10,000 steps have to start somewhere

Making sense of complicated decisions. Here in Honduras, it´s just a countdown until Dengue.

Note: everything expressed in this blog comes from my own thoughts and opinions and in no way reflects the policies or opinions of the Peace Corps.
(forced disclaimer, but duh!)

Apr 14

VIH via the Language Barrier

In nine more days, I will have been gone for 60 days. That’s only two months! And that’s not for another nine days! My calendar says I will still be in El Paraisó at that time, but my big-view calendar says that it will mark the beginning of week 9 (out of 10 in training). My head whirls with excitement for the end of training. The format we follow feels more like high school than anything else with set beginning and ending times, repeated formats and exactly the same number of hours of active learning per weekday.  I will be happy when my schedule is my own to manage again. On the other hand, to think it will only have been two months scares me. Time passes slower, it seems, and I am not even in my site yet, which if others’ experiences are any guide will involve even slower increments of time and larger increments of boredom.

But enough of things to come.

This is what I have been doing.

As one in a group of four, I helped teach colegio students the dangers of HIV & AIDS and how to protect oneself from the infection. Since the Honduran school system is still largely in disarray due to government mismanagement and teachers’ strikes, we presented at a private, **Catholic** school! Naturally, we were asked to emphasize abstinence messaging, and for the most part we did. Abstinence is after all an important option for 16 and 17-year-olds to consider. But then we taught them how to properly put a condom on a banana. It was a riot, and on the feedback forms the majority of students said it was the most valuable part of the class. I threw in details about what kinds of lubrications are condom-safe for good measure. It would be an immense tragedy if one of these teens decided to experiment with sex, did so safely by using a condom, but then resorted to baby oil for lube. Baby oil with condoms is a common mistake and it’s also the highway to accidental pregnancy and unsavory infections. I couldn’t NOT mention it.

All-in-all, the kids were receptive even if they couldn’t understand us. Out of a two hour session, I conducted a game where terms were taped to the wall and small bits of paper with definitions were passed to the students. They had to match the two. I volunteered to facilitate this activity because I thought it would involve less talking than the other options. But I failed to take into account the fact that these kids are attending Catholic school. They don’t receive sex education. They may, but probably do not, have a microbiology class, which means they lack a broad understanding of things like immunodeficiency or even the difference between the HIV infection and the onset of AIDS. Fortunately, there were only about three mismatches. Tragically, I had to ask the these powerless souls to re-read their incorrect definition in front of the class a couple of times until I eventually found the correct definition in Spanish on my paper from which I could read and match up the correct definition. The language barrier grew with a game that involves relay races and dead bugs. It’s too much to explain, but to provide some context we allotted about 15 minutes for the game. It took me ten to communicate the rules and then another two to conduct a trial-and-error example of how to play. Still, they very enthusiastically brought me a set of keys, someone’s shoe, and the correct answer of one of the four fluids that transmit HIV. Thanks for listening guys!

Sidenote: Apparently I am a foreign heartthrob for these teenage girls. When our four hour charla was finally over, they flooded me with request for pictures. It felt more comical than awkward but was still a little taste of celebrity. 


  1. crgsza posted this