June 24, 2016:
Today was our first today all together going into to the beautiful countryside community of Xejuyú to conduct interviews and collect water samples. We woke up extra early to eat breakfast and to meet Lesvia at 7:30am at the central park to take a van ride over to Xejuyú to start work around 8am. We arrived at the community and split up into two teams as planned to make things more efficient: one team was Sarah and Elcia, who collected muestras (samples) of water from the filters. Sarah would collect two samples from each family’s filter: one from the filter’s opening and one from the dispenser on the collection bucket, to test the difference between the two. Sarah collected the samples very quickly with Elcia assisting her, as they told each household that there would be another group coming by later in the day to ask questions about their filter. The reason the samples needed to be collected quickly was that they needed to be brought back to the lab to be analyzed as soon as possible after collecting them to represent most accurately the water sampled, not giving time for temperature change to increase bacteria growth. She used my hiking bag (which came in handy!) filled with frozen water bottles to collect samples in cups with lids and with big seal-able test tubes.
Meanwhile, Aurora and I went to the Xejuyú at the same time to conduct interviews about each family’s filter. It was Aurora’s first time seeing the community, and my second time since I had visited the community the day before to watch the monitoring of the filters recently installed. For the first part of the day, Lesvia accompanied us to each interview, leading the way into each household and introducing us each time, making each transition seamless and easy. We conducted about 5 interviews accompanied by Lesvia, interviewing many mothers about their filters, its functionality, its effectiveness, and its integration into the family’s daily life. We also asked questions about maintenance, about water quality before and after the filter, and about the difference it makes in the family’s lives. We were pleased to find that so many of the interviewees were so happy to talk amply about their filter, giving so much information about it and how it has made a difference in their lives. I was so happy to be doing an interview about such a pleasant topic! The community was so receptive to us, and almost every interview immediately provided us seats of some sort so we could have the interview. Being accustomed to standing from the filter monitoring the day before, I was expecting to be standing during all the interviews. I was so appreciative of everyone’s ample hospitality. It was such a pleasant experience overall with every family today. The first lady we interviewed was so talkative and enthusiastic that it put Aurora and I at ease as we were struggling through our Spanish and our nervousness a little bit. The second lady was a lot more reserved and shy, so she didn’t talk as much for each question. The third lady, as well as a few other ladies later on in the day, talked solely in Kaqchikel, the tribal language. We heard it spoken for the first time today, and there is quite a bit of borrowing words from Spanish too, which made our comprehension of Kaqchikel a little easier, though we still definitely needed a translator. Translating from Kaqchikel to Spanish to our minds to the page is quite a bit of room for translation error, so we must be slow and careful to repeat back what they said and make sure it’s correct. After the first few interviews, we were able to stop for a moment to talk with Lesvia about what we had seen and to process a little bit, which got a little emotional, in a good way. Then Elcia came to switch with Lesvia and accompany us with the rest of the interviews, since Sarah had finished up collecting samples and was going to head back to the lab with Lesvia to plate them.
About half of our interview questions are quick answers, and half are open-ended. It’s a good balance, and there were a total 0f 16 questions we asked each family, making each interview last between 15-30 minutes, depending on how long each member wanted to talk. It was great to give everyone a chance to voice their thoughts and express how they felt directly to the project that provided them with the filter. There was so much appreciation, so many comments like “We are so thankful to God” or “We thank God for all he has done to bless us with this filter” or “We thank you all for coming to visit us” or “We hope God blesses you as well,” which made us more overwhelmed with gratitude to be there and a sincere appreciation for all the project does.
Seeing the end result for each of the family’s that we interviewed made every project-associated challenge that we have experienced, and that we will experience, I think, worth it. To see the women explain that they don’t have to travel as far to get water, that they save hours upon hours of time that they would have spent traveling to a source of clean water in another town called San Tomás, or to hear women offer information how many Quetzales they were saving from not purchasing water everyday made apparent to us the tangible difference this project is making in the daily lives of many individuals in these rural communities. And this is just one community out of three that are participating in the project.
The results of the interviews still have to be studied, but at least we made some adjustments to the questions to make them a little easier to understand each time we ask them today. We also got to finish plating the samples today and putting them in the incubator so we can read the results 24 hours later. We also had a Skype session with Dr. Mills, a microbiology professor at UVA, to discuss the proper plating technique for some of the samples, since air bubbles, proper sterilization, and agar stability were some of our concerns we wanted to address early on after having a day of plating samples. Our procedure is still working out some of the finer details, but for the most part what we have been doing has been working well.
Overall we are so pleased with our results so far. The interviewing and sample collecting feels like worthwhile work. It feels like it is really important and is actually making a big difference, especially since we found out that the women we interviewed really love having someone to express their selves to. We also met our goal of interviewing 13 families total today, and finished got back to San Lucas around 12:30. Tomorrow we will be able to analyze the results, and hopefully be able to return clean reports to the families when we come back!