FBT Day 4 - More "Field" Less "Training", Please

Wednesday 2.17.10

Today I built a trail, gave a charla, went to church, put a little too much picante (hot salsa) on my dinner and a little too little on my lunch, and learned that my whereabouts for the next two years are basically know already…just not to me. This morning we woke up early to go to work on a coffee farm/coffee tour in Chicojl, a 20 minute drive from Samac. We went with Volunteers Kyle and Jaime to do maintenance on the trails of the tour. It was fairly easy; our group of five people used three hoes and one shovel and wheelbarrow to grade a muddy area of a road/trail in the shape of a Y to create better drainage and prevent the buildup of mud and also for erosion. It barely even counted as manual labor.

During lunch we chatted with the volunteers who seemed fairly certain that Flavio already knows what sites he is going to assign us to and that the interview yesterday was simply a formality to make sure we don’t have any major problems with their idea of where we’ll be going. I think this is good news for me because my interview was short and he didn’t really have any questions for me. The other trainees said the received leading questions, like, “you’d be willing to do environmental education, right?” Meaning that they will be doing environmental education. He seemed to understand everything I said and I think we were I pretty good agreement with our thoughts for my site. I’m thinking positive thoughts now.

After lunch we headed back to Samac to give our charlas. This was a partner charla, and I was working with a friend named Chad who lives in my training community. Not to my surprise, we started a half hour to 45 minutes late. Our charla went really smoothly, though. We got some good participation out of the audience, some insightful answers with emotion and thought that really showed they were interested in what we had to say. It took nearly an hour to do the whole thing including and activity, presenting their activity, and various amounts of translation into Q’eqchi’. I feel really good about how clearly I was able to convey the information: just a few clear points demonstrated by example and repeated over and over.

Our topic was Managing the Cash Flow: how to keep accurate records of every income and expense so one can properly budget. Our main points were:

1) Account for everything; everything you fail to account for means less money in your pocket at the end of the month.
2) Take into account all the different people who work for and with you whom you have to pay or whom you should tip.

The charlas ended around 6:00pm. That’s three hours of charlas for five groups. And I have to sit through four more tomorrow.

After the charlas we were invited to a church service down the road because today is, I believe, Ash Wednesday. We went and heard only a few words in Spanish; the rest in Q’eqchi’. I was bored and hungry by that time, but they played the marimba and the children sang, surprising, not poorly. Something about the church: inside this small building there are pews that during the daytime are stacked upright, 90 degrees off their axis, against the wall to create more room for other activities when the church is not in use for a service. We were sitting in the back few rows of pews with a row of Guatemalans sitting in the pew in front of us and there were two or three rows stacked upright in front of them. When more of us gringos came in people started bringing down those other benches to make more room. As soon as a bench became available, the entire row of Guatemalans in front of us stood up and quickly shuffled themselves into the closer row. They were like machines; they all stood up together like they had already planned on moving as soon as they saw there would be a closer seat to God available. It was pretty funny, but also a little strange to me that a group of young people would care that strongly about being another 7 feet closer to the front of a church. They acted like they’d done it before.

After about 30 minutes of church we left for dinner, and after dinner we sat through another 1 ½ hours of charlas. We learned about the sites, projects, and lives for the past two years of the volunteers Kyle and Jaime. I wish I would have had more energy to pay attention but I just couldn’t.

“Field Based Training” is turning out to be less “Field Based” than the title makes it sound. We are learning a lot of things and it is really nice and beautiful to get out and visit sites, but I’m not receiving as much hands-on practical training as I expected. This is fueling my though, which has already been reinforced by Peace Corps employees and Volunteers, that PCV (Peace Corps Volunteers) don’t really accomplish much work. Everybody agrees that it’s a wonderful experience for the individual, however I’m not quite sure we benefit the community as much as we’d like to think or like we thought before we arrived here in country. I really do want to do good work. I want to enjoy myself and have a good time just living in this wonderful place but I really want to accomplish something. I don’t like hearing that I’m setting myself up for failure by desiring this.

I think the way to go about actually doing things is to work on small projects. Large projects have their own importance, but they also take a proportional amount of effort, dedication, funds, and they have their proportional amount of risk. This risk is where people get stuck. Small projects can be completed in less time with less support, which can use local money and involve local people, and hopefully will have a higher success rate. I think if I can start and complete a small project, if the local people can see what I can do in a short amount of time with their help, they will be more willing to support me in other projects in the future. If they trust that I can be successful and will come through on my ideas they will want to help me. They will want to be a part of that success. And then when it comes to a bigger idea I will already have the support of the town and they will be willing to take a bigger risk for bigger gains: but the key here is, they will work harder for it because they already know what success feels like.

The main point for me here is to keep it local. Keep it about the people that live in the town, make partners with the neighboring villages, and connect the experience to their life and their live hood.

Charlas received today: 4.5 hours

Charlas given today: 1 hour

Charlas involved in this week: 12.5 hours

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