Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

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Monday, May 9, 2011

¡Mî primera dîa en Guatemala!

quick update...

i almost can´t believe how easy it has been so far. the flight was quick, no line for customs, and my ride was right outside the door to pick me up. yo tengo bueno suerte!

my family is of course AMAZING!! im staying with Flory (mî madre), Pablo (mî padre), Diego -15 (mî hermanito), y Maria -11 (mi hermanita). its so clear that the parents love each other so much. they are very very happy people, they just love to to laugh! they dont speak any english at all, which is certainly challenging, but they are both very patient me and willing to speak mas despacio (very slowly) por me. the house is great. i have my own room, a warm shower, and a tv that plays the same programming here just as clearly as it would in the states. of course its all in español. the little bit we have watched has pretty much only been the disney chanel. the whole city has cobblestone streets that seem to be walked on more than driven. the city is made up of a mix of colorful plaster houses, usually with an interesting door, and very old buildings, usually in ruins. the weather has been a little been so nice - a little hot during mid day, but perfectly wonderful in the late afternoon.

i had my first morning of spanish classes. the school is absolutely wonderful. the "classroom" is in a sort of atrium, with trees and plants and birds everywhere. my teacher is great (pero ella habla muy rapido). really, everyone working there is so nice. today we had a celebration for "dia de los madres". it was wonderful.
the food has been amazing so far- lots of verduras (vegetables), y tortillas, y servesas! muy delisiosa!

i feel sooooo HAPPY and COMFORTABLE here. the people are nice, the city is beautiful, and i know i am going to learn soooooo much!

i wont start working at casa jackson until next week, but im going on thursday to tour it with some other students from probigua!!
im leaving the internet cafe now to walk around el parque central to listen to music and watch the "procesiôn por dîa de los madres". ill post pics ASAP!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

On the train on the way to mombasa! (top right pict - jenna, me, gretchen, jen on the train)
(bottom pic - gretchen, me, jen in the train station)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Is it July already!???!

I’m having a wonderful, wonderful time.  I moved into the hostel last Monday.  I can already tell the next month is going to be so completely different from the previous month.  There are a dozen other volunteers at the house about half and half guys and girls, and even more volunteers in Nairobi that started their trip staying at the hostel, but have since moved to host families that still come around to hang out.  There’s a guy from Mexico, a guy from Great Britain, a guy from Spain, a guy and girl from Denmark and the rest are scattered across the states.  I share a room with three other girls (I’m on the top bunk).  One of the girls kind of keeps to herself, but the other two – Jen and Jenna, are super cool.  We talk about music, god, and the books we’re reading.  It’s great.  Jenna has been here for three weeks, and unfortunately is leaving this week.  I’m really bummed she isn’t staying longer because she’s really cool, from California and might be my musical soulmate, except that she’s cooler than me.  We knew it was love when a weepies song came on my computer. I told her about the music co-op that Justin and nick and the other guys do, and we decided we’re gonna do the same thing.  Except all four of us girls (Jen, Jenna, Gretchen and me) are gonna do it together, so it’s gonna be a music/book/movie/fun, great, exciting things co-op.

I also started working at the orphanage this week.  Three other volunteers from the house work at the project with me.  The Spanish guy, Alex, works on construction at the orphanage; except when the other construction workers don’t show up, then he sits in the room and tries to play with the babies with us.  Needless to say, it’s a little awkward.  It’s sweet when he tries to hold them, I guess he just doesn’t have the baby gene.  The other two girls that work with me are from NC!  Jen just graduated from High Point University and was in the same service fraternity as me! Go A.P.O!! She reminds me so much of my cousin Lisa, it’s wonderful.  Jen has been here for a couple weeks, and is staying six months! I don’t know how she’s doing it, but more power to her.  She’s fun.  And my new best bud is Gretchen.  She got into Nairobi the same night I moved into the hostel, so we started at the orphanage on the same day.  She’s from Durham and plays soccer at UNCW.  She is cute as a button and so sweet.  She loves animals so much, she even says “aawwww, look….” When we pass the really dirty sheep and goats digging in the trash on the side of the road, and then takes a picture. Know anyone else like that?  I’m gonna go on the same safari with her in a couple of weeks.  She’ll be here for the whole month of July, and leaves the day before me.  I can tell we’re gonna be tight; we’ve already made plans to go to a Durham Bulls baseball game, and visit her brother in Boulder, CO, and she’s gonna come to the TMP and I’m gonna go to one of her soccer games.  We both talk a lot about our boyfriends and our families; we’re kind of each other’s reverse-wing-man, meaning when all the other girls are going to find boys to flirt with, we just take a walk and tell each other about the really wonderful, sweet email we got from our boyfriend or our family and then make the other one really miss their family and boyfriend, but then get happy that we have each other.


