Blog Archives -  Two Happy Left Feet
 
Phew, my meeting meter is ramping up. On Saturday, as usual, I had my INTECAP class in the capital. Sunday I went to check out one of the only animal rescues in Guatemala. Monday I headed back to the capital for a meeting with INGUAT, and today I had a presentation on solid waste management. I am certainly glad that I have my laptop here! It has made it so much easier to continue getting work done (not to mention keeping up with all of you lovely people) while running around to all of these different events.

Normally my class on Saturday is a time for me to learn and to hang out with people who have very quickly become my friends. We seem to understand each other well most of the time. However, this past Saturday had a bit of a communication glitch. We were talking about the goals of INTECAP. They train people not just to make better cakes or to take better care of their cars; they train people to start businesses in the field in which INTECAP has trained them. Some of my classmates raised issues of government support, recommending that the government give people the building and materials to start their own business since many of them do not have to resources to do so on their own. I suggested, though apparently not terribly clearly, that as facilitators and teachers one of the amazing opportunities that we have is to tell people about the power that they have to make things happen. This is not going to solve the world's problems, and it is nowhere near as easy to do as it is to say. However, in the few teaching experiences I have had here I have noticed that in many cases no one has ever told these students that they have a power to change things. They may only have the power currently to change very small things, but I saw light bulbs go off when I told a group of 14-year-olds that they have power with their friends. They can set a good example by not littering, and by asking their friends not to littler. This is not a giant step, but it had never even occurred to some of them that they could have an influence with other people.


This power to choose and create with our own two hands is one of the few things that is uniquely ours and cannot be taken away from us. When we as teachers, facilitators, or people with some level of authority do something for someone instead of guiding them through the processes, or when we give someone something instead of helping them acquire it for themselves, we rob them of that power. When we ask that something be given to us or done for us, we willingly hand over that power to someone else. Unfortunately, I think it came across as an opposition to assistance, and one of the other students responded (summarized) that I was an American with lots of opportunities and couldn't understand. 

That was probably one of the most difficult moments I have had so far in my Peace Corps service, partially because the stereotype of "spoiled American" is something I have been working so hard to combat. That, and the idea of handouts or pity. There seems to be both an expectation and a resentment of the organizations that come, build or donate, and then leave. However, as with anything, it all depends on the person to whom you are speaking. Again, it all comes down to enabling people and working together. As I discover my own beliefs about development work, and the feelings of others about the work being done here, I am more and more proud to be serving the Peace Corps.

Sunday was an amazing, happy day. Chase and I went with Jimmy and Ingrid to Animal Aware, one of the only animal rescues in Guatemala. Jimmy and Ingrid are looking for a dog, and I have been considering one. I went along with them to learn more about the rescue and thinking that I might come back another time to look seriously at getting a dog. However, as fate would have it, I fell in love with a little girl that is between 3-6 months old. She is a complete mutt, but looks a little lab. She is a spitfire! When she first came in, she had such a terrible skin condition that the workers gave her the name Scratchy. As charming as that is she will be getting the name Lexi when I go to pick her up on Sunday. She will be staying in Antigua for a month with Chase until I move into my new (very own) house. It has a very big yard where she will have lots and lots of room to run around! I am very excited about the house as it is absolutely beautiful. The only catch is that it has absolutely nothing in it, so I am starting from square one buying furniture. First things on the list are a bed and a stove. From there I will be digging through lots of Pacas looking for various things to organize the place. Thank goodness we have such a huge market here where I can buy plates and pans much cheaper than buying them in the store. Still, it feels like about the time I am settled it will be time to move out again. Fortunately, there is no one there right now and I have access to the key, so I am free to come and go to get the house ready in the month before I move in. 


Yesterday I headed back to the capital for a meeting with at INGUAT, the national tourism organization. Since my counterpart here is one of the heads of the Mesa de Turismo Comunitario de Guatemala (Table of Community Tourism), I am acting as the Peace Corps representatives to the Mesa. It is an interesting experience since there are people from all different projects, areas, and backgrounds working in this group. 


