Monday, May 08, 2006

Week 2

Back at athe Gym
This morning I got up with the chickens and went to the gym. I worked out pretty hard on the elliptical machine for not getting much cardio in almost 2 weeks. The equipment isn't state of the art, but I've seen more ancient machines in Portland at athe YMCA. Perhaps tomorrow I'll do some weights to remedy my flabby arms.

PS- Now that I own a watch, I know what time the chickens get up....5:42am- that's 3:42 Portland time.

Why I Didn't Take My Debit Card to Panajachel
Would it be riskier to take my debit card knowing that if I get robbed, that was my only form of getting $$? (My other cards are American Express and I was sure they wouldn't take them here and I also need to keep the balances at $o for final underwriting on my mortgage which is occuring as we speak.) Or- Would it be riskier not to take it and if I get robbed (assuming they would take my return ticket to Antigua) I would not have a way to get money and get back to Antigua? I decided not to take it and it turned out fine. It also helped to curb my spending as I only had a limited amount of cash to spend on novelties.

On the bus to Pana yesterday there was a couple from Spain sitting behind me. They spoke Spanish (obviously) and also very good English. This made me realize that English is the most common language in the world partly (or even mostly?) because we have been ignorant toward learning other languages. This has pretty much forced other countries to become somewhat accquainted with English. For most this is ok- it makes it much easier for us Americans to travel internationally. But to me, this doesn't seem quite right. I suppose it is easier for the world to have one more common language. Is it right for me to be here trying to teach my language to people who don't really need it? I always feel so disrespectful when I go to another country and I don't know a lick of their language.

Another cause for this is that Americans have much less vacation time than Europe or Australia. And when Europeans or Aussies travel, they travel internationally. Joanna hasn't even started her job in Holland and she gets 6 weeks of vacation right off the bat. I have been at my job for more than 5 years and I get 2 weeks paid vacay and I can use my sick days as vacation if I want to. (Please feel free to challenge me or give me your thoughts on this one- I have only minimally overanalyzed it...)

Car Washes
There are car washes here. They are men sitting on the sidewalk with a bucket and a brush. They are usually around the square or the blocks around the square. When the car washes aren't busy, the washers and their buddies sit around the bucket and bs and drink and eat. It is very necessary here to have these guys- tons of dust that is thrown about when a chicken bus or a motorcycle drives by. It's a good thing there are the guys in fluorescent orange vests with extra long salad tongs picking up garbage or else we'd all be picking coke bottles and chip bags out of our hair.

It's also a good thing that I am not a beer snob. I guess I prefer Blue Heron or Chimay, but I can drink the PBR and Coors Light like the rest of you. Here in Guatemala there aren't many beer choices and the choices we do have all taste pretty much like PBR (or are similar- very light.) The happy hour at the school is every Friday. They give away free rum and cokes with lime (aka cuba libras)! Too bad I'm a liquor snob.... I much prefer cervesas.

The Restaurant Scene
Obviously the restaurant system here is much different from America's. I think they still require some sort of permit(s) as there are 3 plaques hanging in our dining room, which doubles as a restaurant during the day. They sell Gallo (the local beer) and a limited menu that seems to change daily. At lunchtime, I think that we students are served whatever is on the menu but the same combination hasn't been served more than once. The thing is, even without the strict permitting for food (street and home) vendors it's all ok. They are very popular and seem to always be busy at lunchtime. Wouldn't it be great if we could just open up our front doors and charge for a meal in our homes regardless of zoning or OSHA regulations? I know so many amazing cooks!

Today at lunch we had mashed potatoes (among other things.) My favorite!! And horchata!!! My other favorite!!! Ahhh, life is good.

The School System in Guatemala
I have written a bit before about the school that I will be teaching English at, but I have found out some more about it and I feel the need to share. These girls go to school at 7:30am, they are dismissed for the day at 12:30. They have an hour break at 10am for eating. That's four hours of schooling. We teach them english for one hour and that leaves three hours per day of school. We don't teach English on Wednesdays- I'm not sure if that means that the girls don't go to school on Wednesdays of if we just don't teach them, for practical purposes I'll assume the best and say that they go to school on Wednesdays. That puts them at 16 hours per week.

If you compare that to how much you went to school, that's about half the amount of schooling we received. On top of that, the classes are 40 girls and the teacher couldn't care less what or if these girls are learning. When I was in the classes observing Samantha, the teachers were not paying attention at all and they weren't disciplining as they were supposed to be doing either. The teacher in the last class was even primping in her little mirror from her purse. Susie, the other English volunteer, said that these teachers make so little that they often have 2nd and/or 3rd jobs. She also said that these girls are at the level we were at in 1st or 2nd grade.... and they are in 5th and 6th.

There is a little girl in traditional Guatemalan dress who is in our kitchen cleaning and doing dishes everyday. I didn't really think anything of it until I realized that she isn't in school when other girls are. I asked Mekiko about her and she said that she doesn't go to school. I realized how many girls in native dress I had seen on the street carrying bundles on their heads, following their mother or grandmother, toting along their baby sister or brother. She probably makes a fair amount of money for her family from the business that Rafael and Violeta have, but it is so heartbreaking- the potential that these girls have and it is wasted. I know I should just appreciate the culture and accept it for what it is, but I can't quite seem to.... school is not part of their tradition and their tradition is very close to them- they are not about to give it up. Or, they just donĀ“t know what opportunities they have.


At 5:57 PM, May 08, 2006, Blogger yuki said...

I love your detailed observations of Guatemalan life. The last bit you wrote about how little schooling the girls receive appalls me! Teachers have the ability to inspire a students' will to learn, without this intensity from a teacher, that opportunity is lost. I want those girls to know that there is so much knowledge to be passionate about, and even if it means they stay grounded in their simple culture, the strength of their minds can do so much to help themselves and their people through the difficultlies they face today. Could not these little girls become doctors and nurses? Could they become agricultural engineers, builders, educators, artists, or agents of change? I'm glad, Nicole, that by simply being there, you have this chance to show them a glimpse of that potential. You go girl.

At 10:28 AM, May 09, 2006, Blogger nicole said...

Thanks Yuki!! I kinda of felt guilty after writing that entry- I don't know if it is right or not to try to change their culture or way of life, but your response makes me feel better! Thanks for reading! xo, nicole


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