Working at the orphanage can be summed up in three words, to quote Justin: “AFRICAN BAY BAYS!”  It’s about a 45 minute walk to the orphanage, which always seems to be a speed walk in the morning.  Unlike walking to my last project, which was mostly a city street walk with shops and people selling things, this is much more countryside, pretty classic Kenya.  I’ll try to get a picture next time to post.  As soon as we get there we head to the baby room and are immediately handed a baby to feed.  There are 12 infants under 9 months.  The sisters at the orphanage set up an assembly line to change and wash the babies, then hand them to us.  We grab a bottle and start feeding.  It’s so wonderful.  We basically sit in a circle bottle-feeding babies; we talk to each other some, we talk to the babies some, but mostly we just sit and stare at the little darlings and do a lot of ooing and awing.  It’s fun.  Daniel is the front runner for my favorite.  Or maybe it’s Austin? Or Rosemary? Or Nahashan? Or Nathaniel? Ok, I love them all.  But especially Daniel.  After the infants, it’s the toddler’s turn.  There are 5 toddlers, each with their own beautiful face and adorable personality.  The three I usually play with are Elijah, Gloria and Patience.  Elijah is a complete boy, he has one yellow ball that he will play with for hours.  If he’s not playing with ball he’s running around the room just jumping and falling.  When he smiles, it melts my heart.  Patience is definitely Ms. Priss.  She is the girly girl that wants all the attention and will fake cry if she doesn’t get her way.  At the orphanage they say “this is Patience, she doesn’t have any.”  And Gloria is the quiet, but kind little girl.  She usually gets last pick of the toys, but is still happy with what she gets.  She’s also very pensive.  You can tell she really thinks about what you say to her, or about what is going on around her.  She is darling.  After the toddlers are fed, we play with them for a couple of hours.  Then we do whatever needs to be done around the orphanage – cleaning bottles, sorting beans, hanging pictures and posters in the classroom, etc.  At 12:30 it’s lunch time and the whole process is repeated.  The babies are so adorable, and it is so much fun to hold them and play with them.  Most of them are severely underweight and many of them have developmental problems.  The infants probably spend 20 hrs a day in their crib.  The other girls and I decided we are gonna start taking our shukas to work and carry the babies on our back while we play with the toddlers. After lunch we finish whatever odd jobs need to be done and head home anywhere between 3 and 5.  Last week the weather was nice enough that the women let us take the babies outside.  There is a giant playpen outside (it really just looks like a cage with two mattresses in it), so we took the babies out there and just laid them down on the mattresses.  It looked like a baby yard sale.  We just shuffled the babies around, trying to give them all a turn to be in our lap and get equal attention; of course there wasn’t enough time or hands for all the babies to be held, but it was still good to let them have some time outside of their crib.  The walk home is a little bit more leisurely.  Alex usually walks home alone, but the girls and I walk and talk the whole way home.  We’ve already done some serious bonding. 



