Third week at UPAVIM

It has been another busy but fun week at UPAVIM. On Monday, I had a nice meeting with the women in charge of the hermanamiento (our Sister Parish connection between DGFUMC and UPAVIM). I gave them some updates about our church, including special summer activities like camp and mission trips. We also discussed ways to improve communication between DGFUMC members and the UPAVIM women. We will try to send more updates and photos via email and Facebook (I am always happy to help translate). In addition, we are going to try to set up an online "pen pal" program for the youth. I will collect the names and email addresses of the 4th - 6th graders at UPAVIM that are interested, and then I will connect them with youth from our congregation. It will be a great opportunity for them to practice English and Spanish, respectively, and to learn about each other's cultures, interests, and daily lives.

On Wednesday, Elena (the other health volunteer) and I taught P.E. again for all the classes, from Montessori preschool to 6th grade. The youngest kids played animal charades and zoo tag, the middle grades played a small-scale version of Ultimate Frisbee, and the older kids worked in teams to invent complex balance poses. They all loved taking a break from the classroom to enjoy some exercise and laughter outside. Although we had discipline issues with some of the kids, most of them are creative, playful, and respectful.

This week I spent a lot of time in Reforzamiento, the after-school tutoring program. The youngest children are working on penmanship and counting; the current challenge is writing the number 5. Most of the kids could write neat rows of fives, but some were writing the number too big, too messy, or backwards. I enjoyed working with these students one-on-one, and it was very rewarding to see their faces light up when they finally coordinated their eyes and their fingers to write the perfect 5. I helped the 1st graders with spelling and addition, and I introduced the topic of "las categorías gramaticales" (parts of speech) to the 3rd and 4th graders. I made a domino/matching game to teach them about nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns. After a few days of practice, they definitely understand nouns and verbs, but the other categories are still a little fuzzy. I need to keep thinking of educational but fun activities to engage the not-so-enthusiastic students.

In the clinic, I have continued to help the nurse with measuring the patients' weight, blood pressure, and temperature, as well as the never-ending job of filing patient records. I have learned so much about public health challenges in Guatemala by talking to Nurse Johana, Ingrid (the substitute nurse), Dr. Sánchez, and of course the patients themselves. On Friday morning, we tried to present our first "charla de salud preventiva" (preventative health seminar), but attendance was very low. Elena and I brainstormed some better ways to spread the word, and we will present the same theme, Preventing Respiratory Infections, this coming week: a morning seminar for the community, and an afternoon seminar for the UPAVIMas after they finish work. On Friday afternoon, Marisol (one of the directors of the clinic committee) and I took the bus to a big drugstore, where we used another portion of the DGFUMC donation to buy lots of medications. It was tiring to carry the big cardboard boxes back on the bus, but it was definitely worthwhile. The UPAVIMas continue to express their gratitude for the generosity of Downers Grove's Guatemala Connection and the Missions, Justice, and Community Work Area.

On Saturday, I traveled solo to Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala. I enjoyed walking around the parque central, visiting several monasteries and convents (La Merced, Las Capuchinas, Santa Clara), hiking up the Cerro de la Cruz ("Hill of the Cross," see first photo), and tasting lots of samples at the Choco Museo. As usual, the bus ride was extremely crowded and somewhat nauseating, but I survived. Today, Sunday, the missionary family (Elena, Mattia, and their sons, Sam & Michele, who all live on the roof with me) invited me to explore Zone 2 of Guatemala City with them (UPAVIM is in Zone 12). We visited a huge relief map of Guatemala, which was an amazing way to see the country's topography. Some of the volcanoes were taller than the boys! Then, we bought some yummy street food and had a picnic in a nearby park, where the boys had a blast climbing around the playground and in the trees. Mattia played a tough game of chess against a Guatemalan gentlemen, and it was very powerful to see multiple generations and cultures all enjoying the same game. I'm so glad they invited me, because spending time in a green park was a nice break from the harsh urban environment of Guatemala City. We walked back to the bus station along La Sexta, a street famous for its shopping and street performers. Overall, this weekend allowed me to see many important aspects of Guatemalan history and culture, and now I feel refreshed and ready for my fourth week of service.

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