Tech Trip #2: Guayaquil

This tech trip was shorter, and a bit more stressful. Even though it was Monday through Friday like the last one, this time we traveled to Guayaquil, which is a 9+ hour bus ride from Quito. This meant that Monday and Friday were purely travel days, so the real stuff happened on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Tuesday was one of the most stressful days of training for me, and I don’t think I am the only one who felt that way. Tuesday morning we walked to the PC office to receive training on Cuanto Sabes, which is a youth education program on HIV and AIDS. It is a 12 week program, and the idea is that you educate and train a group of 12 to 20 high school students on HIV/AIDS so that they then have the ability to educate their peers. It is a great program; effective because it involves self-esteem building for the group of leaders, peer education (which is always more effective), and sustainable because after you leave those kids will still have all of that knowledge. The problem was, the training for those who will be facilitating the Cuanto Sabes program is supposed to be 2 to 3 days, and we had 4 hours. The second problem was that after those 4 hours, we were supposed to plan a charla (presentation/education session) on what we had just heard. The charla was supposed to combine several concepts from different Cuanto Sabes lesson plans: what is HIV, what is AIDS, how are they different, transmission of HIV, and prevention… all in a 40 minute lesson plan. It was also supposed to be engaging and interactive, and of course, in Spanish. Also, we were going to an all boys high school. As you can imagine, this sounded extremely overwhelming to most of us and we were all a bit frazzled. Now add the fact that we had about 40 minutes to an hour to plan this charla and practice it in front of our facilitators, bosses, a current volunteer, and the man who had just trained us on it. YIKES. There was definitely a lot of tension in the group as we all began to plan our sessions. The practice runs did not go super well, either. At that point, it was decided to scrap the tourist stuff we were supposed to do that night. Instead, we went to dinner (pizza and beer, just what I needed, and easy to find considering how industrialized/westernized Guayaquil is) and then came back to the hotel to work some more on our charla. After making some more posters and figuring out who would facilitate what parts with my partner, I spent some time writing out and studying key vocabulary and Spanish phrases that I would need for the next morning. HIV and AIDS education is extremely important, and I did not want to screw it up.

Wednesday we left the hotel to make the 1.5 hour bus ride into the community where we would be working for the day. I felt better than I had the day before, but I was still not super confident that the charla would go well. Our first class was probably about 30-40 boys. The principal (?) introduced us, saying that we were a great resource for a very important topic, and they should ask any us any questions that they had. Ok, great, more pressure! Nathan and I started off by introducing ourselves. Then the first activity was to have them give us words associated with each word in VIH and SIDA (HIV/AIDS) that idea was to use simpler words to define HIV and AIDS and what they really mean. In the end, we end up with posters like this:

Virus Una vida microscopia (que ataca)
Inmuno  el sistema de defensas (y causa) Deficiencia debilidad, falta (que afecta)

So, we are able to explain that VIH is a small living thing that attacks the system of defenses and causes a failure in them, and it only affects people. We did the same thing for SIDA. After defining VIH and SIDA, we moved on to the differences between them. In order to teach the differences, we played True/False with them in teams, and they got pretty competitive. Next was transmission. Still in competitive teams, the kids had to tell us which methods actually transmitted VIH and which didn’t. The list included tears, sweat, blood, breast milk, semen, vaginal fluid, saliva, and mosquito bites. Most of the kids knew that blood, breast milk, semen, and vaginal fluid all have the potential to transmit VIH, but the rest got mixed answers. Probably the most debated was mosquito bites. We explained the mosquitoes do not carry VIH, and that since they extract human blood, not inject it, there is no way for someone to get VIH from a mosquito bite. An important fact that we relayed to them was that 98% of new cases of VIH in Ecuador are transmitted by unprotected sex. We then moved on to prevention, like abstinence, mutual fidelity after an VIH test, and condoms of course. We finished with a little review game; we had a paper ball, and each layer of paper had a question on it. Whoever caught the ball had to answer the review question. It went really well, and we felt that they definitely learned a few things… now I just hope they remember it. Overall, the kids were great. They were interactive and engaged, and they participated and asked questions. After that class, we gave the same charla two more times to other classrooms, and those also went pretty well. The charlas completely surpassed my expectations and I was thrilled.

After our charlas, lunch, and walking around the town/getting ice cream, we met briefly with the current volunteer living there. As always, it was great to hear a “firsthand account” of what it is really like living/working in Ecuador. She is also doing some really interesting stuff with sex workers in the area; she started a craft class for them as a way to build relationships and generate secondary income. This reminds me; if anyone has any craft suggestions, please let me know. There are a lot of really young moms in my site, and I am considering forming a women’s group with them if there isn’t something in place already. It would be great to have some craft ideas (like jewelry making) that they could make during the meetings!

After that session, we headed back to Guayaquil to eat dinner and work on our general sex education charlas for the next day.

Thursday was the day for giving general sex education charlas, and Nathan and I’s topic was Sexually Transmitted Infections. Again, I was a little nervous about it. I had never given a presentation on anything remotely related to sex ed in English, let alone Spanish! First we had them split into teams and list as many STIs as they could think of, which turned out to be about 4. Next we went through a poster of the most common STIs and symptoms. After that, we played a game to show how easy it can be to transmit STIs. Each student gets a little piece of paper. One or two of the papers have Xs on them, one or two have Cs, one or two have As, and the rest are blank. We instruct the student with the A paper to refrain from participating in the game, and then ask the rest of the students to obtain three signatures from their classmates. After everyone has 3 names on their paper, we have them sit down. Then we ask the students with Xs to stand, and tell them that the Xs means they “have” an STI. Each name on their paper represents a person they had sex with. Now, we say “a C on your paper means you used a condom”. So if “Lucia” has an X, she reads the 3 names on her paper and they stand up. If the students on Lucia’s paper don’t have a C, they too have an STI, stand up, and read the names on their papers, and so on, until a large portion of the class is standing, representing that they have an STI. We then explain that the person with the A represents abstinence. This gives a great visual representation to how quickly STIs can spread through unprotected sex, and how abstinence or using a condom can prevent them. After the game, we talked a little more about transmission and also played the question ball review game from the day before. We gave two charlas; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. They went pretty well, but the students were not as interactive as the boys from the day before… who knows why. We also spent some time with Tiffany, the current volunteer there, which again, was great.

The most frustrating part of this week for me was my presentation skills. In the U.S., I pride myself on being a good facilitator and a good presenter, on articulating myself well in front of people. But here, in Spanish, it is difficult. I do not like having long pauses while I scramble to think of a word, or having to read notes from a paper, or not being able to answer a question without stumbling over my words. And yes, I know my language skills will improve with time, but right now it is aggravating because what I want to do or say and what I can do or say based on my language level are two very different things.

My favorite part about this week was practicing non-formal education tools, which I think I will be using a lot over the next two years. Thinking of engaging activities is challenging, facilitating them is fun, and seeing people learn from them is rewarding. I can’t wait to see how I can use these skills in my site!

I guess that’s all for now… I have a bunch of final evaluations until Wednesday, family appreciation day Thursday, a long weekend, wrap-up on Monday and Tuesday, then… BAM! Swearing-In is Wednesday the 17th, and I’ll moving to my new home on the 18th =)


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Aunt Vicki on August 13, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Wow! I’m tired just from reading all you are doing! I read your follow up about thinking in Spanish good job. Now all you have to do is stay stressed and you’ll think in Spanish all the time :o)


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