Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mas o Menos

The Spanish phrase “mas o menos” means “more or less,” OR if you ask someone, “How are you?” it means, “Just so-so.  Both meanings apply to the last two weeks for both Steve and me. We’ve been very busy and really bored with nothing to do, and our attitudes/enthusiasm has definitely been up and down. 

There have been times when we were both questioning our purpose. Are we doing any good here? When will I come to accept the differences? Why aren’t people more careful when driving or biking? Oh, how I miss my family and friends! When we were preparing to move to our own home, it hit me that this is for real now. We’ve been living in someone else’s house or a hotel room since March 23rd, more than four months. Regarding moving, I thought I’d feel only joy, but not so. Same with Steve. We both sank pretty low. Back on the upswing now, thankfully. One day at a time.

Steve has moved into a groove at the Polyclinic. One or more days a week, he goes out to a village clinic or other location to talk with a few people about diabetes, hypertension, or STIs/HIV/AIDS. That usually involves a ride in the Ministry pickup truck, maybe a lunch at a local eatery, and then the trip back. Occasionally, the driver lets them off at the clinic, and they have to find their way back on a bus – which one time meant that he didn’t have money for lunch! (I keep talking about getting organized so that we take our lunch, but have actually succeeded only 20% of the time.)

The other times, Steve sits in the Polyclinic and creates or revises brochures. Right now he’s creating one to explain hypertension and how to understand the blood pressure readings. He’s also revising a handout the clinic has been using to explain diabetes. The current handout is very theoretical, but doesn’t give any practical advice about diet, medicine, or lifestyle. He’s going to try to simplify the verbiage (VERY difficult for him ;;-)) and use more pictures. Our friend, Ava Hacker, another PCV, will translate it so there’s a Spanish version of each.

Workwise, I’ve been busy helping Michele put together a Train the Trainer for the POWA women. It’s called “Train the Trainer – Life Skills Facilitation.” We want these ladies to eventually be able to give the same kind of training that Michele and I give, and using the same nonformal education techniques. The initial training was last Friday and Saturday, the 29th and 30th. It was a first-class event. We pulled in several presenters from around Belize. People used PowerPoint, flip charts, music (that was me – surprise!) and lots and lots of small group discussion, role-play, energizer activities, and “games.”

I was pleased with the workshop. We had a great turnout – 12 people! Next blog entry I’ll have pictures. These women are a dream to teach. They are attentive, smart, very interactive, and enthusiastic. They drank up everything presented to them and immediately related it to their personal lives as well as the training ahead of them. Although there is potential to make money from this skill, the main reason they want to participate is that they want to help the community. Wow!

Only one negative, and it’s an American thing. The schedule was shot all to hell. Started at least one hour late both days, Belizean presenters talked twice as long as they were supposed to, so people had to stay so very late – sigh. I think I was the only one who worried about it.

We will have bi-weekly half-day sessions for the next several months, probably through the end of the year to teach additional techniques and content. Actually, the title of the workshop does not include all the things they will teach. We want them to be able to talk about health-related topics, too, in addition to life skills. A year from now, we hope to have an arsenal of women who can present to children, youths, and adults about:
Life Skills – Self-awareness, empathy, communication skills, interpersonal skills, decision-making skills, problem solving skills, creative thinking, critical thinking, coping with emotions, coping with stress.
Non-communicable diseases – Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, asthma.
Healthy lifestyle – Nutrition, active living

Whew! That’s a tall order!

Our big news this week is that we have finally moved into our new home! It’s an upstairs apartment, but big big. Three bedrooms (we only need two, so the third is a work/crafts room), two baths, sunken living room, dining/party area (I don’t know what to call the place that has the built-in bar), kitchen and laundry. Good grief, I thought we were supposed to live in hardship. Our neighbors are very nice; haven’t met them all yet. There is a dog downstairs so I won’t be tempted to get one. Rafaela lives with her 10-year-old son, Anthony, in the downstairs apartment. She is our “superintendent.” We pay her the rent, tell her any problems, etc. But, of course, those of you who know Steve, know that there won’t be any problems.

He’s been gleefully distributing WD40, repairing funky window handles, and devising creative solutions to all my wishes! We spent our “settling in money” already – stove, refrigerator, washing machine, table, and bed. The place is pretty empty! The bedroom has a built in (mahogany, of course – EVERYthing is made from mahogany) wall unit with drawers, shelves, mirror and lighting. Fantastic. The kitchen has many built-in cabinets, too. All the rooms have ceiling fans, so they will save us a lot of money. Fans are a must in Belize. Every room also has an air conditioning unit, but I doubt we’ll ever use them. Maybe when company comes from the States ;-).

I cooked our first meal at our house last night – omelets! We sat on our $16 BZ plastic chairs at our Mennonite mahogany table (only $160 BZ for a 4-foot round one), ate on our $2 BZ plates. Delicious!

We don’t have access to Internet very often right now. We had wifi at our host family home, but now we’re on our own. Internet café or at work – that’s it. I’m looking into what it will cost if we have cable internet to our apartment. It may be beyond our means . . . .

A Peace Corps Volunteer is prepared to work 24/7! Yesterday – Sunday - Steve, Ava, and I went with a nurse and two others from the Polyclinic to a banana farm. The plan was to take blood pressure readings and test blood sugar levels of about 250 workers. We left Dangriga at 6:15, traveled down in one of the ubiquitous government pickup trucks, and were finally set up by 8:00 or so. People started trickling in soon after. Boy, those are a bunch of healthy men! And a few women. Good pressure and good “sugar.” We found one man who did have a very high blood sugar reading, surprise to him. He’ll get an appointment at the clinic and get some medicine. It’s all free in Belize if you have a Social Security card – Universal Health Care! Only about 46 people came, but it was fun and I got to practice mi espanol.


Anonymous said...

So exciting to be in your own place, I can only imagine! And I admire your honesty about yours and Steve's ups&downs.... just ride 'em, and don't try to drive them... and it will all work out. So glad you have each other to go thru the emotions together. Thanks for post -- always enjoy them.
Love & hugs, toni

Jim Weaver said...

Keeping up with your posts. Thank you for your honesty. Knowing you both, things will settle down, and will be fine. From my standpoint, I think you folks are doing loads of good. Frankly, my bet is that all your friends are proud of both of you.We miss you also. Take care.