Kathryn's Peace Corps Adventure

The opinions expressed and experiences described in this blog are mine personally. Any musings that you read here are not affiliated or endorsed by Peace Corps or U.S. government. Or Starbucks. And I'm not making any money from any of this, so don't send a lawsuit my way. Got it?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

one more time

School ‘started’ Monday with some of the same old tricks. For the first time in a long, long time, I arrived early to colegio only to see all the students hanging outside the school. As I get closer to the colegio, I notice that the gate to enter is locked and the director is nowhere to be found. Class normally starts at 725 am…the sub director arrives around 830 and ‘classes’ begin at 900, which is to say that the students spent the morning cleaning their classrooms and bringing in desks, while the teachers were busy registering students for the school year. At the ‘end of the day’ (1130), the sub director announces that there won’t be classes officially until Thursday so that students can register, make up exams from last year and the teachers can get organized.

Tuesday, the director shows up and when I arrive, he tells me to start clearing out the library because it is moving back to its’ original spot…!!!!! Really?!

Sort of. We move to the original building but end up splitting the room…half library/half teachers lounge. Basically, we have the same amount of space but we’re in the original room built for the library. Why? So the director/sub director can move their desks into what was the old library and have their own space. Also, if my project manager were to say something about the situation, the director could counter with ‘Well, it’s in its’ original spot, right?’ (He has a point, I suppose.) I’m not complaining though because now the library is with all the teachers that I get along with which means making faces at Oscar & Juvini all day (real mature, I know).

To keep it on a positive note, it is one step closer to being how it once was and it only took a year to get there. Maybe by next year, the whole building will be the library that it was originally planned to be…

Saturday, February 03, 2007

hace dos años

Two years ago this journey began, more or less. I interviewed and was nominated for a position in non-Spanish speaking South America. This time two years ago, I was in Chicago, working at Starbucks, waiting to find out where I was going to be sent. Peace Corps at the time was only a figment of my imagination. Now I’m here in Honduras living a dream that I only pictured in my head. I still have a good 10 months of this journey but I do think that some things have changed from two years ago.

…two years ago, the Bears were eliminated by the Eagles even though they had home field advantage. And now they will be playing in the Super bowl tomorrow…how bittersweet is that?! I’m stoked that they’re in and sad that I’m 3000 miles away. Regardless, I will be cheering them on here as I watch them on ESPN in Spanish, texting friends (and my dad) constantly for their perspective/analysis and positive thoughts (I don’t even want to talk about the line!). I hope that they so I can celebrate like no other…

mic check one two

On the 26th, I was in Tegucigalpa with a few other PCVs to record an English vocabulary CD for English manuals that were created by former PCVs.

In a short description, Honduran teachers of 4th-6th grade are required to start teaching English, though most of them are not qualified to teach English. Because of this, some former PCVs created manuals to teach teachers about English and how to teach it in their classrooms. One PCV, Blair, came up with the idea that we should make a supplemental CD to go along with the manual so that the teachers could practice English outside of the classroom. We are supposed to teach teachers in our sites using these manuals, but I used them to teach my 5th and 6th grade classes, though this year I am planning to teach the teachers at the grade school.

We recorded at the national radio station, which was semi-ghetto fabulous. It was along a dirt road in a small building with a sign hanging out in front; no different than a Coca-Cola sign that would hang out of a small market.

Recording a vocabulary CD is tough stuff. For me, the tough part was that I really had to concentrate while I read my script. Example:


I had to try my best to space the words evenly. Since they’re words that I know, I subconsciously read the words faster because it was common knowledge to me, but I know that it’s not to the teachers that will be using the CD.

Halfway through the recording, the coordinator starts fussing with the computer and says, “I think I lost all the files”. Come again? We had already been working for almost 2 hours at that point and the thought of starting over made me sick. After some more fussing and the magic of auto recovery, he found the files and we were re-energized to finish up and get some lunch.

It was a really cool experience to learn about the making of a CD and to see the national radio station too.


