Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lessons Learned - Part 1

Having already passed the 2 Year mark in my Peace Corps service - 2 years, 1 month and 6 days to be exact - i figured it would be appropriate to gather some rather memorable experiences and observations and somehow translate them into lessons learned or qualities acquired- however abstract the connection may seem. I plan to do this in several entries.

I'll start with an early experience. At the end of my first week in site, i was desperate to get out - not because i was sick of my site or because i missed my friends from training terribly but because i felt like i deserved it after a solid week (not to mention three months of training) out of my comfort zone. So, i made plans to visit a friend in his site about an hour and a half away for a night. At around 5:00 i realized i had missed the last bus and was sitting on the corner on the way out of town, desperately waiting for a pickup truck or some other charitable soul to pass by offering me a ride to Tecpan, where i could catch a bus to my friend's site. Finally, around 5:30, not a micro-bus, truck or a car, but a tuk-tuk passed by and jokingly asked where i was going. Now - for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of visiting Guatemala, or the rest of the developing world for that matter, a tuk-tuk is a tiny taxi built around a motorcylce engine that fits two people in addition to the driver and maxes out at about 25 miles an hour. It's like a golf cart, only much smaller and more cramped. Well, luckily this particular tuk-tuk was headed to Tecpan, a very rare occurrence, seeing as it was over 15Km away and at least a 50 minute ride. I quickly got in and rode that Tuk-tuk all the way to Tecpan, up and down amusement park- worthy hills and even for 3km on the Interamerican highway, unconcerned with the two mischievous young men sharing the driver's seat but simply thankful for my luck. The ride took almost an hour, but it was entirely worth it because i arrived safely to my friend's site and returned the next day refreshed and ready to get back to work. Lesson learned: Get to know the town bus schedules.

Here's another observation that i took note of. One day, about a year and a half back, i made a to-do list ( one of my favorite pastimes). Item number two (not number one, i might point out) on that list read: "Take a Shower." Let that sit for a moment..

For some reason, I had lost the instinctive impulse to bathe and had fallen out of the habit. I'll be painfully honest, bathing twice weekly was the norm for a while. Bathing is no easy feat here, often requiring a lot of leg work and/or a giant sacrifice of privacy (if you take the tamaskal, or communal steam bath, route - to which i have yet to succumb) but I've somehow made it work on a more regular basis now as opposed to that dark time of bathing (ok i'll admit it) once weekly. With about a month to go in Guatemala, I'm almost drooling at the thought of a sparkling, white tilled bathroom. Lesson learned: Never let personal hygiene go by the wayside.

And to finish this entry, here's an ongoing experience, one of the most meaningful I've had. At the beginning of my service, I lived with a wonderful family for about two months and I moved back in with the same family about 5 months ago. The mom, Ines, is a remarkable and independent woman and the dad, Tomas, is an honest, caring man, both with a great sense of humor. They have 6 children, two of which are married (Fredy and Sheny), three of which are routinely abroad (Victor, Jose and Lydia) and one who still lives at home while going to school (Lorena). I will be living in their home until I leave Guatemala at the end of October.

Aside from cherishing their company and sharing important moments with them, living with a Guatemalan family in my site has lent itself to limitless odd, schema-challenging moments that have often left me genuinely bewildered. For example: I've found days-old leftovers in the kitchen cabinet drawers even though they own a beautiful new refrigerator. I've stepped in chicken droppings in my bedroom and I've inspected mysterious paw prints on my pillow - to whom they belong i have yet to find out. I've witnessed similar occurrences in other homes as well.

In most houses the front door is revolving, and the multitudes of people coming in and out every day all claim to be related and decide to stay over often. For a while i was unsure of who actually lived in my house and of where they slept - which was unnerving as you can imagine because I never knew if I’d crawl into bed and find company.

With all the surprises and new ways of doing things, at times I feel like I’ve taken up residence at Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s house, the storied elderly single lady whose house was adorned with furniture decoratively nailed to the ceilings. Perhaps you remember those books? As a child, I remember enjoying the books' fantastical nature that was somehow still contained by reality. That's basically what I've experienced on a day to day basis here, living with my Guatemalan host family.

Another example: Since the concept of individual possessions is completely foreign - they share almost everything - the idea of a private room is hardly even considered. In one home I've visited frequently, while three girls share one room, there are two full rooms that serve only to house dilapidated old furniture and appliances which might as well be nailed to the ceiling - or, more appropriately, hung from the tin roof.

