And Its Been a Month in Site Already…

The last two weeks have been mostly ordinary, punctuated by some interesting events which I should highlight for you. I spent most of last week working on monthly reports with my counterpart, and creating some project proposals. Wednesday morning I went to the little school across the river to introduce myself. The school is only 3 rooms, with a total of about 30 students ranging from ages 5 to 12. Wednesday afternoon turned out to be very exciting, because my counterpart’s neighbor gave me a KITTEN! It started out as a joke because I had been playing with the kitten, but then as I was leaving, the lady told me I really should just take her, so I did! Her name is Lulu, and she is super cute, but definitely a handful.

Last Friday, I was waiting for Nelly to call me, but she never did. I had texted her the night before asking that she call me when she was ready. I didn’t hear from her all morning, and then she called about 15 minutes into my reading hour with the kids, which she knows is from 3pm to 4pm every Friday. She wanted me to come over to make posters for the parade the following day. I told her that I was with the kids and I would come over after. She called again right at 4, wanting to know where I was. I told her I would be right over. She chastised me, telling me the Committee was always my first responsibility. Marcela came over a few minutes later, as I was getting ready to leave. Nelly had called her too, upset. We walked to Nelly’s house together. When I got there, Nelly was there, along with Cecilia and two other members of the committee. My goal with this blog is to give an honest account of my PC experience, so I am going to give you the truth of what happened, without trying to minimize it. Nelly immediately started in on how they had been waiting for me, and I burst out crying. Not just tears, but full on sobs, the kind of sobs where you can’t catch your breath until someone makes you drink a glass of water, which is exactly what they did. After I had caught my breath a little bit, I tried to explain to Nelly why I was crying. Honestly, I was frustrated, upset, and angry. I was frustrated that she was trying to chastise ME for being late or messing up plans, when she does exactly that all of the time. I was frustrated because she had been doing this all week; telling me she would call or message me, then saying she had been waiting for me. I was upset because I felt like she was minimizing the reading program I am trying to do with the kids. I was angry because it was her responsibility to call me and she never did, and now she was trying to make me look like a flake in front of the other volunteers. Of course, my Spanish is not good enough to say all of that in a delicate enough manner as not to permanently destroy the relationship. Instead, this is what happened. I asked her if she had been waiting for me all day, why she didn’t call me or answer my messages? She said she had been busy doing errands all day in Sucre, and that our communication can’t just be by phone. She said it was my responsibility to look for her, to walk to her house. I reminded her that I had done that the other day like she asked and she hadn’t even been there. (And I didn’t say this, but if she had been in Sucre all day, what good would me walking to her house have done? She wouldn’t have been there!) Then she tried to tell me that the Committee is the reason I am here and I have to prioritize it above everything else, to which I said Peace Corps tells us we need to have secondary projects, and she needs to respect that. Then she said that we needed to have better communication, and I said I agreed… that means she needs to return my calls and messages. Even her teenage daughter asked her why she hadn’t returned my messages! The conversation just kind of ended with that. At first I was kind of embarrassed about crying, but I actually think now that it might have been a good thing. I think me crying in front of the other volunteers kind of jolted Nelly a bit, made her realize how bad she was making me feel.

Saturday was the parade in Sucre to celebrate the founding of the county. I was walking in it with the committee, which is why we had needed to make posters on Friday. The parade turned out to be 3 hours long, which is saying something, since the parade route was only about 15 minutes. All of the schools and committees and groups you could think of from the entire county were marching in it; I was surprised there was anyone left to watch the parade! I was done walking in it pretty early, as the committee was right in the beginning. About half way through, my friend Kris, another volunteer who lives about 45 minutes away, arrived in Sucre. She was going to be spending the weekend in my site, since her family was going to one of the cities that is on our restricted list. We watched the rest of the parade with my family and neighbor Marcela, ate lunch, and then went to the motocross show. The motocross show was not exactly something I thought I would enjoy a lot, but I actually had a blast. We sat close to the track (there was no fence up or anything so you could basically sit wherever you wanted in the dirt around the track). I got some great pictures; the guys were crazy how high they were jumping on their bikes. We spent most of the afternoon there, and then after dinner at home, we bought some junk food and watched a few movies.

