I am celebrating a full week in my Community Based Training site today. Only eleven more to go! What adventures/lessons has my first week brought me?
1. A Return to Meat Eating
When I was getting dropped off at my new home my Language and Cultural Facilitator (Eduardo) consulted my file and the following conversation took place (in spanish, of course, which made it even more interesting):
Eduardo “She’s a vegetarian.”
Host Mom “Okay, but does she eat chicken?”
Eduardo “I think chicken might be okay, do you eat chicken?”
Host Mom “But sometimes?”
Me “I guess I could, if it’s easier.”
Host Mom “Oh great, and beef?”
Yes, it is possible to remain a vegetarian while in PC Guatemala – there are other people doing it – and I could have been more direct but in the end I had told myself that I would adapt to whatever conditions the experience presented and this family cooks meat almost every day (mainly for lunch – the most important meal of the day according to Guatemaltecos). I did not want to put my host family through the ordeal of cooking me separate meals and I feel more like a part of the family by eating what they eat. Though she did sense my hesitance regarding the beef and hasn’t served me any.
The food is really good, by the way.
2. My Grandma Like Sleeping Schedule
I am going to embarrass myself by announcing this, but I don’t think I have been up past 10:30pm since I have been in country. I even went to sleep at 8:30pm on Tuesday after a particularly long day of training. But when you have to be up and ready for breakfast at 7:00am (earlier some days for camioneta adventures) and are going to be woken up no less than five (sometimes more like twenty) times during the night by fireworks, barking dogs, loud trucks, roosters, and church bells you do what you have to do.
3. The Man at Tigo Hates Us
There are three main cell phone companies in Guatemala: Claro, Movistar and Tigo. Most volunteers end up with Tigo because they say it has the best coverage and, like in the states, it’s cheaper to communicate with people if they with the same company. You don’t have to get a phone, but most do partly for safety reasons, partly to stay in touch with people back home and partly to make planning things with other volunteers easier.
Eduardo took us to Antigua on Wednesday to buy our phones at a SuperMercado (supermarket) and as we were beginning to assess our three main choices (we’re on budgets here and couldn’t afford anything more than about 200Q – or $25, not that we want anything flashy anyway) another group of volunteers walked in with their teacher to do the same. So then there were eight of us. And none of us knew what we were doing.
Needless to say, the process took a while as we each wanted to have the man explain the difference between getting a plan and relying on recharge cards, how much it costs to call one another, how much it costs to call the states, how much text messages are, what and when are double and triple days, how we can check our balance… blah blah blah. Eventually I gave up, bought a blue phone, put 50Q on it and hoped for the best. And all seems to be going according to plan so far!
So, YES. I Have a Phone. I can’t receive calls for another three weeks for reasons that are still unclear, but if you call me it won’t cost me any Qs (at least I think that’s what he said…) so you are more than welcome.
4. The Music They Play on the Camionetas Really Adds to the Experience
Sometimes there’s no music and it’s a pretty lackluster ride, but sometimes they have their soundsystems bumpin’ and it makes it okay that I’m on three inches of seat and basically sitting in the aisle as the ayudante (bus assistant) pushes past me to collect fares and new passengers hit me in the head with their elbows and bags. The best tunes so far have been Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” to a cumbia beat, Pit Bull’s “Hotel Room” and NSync’s “Gone”.
…and because there was such a positive response to the offer:
5. Poop is a Recurring Theme of Peace Corps
I’m still waiting for my first diarrhea nightmare (it’s bound to happen, some of my fellow trainees have already been so lucky… PLEASE LET IT NOT BE ON A CAMIONETA) and it’s nice to know that the PC is there to support me in my time of need. Our medical kits (which are amazing, I don’t think I’ve consumed that much medical supply in my LIFE) are chock full of anti-diarrheals and re-hydration salts, we were given the low down on how to appropriately prepare a stool sample and I hear there are more poop lectures to come!
Perhaps the most interesting conversation regarding poop (and the one with the most startling visuals), however, didn’t come from the Medical Staff. It came from the Training Director Gregorio. Gregorio served in the mid 90s and had a house without any form of bathroom. Many people in his town built outhouses a foot or so above the ground and would simply let their stuff drop onto the ground below at which point the pigs would come along and EAT IT.
This would have been enough of a story (and is probably another reason why we are not allowed to eat pork here), but Gregorio added that he had needed to figure out a better set-up because he didn’t want the pigs to come up and get impatient with him while he was doing his business and get too close, if you know what I mean.
I’ll leave you with that to think about.