As confused as I have felt at times, I've never lost sight of the importance of loved ones in one's life and i have genuinely cherished the time spent with my host family. I have always greatly appreciated their hospitality and support. Lessons learned: 1)The value of family transcends cultural borders and 2) Hide your candy.

To be continued..

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Agatha takes her toll

In the time since my last post, things have been steady at work. Throughout the coffee harvest we've been working to continue to boost membership in the cooperative as always, and the stove project has been officially launched. We were approved for a sizable grant to be able to construct 19 stoves, which combined with all the generous donations we received, will be enough to provide stoves for 26 families. After receiving the grant, we've begun construction on 8 stoves and were making wonderful progress up until last Saturday, when we were hit rather hard by hurricane Agatha - perhaps you'd heard of it?

Maybe this will pique your interest? One of the many footprints that Agatha left; a sinkhole in Guatemala city that dragged with it an abandoned(thankfully) three story building.

Well, I definitely had no idea it was coming. No one had mentioned it other than in passing - and it never occurred to me that it could do real damage. And even if it could, i assumed that it would happen on the beach or somewhere obviously more tropical. Needless to say, i got schooled - yet again - on the ins and outs of the small, developing - world town.

To give you a bit of an idea of what happened (because even if you're astute enough to read into the very general articles that surface in the states, i can tell you first hand from a distinct point of view) the rains started steadily on Wednesday night. Laying in bed under my metal roof, i remember clearly when it started to pound - i've gotten used to the sound (luckily, because it often pounds - sometimes i have to go under the covers to talk on the phone in bed). The heavy rain continued through Thursday and Friday, lightening up every now and then only to get stronger upon resuming; it never stopped. Now, we are currently in rainy season, which means it rains heavily and often from May to October in my town, but it always breaks for small peeks of sun throughout the streaks of precipitation and this was different. The rain didn't stop - and apparently three days was all it needed to do severe damage.

Friday afternoon i got a notice from Peace Corps to return to site as soon as possible and prepare for a few days of 'stand-fast' - meaning staying put wherever i may be. On Saturday things really started to escalate due to the water levels in town. The stretch of rural highway between my town and the next began to succumb to various mudslides, which even being paved as it is made passing impossible while the one town operated tractor slowly made its way to the spot - taking hours at times. Eventually bridges were swept away and houses at low points in town were inundated by runoff and mud. Many were stranded outside of town forced to wait out the storm or the clearance of the road. Saturday night, the power went out - with no promise of coming back soon. Sunday morning we realized the water source had also been compromised. So after only three days of heavy rain, the town was left with no power, no running water and no way out. I'm going to be honest with you, i freaked out a little bit.

News quickly spread around town of more dire circumstances, specifically one that affected some very close friends of mine in town. Word had it that a sturdy concrete house at the base of a hill on the edge of a soccer field in one of the surrounding villages had collapsed under the weight of an enormous mudslide - taking with it the lives of 4 young girls in their sleep and their 4 months pregnant mother while sparing the lives of the two youngest boys. The father, having received the horrible news while at work in a hotel in Guatemala City, had to not only sleep on the news to wait for a bus, but arrive on foot from the closest spot the bus would drop him - about 10 kilometers away. And there were similar stories to this in many of the villages.

Here's what the house looked like today, one week later when we were finally able to get there in a car.

Sunday passed with no power and no water, as did Monday. All classes were cancelled 'until further notice.'Tuesday, still with no water or power, the president showed up on our soccer field in borrowed helicopters from the United States and COlumbia promising to right the situation and giving away several 'solidarity bags' filled with black beans, rice, oil and other items of daily consumption to a few afflicted families. It seemed like a painfully small gesture to someone who had lost their house, almost their entire family or both.

The power finally flickered back on Wednesday morning, only four days after it had gone out - but only to better highlight the damage that the storm had incurred on the town. The road out was not cleared for passage until Thursday.

Now that you have an idea of the chronology of events in my town, consider this only the average occurrence. While 20 people died in total in our small town, 150 more died in others. Not to mention dozens of major bridges swept away (some needing months to be rebuilt), hundreds of people missing and the hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans that were left homeless.

