Excerpts from Kim’s letters from Guatemala

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guatemala: Peace Corps Guatemala: Peace Corps in Guatemala: Excerpts from Kim’s letters from Guatemala

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 01, 2001 - 4:05 pm: Edit Post

Excerpts from Kim’s letters from Guatemala

Excerpts from Kim’s letters from Guatemala

Excerpts from Kim’s letters from Guatemala

Excerpts from Kim’s letters

10 Oct 1999

I guess when I think of adventure I feel it’s a journey completed away from home. How masculine, with gnashing of teeth, and beating of breasts and tearing go hair. I think of Chad too, and wonder how and if all my friends in Madison are changing. There’s definitely no way I’d start a UU church here. If you’re not Catholic, you’re Evangelical. That’s it. “Dios es Amor” is everywhere. … we created a new verb for Spanish—“gringor.” We say “I got gringoed.” It means “to f*** over, to take advantage of, to screw. See: Peace Corps/ Guatemala.” We are always charge more or we’re targets. Some people accept it, I’m having a hard time with it….Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. We talked about alcoholism today, it’s actually a serious problem with PCVs. But I’d think only men, because we women can’t drink here. I’m also not supposed to go alone with them (Guatemalteco men), only in groups. But I have to keep my identity! I go out with guys in the states and damned if I’m gonna change that part of me. It feels like I’m in this awkward dance—they’re trying to be culturally sensitive to me, I’m trying to be sensitive to them, and it’s like in a hallway when you both try to avoid and accommodate the other and end up breaking noses.

18 Oct 1999

We had a session about PC philosophy. I should’ve known other people have the philosophical background of grassroots community development. Still, what does that mean if it’s NOT grassroots? Sometimes I think there is no bottom to human suffering….

19 Oct 1999

I found out he (Randol) supports PAN (political party), and pleaded that I not tell my host family. I told him elections are only once every couple of years, but your family is forever, they’ll accept you and he said no. Politics is personal here…..a lot of women said they won’t vote because their husbands won’t permit it. Jesus….

4 Nov 1999

I’d forgotten about hurricane Mitch, but Guatemala hasn’t. My host mom said something of the thousands out of work because banana plantations washed into the sea. But now I know automatically to multiply by 6 for 1 wife and 5 kids to get the real number of needy people… and I get mad that women are one man away from disaster if something goes wrong.

8 Nov 1999

It’s been raining for over 27 hours now. The bridge to Coban washed out. There’s probably a hurricane on the coast. The faucets only give dirty water and I use the stuff out of the shell barrel to wash my face. Oh well….

15 Nov 1999

I made a solar shower for my demonstration talk. It did not work very well, I thought. Anyway, yesterday Zulma asked me to make one for HER house. YES!! My first technology transfer! They didn’t seem excited until they saw it work. I’ll have to remember that….I’ve been mostly satisfied with training—mostly because I psyched myself up to having to do a lot of independent work and found most of my time was structured. Sometimes it’s hard having a company other than Peace Corps train us (they were at the World Learning Center which serves incoming missionaries, language trips, etc as well as Peace Corps). They totally have not supported up in Thanksgiving. I had not realized its importance. It’s the breath you take before the last punch of classes, you start to gear up for the holidays and family and snow and vacations and lazy days. Though I doubt the given story of the Indians and the pilgrims, most holidays and traditions and sayings have a sexist or racist beginning. And the point is that this is distinctly American . I can’t forget what rabbi Katz said, about how in America we are this grand experiment out of the Enlightenment, separating place, ethnicity and religion. And maybe with all the broken, shredded parts of America, this is the holiday everyone can celebrate. I guess Mary Ann Macklin (campus Unitarian Universalist minister) was right: In Guatemala, I’m learning what it means to be American, and even a mutt has a story to tell.

2 Dec 1999

and here I am, in the altiplano, higher than anyplace I’ve been yet, and finding my training may not apply. Palo Gordo is flat—why did I learn about drainage ditches and live barriers for soil erosion? Not many bugs or fungi—why do people need silos? Their corn is fairly evenly spaced—why teach masal selection? What the hell am I doing here? It’s so lonely…. While we were waiting for equipment to be loaded up, they saw the gringa (KIM) shaking her shoulders to the music and they said “Baila! Baila!” Is this how I build confianza (confidence with locals—something the PC teaches)? Guatemaltecos love it when you do games or dance or speak in however funny sounding Spanish. Very different from our society. How do we make friends in America? Certainly it seems to be more organizational, and work related, not how here it is the spread outward like a pebble in a stream from your family like in this society… I’m going to write to the UUSC (UNITARIAN Universalist Service Committee) and see if I can organize some work down here….

16 Dec 1999

well, I am now an official PCV. The ambassador talked a lot about the responsibility of wealthier nations to not be smug and think they deserved their good fortune. That people of privilege have an obligation to take their power seriously. It was a great ceremony…

19 Dec 1999

I mean, I never thought I’d say, until I got to the Peace Corps, “oh wow I have a flush toilet!”

11 Jan 2000

It takes ½ hour for each house visit. I only got in one visit. Christ how am I gonna keep up all my friendships? Huh… add that to the list of “things I’d never thought I’d say until I got to the PC.”

15 Jan 2000

well, kill me now. I feel miserable. I have a fever of 102.4, I ache all over and I can’t swallow. I’m dizzy when I stand up….

2 Feb 2000

you know what I miss? TOAST. There’s no such thing as a toaster here.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Guatemala



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.