We held the class once a week in the village, each lady taking a turn at lending her kitchen and wood for each cooking class so the cost would be shared. Once the girl drops out, she usually becomes dependent on her husband or baby daddy for financial support, which also puts a large amount of pressure on the young man. One day, a little over a year into my service, I stopped by the health center to check in with a couple of the health educators and make my rounds to say hello to everyone. Not saying that any one of them should tell me what to do either, but just pointing out that he had a practically nonexistent personal relationship with me. Remember that impregnating a woman is a seen as a demonstration of manliness, therefore birth control is viewed as a threat to manhood. Another prime example of this mindset is regarding the man and woman who started renting space in the same house where I was renting after Tayra and Ozman my original roommates there moved into their own home early on during my service. Amidst a society where where the men generally have the last word and women are accustomed to being reprimanded by their husbands, it is almost as if the women do not even realize they have voices of their own.
This something-year-old woman went on to explain to me how she is afraid to walk through the streets of Antigua alone or with much skin showing which is why she always carries a scarf so as not to attract much male attention or put herself at risk of being harassed in any way. It all plays into the vicious cycle I mentioned before. When boys were around, Guatemalan men behaved. Maybe just a little tiny bit sexy, but not really, AND it would depend on which we were talking about as the traditional clothing changes with the region in Guatemala. Men have their own sets of problems and seek outlets to cope with the stress as well. A middle-aged Guatemalan woman I met—whose husband is a kind, successful, and down-to-earth Guatemalan doctor—who lives in Antigua, one of the most progressive towns in Guatemala likely due to the high tourism traffic to the area shared some of her experiences with me, explaining that in the world she grew up in and is still a part of, it works like this: Kathy and Frank were a couple, and while Pedro and I were not a couple, we were often seen together so for an entire week, I was left alone. After that incident with Rolando, I started avoiding the health center as much as possible. Although that stopped, working and living as a single woman in a small rural Guatemalan town continued to have its challenges. It got to a point where I decided I better break this chapter into two parts; part two will post in just a couple days. The idea for this chapter was born one evening in Guatemala during my Peace Corps service when Kathy, a fellow PCV and one of my best friends, and I were having one of our famously long phone conversations as we each prepared dinner and cleaned up afterwards in our respective homes in villages that were five hours apart from one another. Are they worthless in society? Not saying that any one of them should tell me what to do either, but just pointing out that he had a practically nonexistent personal relationship with me. It was true, I had gained weight. Also, as I have been writing about this topic, the paragraphs have just been pouring out from my fingers with seemingly no end in sight. I also wondered if he told his wife, who, at the time, was pregnant with their third child, that she was overweight as well. In a society in which the women have been conditioned that the only time their voices matter is once they achieve that heralded state of motherhood, when it comes to their identities, it is almost as if they have no say in the matter. King after king after king. If people are equipped with knowledge and understanding, they are more likely to feel empowered to make important life decisions and contribute to their communities in a positive manner. I have the utmost respect for it. In other cases involving infidelity, women are also willing participants, seeking an emotional and physical connection with another man as a way of reclaiming a sense of power and self-worth. He drove me from the resort to the bus station and as soon as I got in the car with him it was my first time alone in the car , he started commenting on my legs and how he liked how they looked, tried to get my phone number, and drove ridiculously slowly all the way to the station. Male PCVs had it so much easier than female PCVs in the sense that people in the community just listened to them when they spoke so they never really had to push their way and exercise the same persistence that we women had to in order to get some movement with our work; furthermore, the male PCVs did not usually realize the extent of harassment that the females had to cope with because they only knew about it through our stories, rarely from being a firsthand witness. Especially common in the rural parts of the country, women cover their faces or mouths with their hands while they speak, embarrassed to speak up or have any attention drawn to themselves, or afraid to take ownership of an opinion of their own, or perhaps it is just out of shyness. All I could think was to ask questions about his wife and kids in the hopes that it would remind him that he was married with a family already. Speaking of opportunities, there exists a vicious cycle in these rural Guatemalan communities that makes it nearly impossible for women to have any options besides motherhood.
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