Outside the home, the effects of Agatha are far reaching as well. Seeing as many of our associates farm formerly wooded areas that have been cleared for coffee plants, the terrain lacks the deep roots that hold the soil in place (especially if it is on a steep incline, which Guatemalans farm like no body else) many coffee plantations were literally dragged away with the mud and water. One cuerda (40m x 40m) of coffee yields Q4000 of coffee sales per year for the farmer who cares for it. The coffee will take 4 years to be replanted and be nurtured to maturity to be able to fully produce again - which means Q16,000 of loss on that one small plot - and thats only if it will one day be farmable again and was not ruined completely. Each associate has between 2 and 5 of those plots. And that's just coffee. This town depends almost entirely on agriculture, imagine the immense loss.

Here's a 3 cuerda plot that will definitely not be farmable this year:

What's worse is, it could all easily happen again, possibly wreaking twice as much havoc in another blow.

I think it is the instability of this situation that has truly scared me in all this - that one day it could be sunny like it was all this week, and the next could be the beginning of the next big hurricane with just a few days of heavy rains. People in town are very seriously afraid of the rain - because of its insecurity and inevitably the consequences that follow.

As for now, the town and the lesser affected people have been doing what they can - distributing water via tank trucks, gathering what little help is offered and distributing it in the areas of need etc. Just today we went to see the family who suffered the loss of 4 daughters and a mother, along with other families who had lost their houses to distribute a small collection of clothing and food but knowing that while the rain is errant the damage is long lasting is extremely disheartening.

I hope to have more positive news to share in my next post.
Until next time..

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CIACEP General Body Meeting

Last Wednesday my coffee coop celebrated their second all-member general body meeting, a yearly affair. Most organizations around here - whether it be an NGO, a community association, or the local government - hold a general meeting once a year to get all the members together (sometimes solely to remind them that they are, in fact, members still) discuss any achievements throughout the year and present new work plans and budget revisions. It's basically one big board meeting, where all the stock holders are allowed to attend and participate.

Since our foundation in October of 2008, it's been a constant struggle for survival as an organization dealing with coyotes threatening our coffee sales, bad weather hurting the coffee yields and rival coops enamoring our associates. So, needless to say, having arrived at this point in our lifetime as a coop was an accomplishment in itself. While it should probably go without saying that this type of affair generally turns into a big party, our board and members were especially riled up for this event. Now that I mention it, it seems like people around here are always looking for a reason to celebrate, something that shouldn't come as a surprise in a country that very seriously celebrates "Day of the child."

So, keeping in mind the true nature of our event, the team of board members and coffee promoters set about preparing the venue the day before. Not so surprisingly, it was an activity that took from lunchtime Tuesday until when the first guests started arriving Wednesday morning and took priority over points to be presented during the meeting – inconsequential details like the work plan, summary of activities in the past year and current budget, haha.

As part of the decorating commission, i was put in charge of the balloons and posters. Luckily my landlord Emeliano has a store where he sells school and office supplies in town. When i arrived and inquired about balloons, he smiled and said of course they sold balloons. What was I thinking? I forgot this place is party central. But, the funniest part, that I hope you'll appreciate too, came when I asked if he sold them inflated. Seeing as my Spanish is far from perfect still, I had to talk my way around the actual words for inflating balloons with a helium tank. Once I had asked he just sort of stared at me with a perplexed expression on his face, and after a few minutes to allow me time to retract my statement, said that no, they did not inflate them, in a way that implied that I was crazy for even having asked.

After a few moments, I had that epiphany that should be automatic by now because it happens so often: in my town, filling balloons with helium and attaching ribbon is unheard of, because blowing them up manually and hanging them with thread works just fine - no fancy helium tanks or shiny ribbon required. So, I quickly put two and two together, and realized that Emeliano had understood that i wanted not only to buy the 50 balloons in yellow and green, but that I expected him to blow them up himself. I could've kicked myself.

Like I said, I should be used to situations like this by now, they happen so often. But luckily I can still have a good laugh at myself.

The event went over really well and we even had some unexpected visitors from the National Coffee Association which made the event seem very official. The members left satisfied and happy, hopefully in part because of the beautiful array of balloons :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Secretary Clinton Visits Guatemala

Last Friday Guatemala had the pleasure of receiving a visit from Secretary of State Clinton. We in the Peace Corps community were invited by the embassy to a small meet and greet session at the ambassador's house about two days before the event was scheduled to take place. For some volunteers, this was unfortunately not enough advance notice to be able to re-arrange work commitments and arrive on time. But, luckily for me, it's still coffee harvest for another month, so my coworkers are busy cutting and processing coffee and all my recent work has been self initiated. Also, I live extremely close to the capital in comparison to other volunteers, something I've usually taken for granted seeing as I don't do much in Guate. But for an event like this, 15 minutes long and subject to cancellation, I was thankful for my site location.

