Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011

Greetings from Dallas,

Well, after seven months of kicking around Spanish speaking countries, we have arrived back home, invigorated and ready for the next chapter. I have already spent the better part of the day in Denton, going through mail, getting geared up for classes, while Tom got is back in the communication loop with new cell phones. We had a nice morning, riding around the lake, watching the sun rise through pinks, oranges, and purples, lighting up the sky and placid surface of the water. It felt good to be back.

Our last week in Spain was very water intensive and great fun. Our second day in Valencia, the 20th took us to the ultra modern area of town,that holds multiple museums, budges, performance halls, and aquarium. Several were designed by Calatrava. The stunning architecture, finished out in white and cobalt blue small tiles,set in crystalline, shallow pools of water both impress and implore. The exhibits are well done, in multiple languages, and provide the citizens with miles of engagement in the sciences and arts. We spent over 6 hours here and made to everything, but only scratched the surface.

That evening, at 9:00 we boarded a ferry, en route to Mallorca. We watched the sunset, sat on the deck and enjoyed the breeze, then retired to our sleeper cabin, ad arrived in Mallorca at 7:00 the next morning. It was a beautiful night to look at stars, listen to the Mediterranean rush below us, and in general, cool off after a warm week on the mainland.

Mallorca is a fairly large, mountainous island, dotted with exquisite beaches, biking paths, many ports, and seafood forever. We arrived at our hotel fairly early, and in the wrong taxi. After some initial confusion, we were treated to a lovely breakfast, and after a morning at the pool, we were shown to our upgraded suite. We took a short jaunt to the beach, which was lovely,protected, with clear, green-blue water lapping the shore ever so gently. That night we joined the other guests for a gala dinner and dance to a live band. It was a beautiful evening, as it had cooled off pretty well.

The next day was my 58th birthday. After a nice breakfast, we wandered into the village in search of the pearls Tom wanted to give me for my birthday. We found a beautiful necklace, bracelet, and earrings in white and light grey. This man spoils me, and I love it. We continued on and found a photo card, since we filled the other one up with other Spain pictures, then discovered a board walk. We followed it along the coast and saw volcanic rock, exposed to wind and sea, boats of all sorts, places along the shore where ladders crossed over the rocks into the calm, deep sea, and scads of hotels, catering to mostly German tourists on holiday. It was a grand walk, but really, really hot. We recovered pretty quickly with a dip in the pool. Around 2:30 the wind came up enough for a sail. We returned to the beach and rented a small sailboat and took it out for an hour. The construction of the boat was such that we sat on the floor in the cockpit area and water rushed in from the stern, keeping us cool and refreshed. It was so great to be back in this beautiful, dark blue water that it was really hard to turn ourselves around to return the boat. After a terrific massage, we went down for dinner, where we shared a bottle of cava, Spanish champagne, enjoyed dinner, then crashed. It was a terrific birthday, which ended with many birthday greetings in Facebook. A grand day indeed.

We rebounded the boat at midday on Wednesday and arrived in Barcelona around 7:30pm. It took us a while to find our hotel, after walking quite a distance from the dock. We had been warned that Barcelona was known for its theft ring, so we were a bit unnerved walling down the Rambla,the old city wall, with so many people going in so many different directions. We made it our hotel, found bait to eat and crashed. The next day we found the sites we wanted to see, based on novels we had read,mor advice we were given. The first was the cathedral of the sea which was built in the 14th c and devoted to Mary. Janet camp told is about this novel when we sailed with her in march, so we both read it and it was terrifi to see the novel come to life in the stones, statues, and signature pieces throughout. Tom had heard about another church, the sagrada familia, which was started in 1866, and is still under construction. It was massive, modern, and a mathematical wonder. The architect, gaudi designed it knowing that he would not finish it, but his plans were clearly noted in the museum models in the basement. We attempted to get to his home, via subway, five stories of escalators, and climbing, but only made it to the park, but were able to see the sprawl of Barcelona from this precipis. We were slated to sail on a catamaran at 6:00, so scooted and enjoyed a 90 minute boat ride in the harbor and sea. That night we found a tapas place on our small street and drank gin tonics and cardamom, recounting our day and trip in general.

