Sunday, October 9, 2011

$2/day Challenge

I was recently looking up development indicators for Guatemala and ran across the inevitable percentage of population below poverty line (over 50%, with a per capita GDP of about $5,000), which got me thinking about poverty lines.  The United States defines the global poverty line as earning less than $1.25/day, but more common are less than $2/day and less than $1/day to determine the poor and super poor.  This is an extremely small amount of money anywhere, especially if you have a large family to feed; luckily even the worst-paid Guatemalan laborers receive a slightly higher wage – men more than women.  Among college campuses, it is not uncommon for students to try putting themselves in the shoes of the world’s poor by consuming no more than $2/day for a week or so, aka the $2/day Challenge.  I always found this intriguing but impossible to do in the States, where you can’t buy anything substantive for $2 (even at 99-cent stores!).  What keeps coming up in my head, though, is that if we are talking about feeding one person in say Guatemala, where standards of living are much lower and freshly picked produce is much cheaper, $2/day (or about Q16/day) is entirely possible.  I earn about $10/day here and here’s a breakdown of what I generally buy in a week (prices and availability change seasonally, of course):

Broccoli: Q2.50/head (small)
Cauliflower: Q3.00/head (small)
Potatoes: Q1.50/lb.
Tomatoes: Q2.50/lb.
Onions: Q1.00/lb.
Güicoy: Q2.00/squash (small)
Peppers: Q1.00 each (small and possibly on the way out)
Corn: Q1.00/cob
Carrots: Q1.00 each
Apples: Q3.00/lb.
Bananas: Q0.50 each
Oranges: Q0.50 each
Pears: Q1.00 each
Strawberries: Q5.00/lb.
Black beans: Q3.00/lb. (raw)
Eggs: Q1.00 each
Tortillas: Q1.00/4
Xecas (kind of like sweet bagels): Q1.00 each

Now this list doesn’t include packaged foodstuffs like rice, pasta, oil, powdered milk, etc., but I’ve estimated that I spend about Q60/week on food.  That’s about Q8.60/day, or about $1.10/day.  Of course, if I went out to eat more, or bought meat rather than eating vegetarian, or ate the amount of tortillas that a Guatemalan eats, then my weekly food budget would obviously be higher.  Even so, excluding my occasional binges in Antigua or Panajachel, and my fancy packaged foods like peanut butter and chickpeas, I am daily succeeding at the $2/day challenge!

Speaking of Antigua, I was just there last week for my mid-service (has it already been almost a year since moving to Cunen??) medical appointments…and to take the Foreign Service Officer Test at the U.S. embassy in Guate!  It seems that I am physically very healthy, a little bit blinder but at least cavity-less, and now far more mentally stable after finishing the test!  Even with leaving Antigua at like 6am, Allie and I arrived a little late for the 8:30 test with another volunteer Damian, who couldn’t take the test because it turned out he’d never fully registered for it.  We finally started around 9am; I finished fairly quickly and had to wait like 45 minutes staring at a blank computer screen for Allie!  Well actually, I’d started doodling on the scrap paper they gave us…which they collected with our sign-in sheets…as I handed it in, I was like, “this is slightly embarrassing!”  I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but I found the test kind of anti-climactic and not all that challenging…I’ll find out at the end of the month if that means I knew all the answers or none of them!  Oh and waiting for Allie was worth it because a Foreign Service Officer she knows, who turned out to be very senior-ranking, took us out to a nice lunch in the embassy dining room (though not as nice as those at the U.N.!) and told us all about her 25+ years with the State Dept. – very cool.  And our after-party in Antigua was pretty freaking awesome :)

Hmmm since my last update, I gave a fun gender-themed capacitation to my Trigales group, cooked black bean burgers with the 6th-graders (they were supposed to be beet burgers, but you know, there were no beets…), trained the new ag trainees on GAD (so sad none of them are coming to Quiché!), and just a few days ago made a tire garden with mine and Melissa’s women’s group in Chiul.  I guess I’d never actually seen a tire garden made during training because let me tell you, it is no easy task!  In case you haven’t killed yourself cutting off most of one side of the tire, flipping it inside out will do the deed.  Plus I had a terrible cold and was probably mildly feverish (belated effects of my flu shot? Or maybe just post-test exhaustion finally catching up).  But we all survived and hopefully the radish seeds we planted will as well!  I’m thankfully feeling much better – three days in bed reading The Help and The Hunger Games, I highly recommend both, is a great remedy – but now I’m staving off the little girls who in the last few days have decided to frequently stop by my house.  I’m hoping they’ll figure out sooner than later that although the gringa has a nice house, she’s not actually all that fun to be around!

Ok I will cut my rambling off here.  I haven’t taken any new photos since last time, but will instead direct you to what looks to be an incredible film about Guatemala:

See you in a month!!!!!