Friday, January 27, 2012

A worm, a cold shower, and dealing with drugs (Day 464)

I love having a USB modem.  It allows me to update from anywhere I can get signal.  I'm currently sitting on a bus waiting to head back to Antigua (and, ultimately, San Antonio Aguas Calientes).

I've spent the last week in Zacapa, Zacapa, Guatemala.  I've heard that this is a very dangerous area due to how many drug lords supposedly live here.  However, just as with most places in Guatemala, I have very little qualms about walking around familiar areas in the daylight.  I've been here with a group called Children of the Americas, translating for their medical clinic.  I start back at school on Monday.

The week has been fairly uneventful, but certainly not without things of note.  
First of all, Zacapa is one of the hottest places in Guatemala.  At first, the idea of a cold shower scared me.  However, I've been living in cold places where the water is typically colder and the mornings are typically colder.  A cold shower in Mixco is cold as you might recall from one of my journal entries about a year ago.  Cold showers in Antigua and San Antonio are about the same.  However, a cold shower in Zacapa--besides a tiny moment to acclimate the body to the water temperature such as wading into a swimming pool--is really nothing to fuss about.  In fact, it's quite welcome.

Faint of stomach will want to skip the next paragraph...

Second, I have worms...or had worms.  On the 25th, I woke up at 3:30 to go to the bathroom, and pooped out what looked like an 8-10" earthworm (along with my normal poo).  Needless to say, within 5 hours I was on anti-parasite medication.

Third, Klemente--one of my best friends who I met on my birthday last year--came to surprise me.  He is from La Union, Zacapa, but he works in Sacatepequez (currently in Sumpango).  He took some time off of work special to come up and spend some time with me and help with the clinic.  He isn't bilingual, but in the pharmacy, we mostly just need to read the Spanish labels to the people.  After about 4 or 10 medications, it becomes easy; you start recognizing the medications and what they're good for.  We found that I was best in the pharmacy because of my lack of patience.  Here is something that actually happened with me in the clinic (translated):
Doctor: Let's talk about her bloody nose.
Me: We are going to talk about the bleeding from your nose.
Patient: Yes, my nose.
Doctor: What other symptoms do you have with your bloody nose?
Me: What other symptoms do you have when your nose bleeds.
Patient: Yes, I have a bloody nose.  And my back hurts right [grimacing, as she moves to point to a spot at her back] here.
Me: No, we're talking about your nose, and your nose is not bleeding right now.  So, the back pain is not another symptom of the nose.  We want to know what you have at the same time as when your nose bleeds.  Do you have a headache?  Do you have a sore throat?  We are ONLY talking about the nose bleed.
Let's just say I was relieved when I was able to go back to the pharmacy.  It seems that my patience begins and ends with my English students.  Besides, where else can I use a toucan ring to explain medications to a 4-year old?

Klemente treated me to dinner, and then we took a walk to a school here in Zacapa where he attended middle school and high school.  I got to meet the headmaster of the school and his wife.  The interesting thing about this school is that it is, in a way, attached to the school where I work in Santiago Zamora.  Both schools are assisted by Children's Christian Concern Society, and since learning about this school, I've felt a special attachment to it.  Anyway, the bus is about ready to roll; so I guess I'll get going for now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I am not in Honduras. (Day 457)

Although I have not heard anything directly from any of you about the Peace Corp pulling out of Honduras, I do know that some of you also read the news, and since (according to the world wide web) this story was published in some form in 463 newspapers, I can't help but imagine that some of you have heard about this and are wondering about Guatemala.  For those of you who haven't heard the news about Honduras and the Peace Corp, I offer you the following article:

For those of you looking for a response (especially you, mom), I offer the following reply written by a Peace Corp worker here in Guatemala and echo his sentiments:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good golly! I'm a teacher! (Day 455)

We are in the early days of the new school year here in the village.  Students (and their parents) are still wandering in to register for school.  And me?  Well, I came back prepared to teach 1st-6th grades with some ideas about what I'd do with preschool and kindergarten.  However, I received quite a surprise.

Upon arriving for the teachers' meeting on Monday, I was informed that I would be teaching 7th to 9th grade as well...alone.  Last year, I helped another teacher from time to time as well as individually taught 3 periods.  However, the school decided to let her go for reasons which I won't go into in this journal.  Fortunately, I had offered a series of English learning books that I have to the other teacher as curriculum for this year.  So, implementing the curriculum myself won't be too hard.  Unfortunately, the problem I dealt with last year was teaching the students without knowing what they had and hadn't learned.  Therefore, I stuck to mostly simple topics with a heavy focus on pronunciation.  Now that I will have the students 100% of the time, I need to evaluate where they are at in their English studies, at least on a written basis.  And while I have classes planned out for the 7th graders (assuming no or very little previous education of the language), I need to pre-test the 8th and 9th graders before I can make plans for them which means that I will have about 1 day to review their pre-exams, find some sort of happy medium between the top students and the bottom students in each grade, and plan an entire year's worth of lessons.  I know that to some teachers that might sound a little unnecessary, but for me, if I don't plan the whole year (or at least three of our four terms) now, I'll allow the students to drag in their lessons telling myself, "Well, I didn't have anything planned for next week yet; so they can just continue this then."  This would become a vicious cycle for me, and when I have to write exams, I would have very little to test them on which would result in a lot of points based on very little information.

