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?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

porn? potato!

I called my friend (and fantastic comic book artist) Tony Akins about a week ago to say hey and hear about life in Chicago. (Oh, Chicago Cubs, when will you stop breaking my heart?) And he simply stated, “Your Spanish must be excellent at this point.” Sorry doll, I have to disagree with you there. I can order food, talk about going to the states, even explain my ethnicity with no problem, but there are times when I make a small mistake and boom! start from scratch.

Case in point: Thursday afternoon, a handful of kids from my 6th grade class knock on the door. I open the door and see them sitting outside on the ground and they are silent and looking awkward.

K: Hi…?
6th: Hey….do you have…one of those things?
K: What?
6th: You know, one of those things that a person needs.
K: [Confused look on face]
6th: The thing that you use…
K (thinking): Is this happening? Am I listening correctly?
6th: We heard…(laughing)
K: What do you guys need?
Brayan: (pulling out wallet) This! This is what we need (opens up wallet and shows me an unused condom).
K (thought process/freak out in head): Dude, you are 12 years old. You don’t have a girlfriend. Are you just carrying that around as some sort of status symbol? Still, you’re freaking me out. How am I ever going to be able to give you sex ed charlas without feeling like a parent? Or worse, a whore because I ‘have the information’? And why are you coming to me asking for condoms? Do I have some sort of rep as the condom girl? Or maybe it’s a good thing that you’re coming to me, because you feel as though you are comfortable enough with me to ask questions. I should be helping you, right? Dang Brayan, you are 12!

Brayan: We need one of these.
K: For what? No way!

The aforementioned statement in Spanish is ‘Por? No, papa!’…but I said it in a way that sounded more like ‘porno papa’ (porn potato) and the kids called me on it. They started asking, “What’s porn?”

That’s when I told them that if they want some condoms, they could go to the health center and get them because they are cheap and available. I have to get cracking on those sex ed charlas soon. As for the explanation of porn, I didn’t even get to that. They booked as soon as I told them that the health center had condoms.

So there you go Tony Akins, again with the potatoes.

dance dance revolution

Feria time again in San Ramón! I didn’t attend all the events (like church or the first presentation of the candidates for queen) but I tried to attend the more important ones. I did miss the cultural night at the colegio, which made me sad, but I wasn’t feeling well and since it was raining, I didn’t want to risk getting sicker and missing out on the disco. I taught English the next day and a few of my students came up to me and said, “You missed out on cultural night! You were brought up at rey feo!”

Rey Feo, ‘Ugly King’, is kind of a mock election that towns generally hold during their ferias. The guy candidates dress up as females but in the tackiest outfits they can find and an ugly king is crowned. But the big thing about rey feo is that people in town get roasted. For example, “Prof. Jhonny has been drafted by the Lakers because they need some tall players!” (He’s 5’3”). Mine was, “Catita, who’s your boyfriend of the month? Prof. Jhonny? No, that’s old news. Prof. Oscar? Yeah, they’re the ideal couple. No, he has 5 girlfriends. Where’s that curly head guy that visited you? Maybe he’s the new one.” I’m actually glad I wasn’t there for that because that’s pretty embarrassing.

Friday the 4th was the election of the queen. It wasn’t as exciting as last year because they didn’t do it in rounds. Instead, the candidates were presented and then people had an hour to cast votes (aka put money into an envelope) for the girl they wanted to be queen. The fun part was that during that hour, the coordinator cleared the stage and turned off the lights for a mini disco. For the first few minutes, it was similar to a 7th grade dance with people on either side of the room staring at each other. One of the kids from my class came up to me and pulled me to the stage. It was embarrassing at first, but a lot of people started screaming my name which made it really fun. Plus, the DJ said, “And here we have our North American cutie dancing with someone that isn’t Prof. Oscar! Watch out Oscar!” Soon after, people started coming to the dance floor and it was a good time. After the hour was up, the director of the colegio announced the queen and that was it. No drama of opening up each envelope and pulling out 2000 lempiras for their candidate.

Tuesday the 8th was the actual feria with the crowning of the queen and the real disco. The crowning was held on the main road and wasn’t that big of a deal, except to those who participated in it. I took a few pics but mainly chatted with people about the soon to be disco.

The disco was held in the ‘town hall’, like last year, except it was held in the outdoor part of the town hall. It was much better because it was cooler outside, there was a projection screen playing videos and it was professional looking. After all the candidates danced their traditional waltz, Luis grabs my hand and we start dancing. I danced with him and Brayan for the majority of the night. At one point during the night, a drunken guy grabbed my arm and kept asking me to dance with him (even though I was dancing with Luis). Luis moves me to the other side of the dance floor and the drunk guy follows us, stares at us for a minute then yells ‘Bitch!’ and throws his can of beer at Luis and I and leaves. Whatever. I dance until my legs are burned out (4 puntas in a row? Are you crazy?!) and I leave at 1 am. Much earlier than the year before but I didn’t have to deal with any idiots…always a good thing. My last feria… a little bittersweet. A little.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

letting go

I’ve had a bit of mini drama the past year with the colegio:

-The library not functioning the way it is supposed to…while it is in the correct spot now teachers’ desks are still crowding the space because there is no other space for them.

-The overall corruption of the director and sub-director. They push and push the teachers to work while they sit around and drink coffee. They really don’t get why PC was upset that the library was moved to the smaller room last year. It seems perfectly normal in their eyes.

-I am seen as a substitute teacher to the director. When a teacher doesn’t show up, he expects me to make up a charla on the spot. If I could b.s. in Spanish like I can in English, then it would be no problem. But I need time.

-Oscar, Juvini, Jhoni, etc. “Who’s the flavor of the month?” No thanks. I am not interested in any of them.

-There are only so many cat calls I can take from the students. Do you think you impress me with “I want to suck you”? No dice.

-The colegio functions well without me.

With that being said, I am weaning myself off colegio and focusing more on the grade school and the health center. I feel less stressed out now that I haven’t been there for about 6 weeks. It’s not that I hate them, I still say hello to the teachers and students when I see them on the main road, help any student that comes to my house with their homework and will still attend social functions. But I have no intention on showing up everyday like last year to sit around.

I plan on giving self-esteem charlas to my 6th graders in addition to the English classes. Eventually I am hoping that I will get them comfortable enough with me to give them sex ed charlas (!) (with approval of the teachers). Even if I don’t get that to that point, I think it will be enjoyable to work on self-esteem with them. And if you read my last blog, you know that I’m also trying to form a mini library for the grade school.

At the health center, I plan to continue with going to other communities and weigh babies and give charlas to pregnant girls. In March, I gave a charla about what happens the first 3 months of pregnancy and several women actually seemed interested. Great success!

This was a hard decision for me to come to …but is it fair for me to be unhappy during my last months? Is it fair that I stay at colegio with them while being unhappy? I just think that my unhappiness would be contagious and show. This is not to say that I’m done DONE with colegio but I am trying my best to cut them out and do work that is interesting to me and work that I feel actually makes a difference.