October Wrap Up

October has surely been the busiest month of my service in site thus far. I have so much going on that I can hardly contain myself! This post is going to be relatively short (in comparison) and fairly broad. I have been under the radar for a little while—mostly due to how busy I’ve been—so this is a quick update. Not to worry, though: a characteristically long chapter will be posted soon. 😉 I hope you enjoy the photos and links I have included in this post!

*This is a link to a PC video that was filmed in Santa Cruz del Quiché in May. There were about 10 of us working on this film project, discussing different aspects of life in Guatemala and how we have had to adapt. All of the PCVs in the video are Healthy Homes volunteers from my training group, and we all live in the department of Quiché. One of our security guys, Ariel, did the filming and editing. There are 3 videos in total, but this is the only one that is on Youtube.*

This month is very exciting for both of the groups I have been working with because next week, we are having “closing ceremonies” and parties to celebrate! I feel like it’s the end of the school year and summer is about to start. (Actually, in Guatemala, it IS the end of the school year—it runs January through October/November.)

Cat-in-a-box! As busy as I have been, my cat, who I have renamed “Missy,” isn’t affected and still finds ways to entertain herself.

The last couple activities I have done with my “casual” women’s group, Mujeres de Vida Saludable, have been fantastic! Recently, we wrapped up with charlas and activities on acute respiratory infections, sugar in the diet, and dental hygiene. We also had a day we went out and played soccer—promoting a healthy lifestyle. For our last cooking class, we made pizza, which was a hit! I have become very close with this group of ladies, the majority of whom are related to Rosa somehow. They are all so warm, friendly, and FUNNY as heck, always laughing and joking. Our big party is going to be on Monday and will include a Jeopardy-style review game in teams, a participation diploma handout, games, and food, of course. (Although we are done with classes for now, we will likely start meeting again in February.)

Our soccer team assembled right before the game started. We ended up winning 5-3, I think.

Juana, Rubidia, and another Rosa during a dental hygiene activity. They had to eat peanut butter M&Ms, getting all the chocolate on their teeth, then show everyone up close before the teeth cleaning demonstration.

To wrap up our dental hygiene charla, we brushed our teeth together using the new toothbrushes my dad and step mom sent me in the mail for this activity. I think some of them were shouting, “Thank you, William!” when I took this photo. We really had a fun day…

We made pizza for our last cooking class and topped it with chicken, bell pepper, tomato, onion, pineapple, and cheese. It was delicious! And now we can all make pizza in our own homes (well, at least those who have some sort of oven).

In Pajquiej, we are also wrapping up training for the Health Promoter course. We are planning Health Promoter graduation for next Friday, and it’s going to be BIG. We have invited the entire community of Pajquiej plus the mayor of San Andrés, representatives from the Health Center in San Andrés (including the doctor and all the people who have accompanied me to the trainings) and Ministry of Health of Guatemala, and a couple of members of the Peace Corps. We are expecting between 150 and 200 people. It’s going to be quite the event!

My favorite kiddos in Pajquiej: Yessenia, Kimberly, Oliver, and Yaser. Such a joy to be around these energetic little ones!

We received some funding from the mayor’s office to make a big lunch for everyone, which will be prepared by my 15 health promoters, Rosa, her sister, and me. In addition to food preparation, my health promoters are working in three teams to create their own charlas and activities, representing each theme we covered during the course, which they will present during the event. Also, next Tuesday, this group is going to collectively take a field trip to the Health Center to get PAP smears. Of my 15 ladies, only 1 has ever had a PAP smear; after covering the topic during training, we discussed the possibility of taking group action in preventative health by facing the PAP smear, which the majority of them will do next Tuesday. After that, I have invited them to come to my house for a snack (and a surprise “congratulations on becoming a Health Promoter cake”, party planning, and work on their presentations. This will be quite an exciting week for all of us!

