The Raute are Nepal’s last remaining nomadic tribe. There are only an estimated 650 of them in the country,140 of whom live in the jungle about an hour or so from my town. Our District Forest Department gives them a small stipend of 2,000 rupees (about $20) to manage wild fires in the forest. The other day, the tribe leaders came to the forestry office to collect their money and my supervisor at the district health office took the opportunity to try to give them some insecticide treated mosquito nets. Never having seen one before, the Raute leaders were pretty skeptical of the benefits, so my supervisor held a little meeting inside one to help persuade them. 

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I am already sure that Camp GLOW is one of the defining moments of my Peace Corps service. As stressful and crazy as executing a camp for 80 teenage girls can be, the chance to be there and experience it with them is an ultimate reward. 

I have not been to a camp in years. I forgot how much I love to sing and dance and be youthful. Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is about these things and so much more—it gives young women from all different backgrounds a chance to express themselves freely in a safe, encouraging environment. Campers make new, lifelong friends and meet fellow rising leaders from throughout Macedonia, who they can identify and connect with on a deeper level. They spend a week discussing important issues, learning new skills and knowledge, and brainstorming future projects to implement in their home communities. 

GLOW is all about leadership development. We seek to support young women as they discover their own capacity to be strong leaders in Macedonia and beyond. The camp has a multi-faceted approach that includes community time spent in teams (8 campers, 2 counselors, 1 counselor-in-training); large group functions with the entire camp that showcase creativity and teamwork; and experiential courses that range from emotional discussions to fun electives.

Everyday was jam-packed with courses such as:

Cultures of the World, Relationships and Social Health, Team Building, Our Effects on the Environment, Tie-Dye, Self-Esteem and Body Image, Origami, Human Rights and Diversity, Interpersonal Violence, Learning to Lead, Public Speaking, Yoga, American Relay Races, CPR and First Aid, Stereotypes and Iceberg Theory, Nutrition, Portrayal of Women in the Media

Each night, at least five electives were offered including:

Korean, Mnemonics, Acting, Karaoke, American Line Dancing, Powerful Women in History, Comic Strip Art, Leave No Trace, Stargazing, Charades

Being on the leadership team kept me quite busy, but I was able to co-teach Card Games, Kickboxing, and Self-Defense! I was also on the team to organize Field Day, during which all the teams competed in various activities (much like an American field day competition). 

There is so much more I could say about Camp GLOW: We had an awesome Disco Night. We lit candles and shared kind words. And made SMORES! We also had a visit from the US Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission (special thanks to the US Embassy Skopje for their generous grant in support of Camp GLOW this year!) 


If you have any questions about Camp GLOW Macedonia or are interested in supporting this project, please contact me.

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A group of second-year volunteers have been working on a project to bring indestructible soccer balls to Togo to use for HIV/AIDS and malaria educational projects. This spring, a whole lot of these balls arrived in Togo - and last week, they arrived in Datcha. Each volunteer could request balls to use for sensibilisations in their village, so of course I requested some for my girls’ soccer team. We talked about malaria, from transmission to prevention and treatment - sleep under bed nets! Go the dispensaire and get tested! And then we played.

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Tuma Sala- First Amerindian Resturant in Georgetown


imageimageOur interview with a local Native Guyanese, Angela is of the Patumunu tribe. One of nine Native tribes of Guyana! She was open to share her knowledge and show us how to cook one of her amazing dishes served in her restaurant Tuma Sala which is an authentic Amerindian cuisine located in Georgetown. We were thrilled to be able to interview her and get an insiders perspective of Guyana culture!imageimageimageimage

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Ginger Does the Campo: Round 1

My mom came to El Salvador with few expectations, not knowing what to expect and using my blog (and Facebook posts about tarantulas) as her guide to life in El Salvador. Her final impression- words and photos can only do so much justice to the life of a PCV and the reality of the communities we work in. I tried to ease her into the impending culture shock; we spent her first night in a hotel, enjoyed take-out with my two PCV soul sisters Aisha and Emily and lounged in the air conditioning. Her first night impression: This isn’t so bad.

