So, as you can see from my last entry, September was a very frustrating month. Work was going very slow due to frequent strikes by the teachers (which isn’t their fault since they aren’t getting paid), there wasn’t very much sun, and due to other things as well it was just hard to keep a very positive attitude. But after a tropical storm and after a week and a half of solid rain, destroying many roads in the country, the sun is finally out! And October has turned out to be a pretty good month. I’ve learned so many things from just trying to stay positive, that I thought that I would write a few of the things I’ve learned.
1. First of all, if I didn’t have my family and friends to vent to, I probably wouldn’t still be here in Guatemala. So thank you so much! You all have been such a great source of strength and given me lots of help. It’s funny how sometimes friendships and family ties can grow stronger when you are farther away (but don’t worry, I’m not going to stay farther away forever!). But this is something that everyone in my community seems to already understand. In two weeks, three women of Santa María passed away, and each time, there was an unbelievable support for the family from the community. For the funeral, the whole community comes to support the family and I have never been so moved. I went to one funeral and followed the procession down to the cemetery, where afterwards women had provided lunch for everyone. And that means everyone, over a hundred people easily. Even families that are struggling a lot still make time to invite me over for coffee and dinner, which is really awesome.
2. A good conversation can make my day so much better! I’ve been starting to get to know people here a lot better and having a good conversation makes such a difference. It’s strengthens my ties to Santa María, gives me insight into what people’s lives are like and what is important to people here, and what the needs of the community are. It also helps people get to know me and hopefully see me more as just another volunteer. In other words, making friends here helps a lot too!
3. Don’t stop doing what you love! When I got really sad and lonely, I would try to do things that I love, like read or write, listen to music, or go outside (which was hard because it rained so much!). Every time I walk through the country here it just takes my breath away again, I don’t even know how to describe it! Also, I’ve started baking and cooking a lot more and experimenting with recipes, which I knew I liked but I didn’t really know that I liked it this much. I just wish I didn’t make so many dishes to wash all the time!
4. Be prepared for anything. Whether it’s a tropical storm, political party hosting a party across the street, bad news, or really good news, any day can bring any kind of surprise. For example, one day I was teaching English at the primary school and went out for a snack during recess. When I came back, EVERYONE was crying. Some kids were shaking uncontrollably, the teacher was crying, and the teacher’s aid was just yelling at me “START TEACHING, PLEASE”. It turns out some of the students had been playing near a house during recess and found a dead woman inside. It was just a really shocking incident that I was not prepared for at all and I kind of went into shock. I’ve had so many new experiences that it’s just necessary to be prepared for anything every day.
I’ve learned a lot more, too, but I don’t want to make this post extremely long and cheesy. Here’s what’s been going on in my life lately:
1. A new mayor was elected, so I am working on a presentation for the different communities on the landfill/compost/recycling center project that is already in progress. That way, hopefully the communities will still push for the project when the new mayor comes in and he won’t throw it out.
2. Israel passed the writing portion of his English test, which is really great! It was a test on even things I didn’t know about English, like phonetics, biographies of the founding fathers, the origins of English, and other difficult topics. We are still waiting to hear back about the oral part of the test.
3. I survived tropical storm 12-E, although many roads in Guatemala did not. NOTHING dried though and it pretty much rained 24 hours 7 days a week for 2 weeks.
4. I made a delantal (an apron), and am working on a blouse and button up shirt with the sewing workshop with the Comision de la Mujer. I love that group and am learning so much with them! I even had to be the secretary one meeting and write the acta, which is a legal document of what goes on during the meeting. It was really hard because I had to listen and at the same time write everything down!
5. I’ve been looking for a new place to move to, and I might have found a family to move in with! I’m going to spend more time with them to make sure that it would be okay, but I’m pretty excited. I would just be renting a room with them and share a bathroom and kitchen with them.
6. The project with the environmental songs is slowing down because we are having some budget problems, but hopefully we will work through them!
And finally I will end with the quote that's on my mirror:
“…you need to understand that as long as you got a vagina you run the entire ----- universe” – Katt Williiams
Sometimes it’s tough working around men in the muni, but I’ve realized that the real power in Santa María is with the women. These women work so hard for their families, selling Avon, sewing, baking, running a tienda, weaving, while at the same time being expected to raise their children, prepare all the meals, wash the clothes, and much more. The women are the foundations of the family here, yet most of the decisions are made by men. This quote just helps remind me that women are powerful and not to let the machismo get me down!