From time to time we post pieces on the lives and times of COPH students participating in the Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program. Currently we have PCMI students in Botswana, Cameroon, Guatemala, Mongolia, Uganda (2), and Zambia;. We are proud of the accomplishments of our PCMI students and hope you enjoy reading the occasional excerpts from their blogs and reports.
The following excerpt comes from Christine Meister’s blog. Christine is combining Peace Corps service with graduate work for her MSPH degree in Health Education. Dr. Julie Baldwin is Christine’s Academic Advisor and Thesis Committee Chair.
Of course I can carry my suitcases!
Well, sort of….two 50 pound suitcases and a hiking backpack ready to split at the seams.
We landed in Guatemala in the late afternoon after a day of traveling and were fortunate to be greeted by a handful of Peace Corps Volunteers and our program directors. They helped us navigate through security and eventually to a bus going to the Peace Corps (PC) headquarters about 45 minutes outside of Guatemala City. We stayed the first three nights in Guatemala with a host family within walking distance of the office. I can’t tell you how much my Spanish has improved since those first three days…and we’ve been here less than two weeks. We were placed in our training sites according to our language levels, those with lower language levels being a bit closer to the office than the volunteers who rocked their language interviews—definitely not me! We travel to the PC office usually 1-2 times per week and have language classes in our communities when we are not in the office. Our technical trainings are sprinkled in there as well. This will be our schedule for the next 8 weeks.
Interesting factoid: only 3% of Guatemala’s population has a college degree, hence my introduction as Lcda. Cristina (or Licenciada Cristina). A high respect is placed upon people with college degrees thus the extra title. Once I’m placed in my final site, probably in the highlands, I will be working with local health centers and with the municipality on Maternal and Child Health education. I will mostly be working to help train health educators with an occasional class with pregnant mothers.
On my first Sunday at my training site I got to see my host family’s campo in the mountains. I went with another volunteer, my host dad, grandpa, and my host family’s four grandchildren. The farms are gorgeous, up in the volcanic mountains with flowers around every corner. The most common crops are corn, snow peas, zucchini and cucumbers. We learned that most of the snow peas and zucchini grown here will eventually be exported to the US. I got to see my first árbol de aguacate, or avocado tree!! There was a gorgeous red lily that my host father picked for his wife. After the kids saw what he had done, they all wanted to pick flowers for their mothers as well. So adorable!
On our hike back, I learned my first Guatemalan children’s rhyme/game
Grupo: “Cristina come pan en la casa de San Juan!”
Cristina: “Quién? Yo?”
Grupo: “Sí! Tú!”
Cristina: “Yo no fui!”
Grupo: “Entonces, quién?”
Cristina: (say the another person’s name and start over)
I think we must have played this game for a good thirty minutes while walking back.
Family is HUGE here! Many families often live together in the same house or on the same street. Everyone constantly jumps from house to house for meals and just to visit. Lilly’s 3rd birthday party this Sunday will have 150 guests. And every family gathering includes food! This past Sunday, after eating lunch I went with my host mom to a baby shower. (Two other Peace Corps Trainees were also there…). At one point, I was sitting and holding two giant chuchitos on one plate, a piece of cake balancing on a plate on one knee and a cup of Pepsi between my legs. I looked across the room to the other two volunteers and after we made eye contact we could not stop laughing! We had the same horrified expression on our faces, wondering how in the world we were supposed to scarf all of this down after just finishing a giant lunch! Leaving food behind is a big no-no in this culture.
Thank you, Licenciada Cristina, for this glimpse into the everyday life of a Peace Corps Trainee in Guatemala!