            This weekend a group of 14 of us took a train to Mombasa.  The train looks like one of the first trains ever made.  It’s super old-fashioned, and super-cool looking.  We were all really excited about taking the train and hanging out together.  We had a lot of fun doing dumb things, (i.e. sticking our head out the window), and snapping pictures. We left Nairobi at 7pm on Friday and were supposed to get in Mombasa around 10, but a train ahead of us was derailed so we didn’t make it all the way.  Instead we decided to jump off the train (cause we didn’t know how long we would have wasted sitting there waiting for it to go again), and we started walking to find a matatu to take us the rest of the way.  We found one matatu that pulled over and kicked everyone out to let us all ride together for a good price, and took us right to the hotel.  Most of us stayed at a really cool tree house hotel called “Stilts”.  There wasn’t enough room for all of us to stay in the treehouses, but the owner was this really awesome, laid-back british guy that set up tents with mattresses and sheets so the rest of us could stay there.  Gretchen and I shared a tent.  It was really cheap, and everything we needed.  There was also running water and flushing toilets (the first I’ve used since I’ve been here).  The whole property was absolutely gorgeous, and had a tree-club house in the middle where we all hung out.  During the day we walked across the street to the beach.  There was a bar/restaurant on the GORGEOUS white sand beach called “Ali Baba’s”.  It was straight out of a movie.  There were loungey couches and chairs under the cabana right on the water.  There were also camels right there!  Heading Justin’s advice, Gretchen and I wasted no time.  The first thing we did was go for a ride down the beach.  It was incredible!  Saturday night Stilts had a barbeque that all the guests came to.  It was by far the best food I’ve had since I’ve been here – steak, mashed potatoes, salad, grilled veggies, and some other really great stuff; and we all sat around the bon fire.  It was such a cool vibe.  After dinner we went back across the street to Ali Baba’s, which had turned into a really cool, dimly lit loungey beach bar.  It was all tourists staying there, but most were foreigners (not Americans) so it was really cool meeting people and talking to them. Unfortunately Gretchen was sick all weekend, so after Ali Baba’s everyone else went to another club but she wasn’t feeling well, and I didn’t really feel like going to the club so we went back to Stilts together - WMFL (wing-man-for-life).  Sunday was also great, the only problem was that we realized we didn’t have enough time in Mombasa.  Most of the other volunteers decided to stay a few days longer, but again Gretchen wasn’t feeling well, and we’re trying to save our money for the other gazillion things we have to do before we left so Gretchen and Jen and a few other people came back on the train.  Before we left on Sunday, we were hanging out at the Ali Baba’s, sitting on the beach, all of a sudden I heard this really great Jazz band.  It was the neatest group of cool, old, black men that were just the hippest group of guys wearing matching shirts, (the saxophone player had on shades), playing Dave Brubeck, and Frank Sinatra, and Eric Clapton.  Jenna and I went up to the bar and just watched and drooled. It was soooooo cool.  It made me the most homesick I’ve felt since I’ve been here.  I know that everyone I love, would have loved to have been there.  And I thought they woulda been so great for the music party!  It was a great, GREAT, weekend, and a much needed get away trip.  I couldn’t have made the switch to the hostel at a better time. 



            I am so grateful for the time I had staying with the host family.  Not only was the work project incredible (see posts below), but also being there alone I really had a good chance to experience African culture.  Although it was lonely at times, I can tell from talking to the other volunteers, that I was lucky to get quality experience; and even though I was staying connected to home through emails pretty regularly, being there by myself, and really living with the family and living the way the family lives, I can confidently say I was disconnected from American culture.  Don’t get me wrong, at the hostel we’re still eating African food, using African toilets and taking African showers.  But it’s definitely different doing it with other wazungu (white people).  I had a great time with my host family, but I was in need of a change.  I came to the hostel, and met the other volunteers at exactly the time I needed to.  It’s almost like it was done on purpose? I wonder if someone’s looking out for me? Someone that knows exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.  It’s a pretty cool feeling. 

The night before we left for Mombasa I talked to the girls in my room and Gretchen (who is staying in another room, but will most likely switch to ours before long) for almost four hours.  I basically told them my life story (including justincase, which I was a little shy about, but they all loved), they were fascinated, and that opened up a whole huge awesome conversation about boyfriends, family, love, sex, God, what it means to be Christian, and a bunch of other really great topics.  It was so much fun to talk with these girls because everyone’s got their own story, and everyone has their own unique, personal perspective on life.  That night was my turn to tell my story, next time it will be someone else’s.  And we are all just a little different, but so completely open and honest and willing to share and listen and learn.  We usually go to bed and pass out asleep around 10:00 (because we’re so tired from working) but we stayed up talking until 1:00.  It was just some serious quality time. These people are really, really great. 



Monday, June 22, 2009

a few things from my list of stuff to share...

1. i prayed at dinner the other night. i don't know if i've said this, but i really love when this family prays. part of it could be because just about every night they pray for my family and friends back home, but its also because i love exactly what they say. the girls (carol and faith) have been trying to get me to pray for a while now, but i don't really like to pray in front of anyone, let alone this whole family. the other night everyone was gone and it was just me and the girls for dinner, and they asked me to pray, so i did. i think it went pretty well. i'm glad i did it.

2. one day last week i saw the BIGGEST baby and the smallest baby! the big baby was more than double the average/healthy weight, and was enormous and adorable. the nurse had to explain to the mom about obesity. the little baby was only a week old and was born 2 months premature. needless to say she was teeny teeny tiny. that same day i also saw four different babies pee on their mom - they were all boys.

3. one of the most interesting cases i've seen since i've been there was a 1yr old baby that couldn't look straight. by that i mean, she could only see out of her peripheral vision. she couldn't look straight ahead, if she wanted to look at something right in front of her she would have to turn her head and looks to the side. (does that make any sense?). it was really very fascinating. also she was unable to stand on her own. the nurse didn't know what to do so she sent her to the daktari (doctor).

