Disclaimer: The opinions and beliefs expressed in this blog are my personal thoughts and do not reflect any position of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Convos about religion


Today is the final day of cultural week at the high school, so I went with Alba and watched some people sing, awards, typical stuff, food, prizes, kinda boring. I was able to talk to one of the Doctors from Peace Corps because I'm still sick with a bad cough. She told me of a few things that I should go to buy at the pharmacy for my cough/cold/infection, whatever it is. After lunch Alba went with me to San Vicente to get the meds.

From there we went to the church in San Vicente and visited her two friends who are nuns there, both from Brazil; one’s name is Maria, the other Christiana or something. Maria was trying to convince Alba to buy a lot of bingo tables for a bingo event at the church on Oct. 31. She was making us laugh how excited she was about it and all the people in Alba’s family she said should buy one, including me haha.

On the way back, Alba was asking me how I knew that she was once a nun, cuz she thought that someone must have told me about it or something. A few days ago I had asked her if she wanted to be a nun just because of the way she was talking. We were having a conversation about religion at the time and she talked about all these classes that she's taken. I guess I’m the first person that’s asked her without previously knowing. She told me she was a nun at one point in time for 4 months, but then her parents put the stop to it. She would come home on weekends and they would give her money to go back on the bus, and one weekend they wouldn't give her money so she couldn't go back, and she said she got back into her old lifestyle where she didn't have such a structured schedule as when she was a nun. I explained to her that I could kinda tell by the way talks about God and religion, I was just curious because it seems like a big part of her life. I also told her about my experiences where I was pretty religious in high school and beginning of college, but my views or thoughts changed when I met people in college who are really good people but don’t believe in God. In a previous conversation I had said something like, sometimes God lets bad things happen to good people, and she thought I was referring to myself and wanted to know an example of that kind of situation. We didn’t talk much more about it because I didn’t really know how to explain how my views had changed or why, and the reasons I did know I didn’t want to share with her at this point.

So Embarrassing!!


Today I went to San Vicente to Cleo's office and do random things like use the internet and such. To get home, I took a new bus called the Flavio Alfaro Abierta. It's a bus I've never taken before, and basically there are no windows or anything, it's almost a trailer with benches and then a roof, so the sides are open.

As we were getting close to Salinas I started getting nervous about how I was gonna get down because getting up was a little hard, the step is really high. As I turned around to get off, I just stretched my right leg to find the ground and kind of half-jumped to get off when I heard a ripping noise. I SPLIT MY PANTS GETTING OFF THE BUS! They are my nicest pair of jeans and my favorite! As I started walking down the street I realized that my pants had ripped, and I started freaking out that people would be able to see the rip and my but! The rip was more in between my legs and up to the back pocket, but I wasn't sure what it looked like from behind. I ended up taking a detour to avoid the park where there were a lot of people, and made it home without anyone saying anything. I was so irritated at the time because I feel like I've been gaining weight, and I tried to make myself "experience" something new by taking that bus, and this happens! After I calmed down I told my friend Ang who called later, and it was pretty funny in retrospect.

School differences


I helped Alba teach a class for a teacher that couldn't come to the school today. When we arrived it was recess and some kids were climbing up on the soccer goals and it seemed pretty dangerous, there wasn’t much supervision. Then a group of students were gathered in a big room to prepare for a drama that they are going to put on this Friday at the high school. This week is cultural week and Friday is the end with lots of ceremonies and presentations. It was interesting to see how the two teachers tried to organize the students because it seemed like the kids were very much in control, and the teachers were not organized in the way they wanted to teach the kids a dance, so there was a lot of down time which caused the students to be very loud and ancy, something normal for their age. The teacher was asking them to be quiet for 5 minutes and then they could start but that didn’t happen. She tried organizing a group and started the song that they were gonna dance to, but eventually it seemed like everyone got tired of trying and all the kids left and the teacher unplugged the tv that was playing the song. The kids were also distracted because there was a little boy who got hurt on the playground (I thought they were supposed to be in class but there were some students still playing unsupervised), and he had fallen from the soccer goal and busted up his nose or something. His mother came to complain but I couldn’t hear the conversation, she was obviously frustrated and said she was mad that no one was supervising the kids. Alba said that each teacher rotates for playground duty each week, but there are 140 students and only one person to supervise? That’s not fair to the teacher and definitely not to the students. I asked why 2 people don't supervise together at least, and Alba just said they have their system already.

We went to the 3rd grade classroom to teach and she taught some math, adding and subtracting. Many children in the classroom said they didn’t have a pencil to write with, and so they didn’t do their work. There was a lack of supplies in the classroom and I thought it was really sad that a child would suffer due to not having something to write with, something that one would think a school would provide for its students. However there is a lack of funding and support it seems for many schools. The class went alright, but a lot of times students are out of their seats and yelling, stealing each others stuff. many needed more individual attention and I wondered if the material they were being taught was over their heads or something. Afterwards a lot of the kids were asking me to say something in english but I said I wouldn’t for the students that didn’t do their work in class! It was a frustrating experience at the lack of organization and discipline, but also the expectation for some of the kids to sit still and just write, instead of doing more interactive activities.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RAR I'm a sick monster!