The meet and greet with Secretary Clinton was scheduled to take place at 2:30 at Ambassador McFarland's house in Guatemala City, but all visitors were required to arrive a fair amount of time beforehand in order to 'secure the area.' Our group of Peace Corps volunteers and staff members arrived around 12:30 at the ambassador's house ready to hunker down and wait - something I've gotten suprisingly comfortable with while being here. I'd been to the ambassador's house before, so it wasn't so shocking the second time and we were allowed to explore the grounds while we waited - a full size lawn, swimming pool, tennis court and various meeting nooks scattered around them.

As other guests trickled in, we got into conversations with some of the other people invited,as the invitation was extended to the entire Guatemalan 'mission,' a term with which i was unfamiliar before that day. Apparently that includes the embassy staff, Peace Corps volunteers and staff and the Center for Disease Control among others with the Ambassdor's house being the 'Chief of the Mission's Residence'.

While lounging around the Chief of the Mission's swimming pool, my friends and I got the chance to chat with several people living in Guatemala City working as part of the mission for various other organizations. It was really funny to see how we Americans collided, coming from completely different experiences in Guatemala. All the embassy and CDC workers live in a predetermined area in Guate, with similarly furnished apartments and little freedom to leave their path from Home to Work. (while Peace Corps Volunteers are basically sent off into the rural communities and asked to find their own housing, construct their own furniture etc.) I asked a teenage daughter of one of the Center for Disease Control staff what she did to hang out with her friends, and she said that while she did have some friends from school, and a few friends in her apartment building, she mostly 'just stays where it's safe.'While i was listening to her, i was thinking about all the things I'd done while in PC Guatemala that probably would be frowned upon by the state department, not even because they were not allowed but because of the liability issues. (I've been in a lot of rickety pickups)

Judging from the Foreign Service Officers we met, the embassy staff seeks out the most cosmopolitan setting in each post and tries to adjust accordingly. We got into talking about different restaurants and things to do in the city and somehow got onto the topic of American restaurant chains abroad; Crystal chandeliers in Pizza Huts and Botanic Gardens in McDonald's. After discussing the ambience at a certain McDonald's one guy urged us to 'GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN!'Needless to say, it was a nice check on perspective.

Finally, around 3:45 we were alerted to Secretary Clinton's impending arrival and all crowded around the podium that had been assembled for the occasion. She arrived in style, smiling in a pants suit, enormous pearls and a blinding diamond ring that i had not previously noticed (but that didn't surprise me). After greeting several women political leaders of Guatemala - including Rigoberta Menchu - she delivered a short speech to the mission staff (on the importance of our work in Guatemala and its role in the US's foreign relations, and stepped down into the crowd to shake hands.

Unfortunately, after thinking about it all day, the best thing i could manage to spit out was 'it's so nice to meet you' and I only got that much out because I heard someone else say it. I'll have to think of what I'm going to say next time..

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stoves Galore!

I'm back and ready to take on 2010 and my last 10 months of the Peace Corps in Guatemala! To start the new year off right, I'm currently undertaking a large project to fulfill a need for our community of coffee farmers, under the umbrella of the coffee cooperative (CIACEP). It came to our attention via a survey of needs that many of the women involved, either wives of coffee producers or farmers themselves, lacked an appropriate place to prepare food in their home. These women (even though it is 2010, people!) continue to cook food on small fires on the ground prepared before every meal, which fills the kitchen with smoke and leads to frequent burns. This would be bad enough if it were just the women at risk, but it's not that simple. The hazard is compounded if you take into account the fact that women are the primary caregivers to infants and small children, normally carrying at least one on their backs and simultaneously looking after several more while multitasking to prepare the meal. This frequent exposure to smoke and fire, especially damaging at a young age, can permanently stunt pulmonary function and consequently lead to serious respiratory problems, not to mention suffering chronic symptoms like asthma for their entire lives. Respiratory disease is one of the leading causes of death in Guatemala, and this is no coincidence. I've been in the kitchen while someone is cooking from a fire on the ground, it's not pleasant.