Today I gave a presentation to the COMUDE, which is a group with representatives from all the important community groups for the municipality, on solid waste management. I was really nervous before I started, but once I started I felt very comfortable. One of the trainers at the Peace Corps was kind enough to take time to go through the presentation with me last week. He gave me lots of information to use and interpreted the presentation for me to make sure that I understood everything (since I was not the one who originally put it together, though I did clean it up a bit). There were one or two people here and there that might have been sleeping a little bit (there were many people presenting at this meeting), but I think that overall I had a good impact. After that presentation, the process is out of my hands, but at least they have the information and hopefully a bit of motivation. With no waste management to speak of tourism is going to be a tough project to bring to fruition. I think it helped that the top two leading causes of death (on a national level) in Guatemala are respiratory illness and diarrhea. A lack of proper waste management (mainly the burning of garbage and the use of riverbeds as landfills) directly contributes to both causes of death. 


This evening, just before writing this, I went to look at my new house for the first time. My camera battery had died, so I don't have any pictures YET. However, like I said, I do have access to the key, so I will be going back to take pictures soon. You can also bet that there will be lots and lots of pictures of Lexi up next week!
 
Phew, my meeting meter is ramping up. On Saturday, as usual, I had my INTECAP class in the capital. Sunday I went to check out one of the only animal rescues in Guatemala. Monday I headed back to the capital for a meeting with INGUAT, and today I had a presentation on solid waste management. I am certainly glad that I have my laptop here! It has made it so much easier to continue getting work done (not to mention keeping up with all of you lovely people) while running around to all of these different events.

Normally my class on Saturday is a time for me to learn and to hang out with people who have very quickly become my friends. We seem to understand each other well most of the time. However, this past Saturday had a bit of a communication glitch. We were talking about the goals of INTECAP. They train people not just to make better cakes or to take better care of their cars; they train people to start businesses in the field in which INTECAP has trained them. Some of my classmates raised issues of government support, recommending that the government give people the building and materials to start their own business since many of them do not have to resources to do so on their own. I suggested, though apparently not terribly clearly, that as facilitators and teachers one of the amazing opportunities that we have is to tell people about the power that they have to make things happen. This is not going to solve the world's problems, and it is nowhere near as easy to do as it is to say. However, in the few teaching experiences I have had here I have noticed that in many cases no one has ever told these students that they have a power to change things. They may only have the power currently to change very small things, but I saw light bulbs go off when I told a group of 14-year-olds that they have power with their friends. They can set a good example by not littering, and by asking their friends not to littler. This is not a giant step, but it had never even occurred to some of them that they could have an influence with other people. This power to choose and create with our own two hands is one of the few things that is uniquely ours and cannot be taken away from us. When we as teachers, facilitators, or people with some level of authority do something for someone instead of guiding them through the processes, or when we give someone something instead of helping them acquire it for themselves, we rob them of that power. When we ask that something be given to us or done for us, we willingly hand over that power to someone else. Unfortunately, I think it came across as an opposition to assistance, and one of the other students responded (summarized) that I was an American with lots of opportunities and couldn't understand. 


That was probably one of the most difficult moments I have had so far in my Peace Corps service, partially because the stereotype of "spoiled American" is something I have been working so hard to combat. That, and the idea of handouts or pity. There seems to be both an expectation and a resentment of the organizations that come, build or donate, and then leave. However, as with anything, it all depends on the person to whom you are speaking. Again, it all comes down to enabling people and working together. As I discover my own beliefs about development work, and the feelings of others about the work being done here, I am more and more proud to be serving the Peace Corps.


Sunday was an amazing, happy day. Chase and I went with Jimmy and Ingrid to Animal Aware, one of the only animal rescues in Guatemala. Jimmy and Ingrid are looking for a dog, and I have been considering one. I went along with them to learn more about the rescue and thinking that I might come back another time to look seriously at getting a dog. However, as fate would have it, I fell in love with a little girl that is between 3-6 months old. She is a complete mutt, but looks a little lab. She is a spitfire! When she first came in, she had such a terrible skin condition that the workers gave her the name Scratchy. As charming as that is she will be getting the name Lexi when I go to pick her up on Sunday. She will be staying in Antigua for a month with Chase until I move into my new (very own) house. It has a very big yard where she will have lots and lots of room to run around! I am very excited about the house as it is absolutely beautiful. The only catch is that it has absolutely nothing in it, so I am starting from square one buying furniture. First things on the list are a bed and a stove. From there I will be digging through lots of Pacas looking for various things to organize the place. Thank goodness we have such a huge market here where I can buy plates and pans much cheaper than buying them in the store. Still, it feels like about the time I am settled it will be time to move out again. Fortunately, there is no one there right now and I have access to the key, so I am free to come and go to get the house ready in the month before I move in. 