The next day we spent time in the maritime museum, which is a large 14th c structure, used for building royal naval vessels until the 19th c. The museum is under renovation, but the two temporary exhibits were extraordinary. There was a huge model of the ity and the sea in the 15th c and a nice exhibit of travel by boats across the centuries. N a second large room was an extraordinary photography exhibited chronicling the atrocities in Latin America for the past 25 years. The documentations and photos were haunting and force attention to the need to care for all humans. We had a light lunch at the museum, which it turns out to be a restaurant training place for students. It was lovely. We found the mercardo on our way back to the hotel and were wowed by the meats, fish, olives, oils, candies, fruits, vegetables, and juices. We picked up some train food for our trip to Madrid on the bullet train. We had a grand time on the bullet, with gin and tonics, fruit, and snacks, arriving in Madrid around 10pm, just in time for cena.

We found our hotel, had cena, and enjoyed our last night in Spain. A series of subway rides in the morning found us in rhe Madrid airport, readying for our ten hour flight home. It Was great to see Adam and carherine at the airport.

I will probably end this blog, as my adventures have ended withth start of the semester, which upon me. However, Tom has multiple trips planned, so, who knows, more stories from the road may appear from time to time before 2011 ends. Thanks for being a blog follower. Glad you were with us n the journey. Hope all is well for you and yours. Love Jeanne

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20, 2011

Greetings from Valencia,

When I last wrote, we were on the verge of a train trip to Granada from Malaga. Well, the trip was fairly long, as we had to go through Córdoba, wait, then change trains. We arrived in Granada in the mid-afternoon, a city in the highest mountain range in Spain, the Sierra Nevada. We found the his station, with our usual successive approximation, got tickets for the bus the next day, then jumped on a city us in search of the hotel, which somehow ended up being on our bus route. We were exhausted from the excessive heat, so found the 30 minute Internet spot in our hotel, fortunately in the bar, and sat quietly for a while. Afterward we went on a bus tour of the city, shopped a bit, had dinner in one of the squares, then walked around a bit. Granada centro was lovely at night, with all it's fountains, marble sidewalks, brimming with people out on a Monday night, eating, visiting, enjoying the 15 degree drop in temperature.

The next day and evening proved to be quite extraordinary. In the morning we were retrieved from the hotel by the Alhambra touring company who took us on an extended tour, with interpretation,through this very well restored site of a Muslim city on the topr of the hill above the main city of Granada. The grounds were extensive, with multiple, lush gardens of tall trees, reflecting pools, and vine-covered walkways. The buildings, representing two cultures, as in Córdoba, Muslim and Christian, showed the difference in the representation of power through architecture. The former, large buildings, simple on the outside, but extravagant inside, with detailed tile and intricate plaster work. The latter with extensive filagree on the outside, and more opulence on the inside. The latter also built a church and palace directly in front of the former, yet not destroying the former. Interesting.

We had lunch at the parador hotel on the grounds, then at the advice of a shop keeper, took a city bus to the other side of the hill at st Nicholas point, and viewed the city and the Alhambra from this vantage point, then walked down the long hill, then used back to the Alhambra for the night tour. Our guide this time was an art historian, and we were his only two listeners. Our time with him was to be spent in the same lecture as the morning, ut turned into an intellectual discussion of art, history, culture, architecture, all in the magnificent setting of this glorious palace, in the glow of darkness and soft lighting. Our guide walked Us to the path that led to our hotel, which was soft gravel, in a forest, with yellow street lamps, where we reveled in our Granada experiences, wondering what caetegena would hold next.

It was another long day of travel from Granada to caetegena, and as we have found in towns where we arrive on the bus, it is wise not to judge town by its bus terminal and surrounding area. We found the hotel, which was near the waterfront, a tavern with safire and tonic, and awaited our boat ride in the bay. The ride was pleasant, aboard a catamaran, and the view of the bay and outer boundaries of the bay beautiful. It was apparent that the water surrounding caetegena was cordoned off for military, industry, mining, pleasure boating, and shipping. Dinner at a small restaurant was lovely, as we joined the many who start their dinners at 10pm

We spent our morning, after an early breakfast, walking around roman ruins, a mideaval castle, and a museum of the history of cartegena. The port had been in use for over 3000 years, and mining and shipping a part of the life for all those years. It was apparent that he modern, living part of th city grew pretty far away from the original roman setting, as we noticed from the highest points of the hill. There were no obvious vestiges of Muslim settlements, but the history showed that they had been there, then expelled. We boarded our us headed for alicante, not knowing what to find there.

