Monday, January 26, 2015

Whispers from the Heart

27 de enero 2015
Well after my last blog post, I guess it's time to be serious. Lots of new and exciting and terrifying changes are in the making.

Let's start easy. This up coming month, we will be having an Escojo Enseñar Conference in our area. And I'm in charge of planning (yikes!). Things are slow moving in the planning process but our new approach might become a reality. We want to work closer with the Ministry of Education and the districts; creating a stronger bond in order to support one another more effectively. This will prove to be difficult. But with sustainability being a huge Peace Corps goal? It's exactly the next step we need to take. And we want to prove to them that we are not trying to bring about outside ideas or more work. What we teach and stand behind is precisely what is being sent down by the MofEd. We just want to help!

Next up? The making of an early childhood Manual. With my degree and the experiences that Kinnerly, another volunteer in my area, has, we've been passed the torch. And they want it done by the next time the new group arrives in March (yikes again!!). I'm super excited though and have a lot of passion in this area and see its necessity daily. The dreams behind the book will be a mix of workshops and activities geared towards parents as well as teachers of little ones from birth through age 5. We've met up once now and realized that we have a lot of work ahead of us! Wish us luck!

Just last week I finished up helping out with a two week photography course. Yep, you heard right. Every afternoon, I left my house, praying to God, at noon in search of a ride to Santiago de la Cruz. There, teamed up with Save the Children, was an American couple and their organization, Clark Photography (look em up!). Their life's work? Travelling the world to spread a knowledge of the art of photography. They bring 10 cameras, teach a two week long course to 10 children, and then leave the cameras with whomever is responsible enough and motivated enough to carry on their work. It's phenomenal. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a misunderstanding and 20 kiddos instead of 10 were selected. Because of this, they had to shorten the course to a week, and do it twice. But seeing these munchkins learn and explore their creativity behind the lens of a camera was inspiring. Oh, and my work? They didn't know Spanish. And the woman from Save the Children doesn't know English. So, Jack taught the class in English and I translated everything. Talk about exhausting! I had no idea haha. And sometimes because of transport, I didn't even get home until 7 or 8pm when the class was only from 2-5pm. But on the last day, the 20 students created their own posters with printed pictures that they, themselves took, and their parents, teachers, and friends got to see it all. What a blast. I even got to meet the head Director of Save the Children, who lives in the capital. She is a phenomenal woman. She served in the Peace Corps in Venezuela, became the training director in PC Guatemala, and married a man who served in PC Peru. PCDR and Save the Children have been trying recently to form a better relationship and work closer together here, so it was so awesome to meet her and get a chance to chat a little. I'll definitely be visiting her in the capital soon.

So speaking of the capital... And a change that is exciting and terrifying all at once... Two weeks ago I headed to the PC Office. At 11:15 I had an interview with Brendan, Ann, and Carole. And at 2, a presentation in front of the Senior Staff of PCDR. Why, you ask? A ping pong battle has been going on in my head and heart for some time now. Imagining leaving this country in just four short months when I feel like I've found something incredible here, was bone-shaking. But also thinking of being away from my family is a struggle that remains constant, despite two years now passing. So when my boss sent out an email, asking who in our group might be interested in the PCVL position, I had to make a decision. PCVL? Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. This is a third year volunteer who chooses to stay and work from the capital. They are mainly there for volunteer support but also have a bigger hand in the sector work. Working alongside the bosses rather than just in one community in one corner of the country. Amber was our first PCVL when I arrived in country. I'll never forget the day she showed up at my CBT home with a bottle of wine to share to help calm my nerves and uncertainties. Laila was second. She will always be my rock and faith supporter. The one who fearlessly ran teacher training conferences and reminded me to "Trust in the slow work of God."  And Brendan, our current PCVL, who has trusted in ME while always having that perfect piece of advice to keep me going. My three butterflies throughout my service (butterflies have a beautiful symbolic meaning in this country) that have made me who I am, and made our work a continuing success. If it weren't for them, I don't know if I would have made it through the struggle to learn Spanish, the site change, and the search for purpose. This, and more, I explained in my presentation to all my bosses in the Peace Corps. And not an hour later, I was called up to Carole's office. I got the job.
So another year in this beautiful country of mango trees, bachata music, big brown eyes, and letter fichas has been granted to me. In the hopes that I can be the same support and love that I received for those already here, and for those still to come. That we can keep the initiatives that were brought to life, moving forward, that we can create new ones, always bettering the future together, with what little time we have.
So in April, I am headed to CBT training with the new group for a month. In May, I'll be able to come back to Mariano until June. And in June? Brendan leaves, and I slip in. Living in the capital with higher prices, louder and MORE motos, and less time with munchkins. But hey, luz will pretty much be constant, water, WAY more reliable, and who knows, a calling that will be different, but hopefully just as fulfilling.
Send some prayers to my family? I know how much they support me, but some, aren't as thrilled about the news as others. I love you all. And I hope you know that this decision doesn't mean I don't miss you all terribly. And it doesn't mean I'm never going home. I'm just trying to follow the whispers of someone special that I can hear through the accelerated beating of my heart.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nobel Poop Prize

