Week 2 in Site

Since its been over a week I have lots to update you on!

Last Saturday, I went to Portoviejo to use internet and do a little shopping for the basics. I met up with Erin, another volunteer who lives right in Portoviejo. It was nice to have some company while I ran all my errands, and to speak English. It was a little overwhelming checking my email after not doing so for 10 days to be honest. I think I have to unsubscribe to some of the newsletters I get… it was just way too much. I got back from Portoviejo around 5pm and I was exhausted. It had been quite sunny and hot out, and Erin and I had done a fair amount of walking around the city. I was also feeling a little sour because most of the internet cafes had been closed, thus I had not been able to find one with Skype to talk with my mom. When I got back, my host mom told me we were going to a quinceañera that night. I showered and tried to nap but was not able to fall asleep because it was still warm out. While we were eating dinner, I asked if I could leave a little early because I was so tired, and my host mom said no because I couldn’t be home alone by myself. This agitated me because I felt like I was being treated like a little kid. Since I was 18 years old, I lived 5 hours away from home, with peers. I lived in India for four months with no one that I had known before hand. I thought to myself, I am pretty sure I am able to sit in a house by myself for awhile in a community where people live their doors wide open on a regular basis. I tried to breathe and remind myself that she was just trying to look out for me. I got dressed up in one of the two dresses I had brought with me, but I was definitely underdressed compared to what everyone else in my family was wearing. Everyone was dressed like you would dress to go to a fancy wedding or a semi-formal dance. While everyone was getting ready, I asked my host mom if we could leave a little early since I was not able to come home by myself. She said sure, we could leave at 1am. My jaw may have dropped a little. 1am is early? We left for the mass in Sucre. I thought the mass was just to celebrate the quinceañera but that was not the case. Apparently, whatever is being celebrated that day is all celebrated in one big mass, so in this case, the mass was celebrating 2 quinceañeras and a wedding. After the mass, each celebration had its own procession out of the church and into the town square. First one quinceañera, then the other, and finally the wedding party. It was cool to see. Once everyone had processed out, we hopped in the car to go to the party. At this point I was still really tired but I was definitely in a better mood. By now it was about 9pm. At around 9:30 the entire quinceañera party including the birthday girl, her damas, her cabellos, and her parents, all processed into the tent that had been set up in the yard. There were some similarities to a wedding; a first dance, a dance with her father, toasts, etc. There was a really adorable moment where her father switched out her flats for heels to signify her growing up. After these initial activities, there was some dancing occasionally interrupted by more speeches and such. Dinner was not served until MIDNIGHT! I left with my host parents at around 1am like they had promised, and we were literally the first ones to leave! My host cousins did not get home until after 5am. Overall, I am really glad I went because I had a good time and if I hadn’t gone I know I would have regretted it, but I wish I hadn’t been so tired.

Sunday I went to a waterpark with my host cousins, aunts, and neighbors. It was small; 3 pools and 1 waterslide. It only costs $2 to get in which was awesome. I had a blast. It’s really nice that there are cousins who are around my age; they are really fun to hang out with.

Monday we had a meeting at the high school with the parents of the students who will be going with us on medical brigades. We needed to inform the parents because the kids will be returning home later than normal and we don’t want them to worry. I followed Nelly around while she did some errands and I was home by noon. At 2:15 Omar, who works with PLAN International, picked Nelly and I up so we could go help him with a family photo program about 1.5 hours away in one of the more rural areas. The real reason Nelly arranged for us to help was so I could ask Omar to pay for the surveys I needed to print for my community assessment project. It worked, which means I don’t have to spend my own money to print them. That was a relief, since each survey is 6 pages and I need 100 copies. After the family photo program Omar had to do some paperwork with a family so Nelly and I were waiting in the car. I got a little uncomfortable because she started asking about where I want to live after my 3 months with my host family and telling me that she would really rather prefer I live closer to her rather than closer to my host family. This turned out to be just a precursor to the incredibly tense conversation I would witness on Friday.

The next day, Tuesday, we went to a grade school about 1.5 hours away. The doctora that we work with was there to check for anemia, we were weighing and measuring kids to check for malnutrition, and the high school students presented a charla. The Doctora told me I have to learn how to take blood pressure because high blood pressure in adults is another big problem here, so that night my neighbor Marcela came over to teach me. I practiced on my host family, but it was difficult. I get the concept of listening for the last and first heartbeats, but it is hard to hear them!

Wednesday, there was a meeting that was supposed to be for all of the health volunteers/promoters in the area, but only a few showed up. For this reason, the presenter only did a basic presentation on what he was supposed to go over, and they started talking in general terms instead. They talked about the projects that Jen started, problems in the community, etc. The director of the Centro de Salud was there, and he said he really wants me to help them start a family garden project, so that should be fun. After the meeting I came home for lunch and then at 3pm I walked to Senora Nelly’s house to write a formal request to give Omar so he could get the copies made for me. After dinner, Marcela came over again, and we started talking about the possible gardening project. I told her how we learned about making tire gardens, and the benefits of using them. She thought it was a really neat idea and seemed really excited about it, which was very encouraging.

