Thursday, May 11, 2006

Conversations with Lorena

Thursday Class
I didn't sleep well last night. It rained and the sound the rain makes on the metal roof is very loud. I skipped the gym this morning in hopes of falling back asleep as the rain had stopped very very early this morning. I was very tired when I got to class this morning and I just really wasn't in the mood to sit there again, kinda do the same things. Lorena could tell and so she just started talking....eventually I asked her if we could go talk at a cafe or in the park. "Of course," she said.

We went first to a crap cafe called Rainbow Cafe (no translation into Español= tourist establishment) where we had overpriced cappucinos and much conversation about unplanned pregnancies for youths and various other differences between Guatemala and USA. I got some good español practice in, though Lorena can really talk endlessly if you don't remind her that you are the one trying to practice.

Sex and Youth
Here, there is no sex education. They don't pass out condoms or tell girls when their fertile time of month is. They don't promote self respect or personal responsibilty or birth control or even abstinence. I mean, really- when there's only 3 or four hours of class per day, when is there time to educate your youth about sex?

In Guatemala, there is no help like there is in the USA- no matter if you are homeless, poor, need welfare or foodstamps, help with child support. Nada. Abortion is completely illegal and it is illegal in all surrounding countries as well. Her brother "had one night" with a random girl (he was drunk, she was completely sober) and she became pregnant. Two months later, her family knocked at his door and basically said marriage or jail (she was a "minor"- only 15 years old.) After much refusal and threatening, he finally gave in and married this girl. Lorena said, "Solamente porque el bebe, no amor! No es bueno!!" She is so adorable. What a miserable life he must be living.

We eventually moved on to another cafe because some ignorant tourist was blowing his cigarette smoke in our direction. We went to an amazing dessert shop and cafe, Pasteles la Cenicienta. We each got a chocolate cookie and a coffee. We talked about salaries in each of our countries and illegal immigration (mind you, this is all in Sapnish as we are not allowed to speak english, at least she isn´t.) She asked me how much I make in one hour. I was hesitant to tell her (not sure why really) but I did... she said that was her salary for one half week of half time work. One hour of my time in the US is worth two days or work here! I knew this was poor country, but I am still trying to get my head around that. No wonder I got 3 shirts for US$10 at the market.

That conversation lead to illegal immigration- the two are very closely connected as you may imagine. There are a lot of Guatemalans in the US. I told her how I was a bit worried about coming here because of possible backlash from the recent uprising of illegal immigrants in the US. She talked about how dangerous it is to get to the US because people have to go illegally.

Passports are so hard to get in this country. One in 100 people who apply for a passport get one. These people spend their very hard-saved money for only a 1 in 100 chance of getting to the US. Can you imagine? We should all feel so lucky and grateful for everything we have.

Lorena talked about how a man that she and her family hosted & taught Spanish to last year offered to pay for her daughter to come visit him and his family in Louisiana. (Their daughters are the same age.) What an opportunity for a young Guatemalan girl! But she won´t be going because of how impossible it is to get a passport. Lorena´s brother and uncle also live in the US and they have also offered to pay for her to visit. Now I feel like an ass because I just told her about all the countries I have visited. I wondered why all the instructors here were so interested in my life in Portland....


At 10:50 AM, May 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very, very interested in your conversation about 'illegal immigration' from Guatemala to the US. Doesn't it seem, with the inequality of wages, that there are significant incentives for people to wish to come to the US? Dangerous though the trip may be, if people are desparate, they will do anything in their power to feed their children and forward themselves. Any decent, respectable person would do so. And there are a lot of hard-working "illegal" Guatemalans here.

Have you had any conversations about WTO or NAFTA? Conversations about 'fair trade' practices?


At 10:59 AM, May 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you had any conversations about government?

The role of the US in Central American politics?


Monsanto and NAFTA?

Conversations about race among the Guatemalan peoples? Indigenous peoples and Spanish-speakers?


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