Peace Corps Guatemala

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Moving forward

I wanted to post about what has been going on in my life and end my blog on a postive note.  So here it goes!

I finally feel like my self again.  After a long time of struggling through everything in Guatemala, I finally feel like I have my life together.  I left Guatemala in March 2012.  As you all know, I was heart broken to leave.  Lito (my cat Senor Frijolito) and I packed up our stuff and flew home.  I was talking to the man next to me and he asked if I was excited to come home.  At that moment I was looking out over Minneapolis...crying.  It had hit me (again) that I was moving home and there would be no more Guatemala in my every day life.  I looked at him and tried so hard not to show my tears.  I just said, actually I'm pretty sad.  I think it surprises people when they hear I would rather live in Guatemala with nothing than in the amazing USA with everything.  I got off the plane and had gotten myself together.  I told myself I wouldn't cry and that everything was going to be great!  After 15 hours of traveling, which was after 3 weeks of traveling, I finally hugged my mom.  Everything that I had been feeling for the last year came out in that one moment at the airport.  I burst into tears.  Hard, real, tears. 

Needless to say the first few weeks home were hard, sad, and hopeless. 

I flew to South America and traveled for about two months with my friend Carrie, from Guatemala.  We had an amazing time traveling, meeting new people, and seeing new things.  It was an amazing trip and something inside of me gave me confidence to be able to live my life in the states. 

I got home and it hit me again...reverse culture shock.  Why is everyone always on their phones?  How is the city bus so nice?  Where is all the street food?  These tortillas just wont do. 

I knew the only thing that would make me happy is if I got a job and figured out my life.  So, I did.  I applied to everything and anything.  My first application was for an ice cream truck driver then there was the dog walker/babysitter.  I then realized, oh yeah!  I have a degree....maybe I should use it?  I started applying for job after job on a nonprofit website for minnesota.  Now, after all of this, I am working at The Link as a Housing Program Assistant.  I am working with at risk youth of homlessness and mental illness. 

Even though leaving Guatemala was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, I am happy that I did.  I have a job that will help build my career and I enjoy it.  It is hard moving past the Peace Corps and starting a new life, but it really feels great to have had the experience.  Life is what you make of it.  If you sit around and do nothing then you will get nothing in return.  I am a strong believer in everything happens for a reason, and life continues show me its true.  I am moving on from the Guatemala chapter and moving forward.

  I will still keep Guatemala close to my heart and I will be visiting my Guatemalteco family in December. 

El Fin,


Sunday, January 22, 2012

If I Could, I Would

I'm sorry I didn't explain sooner.  I haven't been able to write about whats happening because I just can't believe it and don't want to believe it.  But its happening.

The next peace corps group that was scheduled to leave in March is now leaving in Febuary and the group to leave in July is now scheduled to leave in March.   The volunteers that are located in departments that are a bit further away are being relocated to sites that are closer to either the office in Xela or by Antigua.  So, everyone in my department will be relocated. I am taking early COS, which just means that I will receive the same benefits as I would if I were to finish my two years.  PCG is trying to have less than 100 volunteers in Guatemala to make it more manageable...we are currently at 220. 

 I lived in Baja for three months with security issues throughout my three months.  I was relocated to Huehue because I was told that it was a safe place and I will be able to do great work there.  Now, 6 months later I am told that I cannot stay in Aguacatán, Huehuetenango because of security reasons.  I have to have a meeting with my directors of my schools, YET AGAIN, and tell them that I will not finish my work here.  I have to disappoint more people.  I told the directors, the teachers, friends/family, that I WILL be in Aguacatán for the next year.  Its like a horrible nightmare repeating itself. 

Peace Corps is, obviously, really worried about our security and what is going to happen with the new president.  Crime is getting worse and public transporation is just not safe. 

I feel completely safe in my town and I hardly ever leave. 

I am trying to figure out how to leave here feeling like I accomplished what I came here to do.  I am heartbroken and don't want to leave, but I see no answers to this problem. 

I'm not really sure what else to say...I'm leaving the Peace Corps a year early.  I'm angry with Peace Corps administration for lying to us month after month.  I'm sad that I have to leave the one place I felt like I was really contributing to this world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One Year in Guatemala

I have been in Guatemala for one year.  One year from being away from the things that comfort me, the  things that I love, and the people I love.  I think back to the beginning of this experience, and I honestly didn't think I was going to make it as far as I have.  Peace Corps is hard.  It challenges you on every part of your soul and who you are.  It questions how you function and how you handle every single situation. People will never stop watching you and sometimes the only place you want to be is the comfort of your home...but the experience is what you make it.  I had a rough first seven months.  I was unhappy and unsure of what I was doing.  Before I left, I told myself if I was unhappy for more than three months in PC that I would leave, but I am so happy that I stuck it out. 

