In order to help ease the heartbreak of leaving home back in May, I tried to make sure to be as busy as possible for all of June. I’m happiest when busy and it’s hard to feel homesick when you’re mind is occupied with other things.
So, what did I do? Remember that bottle school goal? Well, part of the process is educating people regarding the harm that inorganic trash does to the environment and then teaching them how to correctly fill the bottles. I therefore declared June the month of environment presentations. I went to just about every school in the entire municipality to tell kids why they shouldn’t burn trash, pretended to time travel to demonstrate just how long inorganic trash takes to decompose (250 years for potato chip bags! 450 years for plastic bottles!) and emphasized the importance of those 3 Rs. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it got really old after the fifth time, but I stuck it out and now have about 2,000 students collecting and filling bottles.
And thankfully the dads in the community we want to build in actually showed up for our meeting today (after a dismal showing of 3 dads back in May… we cancelled that meeting… I almost cried). They listened to my presentation, they looked at pictures, they asked questions, they laughed at my jokes (jokes I made in SPANISH) and, this is the important part, they signed a piece of paper saying they’re on board. I could very well hit a huge speedbump next week, but right now I feel like we might be getting somewhere and it feels great. Plus, the teachers who are serving as the community coordinators actually wrote the solicitudes (basically letters asking for donations) I asked them to. Incredible!
So, after my stint as Captain Planet it was time for some In Service Training, the All Volunteer Conference and the 4th of July. Through some excellent scheduling these were all held one right after the other, meaning I got to spend a week out of site with volunteer friends, eating delicious food in Antigua, dancing and, you know, learning a couple of things too, I guess.
Really, I did learn some valuable stuff (like how to compost!) and got some great ideas for the coming months, but the highlight of the week was the 4th of July celebration. At no other point do all 200ish PC Guatemala volunteers get together so this massive presence, plus patriotism, BBQ, talent show, wacky paca outfits (I sported a “Proud to be an American” sweatshirt with an american flag and eagle on it), plenty of gallo and even an after party and you’ve got yourself quite a weekend.
So, I get back to site, slightly worse for wear (I seem to always get sick when I go to Antigua…) and ready to get things in order after my month of bounding around classrooms and week of late nights and then find myself on my way right back out of town. One of my counterparts decided she didn’t want to go to a countrywide conference of women’s office coordinators, so she sent me in her place with my other counterpart. I, um, don’t think the regional SEPREM (Presidential Women’s Secretary) director was excited to see me in place of my counterpart, but she let me stay and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to live it up at a Ramada (is it sad how fancy I thought it was because the bathroom had a blowdryer and little shampoo bottles? such luxury!) and listening to advice from female leaders who have seriously got their shit together. The clapping for each other and ourselves and this lady and that lady and again for ourselves got a little old, but I got fed several meals and even got to see the Guatemalan National Palace and pretend to be important at a UN development program event so it was all more than worth it.
I’m back at site now and am hoping to keep this momentum going. I’m still meeting with my youth groups (I’m almost running out of english vocab ideas) and trying my damnedest to get my counterparts working on women’s issues in between their many secretary duties, but the elections in September are like a dark cloud over everything and make any kind of longterm planning or projects seem useless. But that’s another story for another time, so for now I’ll just keep trucking along and keep up hope that all of these odds and ends add up to something worthwhile.