Monday, December 8, 2008

Thanksgiving and World AIDS Day

I’m trying to think of everything’s that happened since I last wrote. Thanksgiving went well. We had about 20 people, mostly volunteers, but also a few Americans here teaching at bilingual schools or working with other organizations doing Peace Corps-type work. Everyone there I had met before, and several are some of my best friends here, so it was nice gathering.

We found frozen turkey in the back freezer of a little corner store, which was good because it was easier than killing a turkey, but had me a little worried because we didn’t know how long it had been in that freezer or whether it had been defrosted and refrozen several times. Despite my doubts, the turkey turned out excellent. We had excellent homemade stuffing as well as Stove Top Stuffing, homemade wheat bread and garlic rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and some other dishes. There were many excellent desserts, including pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan pie, dirt dessert, peanut butter chocolate bars, a fruit salad, a jello mold, and more.

Our biggest setback of the day is that the water went out sometime Wednesday night and when I left Friday morning it still had not come back. So we spent all day Thursday without water, which made cleaning, cooking, washing plates, flushing the toilet, etc., a challenge. We took buckets and made trips to neighbors’ houses begging for water. No one in the neighborhood had water, but they all have pilas (like water tanks) whereas the house we were staying at doesn’t, so they were able to spare us some water. Despite all the setbacks, the day turned out really nice.

A couple days before Thanksgiving, my host parents and I had a meeting with a rural bank in one of the aldeas, which we helped form. They invited us for a celebration 1 year anniversary lunch. It was pretty neat to see that this group we helped form and train is going strong a year later. It’s a really great community with motivated people.

This past week we celebrated World AIDS Day, which is December 1st. I organized a small committee to plan events for the day, and we decided to have activities the whole week. Our committee included the Doctor from the health center, the librarian and her assistant, a local pastor, a representative from PDA (the local chapter of World Vision, a Christian aid organization), and representatives from the municipality. The doctor is a woman, and just started at our health center a few months ago, although she lives in our town. I really like her, she’s very motivated and friendly. I’d like to work more with her. Of all the activitys we planned for the week, about half actually happened.

On Monday, the 1st, we had an inauguration of the week, with the mayor, doctor, and pastor giving little speeches, and then, with the school band and some HIV/AIDS banners, we walked from the health center to the park. Our town’s TV channel came to film it all, and for the rest of the day I had people telling me they saw me on TV.

We were discussing having a health fair in the park on Tuesday, with the nurses doing HIV tests and handing out pamphlets, but that didn’t quite get organized. On Wednesday night I gave a talk to a group of 8 teenagers about HIV/AIDS. It’s a pre-prepared charla that Peace Corps gives us, and it has a lot of activities and games, rather than a lot of talking. Another volunteer came to help me out, and the Doctor came to participate and explain some of the more complicated medical parts. I was really worried no one would come, and it did take away to round up enough kids to participate, but in the end it went really well.

On Thursday we were supposed to have an AIDS patient come in to talk to a small group about his/her story and how it is living with AIDS, but the person in charge of the activity fell through, so that didn’t happen. I spent all of Thursday in the library, helping put together decorations for the float for the parade Friday. It was fun, I had never worked on a float before. I’ll try to post pictures of it. So we were in the library until 8pm on Thursday, cutting, gluing, etc. Friday morning we all meet at 7:30am to decorate the car. It was a really overcast day, but we decided to go ahead with it. As we were finishing up the car, it started raining steadily, so I went to talk to the doctor, and we all decided that we’d have to postpone the parade so that the rain wouldn’t ruin all the decorations. It was pretty disappointing after all the work we put into it, but now everyone has more time to improve their floats!
So it’s been a pretty busy week, with good days and bad days.