so, what is it that you do, anyways?

It’s been about a year since I’ve updated you all on my regular work activities, and it’s evolved quite a bit since this last posting.  Last year, I focused my energies on working with my main counterpart, the Ministry of Health (MINSA).  Since then, I’ve learned that there are some limitations to that work, and so I’ve developed some of my own activities.

Here’s some of what occupies my time while I’m in site:

Women’s Group

I work with a fabulous brigadista named Sonia who lives about a 20 minute walk from my town in a small community called Casa Blanca (White House).  Together we have a group of women that meets between 1-2 times a month.  Here’s how it goes down: I take Maní with me on the walk to the White House. We show up, and Sonia is still getting things in order–she has a beautiful collection of eye shadows and always matches her eye shadow to her shirt.  She sends someone out to call them women over.  And then we wait, joke, catch up, and she always makes me a meal, usually of freshly-made corn tortilla, an egg from her chickens, locally-made cheese (cuajada), and if it’s in season, avocado. Meanwhile, Maní runs around her backyard with a neighborhood dog chasing chickens. After about 30-40 minutes, the women show up and we’re ready to go.  We talk about all sorts of themes–breastfeeding, nutrition, HIVaids, self-esteem, gender, violence, etc.

Here’s Kailyn telling us what women do during a typical day during the gender charla.

And here are some women putting some adjectives–like, “strong” “weak” gossiper” “caring”–under the headings “man” and “woman” that describe each one, according to them.  This led to some empowering discussions.  Conclusion: yes, men can do the dishes!

Here’s one of Sonia giving the group an example of physical violence.

And Maní, having a blast.

Little Kid Coloring Group

The history of this group dates back to when I lived in my former house.  As soon as I realized kids here love to color, and as soon as the kids noticed I had quite a bit of things to color with, they began asking me daily, “Lorena, cuando vamos a jugar?” “Lauren, when are we going to play?” In my old house, I used to have them over occasionally and informally to color and read some little kid stories that the Najarians sent me (thank you!)  Unfortunately, I don’t have space to continue the group in my new house.  But recently, a parent of one of the kids lent us her house and now we have a weekly coloring group.

Here’s a photo of the group:


Radio Show

Alison and I have a radio show that started last September called Hablando un Mismo Idioma (Speaking the Same Language).  We talk about everything from health to environment to US and Nica culture.  Sometimes we have guests, and once we even read and interpreted poetry.

It used to air every Saturday that we were in town or otherwise unoccupied from 9-9:30am.  Last week, we concluded our final Saturday show and are now moving to Wednesdays, which should allow us to have the show every week, instead of only a couple times a month.  The highlight of last week’s show was being able to feature Eminem.  I knew I could do it.

Last week we had a show talking about violence between partners, and Alison and I played Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way you Lie” and translated it to help explain the cycle of violence, from the honeymoon phase, to the build up of tension, to the act of violence, to a period of separation, to making promises that it will never happen again, and back to the honeymoon phase, where everything between the partner seems perfect.

“I laid hands on her/ I’ll never stoop so low again/ I guess I don’t know my own strength…”

Sex Worker Network Development

Currently, there is no relationship between sex workers in my town and the hospital.  I am working with a nurse in the hospital, Alma, to try to reach out to this population.  Progress on this activity is pretty slow since Alma is a very busy lady, working long hours in the emergency room. Occasionally when she’s been available, we’ve been going out to the bars in town to speak to the owners to try to get them on board.  Eventually, we want to be allowed to speak with the ladies themselves.  It’s a process.

ChatSalud: Sexual Reproductive Health Hotline Project

This project is near and dear to my heart, and it may just break it into two.  We shall see.  I’ve been working with Nishant and Gabe, two fellow PCVs, as well as with a plethora of other people ranging from Peace Corps staff to Ministry of Health workers to members of NGOs and the Red Cross society, to get a sexual and reproductive health text-based hotline off the ground.  I don’t want to say too much about it, because it’s not quite ready yet–we keep writing proposals to get funding, only to find out there’s more criteria that we haven’t met yet.  So essentially, it’s a work in progress.   Here’s what I can show you:

A first draft of a logo designed by friend and graphic artist Bjorn Minde:

A photo of the focus group that Gabe (pictured-red polo), the MINSA-Matagalpa head of the adolescent and HIVaids programs (pictured-far left), and I led in Matagalpa with the MINSA youth group one Saturday to find out what they think about the logos and slogans for the project.

I hope that this project takes off–it’s what I’ve been spending a good quantity of my time on over the last few months.  Be on the lookout for more information. I absolutely WILL tell you as soon as this goes live.

And finally, I hope that this post has given you all a better idea of what I do with my time as a PCV down here.  I know that despite having seen my town and a bit of what I do, my own sister Ari was still confused about my job–which is OK, because sometimes I get confused myself.  My job involves a lot of flexibility and a lot of trial-and-error, but I think that over the last year and a half I’ve come into some projects and activities that I really enjoy.  And that’s that.  I’ll update you with more activities and news on this potential project as it comes.  Take care!

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