4. a couple of weekends ago, peter and i were on the matatu on our way home from the city, and there was a lot of traffic (as usual), and all of a sudden the men on our matatu were sticking their heads out the windows and yelling, and people were jumping out of their matatus and running by. it was pretty chaotic. come to find out one of the matatus in front of us was high-jacked and they were robbing everyone on the bus. it was kinda scary for minute. but the cool part was how everyone came together to help the one matatu that was in trouble. the men all got off and ran ahead to help. after the initial fear, it was exciting to see everyone working together.

5. besides when i get to give an injection, my favorite part of the day is the faces of the babies when they get the injection. i know that sounds cruel, but it's not. i'm talking about how the baby usually is pretty happy and looking around at the nurse like "oohhh... heeeyy... whats that shiny thing in your hand" just happy happy. and then they get stuck. and all of a sudden they realize that it hurts. and they just flash the saddest, most heart breaking look at the nurse and everyone in the room says "aaawww... poli poli poli" (aww... sorry sorry sorry). i'm not sure if this is really making any sense... but don't worry, i'll show you when i get home. it's adorable. and by the way, most of the babies stop crying pretty immediately after the injection is given.

6. ever since i volunteered to take the woman's blood pressure, i've kinda become the "blood pressure girl". it's probably just because they think i have a fancy bp cuff, but now not only do i take every patient's bp, but the staff comes looking for me just to take their bp! i'll be in the immunization room in the middle of diluting a hepatitis injection (one of my favorite things to do), and some one from the maternity ward will come in and say they have a friend back there whose bp they'd like me to take. the other day, they gave me a whole room to myself where i called the women in to take their medical history and bp. it was pretty great.

7. when i prepare the syringes for the nurses, after i fill them, i actually hold them up, flick it a few times to get the air bubbles out, and i even squirt a little out the end. it's so cool... and i gotta say, i'm gettin pretty good at it.

8. i worked with two nurses today. it was so great... we were totally a team. one nurse did all the paper work, i prepared the syringes and gave polio and vitamin a to the babies, and the other nurse gave the injections. we were like a well oiled machine. i can understand enough swahili now to know what each baby needs. it was so fun. then at the end of the day, the nurse asked how much longer i would be working there. i told her this was my last week. she said they would be sad to see me go, that i was "one of them now" and i told her how wonderful they have all been to me. we totally shared a moment.

9. last week I worked in the clinic weighing babies, and all morning i was working with this well-spoken, very kind, pretty woman named sally. she told me she was also a volunteer and that she normally works at the larger hospital as an HIV educator and counselor. she told me about what a hard time they have convincing people to get tested and what kind of challenges they face with educating people, and how there is such a terrible stigma attached that even when people find out they are HIV+ many of them refuse to believe it and go into denial and won't get any treatment for it. i spent the whole morning talking to her. in the afternoon when we were taking tea i told her that i just got my degree in psychology and originally wanted to persue counseling, but had decided to go into nursing instead, and she said i could stop by the hospital and see how she works and shadow her for a day or a week or as long as i wanted. she was so kind to me the whole day. it wasn't until after we exchanged numbers and just before we had said good bye, she told me she was HIV+ and had been for 5 years now. i was totally caught off gaurd. this of course opened a whole new can of questions. she was of course more than happy to answer all of them. she's not the first HIV+ person i've come across since i've been here, but i'll be completely honest, i was a little uncomfortable and uneasy around the patients that i knew were positive, but she completely changed the way i felt about it. the nursed do that too. they don't act the least bit different. at first i thought that maybe wasn't the best idea - for obvious health concerns - but after meeting this woman and talking with her, and watching these nurses work, i realize now what i believe makes someone a great nurse... the ability to care for a person as an individual. by that i mean, even though much of their day is routine and they end up doing the same thing over and over, they always seem to give each baby and each child exactly the personal attention they need. nursing is so much more than taking care of someone's physical needs. whether its giving a baby an immunization and realizing they have a rash and talking to the mother about what to do about it, or talking to a woman in family planning about the right kind of birth control, or counseling a mother in the ante-natal clinic that just found out she is HIV+ and helping her move forward... these nurses seem to care so deeply and fully for every single patient in every single situation. more often then not they are speaking in swahili and i only understand bits and pieces of what they are saying; but i can fully understand their caring tones, and warm body language, and the relief the patient feels at the end of the conversation. it's incredible.
i can't wait to be a nurse.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

anyone need a tetanus shot? cause i can do it!

AH!! It happened!! i knew it would happen!

i gave my very first injection today! i gave a tetanus shot to a pregnant mother in the ante-natal clinic today!! she was the last patient, so i only got to do one, but hopefully that will open the door. now, the next time a nurse asks me if i've given an injection i can say "yep. mm-hmm. sure have. want me to do it?"
this is such a great feeling. nursing school here i come!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

darling sharon and lovey jo jo