80 days in Guatemala

I know, I am completely awful at updating this. In my defence, I’ve kept up a written journal, detailing the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s incredible to think about how much has happened since October 15th, when I arrived in Guatemala. I wish I could say that I’ve learned so much – about the language, the culture, my technical project, and I did. But, honestly, I’ve learned more about myself. I can endure more than I thought I could. I grasp concepts faster than I thought I could. I can persevere better than I thought I could. It’s incredible how much being away from your home country, family and friends tests you. People always say that Peace Corps is hard – but not because of the environment or the language, but because of the isolation. I didn’t understand the fullest extent of that until now. The hardest part of my day isn’t stomaching a full meal of carbs (mashed potatoes on rice on bread) or waking up with a bug on my face (I was deft and killed it with my shower flip flop), but rather knowing how long it’s been since you’ve had one of those conversations with your best friend. And when the gods of the internet connection and time differences and chance are on your side, you try to fully capture what you want to say, but what it comes down to is Peace Corps isn’t an experience. It’s not something you can “explain” away in a 15-minute Google hangout or heck, even two years worth of phone calls. Today, I had a great day and not because I was productive or because I made a difference in someone’s life but because I went for a run and didn’t get cat-called and ate a delicious mango (albeit it might make me sick because I may have not followed PC protocol in using a proper disinfectant, whatevs). It’s the small things. And the more I reminisce about what life was like for me in the States, I remember how it was measured in to-do lists and grades and hours logged and more. So yes, I do miss macaroni and cheese and all products dairy, but I am living quite a wonderful and blessed life in the Land of the Eternal Spring. I might be alone in my town and no one may understand my life for two years outside of the PC network. That’s real isolation. And it’s tough. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I’m in the hardest part. So it’s only up from here. Poco a poco. Plus, mango season has to come eventually.

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The last year in planning and preparation…

So much has happened since I last posted. I am in a completely new place, starting the next 2+ years of my life in Guatemala. But although everything is new and I’m learning a lot, I feel like I have to remember how I’ve been imagining this experience for over a year and how long it has taken to get here. So here’s a timeline detailing all the application steps and noteworthy emails 🙂

October 15, 2013: Submitted my Peace Corps application online!

January 27, 2014: Interviewed with the PC Southeast Regional Recruiter in Atlanta

January 30, 2014: Nominated for a health sector position in Guatemala!

June 5, 2014: Invited to a Peace Corps Guatemala, Maternal and Child Health position

June 6, 2014: Accepted said invitation!

September 2, 2014: Finally medically cleared for training and service! This was quite a feat, especially after multiple visits to the dentist and doctor, a blood test (or two), removal of two wisdom teeth (with only local anaesthesia!), and more!

September 15, 2014: Received official travel and staging information

October 14, 2014: Staging in Miami, FL

October 15, 2014: iLlegamos a Guatemala!

So here I am!

Ebola @ Emory

The news of an Ebola patient being treated at Emory is apparently very noteworthy and somehow indicative of how awesome Emory is. I just cannot seem to get over my frustration with the whole situation.

1. When you think about it, any hospital with some semblance of an isolation unit and stocks of gloves/masks/gowns etc is capable of treating an Ebola patient. The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids, something that is relatively easy to avoid in a hospital setting when you’re fully aware of the situation at hand.

2. There is no cure for Ebola. This patient is receiving IV fluids, oxygen and other not-cure-things that will help his body fight the infection. I applaud the Emory Hospital staff for dealing with the media and taking extra safety precautions, but I can’t be proud of something they can’t do – they can’t cure this patient’s Ebola.

3. Now this last point is a little tricky. If I were this patient – an American citizen who was working abroad and managed to contract a possibly deadly virus – I’d want to be airlifted back to the States, too, but I can’t help but think about the hundreds of West African individuals who have already died because of the outbreak. I just can’t help but get the feeling that all the efforts put into this patient’s treatment and transport could have been better applied to a larger and needier population. The articles I’ve been reading detail how Ebola is unlikely to become a serious outbreak in the US because of its transmission pathways – so shouldn’t we focus on containing the virus rather than saving one patient? I can’t help but feel that the news around this one patient is implicitly saying that this one American life is worth more than the hundreds of West African lives.

It’s almost August and I can’t believe it

I have less than ten minutes until August. Heck by the time I finish writing this, it’ll be August. Where did the time go? But I’m completely serious. Last thing I remember is May 12th aka graduation day and then from there it’s all a blur. Here’s what I can say about the last 2.5 months.

1. After graduation, I moved back home. Home is now in Georgia which is a little weird. Never before have all my memorabilia and belongings and knick-knacks all been in the same room in the last four years. They’ve been split up among basements, states and crates. So after catching up on some much needed sleep, I organized. I found copies of my high school newspaper that I had hoarded. I found my elementary school art projects. I found years of birthday cards. After such a milestone, it was disconcerting to come across all of that. For some reason, when someone graduates college, those four years become super important – but all those years prior where you were shaped and molded are just as important.

