This blog reflects my personal views and not the views of the Peace Corps. This is for the cross-cultural enjoyment of my friends and family.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Situation

So, maybe this is more for my own benefit than for the people reading. It's interesting to see how this political situation is affecting the amount of work we have. I'm excusing my lack of significant work, but also trying to understand what's going on.

Yesterday, I went with Cooperacion Espanola people to an aldea near Corquin to train them on health and their new water system. Both sides of the project were great to work with and I'm kind of disappointed I didn't have the opportunity to work with them earlier. Cooperacion is really organized and does a lot of work in the area, and after working really closely with a lesser organized Honduran development office I was pretty thrilled at their "organization." Also, on the part of the community, they were really motivated and seem like they're going to be responsible about their water system.

Actually, an "older" Volunteer did the study. He's done a few studies in my area that I've come across, and the communities are always very enthusiastic when they talk about him. He's since left, but I feel like he's haunting me!
"Do you know Engineer (they're formal) X??" they say with beaming faces.
"I know OF him, but I don't know him personally."
I feel a little inferior, because A) I'm a woman and I will never live-up to the fact he was/is male B)He just seemed to be great at getting to know communities and I'm still acquiring those skills. These are my own insecurities.

Anyways, the charla went all right. I was supposed to cover community health and how it relates to their water system. A lot of systems here are designed for the application of chlorine, but many of the communities don't use it because they don't follow instructions and put too much in. As a result, people complain about the smell/taste of the chlorine and they stop using it all together. People here still get a lot of diseases from their water because it isn't treated, and that's a really significant marker of a lack of development in a country. As a result, a lot of trainings with communities after their water systems are built revolve around chlorinating water and why they need to do these things.

Anyways, I had prepared a powerpoint (crazy, right!), but we didn't end up getting a projector and I just stood up and talked. This is never a good way to present, especially when the people don't know you/don't understand you very well. So I got a little disorganized and discouraged by that and didn't feel as great about the charla as I wanted too. I think they understood me, which is really all that matters, but I felt repetitive and really boring.

On the drive down from the community I was asking my companions how the political situation was affecting their work. They said that they have been directed to finish out their current projects, but the funding for future projects has been "frozen" until there is further word on the political situation. That seems to be the word with a lot of projects funded by foreign organizations/governments.

I was pretty surprised last week to hear that a local government in the area had stopped their projects purely because of the political situation, as they already had the funds. I thought that was interesting. What's the difference?

So I really need to push myself more. I need to make a more concerted effort to get to communities and be visible. Even if I'm not doing Wat/San work I will be visible in communities that might need water. If I get the word out then it will be easier to find projects. I can't wait for people to find me. I knew this all along, but I've got to put myself out there more, especially during this financial/political problem.

Thing is, unlike some of the other Wat/Saners, my counter-part doesn't focus on water. They're mostly agricultural projects, therefore they don't have anything to offer me themselves. What I should be doing, is going out with them and talking to people about their systems, their Juntas de Agua, and finding the problems and offering to help. This is my plan.

You know what I forgot? I am the first Wat/San Volunteer to be in this area for a while. There was Chris, but he was far away and only did a few studies out this direction. Amazing, he lived far away and had more work to do than I do, and I live right here. There's work, but because I'm a new Volunteer, people definitely need to know I'm here.

Yes, this is mostly me coaching myself, but it helps.

Yesterday, Carlos (one of the Wat/San bosses)sent out a couple of text messages asking us to respond to how the political situation is affecting our work...

"We'd like to know how this political situation is affecting your service. Are you safe? Rate High or Super busy. Challenges??"

Um ... Carlos? HELLO! Number One: I think it's unfair for the scale to only include HIGH or SUPER busy. I mean, that just makes me feel bad! There should be an option "Sitting Around With Your Thumbs Up Your Ass."

Challenges: NOBODY IS WORKING! I mean, people are working, but projects are only finishing and no one is interested on taking on new things right now. Add that to the difficulty of jumping on already started projects, and you've got a lovely mess of NO WORK!

My email to them, of course, was more polite, and I'm glad that they're inquiring. Sometimes I'm not sure that Peace Corps is really in tune to what's happening on the grass roots levels with us, but then they surprise you. They're usually just late on getting out. Actually, maybe this was prompted by FIVE Volunteers from my group leaving in the past week. Yes, FIVE!!! They're dropping like flies and it's really terrifying. I'm sad when anyone leaves, but I don't want my closer friends to go.

Well, these are the trials and tribulations of life during political instability. Actually, it's not really instability, but nonetheless things are definitely slower. Damn. Take care!

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