Again, the story of the bus terminal was one of no information, and unng and pcking, until we found the train station for our next day's trip. The train station supplied better information, and we found our hotel in then late afternoon. We were a few blocks from the port, found a sunset boat tour, then settled in for the daily clink of GT. The tour was on a catamaran sail boat, which went quite far from the harbor seawall, raised the sails, and turned northerly n time for us to catch the sunset. It was a glorious ride in the Mediterranean, with seas running at about 4-5 feet, rolling the boat slightly, but never raining it onto one pontoon. We returned to the GT spot for tapas, and enjoyed the lights on the water, where only a few hours earlier we watched expert rowing teams, sail boats, and viewed gigantic yachts of all types. We walked along the malecon to the beach where we saw scores of people out, dining, playing on the beach, in the water, at the casino, watching entertainment of all sorts, families out having fun. It was truly exhilarating.

Saturday we woke early, and began the 30 minute walk to th train station, and found desayuno at a cafe on the street, the usual in andalusía, toast with Serrano ham and zumo (fresh orange juice). It was nice to be back on the rails. We arrived in Valencia in mid-morning, and were immediately overwhelmed by the immensity of the buildings, the extensive details on the divides and roofs, and vibrancy of the city. We found the hotel, not far from the station, and had lunch at a sidewalk cafe, then stepped out of the heat for a few hours. We started the maritime bus tour of the city around 5:00, got off to find our boat for the next evening, and around 7:45, flopped back on the tour bus, exhausted and still giggling about our Lawrence of Arabia hike to the boat terminal, where we settle tickets for th boat ride to Mallorca today. While on the tour we noted that Valencia has grown and regrown itself over and over, knocking down ancient walls, buildings, etc, in the effort to bring more and more commerce to then place. The city is an odd mix of ultra modern, a few ancient gates, and Rocco buildings, reaching to the sky with eagles and strong women, in the name of finance. We plan to return to the newest addition, the aquarium and science place, designed by Calatrava, who designed the new bridge in Dallas.

We have one week left to our seven month adventure, and plan to spend it soaking in the wonders of españa. Hope all is well for you and yours. Love jt

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011

Greetings from Málaga,

It has been a fascinating week as we rode trains, buses, boats, and horse drawn carriages in various Spanish towns this week. We arrived in Córdoba on Sunday the 7th and found our hotel on the outskirts of the old town, via city bus. It was a lovely place, tucked into a posh neighborhood, just up the hill from town. We settle into some lawn chairs, on the lawn near the pool, had our summer drink of gin and tonic, and read. Later we attempted to go on the night walking tour, but it only ran on Friday and Saturday in the summer. Instead, we enjoyed a small repast in the square, and wandered back, via bus.

The next day in Córdoba was altogether different. We started with a lovely breakfast at the Joel, then bused our way to the mosque/cathedral and were swept away by the immensity, granduer, and use of ecclesiastical space to accommodate variance in spiritual/cultural differences. The mosque was ancient, spacious enough for 40,000 prayer mats and celebrants, after three additions. Around the outer edges were Christian chapels, installed when the Muslims were ousted in the 15th c. In the center was a huge catholic chuch, relate with gold, dark wood, and iconic worship objects. Originally, the Moslems built the mosque on top of a Visigoth church erected in the 6th c. The juxtapositioning of two houses of worship in one was quite extraordinary, both with opulence and both reaching out to the god they seek. We followed the path from here to the roman bridge, built in the 3rd c AD, where it was apparent the Romans used the river for milling. We looked for other museums, but since it was Monday, we met with closed doors, but found a cool pool outside the acheology museum where we soaked our feet and legs, then braved the Córdoba heat, as we beat it back to the pool, and ended up at dinner, celebrating our first week in Spain with a bottle of champagne and a crisp moon above our heads. It was a great send off for Sevilla.

