We know it has been a long time since we blah blah blogged! How to explain all that is happening is somewhat cumbersome by a virtual medium.
We moved to our village after all hurricane evacuations at the beginnng of September. After two weeks there, as we think we mentioned the living conditions were quite sub-standard. We house sat for a almost a month near an eco-tourist lodge. The house was owned by the parents of the owner of the lodge. Follow that?? The father (from Germany) passed away in February and around here places can't remain empty for too long or the bush and critters take over.
During our first village council meeting back in September the village said they would help build us a place on village community property but they weren't sure where that would be just yet. The identified a sight in the village but the PC didn't approve it as it was not near other people, too wide open, not safe, no drainage...etc.etc. With our Associate PC Director (APCD) we negotiated to build the house on our host family's property. Everything in a village has to be approved by the village leaders. This was approved by the two main leaders, the village chairmand and the 1st Alcalde and we moved forward building the thatch. The deal was we would basically pay rent up front to build the house and there would be no subsequent payments after the house was built. The PC would then use it after our stay of two years for the following four years. Our Healthy Community project is a six year project.
So, construction began...we got the cement floor poured (most houses have packed mud floors) and the main posts constructed, also cement. By this time other villagers who weren't in on the decision were heating up. As the last of the cement was being poured the village 2nd Alcalde said the villagers were "vexed" about the location of the PC volunteer home and a town meeting was called for the next day at 6:00pm. We were hearing all kinds of stories...we would be chased out of town...PC had raised monies for the village and were using it to build a house instead of using the money to better the village....who knows
Now, how do we explain all we have learned and been told about village politics and the village mindset???? From the beginning we have been "educated" about following procedure in the village. Also, not everyone participates or doesn't care about what's going on until they may see someone's life being bettered more than theirs. We have been "educated" that many petty jealousies exist in villages...people don't always work together...there is no volunteerism...any requests for assistance must be paid requests. We have also been "educated" on the fact the NGO's come in and contribute to some betterment to a community i.e. building latrines, fixing up schools etc. After that they leave - if any part of the project falls apart that is the way it remains and the villagers expect someone to come and "fixit". Their is no sustainability. Our village, we are learning has a reputation that fits all these categories. There is always so much more to explain but that will have to do.
So, we halt the building process two Sundays ago and Oct 15th at 6:00pm at the local basketball court in the dark, we attend a wild village meeting. Most of it was in K'ekchi but it wasn't hard to understand the body language and the shouting. We had already decided to just remain balanced and let what happens happen. There were wonderful people there who interpreted for us. We found out that it was only a small faction of people who were "vexed"...but that is the same as having a "bad apple" in the bunch. After all was said and done (including them wanting to cancel the PC contract) there were actually more good apples than bad and some came up to us and were grateful we were there in their village.
There was another meeting scheduled with our APCD for the following Thursday. We actually were uplifted after the first meeting even though it was intense. We have begun working on projects for the village and admist the chaos we found like minded souls. We called our APCD and he thought he could handle the situation and all would be well. We were again positive it would. Thursday nite however, did not go so well. We still got together with some of the positive folk and scheduled another meeting regarding upgrading the school for the following Sunday. Only the "nay-sayers" attended the Thursday nite meeting. After all that being said our living situation is still in flux. Our APCD isn't sure this village can get it together. He is very concerned because the some of the main village leaders do not get along or like eachother. Again, our village's reputation holds. The PC is in a decision making mode right now and we are in limbo. We remain positive!!! except we are tired of moving...one of the options is to move us to another village. In this modern world of computers e-mail etc. and beaurocracies needing to be contacted, most of our work takes us into PG to make connections with the powers that be. Therefore, it takes us out of the village and the some people don't understand the process and don't want to. They only see things one way. So, that is another issue. Other villagers have tried to communicate these issues but jealousy blinds.
Again, we move forward with the Sunday nite meeting. Not great attendance but most of the people who care about the village and most of the main leaders showed up. The housing issue was not brought up, only the school upgrade issue and the projects we have been working on. Today we have a scheduled meeting with all the village leaders. The village council, the Alacaldes, the PTA and the Water Board. This is a first in a long time. We will only be dealing with the project issues and we are very excited that maybe out of chaos comes good. While waiting for the bus yesterday, a friend from the village, Domingo says he realizes that if a community does not unite there will never be positive development for the villagers. A wise young man....probably early 20's, married and three children.
We are currently house sitting next door to where we were before. There is a lovely retired British couple that needed their two 5 month old rotweiller pups cared for while they returned to England to get some affairs taken care of. There are two thatches on the property - one is their storage shed but it is a nice one room thatch with screened window all around. There is even a flush toilet outside in another thatch covered room. Showers are still cold...and we sleep in hammocks again. Not the best on these bones but soon we hope our lives will settle soon and we will get a bed.
Believe it or not...it is cooling off down here. We look like weebles when we go to bed wearing many layers of clothes to stay warm. We just look at eachother and laugh. We have an addition to our family. A 7 week old kitten named Pema. She is so cute she looks like a toy. We are raising her to be an efficient critter getter. She is feisty and fun. Pets around here are rarely cared for. It is the saddest thing. There is no consciousness of spaying and neutering...there is no consideration of feeding household animals...they are all stunted, emaciated and sometimes hairless. Everyone has 2 - 4 dogs and cats...as well as any number of fowl and pigs...who are cared for the same way. The chickens have no meat on them...they are almost featherless. Just now there are movements to change this situation but it will be a long time coming.
We will keep you posted. We are excited about our projects with the village...let's hope they will be too. We currently work in the school library three days a week and read with the children. It did have a computer with Encarta (very dated) but it has since broken down. Michael has been trying to fix it, hoping it is just a switch issue but we are not sure. We are helping the village put together a proposal to add four classrooms...one will be a computer lab. If that comes together we will be searching for computers and hope to get them internet. The school population has grown from 186 last year to 231 this year. The need for good education is high. As with most places the hope lies within the youth. They are starving for information. We are also working with an ex PC volunteer that has a foundation that builds latrines in villages around the world. We are hoping to get on that list as our village has 89 households..only 20 - 25 with latrines. We are also working on trying to get health education off the ground. There is much to do! We just don't know where we will be doing it!!!
Send good thoughts
hugs to all