Sometime in your service, it hits you.  Like, "Oh, I get it.  THIS is what Peace Corps is".  I was on the back of a pickup on the way to my project and it hit me hard.  This is what it is.  This is what I had been wanting and this is what I applied for. The feeling of adventure and being part of something new. I did not sign up to get yelled at by three different people in the office for taking too much vacation or get repetitive emails about what other volunteers are doing, to make us feel guilty and push us to do more.  I am here to serve.  I am here to become part of another community that is different than anything I have ever known.  And I absolutely love it.

I have been working on a water project for the last two and a half months.  I applied to WaterCharity for funding.  I received money from WC, the community, the teachers, the local muni, and friends and family.  Construction started on Monday December 5, 2011.  It was a very exciting day.  I had finally felt like I was doing something substantial.  Something that no one could take away from me and that I had worked with the community, so in PC terms it was very "sustainable".  I am very hard on myself and I'm not usually proud of what I do, I compare myself to others and I always think I should be doing better.  But here in Peace Corps, I finally feel like I am doing something that is worthy...of something.  I am proud and I am happy.  I think it takes a lot to be proud and happy in Peace Corps.  This feeling will leave me during my service, but for now I have it, and I am going to hold on to it for as long as possible.

We finished the project yesterday, December 13, 2011.  This is a 2,000 liter tank with 8 water faucets.  The tube on the right is connected to the school's roof so when there is rain the tank will fill.  There is another pipe that is connected to a water source.  The community gave extra materials to the project to build a roof for the tank.  So if it is raining the children don't have any excuses to not wash their hands.

I went to a breakfast this morning at the school to celebrate the project.  It was really nice to talk to the teachers and give my little speech to everyone on how happy I am with the project. Gracias a Dios.  They were very appreciative of the project and all of the work that was done by everyone.  I organized this project and got all the funding, but I would not have been able to do any of it without the support and help from the community and school. 

 So, through the ups and downs I don't think I will be moving back home anytime soon.  I have learned so much about myself, things that only PC can bring out of a person.  My life is here.  Its scary but exhilarating. 

But with all of that, I will be home in MINNEAPOLIS on Tuesday afternoon.  I am so happy and excited I cannot wait.  It has been an amazing year and I cannot wait to celebrate the end of it with the people I love.  Have a Merry Merry Christmas and an amazing new years with lots of champagne and good cheese! I know I will be. 

Entonces, hasta luego!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Last Few Months in Guate

I apologize for how long its been since my last blog.  I know you all wait anxiously every day to read my exciting adventures...

So, I guess I left off in September after my trip to Roatán, Honduras.  I think I haven't written in a while because life here is starting to become normal.  Everything isn't new and exciting and I don't really have much to say.  But Thanksgiving just passed and I'm starting on a new project, so I guess I will fill you in. 

Not much happened in September.  I did my first workshop with all of my school directors.  It went really well (thankfully), cuz my boss was there as well.   We went over Healthy Schools expectations, the learning pyramid, teaching techniques, and we also had each director make their own healthy schools dice.

 My Spanish is definitely getting a lot better and things are coming along.  Both my sitemates left for over a week sometime in September.  Starting next July I will be in Aguacatán alone so I knew this was a good opportunity to see what it would be like.  It was great!  I hung out with one of my Guatemalan family, worked on my garden, painted my house, and celebrated day of the dead with family.  Having this time without my sitemates showed me that I will be okay living here alone when my sitemates leave. 

Then October came!  My family got to visit me for two whole weeks in October.  It was absolutey amazing.  My parents and I went up to my site for a few days and visited some schools.  I showed them the project I am currently working on, which was really nice.  They loved going to my schools and taking photos of the little kids.  It was so nice introducing my two worlds.  We were only planning on staying three nights but on the third night we were hit with a huge tropical storm and had to stay in site for another day.  We had to change a lot of plans on this trip but we def made the best of each situation.  We ended up taking an alternate route down to Antigua, because Emily was flying in that next day, and it was quite exciting.  We climbed over a landslide right next to a raging river, flew into the air on a bus flying threw the mountains, and ended with an awful chicken bus ride with far too many people.  My parents were troopers through it all.  I guess they got to see a part of Guatemala that not most tourists do. Emily came the second week and we headed up to Lago Atitlan.  We stayed in an amazing hotel with a pool, hot tub, and sauna.  It was so relaxing and nice.  All in all the trip was great, besides the two tropical storms and being put on stand fast... twice.