Sevilla, a large grand city on the same river as Córdoba, the cualquivir. Our ultra modern hotel, at the edge of the alameda de Hercules gave us pause, along with the extensive grafitti all ove the buildings and parks. However, we ventured out, found the largest cathedral in the world, with 20+ chapels, Christopher columbus' final resting place, carried by four 10' tall guards carved out of marble, the alcáthar, replete with Islamic tile art, gardens, and enormous rooms, since this is the Sevilla home of the royalty. We made it to the river cruise tour of the city, which was informative about history and positioning of Sevilla as a maritime player. Afterward, we found our way to the flamenco show Adam and Catherine told us about, Los Gallos, and caught the 10:30 show. The stage was small, and we were fortunate to get a front row seat. Each dancer, male and female, was accompanied by two or three performers of guitar, singing, and hand clapping. The dancers spurred the musicians and the feet flew, skirts swirled, and we were enthralled. We found a little place for a sandwich and ices, then fell in bed around 2:00am.

The next day we rose late and went in search of the naval museum, which we learned was closed, so we retraced our steps to a lovely restaurant, had paella, which reminded me of jambalaya, stayed out of the heat for a while, then back to the river for a kayak paddle on the river. The equipment was punk, but the river beautiful, clear, and nice for paddling. Afterward, we shared a gin and tonic on the dock and watched the final remnants of the glorious sunset that had started when we were paddling. At dark we found a horse drawn carriage and toured the places we had not visited; plaza of the Americas, plaza españa, parks, and the river. It was grand indeed. We were like little kids, oohing and ahhing.

We took the train to cádiz, the oldest city in Spain, and for that matter, Europe. We went on a bus tour and learned that this town, from whence Christopher departed in 1493, is a grand port, situated along a peninsula, with a beach on the westerly side. We stopped off at a seafood place and gorges on fried delicacies, chiding with the best of the multitudes ofmlocals who had come off the beach for mediano. We caught our bus to Algeciras in the late afternoon, and arrived two hours later, a bit concerned with the surroundings of tis working port town, until we found our next hotel. We had reservations at the hotel reina Christina, a hotel built in 1902, and had the feel of old world elegance. It turned out that many dignitaries had stayed here, so we set ip camp and spent all of our algeciras time here, laying by the pool, dining, dancing, drinking, sleeping, and goofing off. Fom here we could see the rock of Gibraltar, which turned out to be one of the calling card for the place, in addition to it's beauty.

In the morning we took the city his to la linea, the border town of Gibraltar. We walked into Gibraltar and right into a tour of the rock. This British province is home to off shore banks, gambling, shipping, and tourism. The rock juts 1200 feet out of the water, has monkeys living in the upper range, and was used by the moors as a defense against Spain, until the british took it and kept it since 1604. We toured caves, both natural and man made, took pictures with monkeys on our heads, and walked about town in the late afternoon. The fish and chips were nice, along with the English breakfast, but the best wa the full moon rise ove the center of the rock at 11:30 last night. While we waited for the emergence of the lunar rise, we amused ourselves, on the eighth floor solarium, with the active freighter traffic coming and going fom Africa to Gibraltar to algeciras. It was terrific for us two boat folks. We never did see rhe queen of the south, but it was till early.

Today we arrived in málaga in the early afternoon, found the hotel, another large modern one. We got on the tour bus and rode through sites of ancient Moslem, 14th c castles, and 16th c churches, while observing the extensive working port, and active beaches. We noticed a big party going on in the city center, so hopped off, sat down for a GT, and watched, listened to, and walked through the reveling. It was fiera time in Malaga. Ladies were in flamenco dresses, dancers from the mountains came down, bands of people in small groups were drumming, singing, young people in mosh pits singing favorite Spanish rap tunes, and everyone drinking. I came out with a small drinking cup, celebrating the day. We ended the day sedately emailing and blogging. Tomorrow we are off to Granada and the alhambra, which was the power base of the Moslems when they ruled Spain from 711-1492. I hope to find some more interesting tile art stuff for my math methods classes. Our heads continue to spin.

Hope all is well with you and yours. Love jt

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6 pt 2

Sorry for the extension, I can't figure out how to scroll on the iPad.. I know, fewer words would help. Lol

July 27, our last day in Guatemala.