It is tradition to dress up nicely for certain holidays and special events in Guatemala so the ladies in both of my groups are getting their nice outfits ready for next week’s events. In Mujeres de Vida Saludable, all the women are indigenous so they all wear traje típico, the traditional clothing, and speak K’ich’e. Only about half of the women in my Health Promoter group are indigenous, but since traje típico serves as formal wear, all the ladina ladies jumped on board, suggesting that we ALL wear the traditional clothing for our event so that we are all unified. I’ve been thinking about buying my own traje típico for a while now, so this is the perfect time. Instead of just picking out my corte (material “skirt”) and hüipil (blouse-like top) from a shop, I actually got to personally design them! With the help of Rosa, Manuela (her sister), and Oralia (her aunt), I picked materials, colors, designs, and ribbons to complete my outfit. I am going to browse the market for a faja, the woven and embroidered belt that holds up the corte, this Sunday with Rosa and Manuela. Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my corte from the lady who hand wove it in just a couple days, and tomorrow I will have my finished hüipil from Rosa’s cousin—just in time for our celebrations this week! I’m stoked for my new Guatemalan clothing!

Here is a picture of my personalized corte, which I will wear as a skirt. I chose the blues and teals, yarn, and spacing of the stripes. Corte made with vertical stripes is characteristic of San Andrés, as well as the black stripes with white blotches, and the colored design stripes. You’ll have to wait to see the whole outfit put together!

Another opportunity that came up for me recently is starting work with Magisterio students in town. (Magisterio is the school for teachers-in-training; it is sort of like high school since it is the step before university—if the students choose to attend—and the average age of the students is 17-20.) I met a couple girls at a birthday party in town. Later I asked them if they had received HIV/AIDS workshops; they responded, “No, but what we really need to know is how to plan NOT to get pregnant.” This launched me in the direction of creating a sexual education workshop that starts from the basics of anatomy and physiology of the reproductive systems, includes a small genetics lesson, covers the importance of taking responsibility for family planning, stresses the value of abstinence, introduces different methods of pregnancy prevention (there are THREE natural methods taught in the health center in addition to the hormonal and surgical methods available), and concludes with an HIV/AIDS mini-session. The workshop takes 3-4 hours and includes four hands-on, participatory activities for the students to better grasp the concepts covered.

Magisterio students participating in one of the activities during the Sex Ed workshop.

So far, I have given five workshops, and the only complaint from the students is that we didn’t have enough time. I am totally in my element, and I LOVE working with this age group! The director of the school has told me time and again, “This is your house; you are always welcome here.” Well, in that case, I’ll definitely continue! Since school is getting out, I only have time to do one more workshop, but the director says this is something that should continue yearly to every new class so I am thinking about possibly training this workshop to health center workers so THEY can sustain the education after I leave. Did I mention that the first class I taught this workshop to had 4 pregnant young ladies in attendance?  Oh, we have lots of ideas for related themes to tackle (like breaking the cultural idea that having so many kids is a sign of manliness) during the next school year…

In a nutshell, my last couple months have been filled with lots of work stuff and spending time in my communities. Guatemalan Independence Day was in September so I participated in those festivities in my site, and I have attended a handful of birthday parties lately, as well. When I have been leaving my site, instead of traveling to touristy areas and vacation-like spots, I have been visiting other PC friends at THEIR sites. I spent a weekend with Kathy at the end of September and half a weekend with Chelsea just recently. I loved getting to see how they live and function in their own places. But I’ll talk more about the “Peace Corps World,” including changes, updates, and statistics, in my next post. Also, since on the topic, I should note that my site mate, Perry, decided to leave PC for good and has been medically separated. He left San Andrés Monday morning so I had him over for a final “site mate dinner” the evening before. My work and life in site shouldn’t be affected since we really didn’t spend too much time together.

Independence Day is known for the parades that file through the streets in every town. A parade cannot be complete without a marching band!

Sarahy was voted “princess” in her preschool class so she got to ride in front of the rest of her class in her very own castle built on her dad’s (Ozman’s) pick-up truck. The rest of her class marched behind in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”-themed (and hand-made, probably by their parents or siblings) costumes.

