Saturday, September 6, 2008

My site mates...

September 7, 2008

I have new site mates… although; they’re really not that new anymore.

Katy and Joe, a couple from California were assigned to Cabricán in July. There are now four of us just in the center of town. Of course, there are really more than four of us, if you count volunteers from other programs, and Aaron.

Aaron, is the equivalent of a new site mate, as he was assigned to the municipality of Huitan, a one hour walk or 20 minute bus ride from us. One of Katy and Joe’s good friends from training, we’re always inviting him over for group dinners.

I wasn’t very enthused when I found out there would be four of us. Gringos stand out a lot here, and it’s more than noticeable when they start to over take a town. It also makes it harder to find work for those that are here. Katy and Joe were supposed to be working with the health centers giving charlas on health, but there was already a volunteer from Japan who had filled this role. Also, having so many volunteers in a town makes it harder to integrate. Peace Corps claims to limit two volunteers to a site, but this is clearly not the case.

This is not to say that I don’t like having Katy, Joe and Aaron around (at first my frustration with Peace Corps came off to them like they weren’t welcome). They are great people and I love hanging out with them. We’ve continued the Cabricán tradition of group dinners and even added game nights. It’s especially nice to have Katy here because we get along so well (the only downside is that we apparently look so similar local people can’t tell us apart).

Katy and Joe have found a project in one of Cabricán’s small outlying towns: Mirador Los Corrales. They want to build latrines for this community that lacks both running water and electricity and are in the process of looking for funds. In the mean time, they are educating people on health and sanitation, and Katy is working with the older kids in the primary school on self-esteem and other related issues.

Pila Xpint

September 4, 2008

Xpint for some reason doesn’t like his water bowl. He will check the toilet, empty glasses, puddles and the pila before he will check his bowl. His favorite is the pila, which I do not understand, because it involves some acrobatic moves and the danger therein of falling in. Maybe it’s the thrill. I have to admit I’ve been tempted more than once to just shove him and witness the chaos that ensues.

HIV/AIDS Training

September 2, 2008

I held my first HIV/AIDS training yesterday and despite all my fears it was a smashing success.

Cabricán has 7 básicos (middle schools) in the municipality and, with funding from a grant Peace Corps received, I was able to plan a training for all the teachers and directors that work in these schools. More than 90 people were invited.

Needless to say, planning a training of this size requires more than a little leg work. There were materials to prepare, snacks to order, extra funding and donations to find, etc. Running the budget was more than a little stressful, especially because PCVs were coming in to help out from all over the country. As things in Guatemala almost never run smoothly I was constantly running back and forth between my house, the library and our CTA’s office checking and re-checking that everything had been completed as planned.

Luckily I was fortunate and had the support of my community. The local health center donated condoms for demonstrations, the Muni donated color diplomas, and the library helped me out with materials and labor. I also had the added benefit of my FOG fund (donations from all of you, my family and friends at home), which allowed me to print off and bind 7 copies of the program so that each básico will have a copy. This is essential to sustainability, because if they don’t have access to the program they will never attempt to recreate it.

Despite some bumps in the road, things worked out for the best. When two PCVs who were going to help lead the training fell sick and were unable to make it, my new sitemates stepped up to the challenge and helped fill their positions. This was crucial as it is hard to lead the training with more than 30 people in a group and we had more than 85 teachers attend.

In the end we had almost 100 percent attendance rate, which is unheard of in these trainings. In most cases PCVs get about 50 percent. I attribute this to the hard work of our CTA who put the full force of his authority behind the event.

In addition it seems the event was very well received, one of the básicos has already approached the library for help in implementing the program with their students before the end of September. As for the remaining 6 schools, we will visit each of them before the end of the school year in October to discuss how they can put this program into practice.

A special thanks to all those who helped out: Kutner, Katy, Andrea S., Andrea P., John, Rose, Michael, Aaron, Lic. Osorio Lopez, Neptali, Irvin, Hugo, Magdaly, Beatriz and Mary.

My Cat Has a Posse

Aug. 26, 2008

My cat has a posse. This is perplexing. I admit I am new to pet ownership, specifically cats, but I get the midnight prowling, the insistence of sitting atop my keyboard when I am trying to work and the meddling with my knitting. Thanks to a book on cats given to me by my site mate’s mother, I even understand the Chewbacca noises and the kneading of my stomach (I previously thought he was just trying to make me feel fat).

But a posse?

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought cats were supposed to be solitary creatures? My dad is no help with this: “They’re probably just his girlfriends honey. Male cats like to go on the prowl.” Except that he’s neutered and, of course, my dad never seems to remember this. Maybe he thinks that because Guatemala is a third world country, neutering is impossible here.

It started out with a small tabby cat, which I assume is my neighbor’s. I’ve found him in my house more than once, which leads me to believe that Xpint has shown him how to get into my house through the window I leave open. As a true Guatemalan animal he is terrified of people and flees the minute he sees me. Then I came home to find another larger cat lurking about my yard. He looked rather guilty when I came in through the gate and immediately made a beeline for the cornfield.

I am not particularly pleased with this whole situation. I don’t mind that Xpint is hanging out with the riffraff; I actually think it’s kind of cool that he has friends. However, the other day he disappeared for a full 24 hours and came home with a giant gash on his face. I was in hysterics. You never know how attached you have become to your pet until it goes missing. I’m beginning to think he’s found friends in the wrong crowd. I have a feeling his posse is helping itself to his food and leaving fleas in my house. I’m not stingy, but I am on a Peace Corps budget and I did not sign on for three cats when I bought one. I can’t go about Cabricán frontlining every cat I see. And cat food is EXPENSIVE. Luckily he’s an outdoor cat and I don’t have to invest in kitty litter.

I bought Xpint instead of a dog because I knew I could leave him alone for long periods of time when I went on trips. I also thought he would be easier to handle (no potty training etc), but I forgot to factor cat posses into the equation. It just didn’t seem likely at the time. Maybe I would have been better of getting a dog, but I am beginning to realize that owning a pet regardless of species is a big responsibility and comes with the good and the posses.