After out glorious walk, we packed until Don Alejandro retrieved me and carried me to Guatemala city where Maria del Carmen and I met with the dean of the school of education at Francisco Marroquin. Our conversation centered on what constituted their new program and what contributions I could make. She offered me the opportunity to return in the future and teach either seminars or short courses with them. Of course, I was thrilled and suggested to her that the chains of command would have to be considered, and she said she would wait for me. O wad pretty exciting. Maria del Carmen and I were like two small girls when we left, giggling about then plethora of possibilities for research, program exchanges, etc. Needless to say, if all goes well, the next few years could be filled with great academic excitement.

When I returned to the apartment, Tom was way ahead of me for packing, so I hurried to catch up, since we had a lunch date with the administrators and board members of Colegio Boston. We made it and had a lovely time, on the porch of on of our favorite places in Antigua, epicure, watching a steady, cooling rain. Tom was right in then flurry of the rapid Spanish being spoken, but I as not quick enough to jump in, so listened, enjoyed the banter, and relished this last, glorious time, knowing we were appreciated for our love of the city, education, and friendliness. Back at home in then late afternoon, we hung out, then went out for our last hoorah. We waited until the rain slowed and wandered over to Welton for a bottle of champagne and snacks. We closed the place and walked around the puddles for a quick sleep before our early, early pick up.

We got bumped to first class on our way home and stayed in that state of mind through our three, hot days in Dallas. Adam and Catherine met us and hung out with is all afternoon Thursday. Friday I tried the DART rail/A train into Denton which is a bit of a mess at present, met with great folks, and Tom visited with Paul from work, then shopped with Adam most of the day. We danced the night away with AC at southern junction, then spent the day Saturday at the sonny Bryan bar b que stand, circus, and sali's, adding my mom and rosa and flor to the mix. It was a blast. Sunday we rode around white rock lake, which Tom did every day we were in town, met Louise AC at barbec's then settled in to pack for Spain.

August 1-4

We flew out on aug 1 for Madrid, arrived aug 2, and hit th ground running after a subway ride to our cute hotel near then opera. We took a upper deck bus tour of Madrid, during which time we promptly snoozed, while on the bus, so decided a nap was in order. Back on the bus later we took in the sights, acted like tourists, and took far too many pictures of this magnificent, baroque place. Later when we walked around we noticed in the grand plaza, the Sol, there were riot police gathering, preparing for a large protest, which did occur the next day. We slept until almost noon the next day, but spent almost seven hours touring the Prado Museum. Needless to say, we only saw some parts, but it was glorious none the less. We chose to see only Spanish art and were duly impressed to be standing in front of el greco and original work. It was an incredible experience. On the way back, we stopped and purchased tikets for a performance of the opera Carmen set to flamenco dance. We got a drink and a snack, then went to the show. The treatment of the opera, as flamenco was extraordinary. We sat on the fourth row from the stage in this small theatre and were overwhelmed at the interpretation and dancing. We decided to eat dinner like spaniards, at 11pm, and found a nice place on the way home. Both of us had fish, which was terrific, but we learned that we are not cut out for this kind of late night eating.

On our last day in Madrid, we spent the better part of it in the train station activating our eurrail pass and arranging for reservations for various days of travel. It was mostly spent in long lines. All as not lost because we subwayed ourselves to Retiro park, on a par with central park, and went rowing on the small lake, walked around, toured a modern museum, then found a menu dinner near the opera, which was tasty and light.

Aug 5
We were off to the train station early, and boarded a short train to Toledo. This walled, mediaeval, winding town, contrasted considerably from the urban sprawl and speed of Madrid. Our first stop was the el Greco museum, followed by lunch, and a tour of the Jewish synagogue, both of which are in the Jewish quarter of ancient Toledo. We attempted to visit the Alcázar, but were too late. A large tin and tonic and paella later, we crashed and called it a day.

