Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So, what really goes on? In the morning, between 5 and 10 kids come for what is effectively a half-day of school. The school is based on the Ann Sullivan curriculum. Everything is functional, a lot of pictures are used, and kids maintain a routine. In the afternoon, kids come for one-hour one-on-one or two-on-one skill building sessions with their specialists. These sessions target whatever the kid needs, ranging from improving gross motor (through play) to improving fine motor (through writing activities) skills.
So, what have we been doing? Well, we wake up at 5:15 every morning! We drive through shockingly bad traffic to arrive at the center between 6:15 and 6:30. Conveniently, the center is a transformed house, so it is equipped with showers and all the house fixings (it serves as a second house in the city for our host family). For the first hour or two of the day we do some combination of the following: run (three times a week), read, write a blog, dream about a real cup of coffee (Joe, every morning), unsuccessfully try to access the internet, shower, and eat. After the specialists arrive and everyone has completed the hugs and kisses welcoming routine, we begin the slow and arduous process of changing the world. Our mornings are spent painting, constructing a wheelchair ramp, making potential adaptive devices, and helping as needed. In the afternoons, Joe performs more manual labor or he reads, and Juleen switches to assisting in treating kids and providing potential suggestions. While she doesn’t feel like she is revolutionizing the services being provided, she has provided some good OT 101 suggestions, as none of the specialists are trained therapists. At the end of the day, we drive home in shockingly bad traffic, arriving home around 7:30. After a light dinner, we start heading to bed.
But don’t worry much about our taxing days, as we are moving onward and forward Saturday.
Pictures are the following: upstairs roof before, indoor patio before, inaguration of the wheelchair ramp (the ramp did not get completed as easily as it might appear), upstairs roof after, and indoor patio after.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
So, what do we do? We call upon our biggest asset--YOU (well, really your constant supply of super-fast worldwide web)!
To earn first prize -- Find a place (organic farm, hostel, nature reserve, community clinic, whatever!) that offers free housing and (I´ll be greedy) some food for volunteers. And where? Somewhere in Guatemala, Nicaragua or El Salvador. Finding a place on an island earns a ¨bonus¨!
To earn second prize -- Find the same type of place as above in Costa Rica or Panama. Or find a place anywhere in Central America, excluding Honduras, that charges a minimal fee for volunteers to stay and work.
To earn third prize -- Find a cheap way (boat, plan, Maah da Hey trail (sp?), whatever) to get from anywhere in Guatemala to anywhere in Nicaragua.
Consolation prizes for anything (and everyone) else!
You can post your ideas as comments here or email them to joe.d.moore.ii(at)gmail.com and (equally creative) juleen.rodakowski(at)gmail.com
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Since our arrival in Guatemala all we’ve heard from the locals is how much there is to see and do in their wonderful country. As the weekend quickly approached we made our decision: we would go to the Guatemalan gringo capital—Panajachel, a town that sits above the shores of Lago de Atitlan (Atitlan Lake) while volcanoes tower over the lake. The staff at the community center jumped on board, and they were calling hostels (getting a non-gringo price), finding bus routes, and recommending activities.
Friday afternoon we were taken by staff to the bus stop. They were told a direct bus to “Pana” would leave at 1:30. Since we had ten to fifteen minutes, we were taken on a mini-tour of the district. The time quickly passed, and we were blocks away. We finally asked, something to the effect of, “shouldn’t we get to the bus.” We were assured the bus never leaves on time. At 1:45 we pulled up to the bus stop. The bus was long gone. Ooops. Fear not. Our driver took off down the roads, following the typical bus route, as we craned our necks to look at each bus we passed. Veering in and out of traffic, we finally found it, flagged it down (which isn’t uncommon), and hopped on. A few uneventful hours later, we arrived at the lake.
Most of Saturday was spent at a nature reserve next to Pana. We went on a 45 minutes hike full of swinging bridges, animals we had never seen, most notably monkeys, and a striking waterfall plummeting through the forest. After the hike, we enjoyed the reserve’s butterfly sanctuary and swimming in the lake at their private beach.
While the scenery is one-of-a-kind, we couldn’t help but enjoy the English-speaking American population at least as much as the natural setting. Whether it was an Oregonian lawyer turned guitar player, a middle-aged coffee shop owner, or a young woman holding down the fort at a used bookstore, the similar accents and stories were quite a joy.
But, at present, we now find ourselves back at “the center”, where we struggle to understand five year olds; we’re pretty sure they’re verbally advanced. We have finished conducting observations of therapists and ninos, and now are moving onto to the substance of our work here. Big ideas abound: ramps for wheelchairs, yellow lines to demarcate steps, and more.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
First off, we’d like to wish everyone a happy belated Guatemalan Independence Day! I’m sure you celebrated, right? We certainly did. The celebration was filled with parades, typical breakfast foods (including Joe’s first “real” Guatemalan coffee!), book purchases, and no work, of course. Independence Day was Tuesday, and
What is all of this typical food we are eating? Well, it’s muy rico (very rich), as they frequently say. A typical breakfast consists of eggs with a non-spicy salsa, refried black beans, and bread. While that is Guatemalan typical, on work days typical for us is a bowl of cereal. The big adjustment (for Joe) has been the lack of consistency in having coffee, especially considering Guatemala is one of the coffee producing capitals of the world. While instant coffee is most common, he has been able to savor the occasional “good” cup of coffee.
For lunch, we are ordering from a local restaurant. For about two dollars (or 16 qutezals), we have a plethora of food. Every lunch contains a drink called rosa de jamaica (a semi-sweet drink made from flower petals), tortillas, and rice. Beyond those staples we eat meat, meat, and more meat. (In fact, one of our weekend lunches featured a smorgasbord of meat options—chicken, different types of sausage, and steak. Quite a meal for former vegetarians!) The meat is frequently prepared in a soup or a salsa sauce. As you may have deduced, lunch is a huge meal. It is their biggest meal of the day.
Finally, dinner. Dinner consists of a small serving of a salad or fruit or yogurt. Nothing else. In all, fear not… we aren’t starving. The food is excellent though quite different.Pictures included: one of a parade in Antigua on independence day, two of the fiesta at el centro, and one of a volcano as seen in Antigua (however, this same volcano can be seen from “our” front yard).
Monday, September 14, 2009
Once at the center, we were greeted with a welcome sign (see picture), seven singing women and lunch. Quite an introduction. After lunch we observed therapy sessions, headed home--we’re staying with the founder of the center in her quaint home thirty minutes outside of the city--, had a “cena” and were in bed by 7pm.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
You can (try to) check out pictures of us at the wedding via facebook by clicking here. Disclaimer: Juleen did not watch Joe as closely as she should have.
Now that the last of our summer travels is over, we can no longer excuse NOT preparing for the "real trip". We leave September 11--two days from now! Aaaaaa! We're staying with a woman who works at a center for people with disabilities in Guatemala City. She's even coming to pick us up from the airport. We're thinking we'll be there between two to four weeks. Hopefully, we'll be able to post pictures and notes once there.