The proposed solution, as implemented in the past by Peace Corps' Appropriate Technology program in Guatemala, is a raised cinder block stove that will contain the open flames and smoke that are so dangerous. This "estufa mejorada," or improved stove, has a metal slab on top with burner holes of varying sizes that allow direct contact with the fire while still conserving heat and funneling the smoke through a chimeney in the roof of the house. Most importantly they create a safer, cleaner kitchen and provide the women with a more dignified way of cooking meals for their families.

I'll be administering this project, hopefully building around 45 stoves in the surrounding villages of my community. While I'm applying for a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) grant to fund the project, I'm looking to raise around $2,000 on my own to fully fund the project for all 45 families, each stove costs around $120 to construct. The coffee farmers will be contributing labor and basic materiales, but even the maximum grant amount, if approved by USAID, won't be enough tp provide for all of them. I've attached some photos to help you picture the stoves as well as a link where you can contribute to the cause via Paypal if you're able. I'll admit, they're not glamorous, but they certainly get the job done.

To make a contribution to the Estufas Mejoradas (Improved Stoves) project, please mail checks to:

Rachel Mowry
35 San Marcos
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

All donations will be deposited into a separate project account in the name of the coffee cooperative.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Having not had a chance to write in several weeks, I'm writing now to justify my absence. Lately work has been quite hectic with my various responsibilities, and I can't say that I'm complaining - I feel like I've finally gotten to a point with my group of guys at which they know what I'm capable of, and now expect more of me. I have to say that I most definitely prefer this to the way things were working before now - which basically consisted of looking for any kind of work in which i felt i could contribute and forcefully inserting myself into the mix. That said, my main responsibility right now is to promote the recently formed Coffee Cooperative that was initially an objective of the NGO to which I was assigned by Peace Corps. To calrify a little, a coffe coop in Guatemala is an organization that allows producers to unite, sell their products at a higher price in larger quantities while reinvesting the profits in the community. Now, with the departure of SID (the NGO that is currently my host country agency)in sight, we are analzying the uncertain future of the Cooperative, based on several factors (to mention a few; competition with another funded organization, history of violence against coops during the armed conflict and lack of trust in organizations on the part of the local coffee growers). So, in order to secure the future of our Co-op, we've taken the steps to initiate a promotion project, which is very fortunately right up my alley. To put it in my own words, I am totally psyched to be doing this because it is the first project where I can say that i have experience in the matter and can offer appropriate analysis and useful insight.

So, in line with this promotion plan we've entered several channels of publicity, one of which has taken the form of a presentation given directly to small groups of the NGO's participants by yours truly. While this method presents several obstacles, it offers one main benefit in that they all grow coffee and are more or less all familiar with the practices the NGO teaches to producers. These groups have ranged from 4 to 30 so far, and each one has been distinct from the last. Having met with about 15 groups so far, we've gotten together in classrooms, patios, offices, bedrooms and even under make shift standings when it's been raining - basically anywhere we can make it happen. Aside from one presentation I gave to the group of trainees that recently arrived, they've all been in the villages and far reaching small communities of our town - in spanish, aldeas.

One thing about the groups in the aldeas of our town is that their average level of Spanish is generally lower due to restricted access, and in general people are much more comfortable speaking Kaqchikel. So, keeping this in mind I've been taking more Kaqchikel class and tailoring class to specific vocabulary that is applicable to my presentation. This has been succesful to a certain extent, in that the participants realize that I'm trying very hard to connect with them on a more personal level, but at other times it makes little difference. I'd like to share my experience with one group that represents some of the obstacles we're facing not only in the promotion, but in working in the aldeas and with local farmers in general.

My very first presentation was given in a community called Patoquer to a group of participants registered to recieve the practices promoted by SID. We arrived a little late, but the participants had not all arived yet, so we ended up waiting for another 45 minutes and started about an hour late, which is not too far off from the standard delay ("Hora Chapina," or the Guatemalan phenomenon of consistent tardiness clears this up neatly). Once we got everyone situated in the family's kitchen, I began my presentation - which generally lasts about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the level of participation and number of questions and the extent of translation (Luckily all of the promoters which accopmany me to the group meetings are from the aldeas themselves and are readily available to translate if need be). It consists of several parts; individual introductions, a game that teaches the importance of teamwork, information on what a cooperative does and what it means to be part of our organization (CIACEP RL - or Cooperative Integral Agricola Cafe Especial Poaquileno - by the way, i was not present at the naming). At this particular training, about 15 people showed up and were actively participating up until the point in the presentation when i get around to the punchline of the presentation. There I was, flaling about in my enthusiasm for the idea of coopertivism and moments before sharing the crucial information about our organizaiton the women in the group (there were about 15 of them)slowly start to sneak out of the room, one by one. Then groups of three and four and before i knew it I was left with only my coworker, a talkative gentleman who wasn't particularly in favor of the idea and one older lady who looked like she would've left too if she'd have had in it in her to get up. I went from having a lively group of 17 possible associates to three unlikely candidates and was wondering what could've gone wrong to cause this. Well my answer wasn't hard to find - after finishing my presentation, trying to conceal my hurt pride, i found out that a meeting in the house a few doors down had been giving away one pound bags of rice in exhancge for attendance. When your target audience lives from hand to mouth, this is hard to compete with.

