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Marching Along

O and D and family had moved into the room on the front of the courtyard. The courtyard living environment was very crowded and loud all the time. At first, it took some getting used to, but I grew to enjoy having the family around. We negotiated some ground rules so that life would be more comfortable for everyone. I requested that the living space be quiet before 5:30 am, and they complied. Because they had to get to the school on time, I agreed not to shower, or take a bucket bath in the morning. Once we got those things organized, the new living situation was much more harmonious.

Since they had two chidren both under two, there was a lot of excitement and energy. One time, their baby girl was in danger of being stung by a scorpion which was hanging from the ceiling. D was able to move her and strike the scorpion dead. This was definitely a scary and dramatic moment. Another time, the baby was very ill and required a shot of adrenaline from the nurse, Don T. This was a particularly poigniant and emotional moment her the parents, because she came very close to death. Never a dull moment passed either, with their tiny, high energy son running around constantly. Grandma and their neice as maid rounded out the crew. They all lived in that one small room for about two months.

As you might remember, my scalp was itchy from lice. I tried to rid myself of it, but made the mistake of depending on others. One of my helpers was O and D's young neice who was their maid. She would stand over my head and take out the lice everyday. I washed all my clothes and bedding, but it still appeared that I had them. One day I made the executive decision to ask my very reliable little friend M to inspect my head. She informed me, that I didn't have any more lice. We figured that the maid must have been lying and snapping her fingernails together to deceive me. After this, I never trusted the maid to do anything for me again. One time, she saw me drinking tea, and she bit the tea bag, asking what it was. She was a strange one.

I went to the Peace Corps Office in Teguc. Volunteers had to get Gammagobulin shots every five months. It was a 50 second injection in the hip. Quite a pain, literally. Since I was there, I talked to one of the nurses about my unwanted male attention. She suggested a change of site, but I really couldn't see leaving Concepcion, and I knew that wherever I went it might be simliar, Even at that time, I loved my site too much to leave it. I also had the nurse make an appointment with a psychologist after my extremely negative month. It was a positive appointment, and I ended up telling her about my lack of work. She listened to my story, and understood why I was feeling down. I felt much relieved after having this talk. My problems seemed a bit more surmountable as I began to describe the past month and my frustrations.

After the appointment, I was happy to be able see my volunteer friend M, who happened to be in town. It was such a nice feeling to share my experiences with a friend, too. We were both having a hard time adjusting. She had even needed to change sites, because of some difficulties. We stayed at the hostel right by the Peace Corps Office called Cafe Alegro.

Work was becoming more productive, you'll be glad to hear. One time, I went over to V's house, and they were very worried about how to guard the corn from insects. I gave them some ideas about how to preserve it the next year, and I helped them husk the corn they had. They were very sorry that I was getting so hot and sweaty, but I gladly helped, because it was my work. We husked the corn for five hours. That night I slept for ten hours.

Later, I did a class about making a Level A near V's house, but only a couple of people showed up. At least, V's brother wanted to work with me; so, we set up all the land with pegs. The next day, I came back to pick it with him, and he'd plowed through the whole thing with his oxen. He didn't follow any of the lines that we'd put in the soil. V apologized for him, and she told me that he'd only wanted to work with me, because I was the cute American. What a disappointment!

There was one farmer named C, with whom I'd planned to work. In fact, we made an arrangement for the whole week. Eagerly, I went over to his house, but he wasn't ready Monday. He told me to come back a few days later, which I did. We made a ditch at the top of his property; so, a week of work turned into one day, but at least we did some work together.

That Saturday morning I woke up to my landlord's son and wife making a racket in the courtyard. She was cleaning the cement water holding tank or pila, and her young son was swimming around in it. He loved to say offensive and mean things to me, mostly critisizing my Spanish. So, there he was for a couple of hours. It really brought my moral down. That same day, C came home from her adventure in Siguatepeque, and she didn't even speak to me. It was a really bad day, and I talked to my neighbors about it. They listened, and made me feel better.

In Guachipilincito, I planned on working with Don F, Don L, and Don P (Don F's Brother). I went there one day, and they weren't ready, but they told me to come the next day. I was trying to leave quietly, but my admirer R's sister and mother saw me. They told me that he had written to me, and he had told her that he was excited to see me. Well, by then I knew that he was married, and I told her that I knew it was a lie. They continued to defend R, and say that she was just a friend.

The next day, I came back and worked with the men. It was extremely productive, as we made two level A's. We also inspected the land on which we would work. They even found me a seed pod of a local tree, which we ate together. That night, I stayed overnight with Don F and Dona R. We had a very eye-opening talk about their pitiful life, and he confessed that he wished to go to the US illegally. We talked about the dangers of crossing the Rio Grande. They informed me that R's mother was angry with me, and that I'd better watch out. He even told me that she might poison me. Of course, this didn't happen, but it was all very dramatic! I was so scared that I didn't sleep much that night. The hard bed didn't help, either! In the morning, as town nurse, Don F attended to a boy who'd fallen out of a tree. We decided that I would return another day to actually pick the soil with them.

Right at the beginning of April, it was Holy week and Easter. I noticed that some of the men were wearing interesting and wild masks, while marching around the square. I asked what was going on, and received this explanation. Apparently every year, they donned these masks and beat drums, calling themselves Judios or Jews. It was rather disturbing to me, since I sensed that there was quite a bit of antisemitism in it. I told them I liked the masks, but I didn't like the fact that they were pretending to be ugly, scary Jews. Afterall, Jews are people just like everyone else.

Each Holy Week, there was also a pilgrimage to the Christo Negro ( Black Christ) in Esquipulas, right over the Guatemalan border. Everyone returned on the Saturday before Easter to great fanfair. V's mother had participated, and she invited me to her house to give me a wooden cross necklace souvenir. I spent a very nice afternoon listening to her travel stories. Everyone who ever went had only good thing to say about it. As I heard about their experiences, I made a pledge to go on that pilgrimage the next year.

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