Friday, July 29, 2011

A Day in the Life: Walking in the Woods

A day in Peace Corps is definitely going to vary depending on your country, community, and program. It’s also going to vary a lot by individuals. So the day I share here isn’t that representative of a “normal” day, because such a thing is hard to define! But it does represent an important part of the whole experience. Let's call it, "Walking in the Woods".

6:30 am: My first alarm goes off. I snooze it twice, springing out of bed at 6:50 with 10 minutes to get to the muni.

7:12 am: I roll around to the muni, my counterpart isn’t in sight, the muni pick-up is gone, and seems to have left me. Wondering how I’m going to get up to the forest to give the educational walk I’m scheduled for. I wait for my guiding partner to show up.

7:20 am: I fumble through an unnecessary but gratifying conversation in Mam to buy two rice paches for breakfast in the plaza. I eat them standing there on the spot.

7:31 am: Turns out my counterpart went to get saplings in the municipal tree nursery. He arrives, we pile in and are on our way up to the forest. My partner and I separate from my counterpart at a crucial junction - he continues on to reforest with another school - and we walk about 20 minutes through the forest to reach the recreational center.

8:29 am: We make it to the center. Plenty of time to sweep inside, flush toilets, and brush up my partner on the plan for the hike.

8:31 am: Surprise! The kids arrive in pick-up truck, rather than on foot as we expected. All 25 mob us, greeting us in the traditional manner, bowing their heads so that we can touch them one by one. They’re all considerably younger than we thought, 1st and 2nd graders rather than 6th graders.

8:57 am: The kids have shaken out the arrival excitement, stored their bags in the visitors’ center and are assembled on the basketball court bleachers. Since we've only really practiced a curriculum geared for adolescents and adults,, I decide on the spot to focus the walk on the theme of “the senses” and paying attention to the forest. My partner isn't comfortable improvising, and I don’t speak Mam - the kids' primary language - so we’ll see how it goes with me leading and her doing evaluations in Mam.

10:30 am: We arrive back to the visitors’ center. The hike went well, aside from the constant distraction of blackberry bushes, which the kids attacked with uniformly ruthless enthusiasm. (Yeah. Leave No Trace. Forget about that one.) I feel like although it was a short time, most of the kids felt a spark, that precursor to a positive emotional connection with the forest and a great step to actively caring for it. At a minimum they learned what a volcano is, and why it's not good to cut down the endangered Guatemalan Fir (Pinabete)! I have to remind myself that each walk is just one tiny step in a long process.

11:00 am: The two teachers prepare lunch, steak with tortillas, orange soda, and refried beans from a can.

1:15 pm: Lunch eaten, we close up the visitors’ center and the teachers give us a ride back to town.

2:19 pm: We missed the muni’s lunch break, but I go home to relax and end up reading awhile.

3:30 pm: I arrive back in the office. Despite the Friday atmosphere, my officemate is working on a revision of a trash management plan due Monday. I take advantage of the moment to discuss with her and my counterpart about setting aside funds for trash management in the park.

5:00 pm: As usual, ideas are zig-zagging around without direct treatment, visitors interrupt the train of thought, and when the hour arrives, we leave without any really firm agreements. What’s more important, after all? Work or the weekend?!

5:15 pm: I arrive at home. My head is full– the last week of the month always feels this way. But writing out my to-do list and next month’s calendar will wait for Saturday morning, and I’m glad I don’t have any real plans for the weekend. I eat a snack and write for awhile.

8:13 pm: My boyfriend shows up online! But first I’ve got to make dinner.

9:30 pm: I eat and we chat a bit. This is always the highly anticipated event of the day.

10:31 pm: Off to sleep! Looking forward to a relaxing Saturday morning. And then it's back to the woods again on Sunday!

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