Yesterday I headed back to the capital for a meeting with at INGUAT, the national tourism organization. Since my counterpart here is one of the heads of the Mesa de Turismo Comunitario de Guatemala (Table of Community Tourism), I am acting as the Peace Corps representatives to the Mesa. It is an interesting experience since there are people from all different projects, areas, and backgrounds working in this group. 


Today I gave a presentation to the COMUDE, which is a group with representatives from all the important community groups for the municipality, on solid waste management. I was really nervous before I started, but once I started I felt very comfortable. One of the trainers at the Peace Corps was kind enough to take time to go through the presentation with me last week. He gave me lots of information to use and interpreted the presentation for me to make sure that I understood everything (since I was not the one who originally put it together, though I did clean it up a bit). There were one or two people here and there that might have been sleeping a little bit (there were many people presenting at this meeting), but I think that overall I had a good impact. After that presentation, the process is out of my hands, but at least they have the information and hopefully a bit of motivation. With no waste management to speak of tourism is going to be a tough project to bring to fruition. I think it helped that the top two leading causes of death (on a national level) in Guatemala are respiratory illness and diarrhea. A lack of proper waste management (mainly the burning of garbage and the use of riverbeds as landfills) directly contributes to both causes of death. 


This evening, just before writing this, I went to look at my new house for the first time. My camera battery had died, so I don't have any pictures YET. However, like I said, I do have access to the key, so I will be going back to take pictures soon. You can also bet that there will be lots and lots of pictures of Lexi up next week!
 
While I haven't seen huge changes in Guatemala in the four-and-a-half months that I have been here, I have noticed big changes in myself. I could have told you when I was packing my bags that I wasn't going to save the world by joining the Peace Corps, I just hoped to make a small difference in people. What I couldn't have told you is that it really has nothing to do with me. I am still happy to be here, and I feel productive and I can see that I have an impact in the friendships I am forming here and the information that people seek. I am not discouraged or disappointed. My goals haven't changed, much. How I want to reach my goals has changed, and I realize that I have too. When I got here, I was focused on my list of things to accomplish, on things I could say "I" have done. Being me, I will always be conscious of results, but now it seems to me to be a much bigger accomplishment to have someone ask me for information so they can accomplish something. I guess that is what is at the heart of the Peace Corps.

Many people have expressed their admiration for what I am doing, or mentioned that they are living vicariously through me. I am proud to have such wonderful people who are proud of me, but there is so much that needs to be done that that one person can't possibly even find the beginning alone. One of the most apparent causes of many problems here, and in many countries, is a lack of family planning. Fortunately, there are other organizations doing wonderful work in this field. Alas, or Wings in English, is a group that works in education and funding for family planning in Guatemala. 


http://wingsguate.org/


Another problem that I come literally face to face with many times a day here is the number of "wild" dogs, and the general treatment of animals. This is a very difficult problem for me since I know that there is no way to address the treatment of farm animals especially, with a community that is struggling to feed their children. When people are unable to provide for their families (family planning comes in here again) the humane treatment of animals and conserving natural resources is a luxury. However, I do believe that education in this area would go a very, very long way, and rescue shelters and adoptions agencies are too far and few between. I am very lucky to live within bussing distance of a no-kill shelter, and one of the only shelters I have found in Guatemala. They also work to educate children about the humane treatment of animals, and have a spay-and-neuter clinic.


http://www.animalaware.org/


I have posted a general notice on my blog that the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. I would hope that the websites I have posted here are not controversial, since they are working tirelessly to promote education and opportunity. However, it is worth saying yet again that these views are mine and mine alone. Working for the Peace Corps has given me a chance to travel and live outside of the United States, and it has given me the opportunity to obtain a unique view of the world that is uniquely my own. Please take the time to visit these websites and see some of the wonderful work that is being done here, and what wonderful work still remains to be done.