Aug 6

We hit the ground running with a whirlwind tour of six churches, four catholic, one Jewish, and one Muslim. WOW. We had read so many books by Spanish authors regarding the distinctions and mixing of these three religious groups, but the walk around the city, up and down narrow streets, over hills, and through portals, gave us a much better sense of what this was about, both the separateness, and the challenges of mixing three monotheistic religions in such close proximity. After a short break, we took on the Alcázar, a fortress built by the Romans in the third c AD, which underwent various structural changes, finally ending up as the military ,museum for all of Spain in 2010. Much of the museum is a modern structure that reveals the original structure, as well as layers of other additions. After several hours of listening and leaning about Spanish military, we worked our way back to the Jewish quarter, where our hotel waited for us, found a gin and tonic, some tapas, and let our feet rest after the nine hour abuse we had applied. Unfortunately, I hankered for churros con chocolate, so up the hill we trekked, and in the end, it was worth it,and the walk back pleasant. We are nestled in for th evening, dreaming of our next adventure in córdoba, knowing that more history, fabulous art, and interesting times lie ahead.

I hope all is well for you and yours. Jt

August 6, 2011 part 1

Greetings blog followers from Toledo, España,

When I last wrote we were in Antigua, wrapping up our time there. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind exit, and terrific as we spun around. July 25 was the saint day for the city of Antigua, and the celebrations started early with a heritage parade of public and private school children in bands, costumes of history and events, accompanied by young princes and princesses elected from each school. It was a marvelous spectacle of sight and sound. Following the parade, the students and I visited with Elizabeth Bell, who guided us to know of opportunities for UNT students in th Antigua area. She contacted the director of the Open Windows program in a near-by village, San Miguel, when she saw our keen interest. We met Tom and attempted to see Azotea, but all museums were closed on this holiday. Oh well. The students shopped, and we sat in the park, along with other old folks, and watched the comings and goings of el centro. We even saw the evening procession of St Andrew, accompanied by lively music It was am pleasant evening.

We all met for pizza near the square and at 7:00 joined the crowd fo big band music, fireworks, and the lifting of small hot air lifts, similar to the ones in the film Tangled. Tom and I danced on the steps of the cathedral, and enjoyed the cool, clear night. The students enjoyed the night a well, but chose to sit and watch.

The next day the students and I went on Elizabeth Bell's tour of Antigua, which was fantastic, again, then met Tom for lunch at Casa Domingo and enjoyed that last, glorious opportunity to be in a 500+ year old lunch spot. The students and I hustled and found a chicken bus headed for San Miguel, where we found the open windows outreach center. We met with founder Teresa, who introduced us to the wonders of NGO. this facility serves 2500+ children every week for after school homework support, dental care three times annually, music lessons, medical care twice annually, and many other things. We discussed possibilities and left with a great interest in coming back to help. Back in Antigua, we met Fulvia at the hospital maria's mother supported until her death. It was amazing to see so many people, with so many needs, being served through the support of charitable assistance. Bonne and Cordell, two medical students were duly impressed with possibilities here as well. It was a wild and crazy time. Our light cena at the apartment was quiet, engaging, and fun, filled with reminiscence. B and C packed and readied for the journey home.

I am working on the iPad, so my space is squirrely, so I will nd here, knowing that there

The next morning the students were carried away by don rené at 5:30, after which Tom andi went on our last walk around our neighborhood, and were greeted by Fuego, our favorite volcano, with a show of fire and lava, against a sky of pink, orange, and light blue sunrise aura. We had a grand time. We faced the music and began packing, until Don Alejandro retrieved me and

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24, 2011

Greetings from Antigua: four days left to this leg of the adventure

Just when we thought it could not get better, being here this week has been amazing.  Our friend Johnetta spent the morning with us at our favorite boutique hotel in the neighborhood, enjoying tipico Guatemalan breakfast, then we kissed her good-bye and continued our day here, visiting with teachers, school administrators, and skyping with Adam and Catherine.  I had the great fortune to visit another public school, this time a pre-school in Jocotenango. The tuk tuk driver took me to the primaria of the same name, so through successive approximation, I made it up the steep hill to the school where I witnessed the glory of the youngest ones in the public school setting.  My host teacher was a woman I met during semana santa, but never heard from again, although she knew I was seeking opportunities to observe as much public school as possible. We met in the grocery store last week, and by Monday I was there with her and her lovely children.  Mostly I learned there that teachers work diligently with these young children, fostering learning, care, and safety in all ways. It was a brief experience, a few hours, but have garnered an invitation to return, which I hope to do in the future.