We hit the road the next morning, leaving behind the hot water and Wi-Fi for bucket baths and Spanish. Our first stop was 7 de Marzo, the community where I lived during our 10 week training, to see my first host family and the puppy I had left behind. For those of you who have never traveled to Nuevo Cuscatlán let me set the scene. The drive up is lined with gated communities, beautiful houses in the hills guarded by machine guns and barbed wire. Shopping centers, nice cars, and the newly designed, very modern Nuevo Cuscatlán logo line the streets. It is a very deceptive image. My mom later told me, the whole way she was thinking “this isn’t so bad, what was Catherine complaining about”. Then you hit the pueblo, and the view changes dramatically. You are hit with a wave of stray dogs, bollos, street food and barred windows. Graffiti, loud music and trash; tin roofs, adobe houses and dirt roads. Too me, these sites were all a welcome home, I recognized the people, spotted my favorite tienda, but to my mom, the separation between the rich and the rest was immediately apparent. My mom was sitting silently in shock as we pulled up to my training site. Too me it was all the same, the only noticeable difference was that my puppy was now the size of a small horse. With no Spanish language skills, she put on the best Iamnotscaredoutofmymind smile and hugged all the family members and neighbors who were gawking at us, stepped into the compound and just like that her adventure had begun.  

If you can remember the stories and pictures from my first months here, you will recall that I was not living in luxury. I was a scared, non-Spanish speaking gringa thrown into a house with a bunch of curious, non-English speaking Salvadorans. My mom was in the same boat. She had me, but, after 7 months, my host mom was not giving me much opportunity to speak English. I wasn’t doing her much good. She sat, smiled and responded to every jumble of Spanish with a smile and “Si”, just as I had done so many months prior. We sat outside and watched the boys play guitar, ate, snacked and ate again (food is love in El Salvador) while Christina and I caught up on all the chambre and she filled me in on all the new merchandise in the tienda. It was if nothing had changed, besides the fact that we could actually communicate. If anyone is looking for a boost in your secondary language ego, I recommend a trip home to your training community, where everyone will “ohhh” and “ahhh” over the fact that you are no longer speaking at a second grade level. It was a strange feeling to be in the house and not be the one completely lost in the translation. My mom had the opportunity to understand what my first weeks in country were like. Christina, being the chatterbox that she is, assumed that the more activities and conversation there was, the faster my mom would learn. I must applaud her efforts, and now understand why I learned so much Spanish in her house. She wants to know where you where, who you saw, what you did, ALL THE TIME. She wants the scoop and she will patiently sit through broken Spanish to get the story. Who knew all those hours spent at her table with pan dulce and coffee was actually Spanish Class Round 2.

Along with the culture shock, 7 de Marzo provided my mom with her introduction to platos tipicos from El Salvador. After her first sleepless night she woke up bright and early to prepare and enjoy pupusas. Pupusas, the pride and joy of Salvadoran cuisine, are, in simple terms, a tortilla filed with cheese, beans, chicken, garlic, etc. Best eaten with cortido and salsa negro, they can be enjoyed morning or night, with a cold beer or a cup of coffee. There is even a song dedicated to the pupusas and how much we all love them. My mom gave them 1.5 out of 5 stars. We were off to a rocky start. That afternoon, while I suffered through a parasite, she was left to fend for herself, and tasted Christina’s chicken soup (3 stars) tortillas (negative 5 stars) and tamales (4 stars). Needless to say, she was looking forward to a change in the menu, and hoping to never see a tortilla again.

My mom was a real trooper, she adopted the attitude that got me through training, which is forcing yourself to laugh at the bad, because you cant change it. Cockroaches covering the latrine, pee outside. Don’t understand anything that is going on, smile and nod. She did a great job pretending to like all the food she was given, and ignore the giant beetles and bird poop.

After her first nights in the campo, the Final Verdict was : I give you all the credit in the world.  

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