After my family left I was feeling lonely and decided it was time to get a cat.  It was hard decision for me because I just kept thinking about Bear.  I decided that I was in a place in my service where I am actually ready to own a pet.  I have a good home for it and they are much less work than crazy husky puppies.  One of the families I know in town just had two little kittens and sold one to me for Q25 (3 dollars).  He is a tabby and only weighed one pound when I got him.  He is the cutest little thing. 

 In a week the construction of my first project is starting!  I have been working on this project for the last two months and its starting on December 5th!  It is a 2,000 liter tank with 8 faucets.  It is in my school EORM Xixviac about 45 minutes east of my site.  The school only has water during the rainy season so this will allow them to wash their hands and brush their teeth every day.  I received money from the local community, teachers, WaterCharity, the muni, and friends and family from home.  The local men in the community will be building it with two professional masons.  This project takes 10 working days so it will finish the Friday before I leave for Minnesota!!  The directora of the school told me that we need to celebrate by having some tequila, ha.  The directora and I have gotten to be very close because we have been working together a lot lately :)

I celebrated Thanksgiving in Livingston, Guatemala.  This is a whole other world.  If you were to be dropped off in Livingston and opened your eyes, you would NEVER know you were in Guatemala.  Everyone speaks Spanish but with a Jamaican accent.  Its hot and tropical and everyone is just chillin'.  There were a ton of volunteers there to celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy the nice Caribbean sea.  For Thanksgiving dinner, a few friends and I went to a little hole in the wall restaurant for some curry.  It was very yummy but had no resemblance to Thanksgiving food.  The Saturday after TG was Garifuna day.  Basically this meant that there were two full days of drinking with no sleep.  There were parades all day long and dances performed in the streets.  Every where you went there were drum circles and women dancing.  It was very cool.

After a longgggg road trip back to site, I am finally home.  It is nice to be back in site and resting with my little Lito.  Every time I come home from a trip it feels so good to be back in my bed and cook food in my kitchen.  It makes me really happy to finally feel like I have a home and that people here missed me. 

I will be home in 3 WEEEKS(!!!!) so I will be able to talk to all of you face to face instead of blogging.   I absolutely cannot wait to eat good food and sit by the fire.  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and are appreciating the time you have with friends and family.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Roatan, Honduras (Paradise)

About a week and a half ago, my sitemate Alicia and I set out on an adventure that will be hard to capture in this blog, but I will try my hardest.  We took an early shuttle out of Antigua to Copán, Honduras.  We went to the ruins and stayed in this cute little hostel.  The ruins were pretty cool and I loved that Alicia absolutely loved it.

The next morning we continued our way East towards the Caribbean.  We took the ferrie over around 4 pm and were lucky enough to see the most beautiful sunset (only to find out it was the first of many).  We were surrounded by couples so we agreed that this week we would make our own fun and joked about holding hands under the water...which actually did happen on our night dive :)

We started our scuba certification on Monday and were in the water by mon afternoon.  Alicia and I were born pros.  Ha.  We both loved it so much, it almost seemed natural to be swimming in the water like a dolphin, my life long dream.  On one of our dives we saw a sea turtle! It was so frickin' cool I wanted to follow it forever.  We also saw a five foot eel.  Opening it's mouth wide open, it reminded me of the Little Mermaid.  So, of course I was forced to pretend I was Ariel for a few minutes. 

The Scuba shop we stayed at (Coconut Tree Divers) was amazing and so welcoming.  We immeditely made friends with everyone there, old and young.  They had cheap beers for the last dive of the day and part of the cost went to a donantion to the barrier reef park. I made my cuba libres with the instructors in the back office with their secret bottle.  After a few drinks, sitting and sharing stories about all of the dives, we head over to Sundowners, where we watched the sunset.  This was our daily routine from mon-fri.  Dive all day and drink on the beach.  I don't think I could have had a better vacation. 

As some of you may know, I am scared of sharks and kinda scared of the dark.  So, going on a night dive was not going to happen.  But, I don't let my nerves prevent me from experiencing something I went.  We got our equipment ready and then the mosquitos hit us hard.  Alicia and I were running around the boat smacking ourselves, basically looking like crazy people, until we set sail.  I told Alicia that I was scared and we were going to have to hold hands...but right before I got in the water I realized she was on the other side of the boat.  It took me a few minutes to actually get myself to roll off the boat.  I immediately swam over to here and had a little freak out when we started descending.  We got to the  bottom and it was DARK.  I took a few breaths and didn't allow myself to freak out, because I easily could have.  We held hands for the first ten minutes.  I dídn't really like diving at dark because you can't really see much and it wasn't as pretty. 