Tuesday I had the grand opportunity to visit a school in Guatemala City that was part of the Guatemática program that took six years to develop. The lead teacher in this school had been in the meeting I attended at the ministry of education ten days earlier, where I learned of the program.  I was so jazzed by what I witnessed in this school.  Every teacher in the school used the hands-on methods proffered by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in the US, which align with the Guatematica curriculum. Every child had their own manipulatives, engaged in active learning, showed marked understanding of the topic, and communicated openly about their math learning. The students were up at the board, showing their reasoning, and the teacher served as a facilitator, rather than a sage on the stage.  This observation showed me that children in tough situations can be trusted to learn and do not need rote practices as the only means of instruction and engagement.  It was very meaningful.  After the observation, I spent the afternoon with my friend Maria del Carmen's family in Guate, and gave some assessment instrument development assistance to her daughter who is working with the private school Maria owns in Antigua, where I did most of my observations.  Afterward Maria and I goofed off in Guate, shopping, and just visiting.  She is turning out to be a very nice friend and colleague.

At 7:15pm I met Tom at the Guate airport where we waited and then greeted two UNT students from the Alpha Chi group I sponsor at UNT. Bonne Sei and Cordell Cunningham are two pre-med students who are delightful to spend time with.  We had saved a bunch of things for ourselves to do in our last week, so the four of us have been working the list. On Wednesday, we drove from Antigua to an active volcano, Pacaya, which blew last year, but is still producing lots of steam.  We hiked through the national park, straight uphill, for about two hours, and arrived at a crest that overlooked a completely black landscape, with pockets of steam rising from the ridges of molten lava. The crevice in the top of the mountain was foreboding, gaping from the pressure of spewing rocks, lava, and steam, barely a year ago.  We went on a "night hike" to roast marshmellows with heat from a steam vent, explored a cave created by the explosion, which felt like a sauna, then hiked back to our campsite in the pitch darkness.  It was exciting and scary all at the same time. The guides cooked the thirteen of us a delicious rice, vegetarian dinner.  We all flopped into our tents fairly early, as the plan was to watch the sunrise at 5:30, but the fog was so thick, no rise ever appeared, so we rose in the glow of the morning, had a quick bagel, then headed down.  The sunset the night before was so spectacular, it made up for the lack of a rise the next day.  One of the most interesting things about the hike was the need for an armed guard to protect the hikers, as there have been many robberies of cameras, money, cell phones, etc, among hiking tourists. It is unfortunate, but real. Back in Antigua on Thursday, we had a hearty breakfast, then returned home for showers and a sleepy afternoon. We all dined at La Fonda, at typical Antiguan haunt we tried our first week here.  It was nice to come back to Kak 'ik, a Mayan soup.

Friday morning we were up early and on our way with Don Rene, a nice van driver for the Doña Baetriz, the neighborhood hotel, to the beach on the west coast. We returned to Maria del Carmen's beach house as a fivesome.  We played at the beach, got knocked over by the waves, ate a bit of black sand, swam in the pool, shared a light lunch of terrific pates from Claudia's shop in Gaute, and just had a grand time being beach bums. That evening we met Ron Wilhelm's NGO Dallas group for dinner at a restaurant, where Cordell learned about how we in Alpha Chi could possibly do similar outreach in the near future. We had a grand time with Ron, his young friends, and the ladies of his church, learning about their encounters with the artists of San Juan and contributions they made to the village.

Saturday morning B and C slept in, then we were off to San Antonio Aguas Caliente, a chicken bus ride up the mountain and into the valley southwest of Antigua to shop in the Mayan coop market there.  It was a glorious adventure to be in the market with the ladies who weaved the fabric we bought, bargaining, visiting, admiring their work. B and C had a grand time negotiating their purchases for family and friends, and Tom had a grand time doing the same. We all ended up with some terrific items and were excited about our trip there.  We jumped a chicken bus back to Antigua in time to get some lunch at Pollo Comparo, after which time we directed the students to the mercado, on market day, a wild and crazy time, then headed home. They were in charge of getting fruits and vegetables for dinner.  We made it home just in time to Skype with A and C and really enjoyed seeing and talking to them, as always.  The four of us sat around with candle light, snacking, drinking, and talking into the night, and went to bed content and ready for the long anticipated adventure of Sunday.