Saturday night into Sunday, I woke up with the chills but didn’t want to get out of bed to take my temperature; I could already tell I had a fever. I fell back asleep and when I woke in the morning, took my temperature. I had a fever of about 100.4. I am not sure what is worse: having a fever in a place that averages 85-95 degrees where there is nowhere to escape to air conditioning, or the absurd amount of worried attention I received after I told my family I had a fever. Thank goodness Kris was still there to buffer them a little bit. All I wanted to do was lay in bed, but person after person kept coming in, checking my forehead, asking what happened, suggesting possible causes, and telling me I should go to the Centro de Salud. They were appalled when I told them I couldn’t do that. See, unless it is an emergency, like a serious accident or something, volunteers have to call the PC medical officers first. This makes sense; some doctors here just give injections for the sake of giving injections, if it is simple the PC doctors can prescribe antibiotics over the phone, etc. But the idea seemed ridiculous to my family and neighbors. So I spent Sunday watching movies with Kris, being constantly asked about how I was feeling, and talking to the medical officer on the phone. Kris left in the afternoon to go back to her site, and when I still had a fever that night the doctor prescribed some antibiotics to see if that would help. I took my first dose that night, then went to bed. Before I did though, my host sister insisted on rubbing lime on all of my joints to help get rid of the fever.

Monday I woke up to pounding at the door. It was 8:30am. My host mom was panicking because I was not awake yet. I answered the door and assured her that I was just resting because I was sick. By mid-morning I was feeling slightly less achy but still had a fever. My neighbor Marcela came over and asked if she could pass an egg over me. I figured why not; it not like it would hurt me, and maybe it would get everyone to layoff a little bit. Passing an egg over someone is a ritual here that they use to extract bad energy. The mix a bunch of herbs in warm water, then dip the egg into the mix and use the egg to rub it on your head, back, stomach, and joints. She did this twice on Monday… once in the late morning and once after dinner.

Tuesday I woke up feeling much better. It could be the egg, or the 4 doses of antibiotics I have taken so far, or a combination maybe (Who am I to judge what works and what doesn’t?). It doesn’t really matter to me; I am just happy I don’t have a fever anymore. My neighbor and host mom are sure it was passing the egg over me, but now my neighbor is worried about who put the bad energy on me in the first place. I don’t know what made me sick; I don’t see how it could have been anything I ate on Saturday, since Kris and I ate exactly the same things and she was perfectly fine. Oh well, it’s to be expected every once in awhile (anyone who thinks they’ll get through their Peace Corps experience without being sick a few times is delusional) , plus it provided some very interesting cultural insight.

Wednesday was nothing exciting; I hung out and went to Nelly’s to type up more memos and such. There is a big health fair coming up on the 29th which is why I have been writing so many oficios (official letters) lately.

Thursday was a really fun and productive day. There was a huge medical brigade for one of the more isolated communities. That day there was a dentist, someone to take blood, a doctor to give vaccines, and a doctor for checkups. Plus Nelly, Cecilia, and I were there measuring height and weight and checking for malnutrition. We saw about 50 people in about 3 hours, which was awesome. Everything ran really smoothly.

Friday we had to go to the high school because one of the administrators had doubts about the students in the health group continuing to go with us to the communities, but I think we cleared it up. Then we met with the doctora in the health clinic to talk about what still needed to be done for the health fair. In the afternoon, I had the reading hour with the kids. It is so cool to see them rush to the bookshelf to pick out their book for the week after the reading hour is over; they get so excited about it!

I can NOT believe that I have been in my site a month already! Time is so strange. I really need to step up my community assessment surveys… the presentation in November will be here before I know it I’m sure.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Aunt Vicki on September 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Hi Trina! It does my heart good to read that so many people there care about you and did everything they knew to help you feel better. There is no doubt in my mind that It was definately that Nelly chick who put the bad energy on you. With a lot of patience on your part the communication will work out and there will be no more bad energy making you sick! Love ya, Aunt Vic

    Reply

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