But, about twenty minutes into our dive our instructor clinked her tank and we swam over to her.  We saw a octupus eating a sea cucumber!  The cucumber was huge!  It was so frickin' cool Alicia and I couldn't stop watching.  Then after that we sat on the bottom of the ocean floor in a circle.  We turned off our flashlights and all of the sudden I was in a magical place.  It was completely dark, but there were these pearls that glow in the dark that were everywhere.  And if you moved your hands all around there were these bugs that lit up.  We just sat there for twenty plus minutes, on the ocean floor, watching.  Man.  It was amazing.  Then we ascended back up and when we got to the top we just floated on the water and watched the stars. 

Our last day we took a water taxi to West Bay Beach, which is one of the top ten beaches in the Caribbean.  It did not disappoint.  We just relaxed and enjoyed the crystal clear water and the amazingly soft sand.  We got some good food and a nice cold coke.  We were about to leave on a water Taxi when one of our friends, Ken, flagged us down.  Ken is about 60 years old and so cool.  His sister lives in Roatan and hes just been diving there for months, not wanting to go home.  We had a great time talking about life and throwing back some drinks.  We finally headed back for our last night out. 

That next morning we left completely exhausted.  It was a bit pricier than I expected, but it was worth every second.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tajumulco: Highest point in Central America

Last weekend some volunteers and I went to the department San Marcos to climb the highest peak in Central America.  When we arrived we saw the peak and I thought to myself, "thats not even that high".  Boy was I wrong.  We all slept at a volunteer's house and left early the next morning.  We had our hiking packs filled with warm clothes and lots of food

14,220 feet.  Here we go!

It took us about 3 1/2 hours to get to base camp.  We had two tents but no rain tarps.  Somehow we forgot to check our tents before we made it to the top of the volcano.  We squished four people into a small tent and three in another.  Even though we had some problems it was a great time.  I have never been in that kind of elevation and I think my tent mates will agree I think it made me a little goofy.  We had a fun time in the tent even though we got settled in at 6:30 to wake up real early to continue our trip up.  Of course around 8 it started to rain and most of our stuff got wet.  But we made the best of the situation and enjoyed our time up above the clouds.  We woke up at 3:45 am, put on our headlamps, and left.  We got to the top in time to see the sunrise. I don't know if I have ever been so cold in my entire life.  It was freeeezzzing!  The wind was so strong and ice cold. It felt like we were on top of the world.                 

Even though it was unbelievably cold, it was a great experience.  We had a great group of volunteers and the views were amazing.  I am going to try and do it again in March or April when its warmer.  Right now I can't imagine climbing it again because I am sore all over, but I think I will. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Still Raining, Still Dreaming"

I'm sorry that it has been so long since my last post.  July was probably one of the longest months of my life.  I'm not even really sure where to begin.  So much has happened but at the same time nothing has happened.  I said goodbye to my family in Baja.  It was heartbreaking.  I went back after a few weeks to get the rest of my things and my host dad said that I am part of the family and in late September I will be "tia Margarita".  My host mom was more like a sister and she will be giving birth, to a little boy, on September 27th.  I can't wait to see this little baby!  Guatemalan children are so frickin'cute.

                     This is a picture right before I left.  Me, Hedy, and Gabey.  

So I left Baja and traveled around for about 3 weeks before I landed in my new home:  Aguacatán, Huehuetenango.  It is on the opposite side of the country but I love it.  It is a beautiful town and there are lots of hiking trails.  I have a great site mate, Alicia, who has been helping me through this hard transition.

So Alicia and I have 13 new schools.  Right now we are visiting the schools and doing diagnostics of each school...sound familiar?  Yup.  I started all over.  I think I'm okay with it, finally.  We have some really good schools and we have schools that have potential for great projects.  We will be giving our first workshop this month and next.  We will be giving different examples of health lessons they can give to the students (one criteria to certify a school is each teacher has to give two 20 minute health lessons each week) and other fun things!  The school year ends in the middle of October so we will start our secondary projects during the scohol break (oct-jan).  Alicia and I are going to try and start a water project for one of our bigger schools that has only six water faucets for over 600 students. 

Mom, dad, and Em are coming in October and I am sooooo excited!!  We will be going up to Tikal, Antigua, over to Lago Atitlan, and then to the Pacific cost for some sun time.  I can't believe I have already been here for 7 months...and I haven't really done any work.  I think its time that I stop focusing on that and just enjoy living in the now.  Part of the Peace Corps experience is learning how to cope with nothing to do.  It sounds kinda funny and strange, but it is true.  For me, the biggest struggle/opsticle is figuring out what to do with all my free time.  I may be moving again so I will be able to have a roof with a garden, compost pile, hammock, and room to do much more...possibly some chickens?

I love you all and I would love to hear from you!