Showing posts from July, 2010

Tikal and Flores

Last weekend I opted to play a bit- which meant joining my housemates for a random jaunt down to Guatemala to visit Flores and Tikal.Somehow, I managed to be the person with both the best Spanish language skills and best sense of direction, which made for a slightly less restful trip than I would have liked.

While crossing the Guatemala border, I received a nasty bite on my right toe from a giant red leafcutter ant (not the scientific term). Yet another reason Chacos are wonderful....when my toe swelled up to nearly twice its original size, I simply could adjust my shoe.

We planned to take the 5AM shuttle to Tikal, in hopes of catching the animals out and about. A brilliant idea, except that as of 4AM there was an intense thunderstorm happening. One of my housemates wakes up, and we question the wisdom of heading off to see a (rather tall) Mayan ruin in the middle of a storm. Stumble to the hostel desk and try to explain to the clerk that we'd like to cancel our shuttle reservati…

When it all comes together

T. and J. were doing HIV outreach at the market on Saturday. Afterwards, J. was telling me about a young man, obviously gay, who approached them. She mentioned his false guilt- "I heard it started in the gay community" family stigma- "if my family found out I was gay, they'd run me out of town" and the vague "I don't really know you, but I had some rough stuff happen as a kid."

I growled about the fact that this community doesn't have many resources available for people like this man, and said "I'm sure he's seen some horrible stuff. Think about the numbers for domestic violence in this country (close to 50% of homes. Keep in mind that domestic violence is underreported, because it's a socially undesirable behavior). J. mentions the violent drawings produced by kids in summer camp, and I snarl for the women in my focus group who were bullied by their husbands and in-laws and for Friday's experience in the park and the fact…

Things that make you think twice.

I can't not talk about Friday morning...
Having spent a couple mornings at the park by the police station, I decided to try my luck at the park across from the market. I got there, and found a parkbench, and started scoping the place out. Pulled out my journal, jotted a few notes. Random guy on a bike comes by, says "I don't mean no disrespect, but I think you're incredibly gorgeous. Just wanted to make your day." Okay...whatever, I can deal with that. He comes by a second time, and says something else...I decide if I have random people approaching me, I need to ask them to do a survey (seems reasonable, I've had decent success with this tactic dealing with tour guides downtown) Well...I start my survey, and I get to the question on marital status, and he asks if I want to marry him. I....remain as professional as possible, smile, and inform him that my boyfriend would have some issues with that. I keep going, and get to the question about "do you intend…

Another day, another scramble for data

Lately it seems I have more stories than time for blogging.
So...yesterday, I went back to stalking the OB-GYN.
It seems we had a miscommunication. I assumed that because I called him on his office phone to set an appointment, we were meeting between 8-9 at his office. He assumed that I knew he'd be at the hospital, and was meeting him there.
Regardless, I caught him yesterday morning, on his way to the hospital. He asked me if I wanted to come along with him, and I agreed. Hopped in the car, and started the interview....we arrived at the hospital, and I stopped the recorder, as he gave me a tour...emergency room, labor and recovery, and then the maternal and child health hall, where his office is. People lined up literally up and down the hallway. He shows me into his office, where we're suddenly joined by a medical student from the UK who's shadowing/assisting for the day.
I continue my interview, he's rather unhurried, despite the throngs of patients sitting j…

The focus group that almost wasn't.

So....I pitched my project to the women's group last week. In two languages, with a cutesy handout. N. made reminder phone calls today, telling women that group starts at 4:15. We wandered down about 4:30 (this is Belize). I'm braced to lead a bilingual focus group, if need be.The women's computer class is finishing up, and suddenly, a woman we'll call Miss Faith (not her real name) wanders in. And her intentions are mutinous. She informs N. that she's not coming, not this week, and not next week, because she's not interested in the group topics. She doesn't care about poetry or abortion (?! N and I are still confused as to why she thought group was about abortion). And family planning is good for young women to talk about, but she's already done with that, and they need to learn about cooking and how to make money. Miss Faith continues with hardly a breath - the group needs to decide what to talk about, Nora shouldn't be calling people about meetin…


You'll be happy to know that the plumbing is working.
And that today I was able to turn two solicitations from tour guides into surveys (without booking a tour).
It's funny....I was concerned about the fact that I wasn't offering incentives for this project, and how that would affect participation. (Being a young woman traveling alone, it just struck me as rather unwise to offer incentives. Kind of like an invitation for a mugging, y'know?) But for the most part, all I have to say is "hi, I'm a student from the US trying to learn about your community, do you have a couple minutes to answer a few questions?" People often volunteer more information than I ask, and expect me to sit around and listen to stories...about their son in Chicago, their brother's custody hearing, plans for a spouse's education...and they're full of advice.