Chelsea and I during a hike in the forest near her house. Her site is just under 2 hours away from mine. (She’s right outside the capital of our department, Santa Cruz del Quiché.)

*Chelsea wrote about “50 Ways to know you are in Peace Corps Guatemala” on her blog. The majority of the things she said ring true for most of us. So if you are interested in hearing the perspective of another Guatemala PCV, I included the link to her post. It’s pretty funny!*

http://clpcguate.blogspot.com/2012/06/peace-corps-guatemala-is-you-know-youre.html

Lastly, in regards to Guatemala news, as some of you already have heard, Volcano Fuego erupted BIG TIME last month, but no one was harmed. This is the active volcano that I used to stare up at every morning in Alotenango during training; my host family said all the lava went down the opposite side, away from their house. We also had a 5.5 earthquake a couple days ago, but no damages reported. Rainy season has come to a close, although it was hardly felt at all this year; we can say goodbye to the MUD…and hello to the DUST now. And on a final positive note, the number of security incidents reported in the PC Guatemala world has decreased significantly this year. Todo bien!

Kathy took this shot of me during a hike to the waterfall in her boyfriend’s (Frank’s) site in Totonicapán. It was a beautiful day!

Love,
Alexandra
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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. AaronAdelman
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 07:37:01

    Still praying for your safety! Good job learning how to speak spanish – can I use you as a translator sometime? 8*) My family is staying with yours on November 11-12. We will be attending a Stanford football game on Saturday. I am looking forward to some of Teri’s cooking.

    Aaron

    Reply

  2. Future Diplomat
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 08:30:31

    This video is great! I’m a Guatemala invitee (to Healthy Schools) arriving in Feb. 2013, and the insider-info presented was really interesting! Thanks!

    Reply

    • Alexandra
      Dec 24, 2012 @ 17:33:25

      Hi! We are SO looking forward to the new trainees coming in February!!! Please let me know if I can help you in any way with preparations, packing questions, etc. If so, I can send you my e-mail… Good luck and enjoy your Christmas with your family!!!

      Reply

      • Future Diplomat
        Dec 26, 2012 @ 07:14:02

        Thank you! Are you part of the Facebook group? I created it for those of us who have been invited to train in Guatemala this upcoming February…I think right now we only have 23 members (most of whom are current Volunteers) so the more the merrier! I can send you the link, if you’d like! Thanks for being so helpful! I can tell you we are all so very excited to come!! 😀

  3. Christina
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 14:20:56

    Hey lady!

    I finally read this post–I don’t know what took me so long! As always, it’s a pleasure to read about your adventures. I’m really getting the itch to live abroad. I just found out today that my coworker’s boyfriend is moving to Japan! I hope she goes with him–what a great opportunity 🙂

    I’m so excited for our upcoming visit–only two months away now! Aundrea and I are taking a Spanish class and I’ve been listening to Mexican radio stations trying to get better acquainted with the rhythm and cadence of the language. I’m trying so hard to not speak like such a gringa, but it’s not easy! Lol

    Talk to you soon 🙂

    Love,
    Christina

    Reply

  4. Cynthia Peterson
    Dec 26, 2012 @ 20:47:43

    Hey Alex,

    Just a reminder that you’re being thought of, loved, and prayed for. I hope you had a delightful Christmas and I’m wishing you a happy New Year too! Looking forward to your new post.

    Love ya,

    Cynthia

    Reply

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Common Peace Corps Acronyms

PC = Peace Corps (sounds like "peese kor")
PCT = Peace Corps Trainee
PCV = Peace Corps Volunteer
PST = Pre-Service Training
ET = Early Termination
COS = Close of Service
NGO = Non-Governmental Organization
HH = Healthy Homes, the PC program I am in.
YD = Youth Development, the other program in my training group.

Disclaimer

Anything that is written or views expressed on this blog are mine personally and do not represent the Peace Corps or the United States government.
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