03 September 2006

Note: This is a continuation of "beginning Training," written before. our days start at 7:30, not with lunch.We have lunch between 11:30. Those of us who live in Santa Lucèa, the town in which the center is in, either walk home for lunch or have our mamás bring us our lunches. Most of us, however, live in the neighboring towns. Our host mamas pack us lunches like we're little kids. Down here they say that lunch (almuerzo) is the biggest meal of the day, but it doesn't seem true for me. I don't know if that's because my food must be portable, but they all seem about the same to me -- big. Dinner (cena) is the biggest meal for me because you have a mama asking you if you want seconds. We all peek into our little sacks looking to see what they gave us. Almost always there is bread (pan). The first time I saw normal bread here I assumed that somebody in the familia worked at a bakery (panaderia) and had just brought home leftover hot dog rolls. In retrospect, I'm very glad I didn't know the word for hot dog rolls to make that mistake. The other pan, bread. It's more like those sweet breads that you can buy at the bread outlets because nobody buys them in stores except little old ladies. Today my host brother was eating one that looked like a gingerbread fish. They are all really good with coffee, though.Besides the pan, I usually get some leftovers from the night before, which is in no way a bad thing. Always another carbohydrate, such as boiled potatoes or other things like potatoes. In addition, I've gotten a meat nearly every meal. I'm very surprised by this and kind of hope that they stop. It's not that I don't enjoy the food -- it's amazing, but I know that meat costs a lot and don't want them to empty their pockets on something that I don't often eat stateside. Often there's some fruit besides, such as a couple bananas, which are tiny. I think they're just like the bananas in the States, but it makes me wonder if our bananas are freakishly large and the Guatemalan banana is what they're supposed to look like. The best, though, is when you get some pineapple or papaya. Sometimes you get pineapple with cinnamon on it, which is the best. I think you can't do that as much in the states because it's not always so sweet, but if you have a good pineapple some time, cinnamon it up! After lunch, we do four more hours of class.It's usually technical time, which means I'm out with people in my program (agriculture marketing) and often together with the food security program as well. The primary difference is that food security teaches skills in agriculture itself, while we worry about things such as more efficient packaging, finding new markets in cities, and possibly identifying crops that are more profitable. Each program has a person who is identified as their trainer. He or she is almost always a host-country national, or HCN (which is our term for local. Unfortunately, it seems like every not-for-profit has a word that means them, as in not us.)Spanish classes work like this: there are about five people who speak some English but are from the area. That's really nice because they not only speak the language, but knowwhat sounds a little weird to say. Spanish varies so much between countries and between regions that you really need somebody who understands what just sounds awkward. The Master Teacher (which is like the administrator of all of the classes) is actually Argentinean, and you can tell there's a difference in his accent.Anyway, there's five or six teachers. Each program (or pair of programs in my case) is divided among five teachers, based on the ability of the students. At times, if you fall behind or jump ahead of your classmates, they move you to a different class.Aside: I expect to fall behind once probably, because they put me in the second smartest class.Particularly because the smartest class is full of fluent speakers who just need to know cultural idiosyncrasies. One of the girls who is fluent told me that she found out the hard way that the word for cool in a country she had lived in means sex in Guatemala. Hey, kid, your bicycle is really sexy. Oops.Average class size is three. There aren't any books, and the classrooms are smaller than my closet at home. Tio Esteban, you were absolutely right.We stress vocabulary more than anything. The teachers are wonderful and very frank.Other aside: there is one vowel difference between "don't worry about it," and "you shouldn't have a male sex organ." That one's bad to either gender.Safety & security training are the least interesting as far as content, but we have a very amiable security coordinator that keeps things interesting without realizing how entertaining he is. He's a former Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV) and keeps our attention because we're all a little terrified of getting held up on a chicken bus (more later).Health is at least as mundane, but I've been told that the diarrhea lecture is coming up and is supposed to keep us on our toes -- mostly because it's likely one of us already has it but hasn't admitted it. Mostly health time right now is dedicated to giving us vaccinations. I swear that the veins in my arms are going to collapse like a heroine addict's. It's always around lunchtime and there's been more than one joke about the fact that our schedule always includes "Lunch & Shots."Aside: Unfortunately for women here, they can't drink in the cantinas without being considered a "woman of ill repute." What I think stinks about that is that they can't even see inside them, then. As an hombre, at least I don't have limitations on places I can see, even if the guys might think I'm a little weird if I am helping make the tortillas.While homosexuality is unacceptable in most of the country, there is a "gay scene" in the cities of Antigua and Guatemala city (Guaté), but only for men. While Americans will tolerate Ellen but gag at men, Guatemala somehow goes the opposite way. Maybe it's because doesn't have the stereotype of HIV as the disease of gay men. They know HIV as the disease that somehow they think no Guatemalan gets. Fact: Guatemala has the second highest HIV rate in Central America.We also have days called "Community Integration" days, which I really like the idea of. It's the hands-on stuff. We go into the community and get to work on fitting in and working with people who don't get paid to coddle us with kind words in English. We may have to help out with a community garden, work in a field, or do things that are everyday here, like learn how to ride a bus, ask a favor, make a friend out of a stranger, make a meal, or even dance the way Guatemalans dance.We have other classes about how to keep stress levels down, history of the country, and what exactly is development, but they are rare & I haven't had any of them yet.Just a final note our training: This is known as Center-Based Training, and is one of the two ways Peace Corps volunteers go through training. We have a center which is like a mini-campus. Many of the PC Guatemala offices are in the center and classrooms. In the center, toilets flush like normal, just about everybody speaks at least some English, and you get to pass your time with your gringo peers. In other countries, all the learning is in the community without permanent teachers, substantial contact with other trainees, or actual classrooms. The upside to center-based training is that you are less likely to drown. The downside is that you're less likely to take off your floaties. It sounds like lots of people end up hanging out with the other trainees, speaking in English in all with the other volunteers.Being close to the city of Antigua, which is a tourist center, you don't even need to pretend that you live in Guatemala during your weekends if you try. I try really hard to hang out with my family and people that will speak Spanish to me, but sometimes it's really hard. Sometimes, you just struggle to find a Guatemalan that wants to put up with your terrible language skills and, well, lack of anything clever or interesting to say. Also, you don't even have the cultural cues to know what is funny & what is rude. The funniest story I heard all day was that one of the volunteers ate beans all summer to prepare his gastrointestinal tract for Guatemala. Since he arrived, he has eaten no beans, and, therefore, has been going through fiber deficiency and has pooped once. I know that I can tell my host brothers (hermanos) this story, but I really struggled to decide if when my host mother asked if anyone was sick if she would find that funny or crass. Luckily this time my host mother thought it was funny and my host father was around too and he thought it was hilarious that a stupid norteamericano would eat beans for three months for no good reason.

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