil, or extending my service for another year. I guess now you understand why this is a crisis right?

I know what you want to tell me - ¨just follow my heart¨ right? But what happens when you´re heart is splintered in a few different places at once? Adaptability is suppose to be a good thing right? But what happens when you´ve become so adaptable that you yourself start to have an identity crisis?

I guess that´s my problem. This is an identity crisis. Damn it, I should have known this would come one day. The problem is this: I´m no longer the Esther you used to know. I´m not even the Esther that I know.

Maybe this crisis all came to a head with the wedding of a close friend of mine´s in San Diego. I hadn´t been back to the U.S. in one year, and I was nervous. I was nervous about civilization, reconnecting, and socializing to people other than my dog. The wedding was good, and seeing old friends was great. But yet, I found myself to be out of place, a different person, not being able to relate to friends or things around me. The only things I could get myself excited about talking was well, hum, Guatemala, to people who well, don´t really care about Guatemala. So you can
imagine that as I saw familiar volcano peaks on my plane back into Guatemala, I exhaled a smile of comfort and relief.

And I guess that´s what I´m wondering... How will I ever be able to relate to a world who probably could give a rat´s hooha about two years of my life that have meant the world to me? Thus the hermit option (seriously it´s on the top 3 choice list along with Nepalese Buddhism).

So yes, I´m adaptable, but do I really want to reintegrate myself into a world that does´t really care about the person I´ve become? I suppose that´s where my heart is, in the middle of the splinters. That´s the billion dollar question.

Well, what can I say, you probably thought you were going to read about my actual experiences and not about my feelings. Sorry, but you´re kind of my journal once in a while too.

I´ll keep you updated, unless you don´t hear from me ever again (that means I went with the hermit option).