Some serious excitement over the world cup here. Neighbors blasted music into the early hours of the morning for tw…

Tales of Belizean plumbing

You knew it couldn't be that easy, right?
The plumber came, about noon on Friday. He left us a bathroom covered in raw sewage. T. cleaned the bathroom....and a couple hours later we discovered the toilet is still not working. Then SA went to take a shower in the bathroom with the working toilet. And the shower wont't catch- it insists on coming out as bath water. We don't even have a bathtub stopper here. J. attempts to resurrect the shower, no luck. It is 8pm on friday night, and we are down to one working toilet (in a bathroom with a broken shower and half-draining sink) and one working sink (in a bathroom with a half-draining shower and a broken toilet). For eight people. Attempted to go to the store to put credit on the volunteer cellphone, and Cost Less Mart was closed. This morning....well, Cost Less insisted that they don't sell phone credit. Phone credit was purchased elsewhere, the director was phoned, and she very casually said that she'd let the landlor…


I was supposed to do my first interview yesterday, which didn't quite turn out to be a complete bust. The interview subject had no real experience with my topic,but gave me a referral that might pan out. Also, I took a wrong turn and in wandering around spotted a women's health doc who may be worth talking to.

That was about 3PM- while I was out T(the one male volunteer presently in the house) managed to stop up one of the toilets. He ran up the hill to the store to get a plunger, which quickly inverted, proving useless. Supposedly Cornerstone called a plumber who was supposed to come yesterday evening....but this is Belize. So it's 9AM and we're still down to one toilet for 8 people in the volunteer house. Still have two showers though, thankfully. The one fully functional bathroom requires a treck through my current bedroom- which has four girls sharing bunkbeds and little space (I should post pictures). We've spread out, because getting dressed, showering, teeth…


Right now I'm sitting at Flayva's (which used to be Eva's, if you happen to be checking a Belize tour guide). Just polished off an awesome lime juice, and am making my way through a plate of nachos. Ah well...I'll burn those calories in the hike up the hill.

I was supposed to run a focus group today. It's M's (the program coordinator here) birthday. And she was supposed to be leading women's group. So N (the main volunteer working with the women's group) and I thought we'd give her the evening off. Women's group was supposed to meet at 4:30, and, this being Latin America, no one showed up until 5. And in comes M, with a folder. She does a lesson on self esteem, self confidence, public speaking and poetry reading (involving US pop songs, of all things) and doesn't finish up until 6:30. I laugh, and introduce myself and my project to the four women there. One of whom only speaks Spanish. And- even though M is a native Belizean, who grew up in…


And have arrived.
Cornerstone's relocated, to a much nicer facility. I'm almost in shock at how nice it is. No AC and no hot water, but otherwise, pretty much comparable to my apartment. Well, minus the sharing it with 7 other people part.

Right now I'm running through previous women's program projects, trying to get familiar with what other Cornerstone volunteers have done.Orientations to the town, staff, culture to come.

I've established a pretty good rapport with the office staff here. Showing up with craft supplies and condoms helped with generating goodwill. Thankfully, their schedule for me looks about like what I had envisioned- a week of getting my feet on the ground+prep work, and then roughly 3 weeks to do everything I want to.

And so it begins.

And we're off....

Blogging from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, with the help of wi-fi (that's a little pricier than my Scotch genes like) and the tech support of my significant other. Flight to Belize leaves at 12:30 Central time, so I've got a couple minutes.

And so far, so good.
Granted, any day that starts with kissing your best friend and the partner in the majority of your life's adventures goodbye is less than great.

Made it to the Columbia Airport in time to check in for my 6AM flight. This was also well before the security checkpoint opened (someone explain that to me....) so I had some quiet, slow moments. If you've ever been around me in the early morning, you'll be as grateful for this as I was.

Once in security, they confiscated my jar of peanut butter. Seriously- airport personnel were not sympathetic to my complaints about how expensive it is in Belize. They offered me the option of checking my bag, which I was not about to do on an international flight. (And yes, I …


I'm....leaving in the morning. In the insanely early hours of the morning. To Belize, for 30 days of doing research...interviews, surveys, a focus group....trying to find out a little more about what it's like to be human, to have a family in Belize.
I hesitate to write more than this for confidentiality purposes.
But I am hoping to be able to jot down some stories and general impressions here.
For now, though, I'm going to enjoy my last few hours with someone incredibly dear to me, who I can't wait to see on the other side of this month.

Abstinence-only Sex Education, Part 3

Continuing on....trying to write up a fair history of the high points of the religious abstinence-only movement. As seems to be typical (just a general observation, no stats to back this up) the Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics have been the big players in this movement.
Much of this is taken from the website of Lifeway, the Southern Baptist publishing company (

In 1987, the Christian sex education project began, led by Jimmy Hester. He and Richard Ross successfully pitched the True Love Waits project to the Southern Baptists in 1992. From a 1994 article in First Things it seems that the motivation behind True Love Waits was to increase teens' perceptions of peer support for abstinence. True Love Waits launched in 1993 in Nashville, TN. By 1993, 100,000 virginity pledge cards had been signed as part of True Love Waits. Personally, I tend to remember True Love Waits more for huge symbolic demonstrations ("Let's stack virginity pl…