2. Family vay-cay. The pops turned 60. The uncle earned an MBA and turned 50. I squandered a bunch of money (read: I earned a Bachelor’s). So naturally, it was cause for celebration and some fun. We went on a cruise to the Caribbean. Now I had been on a cruise before, but for some reason I hadn’t fully understood how fully thought-provoking they could be. Being an outlier when it came to waking hours and circadian rhythms, I found myself spending a lot of that week by myself and when you’re on a cruise ship there’s not much else to do besides look out into the beautiful abyss that is the ocean and think (and watch Planes, Frozen and Despicable Me 2 as many times as the cruise TV aired it…). Well that and people watch. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I spent that cruise imagining what people’s lives were like. Where were they from? Who did take this cruise with? What did they do for a living? What fueled them? What were they passionate about? I ruminated about all of this because I was in limbo. I proudly wore my Emory baseball hat, but that didn’t mean I knew what I was doing with my life. Regardless, I read a TON and I think that the books I read that week were serendipitously perfect for that state. I read the following:
(1) The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta
(2) We Are Water by Wally Lamb
(3) Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
Granted, this is quite an eclectic trio, but they were each instrumental in their own manner to getting me out of the said rut.

3. June 5th. The day I received my Peace Corps invitation 😀
That rut I was talking about effectively disappeared when I accepted the invitation to be a maternal and child health education volunteer in Guatemala :))))))

4. I spent a week volunteering as an interpreter in Moultrie, GA with the Farm Worker Family Health Program that Emory’s School of Nursing has every summer. It was exhausting but amazing. I had the opportunity to get to know some pretty amazing individuals who reaffirmed my belief in making a difference – or at least trying to do so. I came back and then it was somehow July.

5. I am currently racking my brain to figure out what I actually did in the month of July and here’s what I got:
– visited my cousin and his wife in Florida – we had the best picnic in the best park and I think that’s what I’ll remember most from this Fourth of July weekend 🙂
– scheduled and went to an eye exam, a physical, a pelvic exam and pap smear, dental exam with cleaning and x-rays
– learned how to use the scanner so that I could submit the paperwork for all the above procedures
– watched all seven seasons of The West Wing
– “studied” for the GRE (read: find words I don’t know in NYT, NPR, and other articles and look them up and try to write them down in an organized fashion)

….I don’t know what else to show for the last 2.5 months thus far except for a bunch of laughs and memories with the fam bam

Ahhh so many good things, so many links!

1. “Due diligence is important in the NGO world.” An article about how there are inconsistencies and falsifications in Somaly Mam’s story – the story used to garner attention, funds and more to end sex trafficking. A very interesting and intriguing read.

2. I may be a Drew Barrymore fan, but I completely agree with this perspective on her upcoming film, “Blended.” I still don’t understand how our view of an entire continent can be so wrong.

3. A great commencement address from John Legend 🙂

4. Something every man and woman should read about gender discrimination.

5. Piece about checking your privilege. Aaaaaaaaand the response. I understand that we can’t change our sex or race, but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize that society places certain boundaries and barriers for only some people. There are ways to learn about privilege, even if you are privileged – see!

6. Women in power 🙂 (And no, I didn’t just post this because of Kerry Washington…)

7. I concur, service is like faith.

8. Women of my generation, spoken by a woman not from my generation… but still perfect!

Check out these links when you want to smile aka baby-palooza 🙂

1. Daddy and baby shirts!

2. Kids and fancy food! You actually have to see all three links: one, two and three – I promise they’re all worth it!

3. Newborn photo shoots!

4. Art, at it’s finest.

So what are you doing now?

I just looked up when my last post was (April 18th) and it’s most definitely been awhile. So much (yet so little) has happened since then. I have completed my undergraduate career and earned a Bachelor’s in Science in both Biology and Anthropology and Human Biology. I have also moved all my possessions into one room (fine, there are still two boxes downstairs) in my parents’ house. While I consider that a sore point of my current state, I know I should appreciate the availability of options and downtime. That downtime has allowed me to really think about what I’ve done in my 22 years up until now and what I’d like to do moving forward – and the honest answer is that I really have no idea. I can see myself doing a bunch of things – research, service, other jobs, too – and I know I’d enjoy them all more or less, but what I’m really looking for is some sort of purpose or mission statement. When you’re in school, it’s relatively easy to create a goal – complete assignments, pass classes, gradate. There are even checklists for how to graduate (what courses to take, what order to take them in and more), but there is significantly less about how to create that goal after you earn that diploma. It’s sometimes downright terrifying when you don’t know what’s next.

 

what I think about, inside out

1. What life is like when getting your period means you are shunned

2. Life is tough. But it shouldn’t be this tough

3. Names are important. They do more than provide people with something to call us, they provide ourselves with identity, meaning and history. That’s why parents agonize over the decision process. That’s why there are book upon book about names and their meanings. And that’s why we should always fight to have our names be heard. All thoughts after reading this

4. I came across a collection of bumper stickers awhile ago and some of them really provoked me into thinking. Here they are:

The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. – Chief Seattle
Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing is wrong?
Change how you see, not how you look.
You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. – Einstein
Live simply so that others may simply live. 
Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? 
Well-behaved women rarely make history. 
I’m for the separation of church and hate. 
The best things in life aren’t things.