Elementary school started this week, but as I'll be spending the next week in Zacapa translating for Children of the Americas, I'm not starting English classes officially until January 30th.  I'll have 3 morning periods (40 minutes each) with the elementary students in 3/4th and 5/6th grades on each of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  The 1/2nd graders will receive English on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the Preschoolers/Kindergarteners will receive English on Tuesdays.  Monday afternoon, I'll have 1 period (30 minutes each) with each of the basico (middle school) grades.  Tuesday afternoons, I will have 1 period with the 8th graders, and 2 periods with each of the 7th and 9th grades.  And then on Wednesday afternoons, I will have 2 periods with each of the 7th and 9th graders and 3 periods with the 8th graders.  (I could have had 2 each Tuesday and Wednesday, but the social studies teacher didn't want to leave a half hour later on Tuesday or come in a half an hour earlier on Wednesday. Yes, that was a co-worker grumble. Making a schedule isn't very easy, and to be completely fair, my class would still be interrupted by recess even if he would switch; so the 2 periods together wouldn't be a reality anyway.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Fond Farewell (Day 447)

Today the world says goodbye to a great man.  He is a man who fought against poverty in the Great Depression, against Axis powers in World War II, to win the hand and heart of the woman he loved, to build a business from the ground up, to raise five children, for the American economy, to achieve all that he ever dreamed, and to live (and die) how he wanted.  This man is my grandfather.

I remember my grandfather differently than most people, probably than anyone.  Grandpa and I had different experiences together than he had with the rest of his family members.  I lived in his apartment for 5 months (back in 2008 and 2009); he was, at the time, "dying."  You have to realize that I believed that to be complete poppycock, and that he just died this morning is proof that I was right. I also attended church with him for the greater part of the last 4 years, and I tend to think of his church as my church even though I'm not a member there.  (They are my sending church and through whom my fundraising is collected.)

I described my grandfather last night as a bouncy ball.  You are likely familiar with the idea that if you drop, not throw, a bouncy ball, it will fall to hit the floor and come back, but not quite as high.  My grandfather's health has been that ball over the past who knows how many years.  My very first memory of my grandfather is from when I was about six years old.  He, my brother, and I were going on an outing.  I'm not sure if we were going to the circus, the fair, or maybe just out to eat.  We had a vehicle with a bench seat (perhaps his old pickup truck which he eventually gave to our cousin Sarah), and Justin and I were seated next to my grandfather.  I remember my grandfather explaining a little bit about the car to my brother.  He said something about how if anything should happen to him (Grandpa) while driving that all my brother had to do--and do quickly!--was to get our grandfather's foot off the accelerator, that the vehicle would slow before too long.  Perhaps my grandfather has been bouncing for the greater part of my lifetime, but it didn't become obvious until the last few years how low that ball was bouncing.  He has always said to "Spend each day as though you'll live forever, but keep your bags packed."  Basically, live as sin-free as humanly possible, ready to meet your Savior, but don't dwell on death.

I wrote a poem in March.  I wrote it about my grandfather and the wife (who died a few years ago) of a friend.  I would like to share that with you here:
By Annalisa Simmer

Death is a funny thing.
All bodies die,
But not everybody dies.
Some people--
Many, in fact--
Are immortal.
We do not truly die...
At least not for a long time after we are dead.
Every photograph with a name scribbled on the back,
Every memory,
Every family story passed down from generation to generation,
Every life changed,
Every heart touched...
We do not die at our deaths;
We are only judged as to how we have influenced the world.

I don't cry today because my grandfather is not dead.  His soul is in Heaven with God, and who he was--his influence on the world--lives on.  I may no longer be able to give him hugs and introduce him to new people, but otherwise, nothing has changed.  I still hear his words of wisdom in my head.  I still hear the stories of his childhood as I read them written down.  I can still go visit him (or his earthly remains).  I can still see him in my photos.  And, most of all, I can continue to love him.

Anyway, this entry gets put in my blog because my grandfather has long been a supporter of my mission work.  He has taken every chance to tell me that he's proud of the work I'm doing in Guatemala.  From a man who I love and respect so very much, it was an honor to hear that.  I know he missed me.  I'm well aware that there are others among my family and friends who miss me as well.  It was my grandfather's support--letting me know how proud he was of what I'm doing--which has helped me along.  The man with the biggest pull in my life is the one who gave me his blessing and love to go do what I do.  For that, I--and those whose lives I have touched in Guatemala--are grateful.

Dear Grandpa,
Thanks for being who you've been.

Dear God,
Keep taking care of him as You have been.