Yep, I'm going there. And if the talk of bowel movements grosses you out, I would advice that you close this window and carry about your day. But whilst leaving, think about this question: "Why?" Why does talking about something so natural and so common gross you out? (Yes, everyone poops) When so much of what our body is doing or not doing can be read by just a simple glance backwards before the flush? And while I don't have the luxury of seeing what is leaving my body, I've become so much more in tuned to the feeling that it's almost the same as seeing. Now you may leave.

For those of you still here, I would like to inform you that my sister has awarded me the honorary "Nobel Poop Prize." And in recognition of such a prestige award, I would like to make a speech. *deep breath* and here goes:

"Wow, I'm almost speechless. Almost being the key word. How much time do I have allotted for this? Oh well, just warn me when I'm getting close. 
It all started on the 23rd of December. I fell ill with something that is apparently knocking the entire country down. Don't worry though, it only lasts a week goes away on it's own. Food just didn't have the same effect on my body. I tried to eat but it was released rapidly in a form that no one wants to experience. So I ate less. But having the same sensation of urinating happen around the backside continued. And it was exhausting. Draining my energy with every trip to the hole out back (despite never having to push). But I persevered. Ate what I could, stayed near the back door, and kept my shoes on and tied tight. For what felt like eternity. At times my belly blew up with the first attempted morsel of food. The gaseousness built and in time, I would no longer be able to hold it. My front door remained closed to save the neighbors or maybe even the flower bush just outside my gallery. Over the next week things got better with each passing day. I could eat more and be greeted with less bloating. Trips to the hole, lessened. Morning rushes outside in the bitter air became less urgent. And yesterday, the 6 of January (2 weeks of agony), I had my first, successful, solid bowel movement. *waits for applause to soften* Thank you.
My time's almost up? Okay, let me finish.
I want to thank God first and foremost for bringing me through the smell of the darkness and into the crisp fresh air. To my family for raising me to be fearless when it comes to "the talk." (And no, not that talk). To my grandmother for her fabulous nursing background and bravery in teaching her children and grandchildren how to read "the signs" and how to appropriately share them. If it weren't for all of them, I wouldn't have told my Doña my symptoms and I wouldn't have drank that disgusting bitter tea which saved my intestines and colon. If it weren't for all of them, I wouldn't be standing here today. I'd be sitting on top of a hole, questioning the color but knowing the consistency, and asking out loud to the zinc walls of my surroundings, "Why me?" 
I am honored to receive this award. I am a survivor. And I want to continue sharing my story so more survivors like me will no longer be afraid. Stand up from your hole (when the current stops, of course) and shout, "Enough is enough!" I'll hear you in the echoes and together, we will be solid once again. 
Thank you.