Spontaneous Teaching
category: Jims Guatemala

tourSM.jpgThings are not fantastic right now. We’re demoralized, and we’ve hit a sortof low point in our service so far. Emily’s post is just part of what’s going on, as well as stuff too complicated (and boring?) to explain, and maybe a touch of homesickness. But despite this, some great things still spontaneously come up.

I was weeding the greenhouse this morning, and I heard a commotion outside. Who should appear, but a dozen girls on recess from school (which is across the street). The greenhouse is the subject of much conjecture and wild speculation all over town, and I think that the schoolkids that have enough guts to go see it in person get some sort of bragging rights amongst their classmates. Anyways, they asked for a tour, so I let them inside and showed them around.

“Are there any cucumbers?” one of the older ones asked. This is a loaded question; word got around that there are ALWAYS cucumbers, because they are my most successful plant and I am buried in them. What she really wanted to know was, “Can I have a cucumber?”

Well, I give them out all the time and the kids know it, but I couldn’t do it this time because I didn’t have a dozen of them on hand to give to everyone. “Um, then, can you show us how to prepare them?” she asked, undaunted.

So, we headed up to the house with a few fresh cucumbers. Fixing them up is easy; my dad’s been doing it for as long as I can remember. You just slice ’em thin, put them in a bowl with water and vinegar, and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Vinegar is really rare here, so Emily and I substitute lime juice. It’s suprisingly yummy that way, too (Dad, take note).

“Anyone who wants to come into the house has to take off their shoes,” I instructed, since it’s the rainy season and mud is eveywhere. In a flash, there were over 20 teeny-tiny shoes in a pile outside our door. NO ONE wanted to miss a chance to be in the Gringo House. I gave them a quick cooking class, leaving the skin on the cucumbers because that is where you get the few vitamins that cucumbers provide.

“What is going on here?” Emily said, looking at the mountain of shoes as she walked by the house with an armload of laundry. Then she saw I was cooking for kids, and laughed.

As the kids were sampling the cucumbers I’d prepared, I asked them if they knew why it’s important to always boil the water before putting it on the cucumbers. Or before drinking it, for that matter. I got a bunch of blank looks. Aaah, that is part of why we’re here, folks.

Just then, Luki came by to sell us some tortillas. “Luki! How nice of you to drop by!” I said. “Do YOU know why it’s a good idea to boil drinking water?” Luki comes to the health lectures all the time, so I already knew she knew the answer. She looked a little hesitant about being put on the spot, but figured out what I was doing and played along.

“To kill the bichos (little beasts) that make us sick,” she said. Good job Luki! Yep, if you boil the water, you kill germs, microbes, parasites, etc. I reiterated all of that to the girls, then gave Luki the remaining cucumber as a prize for knowing the correct answer.

And that, folks, is what Peace Corps is supposed to be like.

Posted by: jfanjoy