I totally posted this on January 29th, 2015…

Since I haven’t been keeping up with this (but I have been writing in a journal and maintaining a calendar full of notes and happenings and memories), I thought I’d post what I’ve been sending out in my TinyLetter.

This was sent out on January 29, 2015.

Welcome!
This is my version of a blog – instead of being public and forever available on the world wide web, I’ve opted to use TinyLetter which if I understand correctly is more of an email thing to which people are invited and can subscribe. So feel free to subscribe (or not), I just wanted to invite you to be updated on my life in Peace Corps Guatemala (PC-G)!

Since I have procrastinated starting this since about mid-October, I have a LOT to summarize. Mostly just about where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing – which is a lot.

First off, Peace Corps (PC) is an American governmental organization where volunteers are sent around the world to work in different fields (including but not limited to health, education, youth in development, environment, food security…). Normally, volunteers arrive in country in training groups (in my case of about 30 people) and undergo an intense 2-3 month training (mine was thankfully only nine weeks) near the PC country office.

During training, I lived with a host family in Santo Tomas Milpas Altas in the department of Sacatepéquez (departments are like states in the US). Six days a week, I would be busy doing anything and everything from attending language classes, working in a local health post weighing babies and doing pre-consults, interviewing municipal officials, developing health talk lesson plans, sitting through informative albeit boring administrative and security sessions and more.

Then, after nine long and busy weeks, we were sworn in as true Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs!). Fun fact: we took the same oath as the Vice President of the United States. Each volunteer is assigned to a site – a specific town in which he or she will work for two years – my site is San Pablo La Laguna in the department of Sololá. It is on the very well known and extremely beautiful Lake Atitlan (I recommend that you Google it, seriously).

Work! I am a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) volunteer, which means I work in the local health center. Overall, the MCH project’s broad goals are to improve health outcomes of mothers and babies, which is through education, training and community support. I have yet to actually figure out what I’m doing because I’m still learning about my community, my health center and my health district. I’ve successfully completed almost six weeks of work and have thus far done little. In the beginning, I assisted in interesting and carpal-tunnel-inducing data entry and accompanied health educators on house visits (Sidenote: Although I’m pretty capable of managing Spanish communication, everyone here speaks a Mayan language called Tz’utujil. PC does provide us the opportunity to learn the local Mayan language and so far, I’ve had two classes!). I’ve also started to make progress on my health diagnostic that will help uncover community needs and strengths. Hopefully I’ll be done by late February when I have a technical training!

Living in Guatemala. PC-G requires all volunteers to live with host families for security and cultural integration reasons. I live with the local Evangelical pastor, his wife (also a pastor), and their two kids. I rent two rooms (one as a bedroom and the other as a kitchen) and share a bathroom and pila (a whole other explanation, but basically a Guatemalan water source and form of storage and where you wash anything and everything). I’ve started to cook my own meals and I get immense pleasure from going to the market and bargaining (poorly) for vegetables and fruit and then cooking them in the most basic way possible. It’s the little things. I’ve also learned of the sheer potential of oatmeal when you make it savory with butter, salt and pepper. In other words, I’m too lazy to cook rice. I blame it on the altitude – around 1600 meters or 5200ish feet (I can’t find an exact measurement for my town, but there are some for the towns nearby).

Other than that, I’m still settling in (officially have a kitchen table!) and learning more about my town and health center, so I’ll try to write more about that in the next email! I hope you’re all doing well and if you have time, I’d love to hear from you!

Love from Guate,
Neha
 

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