Saturday, March 12, 2011

A week in Guatemala

What a week! When we landed in Guatemala on Sunday morning, all we knew is that we were accompanying a colleague to attend a workshop in Sololá. We had a bit of a wait in the airport and found some brochures, in which we discovered there was a massive lake with volanoes just outside the city. We started scheming as to how and when we'd be able to make it there, and were delightfully impressed when we found out that the workshop was actually going to be held there. Not a bad view huh!

On Tuesday we drove for about 2 hours to Comon Og, a remote area in Santa Catarina where the emergency program has been operating. For a few months of the year, the village is completely cut off, with the only access being by foot. I didn't realise until afterwards that the driver had put chains on the wheels, just in case!

One of the programs was a Food for Work, in which the community reinforced the pretty hairy road with sandbags (a lot of sandbags!).

It was an interesting conversation with the few people who were around, as my questions were translated into Spanish, and then from Spanish into the local dialect Kitcheh, which was extremely gutteral and clicky, and then of course, all the way back through the language chain again. It was a long and slow process, but definitely good to hear the thoughts of the community. We then headed back up the hill to meet with representatives from Pakawex. We met them at the local school, as their homes are dotted all over the hillside. And since we were at the school, we were joined by some very inquisitive kids, who were able to understand my extremely poor Spanish.

On Wednesday afternoon we had a long and arduous drive back to Guatemala City, and frantically spent the evening preparing for our workshop. I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, as we didn't really know who the participants were going to be, but then again, I didn't have to do much of the presenting as it needed to be done in Spanish.

We were both a little wary about today's session, as we were delving into the complicated world of counting beneficiaries (which is a lot harder than it sounds!). After some initial confusion, the participants got right into it. So much so that when we called time on an exercise, and I put the results up on the screen, they simply refused to look at it until they'd worked it out for themselves. A proud moment for me! In the end, our little evaluation sheets told us that we did a pretty good job. I've got a fair bit of confidence now that there are a few people here who'll be able to improve the information management practices in an emergency. In fact, they're so enthusiastic that they're adding a session on information management to a workshop they're holding with partners in two weeks time!

So now it's time to shove everything into my bag, enjoy one last night in Guatemala and head to the airport tomorrow morning. I'm not looking forward to transitting through the US, but definitely looking forward to getting home and getting to my Chinese massage man!!

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