Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recap of my time in Guatemala so far

Hola mis amigos! Que Paso?

I haven't blogged yet, so I'm going to tell you a little bit about what's been happening between Antigua and NSCI and Xela. 
First off, landing at the airport in Guatemala was so incredible and breathtaking! The 360 degree view of the mountains from up above was so peaceful.
We arrived in Antigua in the afternoon ate a little snack and then were on our way to the supermarket for groceries and figuring out phone situations. We later at a beautiful restaurant. The food was so delicious! The next morning it was finally time to go to NSCI!!!

NSCI is absolutely beautiful and the people are so welcoming. Our first day there, we visited the Head Tank and had our first meeting with The Water Committee. The meeting went really well for the most part. We did an activity with them which was really worth while. They put many important concerns of theirs down on the posters.
The next morning it was time to visit the site. The hike up and down the site was so difficult at times for me but It was great to see the it finally. I can't believe the volunteers and others go up and down the path every day to work on the pipeline. It was hard to digest the fact that 80+ year-old men go up and down the path to get wood and sell it. It was a very humbling experience. We hiked the Upper Pump Station all the way down to the Springs and back up the the Upper Pump Station. We also met with the Engineer-Intern, Gustavo. Dave, Nicole, Divya, and I walked with him and some of Water Committee members from the Lower Pump Station to the Upper Pump Station discussing every and all concerns we had of the built pipeline. There were many parts of the pipeline that worried us and we made a point to address them. All the concerns were compiled into a letter and given to the Municipality.

So it's Tuesday already, time was flying by! We had our first presentation with the teachers of the community. I honestly didn't know what to expect, didn't know it would go, but Nicole did a GREAT job presenting and talking to the teachers. We also did 2 activities with them. They seemed to be really engaged and happy we were doing an educational presentation. I was so relieved that everything went okay, all thanks to Nicole. The teachers even gave us some ideas on how we can get the kids more involved and show them the importance of healthy living and clean water. We also asked the teachers to do the survey. After the presentation we were on our way to Xela to meet Carlos! We met him for dinner at an Italian Restaurant. It was a great dinner. We really hope we developed a great relationship with him. He's going to be our local eyes and ears for the project.

We came back to NSCI early Wednesday morning for a busy day! We split up into two groups: Site visit group and Surveys group. I was paired up with Divya and we started at the market place making our way to a part of the community that we never thought we would be in. While in the market place, a lady approached us and asked us if she can help us with the surveys. We were both so excited because we didn't know how to speak in Quiche. She offered to take us to her neighborhood where she would get all her friends to take survey. She was so incredibly nice and helpful. It was really sad to say goodbye to her at the end of the week. She was a huge player in getting the surveys done. She really has strong feelings about the water supply system and expressed that it was very important for the community. She even wants some type of disinfection method put in to action. She took some empty surveys with her so she can get more done and bring them to us at the Town Hall Meeting. 
Meet Ester (center, red sweater) 
I must say, I absolutely fell in love with her. She is such a strong woman, raising two kids by herself because her husband is working in Boston, MA. Love, love love her. <3

After doing surveys, Nicole and I went to the Middle School to do a small presentation and some activities with them. Hoping that it would go as well as the first one did, I was kind of scared because we were going to be dealing with teenagers. The presentation didn't really go as planned. They were not very attentive nor were they excited about us being there to talk to them. The students kept laughing at us and we kind of felt helpless. :/ Nonetheless, they seemed to enjoy the EnviroEscape a little bit.

Later in the night we had our second meeting with The Water Committee. This meeting was focused on presenting all the Disinfection Alternatives. They were very grateful we presented to them all the information. Nicole and Herbert did a great job with the presentation! At the end of the presentation, they wanted to vote on the methods, which was surprising. What wasn't surprising was the results of the votes. Of course Boiling was the most popular followed by Slow Sand Filtration. Chlorination was the least popular.

Thursday was definitely the busiest day of our stay in NSCI. There was so much to get done in a small amount of time. First thing on the list was doing a fun and exciting presentation for the little kids in elementary school. I must say that might have been the highlight of the week. The kids made Nicole and me so happy! They loved having us there, doing activities, drawing, and answering questions. Most of them did not know about The Water Cycle but when Nicole explained it to them, they understood right away! We tied the EnviroEscape into the water cycle and the kids really got it! Back at Angel's house, there was translating and editing going on in almost every room. We were really cutting it close to the Municipality Meeting. Between printing surveys and the letter, it was time for us to go meet with the Municipality. To speak honestly of the meeting, I didn't feel like they were engaged at all. It was sort of disappointing. The members just agreed upon everything we were saying. There was little to no discussion between all the parties attending (EWB-USA Rutgers, Municipality members, and The Water Committee.) After that meeting was over, it was time to get ready for the Town Hall meeting. We were looking to finish the rest of our surveys there, present to the community about: the status of the project, why the trip was important, and disinfection methods (as per request of the water committee.) Unfortunately, due to the extreme wind and cold many people did not attend the meeting. We counted about 53 people in attendance not counting us. Nevertheless, it was important that we present to the community. They did not really want alternative disinfection put in place. They would much rather boil their water because that's what they are used to. Slow Sand Filtration did catch some people's eyes and they asked many questions about it. Guess who was in attendance by the way, ESTER! At the end of the presentation/discussion we as a group gave Ester a Blue "Water is Life" EWB-USA Rutgers shirt. She really appreciated that! She was excited to wear it!

At the end of the day, we gave Lucas, and the rest of Angel's family the gifts we brought for them. Lucas loved his new boots, alphabet matching game, and basketball! Angel really appreciated the book-bags and hoodies. 

So far the trip has been really great! I can't wait to explore San Pedro. Meanwhile, Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, o Buenas Noches!


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