God(dess) bless, Go well, Give of yourself
 
I discovered, quite accidentally, that in Microsoft Word 2007 when you create a new document you can choose between a document and a blog post. With the blog posts, I can connect word to my blog site and automatically publish them when I connect to the internet. This is just one less barrier between my adoring public and me, or between the few people who read my blog and the obnoxiousness that is constant blog posting. ;) The only issue with this is that my blog cannot tell the difference between when I am writing my blog and when I am posting my blog, so I will try to remember to put a date in here somewhere or other to keep everyone on some semblance of a timeline. I have to say that when I am not fighting it tooth and nail, I love technology.

The other big news in my little world is that I have started taking classes with INTECAP in Guatemala City. INTECAP is a national organization that is a little bit like a technical school in that they offer courses in various tracks like pastry chef, mechanic, and hotel receptionist. It is a much-needed service here, and I personally think that they are doing a wonderful job. It seems to have a great impact. In addition to these tracks, they also do continued education for professionals in things like management. They also do training of trainers, and send individuals out into rural areas to teach classes like basic computation to groups of 15-20 students who are willing and able to pay the several hundred quetzals class fee. The class I am taking is a certification of trainers, and the process that they use to certify teachers in this class was ISO9001 certified in 2002 and recertified in 2006. I am not going to go into ISO certification here, but I recommend that those of you who don't know what it is look it up on Google because it is a pretty awesome detail of my class. I am taking the class to certify myself as a trainer with INTECAP so that the English classes that I will be teaching for the guides will count towards their hours of class to keep their guide certification with INTECAP. This is all ending up sounding rather diluted and complicated, so you may just have to take my word for it that this is a neat opportunity for the guides to whom I will be teaching English and me. 


So, aside from all the wonderful benefits of being certified, the classes themselves are amazing! The classroom has huge windows and it is in the capitol where I feel like if I just kept walking South I could end up in Uptown. The instructors are all careful to ask me if they are talking too fast or if I need any help (since I am the only non-Guatemalan in the class), but they have asked me during a break and not in front of the whole class. My classmates are people from all different professions. In the class, there are; a veterinarian who works with dairy cattle, a teacher, a mechanic, a man who teaches English for INTECAP, someone from corporate Dominoes, and a woman who works for a chain of water parks. Saturdays feel like life in the states. I have made many friends in class, and I hope to keep in touch with them throughout my service. I chat with them as I would chat with many of my friends in the states. We go to McDonalds for lunch or bring our own, and we sit on the benches at the end of the hallway near the windows and look out at the city.


I have dedicated this morning to homework, keeping in touch, and relaxing after nine hours of class yesterday. Since I had to be out of my hostel at 10:00 I went to the market and then over to a friend's house where I used my newly purchased pancake mix to make strawberry crêpes. This can be done by following the recipe on your favorite box of pancake mix (NOT the add water only kind) but adding twice the eggs called for. Then, put the mix in the blender with a cup(ish) or two of chopped strawberries (or other soft fruit) and blend as desired. Put butter in a hot pan and spread evenly, then add a dollop of the modified pancake mix to the middle of the pan and swirl the pan until the mix forms a thin layer over the entire bottom of the pan. Bubbles will form on the top. When they have popped and the top of the pancake/crêpe is spongy, it is ready to turn over. You only need to cook it briefly on the second side. The whole process is much easier on low heat. I like to put the rest of my batter in a Tupperware in the refrigerator so I can make one quickly in the morning. Now there is just the matter of the toaster oven I would like to get my hands on and I may actually be on my way to some semblance of cooking. I will have to be careful or I may recoup the 30 pounds I have lost since getting here.

Well, adventure calls. We are heading out on a quick hike to work of the wonderful breakfast that we ate. Then we may be heading back to the market to buy some of the beautiful avocadoes they have there. Guacamole is on the menu for a light lunch. In my album of My Life as a PCV, I have pictures posted of my most recent hilarious attempts at cooking. If you have yummy, easy, and cheap toaster oven recipes they would certainly make the purchase of a toaster oven well worth my while.