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!

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