Friday, September 24, 2010

Field Based Training: Jalapa, Mateqesquitla

Baby chicken I vaccinated :)
Beautiful view of Alene's site in Las Flores, Jalapa

Bethany and I at the Eco-Lodge in Pino Dulce, Jalapa
Some gorgeous shade-grown coffee seedlings at a home in Las Flores, Jalapa

Hello Everyone!
I am finally back from FBT (albeit one day early due to tropical storm Matthew)! What a week: it was great to get away from San Bartolome for a while, breathe some fresh air, and learn A LOT. Ok, here's the skinny on all the amazing things I learned to do/saw this week:

On Monday, I learned to vaccinate chickens for several common diseases. Here in Central America, Newcastle is the most common, followed by Viruela. The Viruela vacine is the worst to give to chickens, because you have to use a lancet and puncture the bird all the way through their wing...ouch! I was initially pretty worried about giving vaccines, but once we learned the basics of handling the needles and where to administer them, it was cake. Chickens here require vacinations for about 3-4 viruses every 3 months. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to have finally learned to do this. Now I'm really looking forward to organizing my own chicken vaccination campaigns in my site!

Another big step for me this week was gaving my first solo presentation (or "charla") to a women's group about nutrition in Spanish (go me!). I was incredibly nervious about my Spanish, but overall it was a great learning experience. I am usually great at speaking to groups, but I got pretty locked-up at times. In any case, the activities I planned for them seemed to go over well. The first activity was taping various foods (beans, brocoli, tortillas, you name it), to a poaster of a human body to demonstrate that specific foods can be good for specific or whole parts of the body. Its an important concept for them because diving right into the concepts of vitamins or minerals can be a little daunting or confusing at times. This group of women was really "pillas," or inteligent, and most could read and write, which from what I've heared is pretty uncommon in rural Guatemala. It was actually a lot of work to make a lesson-plan keeping in mind that I could never assume that everyone can read and write. For the other activity, I broke the women up into groups of 5, and they each recieved a portion of a circle which made up the 5 main food groups. Together, they had to devise a meal that included all these food groups. I got some great answers and conversation from them. We talked about what else they would like to learn in nutrition classes when the next volunteer comes. It was really interesting to talk about their wants and needs: one of the requests that I can really see myself getting involved in is conducting bread baking classes. More and more, rural Guatemalan's are incorporating bread into their diet, but its totally white, un-nutritions bread. Whats more, almost everyone buys their bread. My women's group expressed a lot of interest in learning how to make their own bread, and with healthier recipies. I don't think I'm going to have any problem cooking and baking away my time for the next 2 years :)

We visited an amazing coffee cooperative in Las Flores on Tuesday as well. These guys have an awesome small-scale operation going, and they've incorporated a side lombricompost project going. Compost worms love coffee grinds and shells, and so with the coffee side-product that can't be used, they make and sell lombricompost which is a wonderful and essential organic gardening material. Talk about sustainability!

On Wednesday, we visited a small-scale milk/cheese business which buys milk daily from people with cows, then they churn the milk into cheese and sell to local aldeas. They also have a great system of giving back to the community by giving away the part of the milk that can't be used for cheese making. This part, called the whey, is an amazing nutrient for growing pigs, and many people in the community use it to supplement their pig's diets.

The rest of the week, we visited some great school and family gardens, cooked a meal with some local women, briefly saw a reforestation effort with pine tree seedlings, and last but not least, we stayed at this amazing eco-tourism lodge up in the mountains and helped dig irrigation ditches for soil conservation and erosion control. Oh, and over the course of this week I've become hooked on fried plantains with cream. Deeeelicious :)

As for now, all the vollunteers are back on standfast due to the incoming storm from the Carribean. Which means, I'll be doing a lot of reading over the weekend, and praying that we can leave our towns for common-session day at the Peace Corps office. If you want to know what the weather is like down here, here's a great site my security rep sent me:

Adios everyone!

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