|Getting ready to sign the Acta|
Yesterday I had a meeting up in Tzibal with the Superintendent of the school district so that he could write an "Acta" to jump-start the process of certifying the school as a "Healthy School." (After 4 years of working with Peace Corps volunteers, the school has adopted the necessary changes to reach this certification--the students' wash their hands before snack, brush their teeth after, have clean drinking water and clean well-kept latrines, the school itself is kept clean, etc.) Before writing this Acta*, the Superintendent, Profe Alfonso, gave the compulsory speech in which he talked about all the hard work that the school has done, how the teachers have put in extra time and effort, and how the presence of Peace Corps has been paramount in reaching these goals. He then said something that caught my ear--he said "Seño Hannah is here to represent Peace Corps, which has helped us a lot in the past. Like the other volunteers she's only here for a short time so we must take advantage and use her to the fullest now, while she's here. Just like when we make orange juice, we want to squeeze every last drop out of her before she goes. Every last drop." All the teachers at the meeting nodded in assent, prepared to do just that--juice me into a pulpy oblivion. Perhaps I could (or should) have taken issue with this--but I liked hearing it. As a Peace Corps volunteer I've found there is a fine line between being used as a resource and being taken advantage of. I've taken care to devote my time and energy to those communities, people, etc., who've made it clear that they're doing the former--that they understand that I'm a human resource to be used over two years, rather than a rich Gringa here to make some handouts, write some checks, and turn on her heels and leave. One of my greater challenges in the beginning of my service was that nobody seemed to know how to use me--I was stuck here, in a foreign village, filled with foreign people, no schedule, no agenda, nothing. Now, however, I'm suddenly in high demand. People aren't afraid to ask me for help anymore. And while sure, I have those days when I wish I could time travel back to month two, lay in my bed all day reading, and make market-day lists rather than to-do lists, most of the time I'm happy to be busy. I'm happy to be exhausted, and I hope beyond all hopes that this roll I'm on keeps on rolling until July.
*An Acta is a peculiar Guatemalan way of making something, usually a meeting of some sort, official and a matter of public record. The highest authority at said meeting hand-writes an unnecessarily wordy document, in the official Acta log, stating the business at hand, etc., then everybody present signs the document and/or stamps their thumbprint on it)