Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bottle School Construction has begun!

only a week late :)

I dunno; given the circumstances (Guatemala, the construction business and the fact that I recently spent a week in the States), seven days behind schedule seems pretty acceptable. I can’t complain.

I’ve included some recent photos; first of all, check out how many bottles we have now (thanks in part to the two teachers you can see in the foreground)

As for other building materials, here are kids from the community unloading the 360 cement blocks we’ll use in the foundation:

The big recent event came on Tuesday, when Cementos Progreso delivered the 250 bags of cement they donated to our project; that’s Don Miguel, my community counterpart, who's standing next to the truck:

Aaaaand…..that’s me unloading cement, Guatemalan style:

You’d be surprised how ergonomically correct this method is; you support all the weight with your legs – honestly, my back is fine.

Of course, you do end up getting kind of dirty:

I ended up having to wash my shirt by hand so I’d look presentable for the groundbreaking ceremony later that morning (pictures forthcoming – see if there’s a noticeable difference lol)

Here’s our head mason Frainer, preparing the rebar which will help form the structural support for the school’s cement columns. In the background, left to right: Don Miguel, Rosanio (Planning Office Director) and Anibal (Municipal Secretary)

Here are the kids starting to line up for the groundbreaking ceremony:

And here we are, about to place the primera piedra (“first stone”, ha ha but in this case it’s a concrete block) From left to right: Me, Councilman Alfredo, Mayor Miriam and Rosanio

Aaaaaand…..the first stone has been placed. I’m looking at Rosanio being like, “Is this supposed to support a building?” and he’s like, “yeah, it’s just symbolic anyway.” Lol

Yep, all ready to start building :)

Seriously though! I’m excited. Tomorrow we’re going to go buy the wooden boards with which to form the concrete columns and beams; once the sand and gravel gets delivered, we’ll be all ready to start pouring. Yeah bottle school!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Medical Mission

I got a chance to work as a translator for a team of doctors this last Sunday, helping out with a medical mission down in the coastal lowlands near my site. It was hot, tropical and a great learning experience…plus great people and lots of free snacks! The coolest part, however, was getting to watch intricate surgeries from about 2 feet away.

This guy had a cataract removed, and what you see is a doctor SEWING UP HIS EYEBALL (modern medicine is amazing)

Of course, hanging out in the operating room was just a perk; obviously there’s very little translating necessary for people under heavy anesthesia :) The rest of the time I stayed extremely busy during clinical visits, where I’d help Guatemalans make themselves understood to North American doctors with minimal amounts of Spanish. I spent a bunch of my time with Vaji (OB/GYN) and Aditi (otolaryngologist aka ear, nose and throat doctor).

Yes, I did get to wear scrubs. I had to change midday because it was so HOT.

The work was really rewarding; cracking the language barrier to help someone deal with their health issues creates immediate goodwill, especially seeing that lots of patients traveled from far away and were likely pretty poor. Also, you have to take into account that U.S. caliber medical services would probably cost a fortune and although the mission was charging for its procedures, I’m sure their prices were generous.

I learned how exhausting translating can be. The patient’s explanation of their symptoms would enter my ear in Spanish and leave my mouth in English, with the same vice versa for the doctor’s advice or questions. I did one straight 3-hour stint and, in addition to the sweltering humidity and coastal heat, all that switching back and forth just wore me out. The thing is, with the urgency of getting the translation right (this isn’t some simple miscommunication; you really want to help people with their problems) makes you concentrate really hard. I drank a lot of water.

No joke though; people really needed help. This was an ovarian cyst that they pulled out of this one woman, which measured about the size of an … (whoa)

I’m going to let you watch this video though – watching a surgeon open up someone’s body with a cauterizing wand is pretty incredible…..

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Returning to Guate

I just got back from a week’s vacation in the States and it’s like I completely forgot Guatemala while I was gone.

Back stateside, I definitely tried to put my Peace Corps life in perspective. I was standing in the kitchen and trying to remember life here in my site, the afternoon rains, my tin roof, cobbled streets, poverty and second hand clothes, tropical plants and trees and hot weather. Unfortunately, I could barely hang onto the thought. I’d recall an image, maybe it was the view from my office doorway looking out into the street, watching the people pass by, and then I would push the image away. There was too much good food to eat, casual socializing and car rides and bonfires, clean streets and beautiful houses, big buildings and paved streets, real coffee and doughnuts and sushi and every easy detail.

I’m starting to think that maybe I blotted Guatemala out, which is weird because I like it here. Up until this point all I’ve been telling people is how much I like the people, the climate, the food, the flora, the culture and my work – I have very few complaints. At the same time, I spent a week in the States and forgot everything.

I imagine it’ll take a few days to settle back into my site. Here, there are stares and stray dogs and bizarre questions about the United States, pollution and crowded buses and beggars, gun-battle massacres and fear, contaminated food and minimal hygiene, a lackadaisical attitude and complacency that shrugs in the face of, well, craziness. There are new stories, superstitions - these kinds of things have got me reeling a little bit.

I remember the sarcastic remark I made to someone about how odd it was to “vacation in the States”, but now that I’m back, I realize that it’s really no joke, whether for me and the 18 months of service I have left, or for the Guatemalans who live here everyday and can’t simply get on a plane and fly off to a foreign country.

One notable thing about my trip was the Greyhound station where I had to wait for a connecting bus at 2:20 AM last Wednesday night. Sitting there watching people lurch about, I saw poverty, stress and sense of wariness…it struck me that the setting was almost like Guatemala (although much weirder, more diverse and not nearly as poor).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Not quite a tarantula, but………

All I’m saying is that there are some seriously big bugs here.

This guy, this arachnophobia-inducing monster of a specimen, was in my house, most specifically in my living room where I watch movies or take naps (!!!!).

It was ridiculous – I was just sitting there, finishing up an episode of Boardwalk Empire (which is an awesome show, by the way) and I’m ready for bed. It’s already like 11:45. Then I look up and see this:

And yes, that’s a 2x4 right there. Comparatively, that’s how big a spider we’re talking. This guy is so big THAT HIS EYES ARE REFLECTING THE FLASH. Look closely – this spider actually needs redeye treatment. Here’s another picture:

Do you see the other spider? The little normal guy, hanging out in his web? Spiders that size, I don’t mind. I’m from Alaska – we love spiders because they eat mosquitoes. 9 times out of 10, I would never hurt a spider. Except of course, when this spider might suck my brains out in the middle of the night (I ended up thwacking him with a magazine).

SERIOUSLY. Is anyone out there an arachnologist or whatever? I’d love to know what this guy is called….maybe so I could pray that he never shows up anywhere me ever again (fat chance – this is number two that I’ve seen thus far)

I love the Peace Corps lol