Thursday I had a communication hiccup with Senora Nelly. In fact, I got so frustrated that I was on the verge of tears. Yesterday before I left her house, I asked her what we were doing tomorrow. She said we were going to Portoviejo. I asked her what time, and she said maybe around 10am but she wasn’t sure. At around 10:45 that morning I hadn’t heard from her, so I sent her a text message asking if she knew what time we were leaving. I needed to mail some things and was excited to go into the city. She never answered. Finally, my host mom called Nelly. Nelly said we weren’t going anymore, the doctor was going instead. When asked why she didn’t tell me, she said she didn’t have any minutes on her phone. I was frustrated and could not deal with her, so I told Marcela and my host mom that I was going to go to Portoviejo anyway to mail my items and check email. It was a nice break and I felt better by the time I returned.

Friday got really interesting really quick. In the morning, I read over some material on the physical development of children. At around 10:30, Nelly called and asked if I could come over. I walked over there and helped her type up the monthly report for the Municipality, then came home for lunch. At 3pm I walked to the Women’s/Mother’s Group meeting with Marcela. There was a charla on how to purify water using solar power, discussion of this and that, and then Patricia, the President of the community, formally introduced me. I said a few words and also announced that I was starting a reading hour for kids every Friday afternoon. There were a few more topics of discussion, and then right before the meeting ended, my host sister (a married adult) suggested they should have a little welcome party for me. Everyone started throwing out dates, but nothing seemed to be working; there was a dance that day, a festival this day, etc. Instead of deciding on something, they moved on to discussing a location. That is when things got interesting. My host sister said that she could ask my host parents if we would have it at my house. Then Nelly went off about how that wasn’t a good idea because it was so far away (a 10 minute walk from her house, at most)that it would be difficult to coordinate and less people would come, etc. Some people agreed, other disagreed. That prompted Nelly to make a speech about how difficult it has been communicating with me because I live so far away, and how she is a busy person and it is my responsibility to find her (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, especially if she doesn’t answer my calls/messages). She said she felt like she wasn’t spending enough time with me, and she wasn’t able to teach me things, etc. This lead to a greater debate on what I was really supposed to do here, with Nelly arguing that my commitment was to her and the committee, and others saying I was there for the whole community. Too me personally, this indicates the larger social divide between the different areas of my little community. It was really tense with people going back and forth on different points, and I could also tell that my host sister was hurt. The meeting just kind of ended after Nelly was done talking. After dinner, Marcela came over again and we talked about strategies I could use to work better with Nelly. She is just a difficult personality I think, one of those people you have to learn how to handle. My biggest problem with her is how possessive she is. She wants me to live near her, she doesn’t want me to work with anyone else, etc. It is not a huge problem and I am not really worried about it yet, it’s just a challenge I have to meet. If anything, it makes me more conscious of reaching out to everyone in the community, not just the families that have leadership positions.

Saturday was Parachute Day. Behind Los Tillales and the surrounding communities, there is a mountain shaped like a seat, so that it had a flat plain built into it near the top. Every year, men with parachutes jump from this mountain and land in a dusty lot in the neighboring community, Miraflores. The set up a tent at the far end of the lot for spectators to be protected from the sun, and at night there is a dance there. First I watched them jump from the mountain from my host grandma’s back porch, because her house is higher than ours. Then a little later I went to the lot to see them land. It was pretty fun, but after about an hour there was an accident. One of the parachuters came down too early so that instead of landing in the lot, he landed in the trees about quarter mile before the lot. It took the ambulance like 20 minutes to get there, but from what I understand, he is going to be ok… he just injured his leg pretty badly. At night I was supposed to go to the dance with some of Jen’s friends who involved in the youth groups here. They picked me up at 8 and we walked to the dance but there was no one there, so we went to Sucre and hung out at the park for awhile, then went back to the dance at like 9:15-9:30. I didn’t really feel like dancing though, so I just kind of hung out. It was still fun though. They are a very funny group and kept asking me to say words in English for them. Also, I overheard my neighbor Marcela and one of the girls saying my Spanish has improved a lot in the last 2 weeks, which made me feel really good.

Yesterday, Sunday, I hung out with Marcela and my host mom, and then went swimming in the river with some of the kids. They were trying to teach me how to skip rocks, and I got a few, but my success was limited. After we left the river we walked a little bit until will found a mandarin tree, them plucked some off and ate them. It was a nice, lazy day.

I am getting excited for the next few weeks; I will be starting the reading hour for the kids, then a couple of weeks after that I am starting English classes, since so many people have asked me to. I will also be looking into collecting materials to start the gardening project with the health center. Plus, I will get the copies of my community assessment survey on Wednesday so I can start those too. I feel like every where I look, there are opportunities for great programs!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Aunt Vicki on September 17, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Trina, Sounds like you have your hands full with not only a new language, area, community, culture and living thousands of miles away from us but you know have a control freak to deal with too. She sounds like she has a strong personality but it sounds like you have people to lean on when she gets to be too much. Just keep moving and working hard in the community like you have been and stay out of her radar. Sorry hon, that’s the best advise I can give but your handling her better than I could! I forgot to say in the other post – Congratulations on your kitten, enjoy the little one! Love, hugs and kisses – Aunt Vic and the gang


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