From the 22nd to the 27th, I was in Santa Lucia and Tegucigalpa attending a workshop for youth development. It was great to see people from my training group that I hadn’t seen in 7 months. PC put us up in this sweet hotel in Santa Lucia that wasn’t there during our training. It was huge and I lucked out by getting a single room, only because I was the last person to check in. The single room was just so nice, though semi-awkward because there was an 8 ft x 5 ft mirror on one of the walls next to bed (wonder why???). The coolest thing was that there was a trampoline in the backyard that the owner told us we were welcome to use at any time.

The workshop was alright, just intense. After being a PCV for over a year, it is hard to do a schedule of 9 hours straight (I should shut up now right?), when I am used to a schedule of 5 hours during the school year or a schedule of basically nothing now that school is out. We did get to play baseball for a bit and I hope that I may be able to actually throw a baseball without looking like a total idiot by years end. (maybe)

The first night was super rad though because my friends Crystal and Simon read my blog about the dog eating my bday cake and surprised me with a plate full of cupcakes for my bday! How cool is that?! After chilling at the hotel and going to the bar in Santa Lucia for a bit, we all came back to the hotel and played on the trampoline. It was scary and fun at the same time. Some volunteers had trampolines as kids and were really good at making people fly on them. Me, being clumsy as ever, kept my balance for about a minute before falling in the center. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one and by night’s end, a handful of us were in the center huddled up on each other while everyone else bounced around to get us flying up. It was fun cuddling and screaming at the same time.

The second night was spent playing Taboo, old youth development (us) vs. new youth development. It was amusing watching people play under the influence because they would shout out answers that made no sense or give clues that provided no help. (‘Come on K, you know this one. You know it!’…um, that provides no help if I don’t have a clue.) Then again, I was not drinking and I still sucked at Taboo.

It was a little bittersweet too because I know that I won’t see some of these people again until our close of service conference (yes, there is an end, and it is closer than I thought!!!) in September. All I could do was enjoy the moment while it lasted.

squirrels in my stomach

From the 14th to the 19th, I worked as an interpreter for a medical brigade in Cololaca, Lempira, a town about 3 hours from San Ramón. I worked with several other PCVs and team of doctors that came down from Arkansas to provide free medical care for a week.

It was a really rewarding experience. I worked in triage the week with a sassy nurse named Renessa. She was fun to work with because she was a ‘take no crap’ kind of person. While she did vital signs, I would ask the person what was wrong with them and then tell Renessa what they told me. In the beginning, I would ask a lot of questions but learned that I should ask as little as possible. Here is why:

K: Tell me why you’re here today.
-Well, I have headaches and body aches. And a shooting pain throughout my arm.
K: A pain in your arm or numbness?
-Yes. (Yes to the pain or to the numbness?)
K: Both?
-And pain in my stomach too.
K: Like a burning?
-Yeah, that too.

Basically, they would agree to anything I suggested because they wanted as many free pain medications as they could get. Renessa knew that and would write on their triage sheet in capital letters, in English, ‘DO NOT GIVE MORE THAN ONE BAG OF IBUPROFIN’ which made me laugh.

Throughout the week, I heard interesting descriptions of their symptoms and there were times when I really had to think for a bit about how those descriptions translate to English.

“I feel as though chicken wire is in my body” = “I have pain throughout my body”
“I have squirrels in my stomach” = “I’m suffering from stomach pains”

It was cool because there were many people who came that really needed help. A girl came in with penny sized holes in her feet, a boy came in with botflies in his leg, several women came in with cysts that needed to be drained…and all these services were done for free.

The coolest person I talked to was on the last day though. She told me all her symptoms and I asked if there was anything else. She hesitated for a few seconds then poured out,

“I am having problems having an orgasm with my husband. Everyone seems to enjoying it except for me. Is it my fault or my husband’s?”

Wow. I give this woman credit because that is something hard to talk about in any culture, but especially in one where talking about sex is still taboo. I also had to control my desire to laugh because she caught me off guard. I just told her that she can talk to the doctor about it more in depth. Now that I look back on it, I wish I had talked to her more because it would have been an interesting conversation.