I could go on forever about this, but I'll save you the time and just leave it at this; there are significant obstacles to our work everyday that are only being exacerbated by the practices of other organizations. My organization has to deal with this concept of paternalism on a daily basis. Although we work parallel to these organizations who still practice it (by giving away coffee plants or paying their administrative bodies etc.) we can't compete, and when it comes down to loyalty, we've found that it's hard to secure friends when your pockets are empty.

However, despite all this I remain optimistic for the future of our Cooperative because we have a few driven and truly inspirational individuals who are genuinely interested in the greater good of the community. As long as they are around I will be, committed to working hard to cement the Cooperatives foundation in the community with whatever I can contribute.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pearl gives birth

A quick anecdote for you:

I came home around 7:00 PM a few nights ago, dropped all my things and immediately started preparing dinner, as that was my only priority at that point in the night. A friend stopped by, we chatted while i was cooking - really only focused on eating dinner and getting a few things done before heading to bed. After eating, i realized i had misplaced my phone. I searched the house inside and out looking for it, in every room and every pocket of the articles of clothing i had worn that day. Finally i thought to look under the sheets in my bed, as i sometimes unconsciously leave it there.

Upon lifting up the thick blanket on top of my bed, i found not my cellphone, but something far more interesting: my cat, Pearl..nursing two kittens, after apparently having given birth to them. Right there. On my bed. And under the covers, no less.

What´s funny is, i didn´t even know she was pregnant. She doesn´t leave the house (or so I thought) and there aren´t any outlets to the surrounding houses (which I´ll now have to revise thoroughly). Although i had noticed a little firmness in her belly, i thought she was just growing or maybe i needed to be a little less liberal with the cat food. She is only, after all about 10 months old in my best estimates.

So, still not having found my cell phone, i collected my thoughts, racing around my house wanting to call someone - anyone - who could tell me what to do, having never dealt with newborn animals before. As far as i knew, kittens came from the petshop, and were neatly produced there (which, i´ll argue, isn´t too far from the truth in the U.S.)

When i finally found my phone - ten minutes after frantically yelling ¨Oh my god, Pearl! You have babies!¨ - i called a friend, managing only to blurt out ¨I need help. Can you come over?¨ He obliged without asking questions, and once he got there i explained my predicament, delicately lifting up the covers to reveal the whole, well, birth situation on my bed and the small little rats, that were supposedly new born kittens, expecting the same response from him.

He looked at me, glanced back at the kittens, and started to laugh. It was one of those deep belly laughs that makes you feel extremely sheepish for having reacted in such a way. He reminded me, yet again, that most people here think I am incredibly naive and oblivious to natural processes. When i told my boyfriend about it, he echoed my friend`s reaction. ¨That sort of thing is normal for us. Dogs have puppies, cats have kittens. That´s how it works.¨ Well, thanks for the biology lesson, appreciate that.

I think the fact that i found her hidden under my covers, in the remains of the birth, was what really struck me and sent me into that rare panic mode. For them, it was just another natural, everyday occurrence, whereas for me, it was something i´ve only seen channel surfing on TV - on select cable channels at that. Jeez.

The kittens are currently tucked neatly into a wide, plastic bucket filled with blankets and they´ve been providing constant entertainment for the past few days. Pearl immediately assumed the protective motherly disposition, which is heart warming, i must say. They still look little mice with cat-like features and colored coats, another stage i had never fully recognized as part of the life cycle of kittens. Once they get a little cuter, I´ll start contemplating names i suppose.

As for my sheets, I think they´re going to need a little bit more personal attention.

Until next time!