The past few days or week I think I've been sick with a bad cough. Today I felt more sick and everyone fussed over the reasons, mostly they said because I drank beer yesterday and this is terrible for you when you are sick. Supposedly I got sick in the first place from waking up early and going running when it's dusty outside and the air is cold. My host mom says that I should stop running, because getting up and running in shorts and a t-shirt when I'm not used to the cold air is bad for me, and then I come back and take a cold shower when my body heat is up. I don't feel any cold air at this point, I'm always warm! It makes me laugh when I hear all these random reasons why I'm sick and what I shouldn't do so I can recover. In our culture when someone is sick, you're sick. We still go to work unless we're dying, pound the cough meds and Tylenol, and even will keep going to the gym for the chance we'll "sweat it out". Anyways, today I stayed in my pjs like all day and thought I had a slight fever, so I relaxed did basically nothing. Alba came over and she said i scared her cuz I looked terrible and I popped out from the window when she walked up.

Festival de Chame en La Segua


Today is the Festival de Chame. Chame is a type of fish, I honestly don't know what the comparison would be to fish in the States, but supposedly it's an international festival in honor o this world-known fish! So I went to the festival with Alba, Adriana, Milena, and Armando. It was pretty basic, felt like a County Fair setting with dancers and singers, clowns, food, booze, and souvenirs, but on a smaller scale. For the most part we sat around and talked, drank beer, and ate tongas. I explained what this is in an earlier blog post, but they're big tamales or burrito-type things, with fish, rise, peanut butter sauce, and banana wrapped up in a big tree leaf. Obviously for the festival there was Chame in the tonga, not a big fan to be honest. It was pretty hot outside so it was nice to be in the shade. Usually there's a lot of dancing but we stayed for the afternoon and left before things really got going I think.

Above is a picture of us at the festival, from left it's Adriana, Milena, me, Armando, and you can see the tonga open on the table. Doesn't look the greatest but they are usually pretty good, I just didn't like the Chame. Sorry festival!

Life of Camaroneras/Pescadores


So the title means the Life of Fishermen and the people who raise Shrimp, not sure if "raise" is the correct term, but you get it. They help the little guys grow and then sell 'em! The picture above is the shrimp pool behind my host families house. The guy in the boat in the background is Aurelio, my host dad's son, who works for his dad feeding the shrimp and basically doing everything to raise them.

Ok their life=NOT EASY. It’s actually very dangerous. Salinas is a big fishing town and also big for shrimp production, or seafood in general. One day while I was on the bus, I saw a fishing boat on the water and there were tons of birds swarming, waiting for fish to steal from the fishermen, obviously they need the fish too so there’s some competition. And risk of being bit by the birds. Also, Adriana told me that a lot of times people are killed because they try to rob the fisherman or shrimp pools to make money. So the Camaroneras are very protective, and if you cross their land at night it’s risky because they will most likely assume you’re trying to rob them. On the other hand, there are others who have their fisherman’s license and are still killed as being assumed as theives. She told me a story of a couple men who were fishing and some camaroneras killed them. First they tied them up, and then stuffed live fish down their throats, and then tied rocks to their legs and arms, and dumped them into the water. Intense, and they were innocent men who had their licenses and had a right to be fishing at the time.

Other risks again are the birds; in most camaron (shrimp) pools, there are nets that will trap birds who fly down and try to eat the shrimp. Birds may eat 15-20 shrimp per day, and over a period of 3 months which is the harvesting period, that’s a lot of shrimp and a lot of money that can be lost. Also, not every harvest turns out 100% perfect of course. Some months a family could make $1500 if all the shrimp are healthy and a good size; other times they may lose that amount of money because all the shrimp die for some reason.

According to Chinese medicine I have a loooot of problems!


Today after Alba and I finished doing the census for the day, we went to her cousin Milena's house because she wanted to do this health test on me. Ummmm ok what does that mean!?! Milena works for Tiens, a Chinese herbal store or something. She hooked me up to this machine and then someone else uses a pencil-looking thing to poke different areas of your left hand which correspond to different illnesses. It sends out an electric wave or something, and if the shock hurts there’s something wrong, but if not then you’re healthy. There's a corresponding sheet of paper with numbers on it, and the numbers signify a different illness or ailment. I was pretty jumpy throughout the test, the shock did not feel good!! Supposedly I have gastritis, collitis, high blood pressure!, leg pain, bad lungs (cuz i’m currently sick), and some other stuff. I said my stomach problems must be from the food, and I’ve never had high blood pressure so if that’s true I also attribute it to the food!