In the early morning today, we went out in search of a tuk tuk, found a few a block down, and made it to the breakfast buffet at the Finca Filadelphia.  The morning was cool, crisp, a bit cloudy, but overall beautiful blue skies.  At 9am we joined a group of folks headed to a zip line over the forest, at the highest point in the finca.  We stepped onto the first platform, and in an hour had zipped along seven lines, the longest being 729 feet. The zip lines were well constructed, with double wires, and the guides provided the stops for the zippers, which made the ride even nicer.  We were excited about doing the really long ones next but were told we couldn't because there was a large group coming. However, we have learned here that you follow the Tom Tunks method of negotiation, continue to bump it up.  He spoke to one of the guides, who agreed to intercede, and did, then Tom spoke to the Jefe (boss), who lumped us into the group of 40 folks here on a mission trip for nutrition, and held the big reservation that had overshadowed ours.  We were so thrilled to go on this next set of ziplines, because they were very long and criss-crossed the valley.  We all yipped and smiled our way over the valley and thoroughly enjoyed the cool breeze, sunshine, and excitement of the ride.  We hiked up the hill to the truck, unharnessed, returned to the office of the finca, then hiked to the closest village, San Felipe, which has a market every Sunday, that is heavily populated by local people from the area. With the exception of Bonne, who is Cambodian/Laoation and looks very Guatemalan, we all stuck out like sore thumbs.  In spite of it, we had a grand time at the market, and bought some of their specialties of dulces and an antique coin from the finca which demarked the payment of two days labor, which could be exchanged for rice, beans, and maza, at the finca company store, as the coin was not a national monetary piece.  Cordell picked up a beautiful wooden carving of a cashew, his favorite nut, and some bags of coffee and other goodies.

We were unable to go to the Azotea, Mayan history museum, so made it back to Antigua on a chicken bus, at which time B and C shopped in the artisan market and made great deals again.  They were enjoying their bargaining skills, it was great to watch from the bench at the fountain.  We found some food for C then sat on the street in front of the cathedral downtown listening to seven marimba groups perform simultaneously, the great marimba hits of Guatemala, between speeches from the mayor, commemorating the glory of the saint of Antigua, Santiago de Cabelleros, and the anniversary of the city. The big day is tomorrow, but the centro was hopping with food, music, people, arts and crafts, and a big book fair.  After the concert the city lit off five large canisters of fire works, 20 feet from where we standing.  We hear these every day and night here, with people celebrating birthdays, weddings, whatever, but never see the lights. Well, today we did, and up close and personal. It was terrific. We ended our evening at a lovely Italian restaurant, Cafe Mediterranean. The proprieter is the father of two girls who attend Colegio Boston, and one is a girl I befriended when I was there. It was great to meet her dad.  We had lovely fish dishes, talked, and laughed.  We found a cigar for C on the way home, and the three of them visited with a group of Denton, TX firemen, while I visited with a young girl and her grandmother from Santa Catarina.  Again, a moment of excitement for me in that I could speak Spanish fluently enough to be understood, could field questions, and understand what they were telling me. It turns out they come here each weekend, selling their weavings, then return on the bus Monday morning, so the little girl can go to school.  It was a brief, but exceptional moment.

We are all settled in for the evening, awaiting the adventure of learning about hospitals, NGOs, and participating in the city-day celebration in the afternoon.  We plan to take it to the limit until we board the plane on Thursday morning. The students leave Wednesday morning, and I head to Guate for more meetings about education, and at some point, we'll have to figure out the packing, but that is another day.

I hope all is well for you and yours.  Love Jeanne

P.S.  Pictures from the current adventure will be up sometime this week, whenever we slow down enough to get it done.  Look for these in several new albums on facebook.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17, 2011

Greetings from chilly, wet Antigua

This was a bonus week here in Antigua.  Our friend Johnetta Hudson came to see us starting Thursday afternoon.  Her trip in was a bit delayed, and her luggage never arrived, even though she is leaving tomorrow, but we pulled together resources of what was in the house and got clean clothes on her, along with the other things needed to make it for five days, and we had a blast together. We also got to spend time with Janet Ray and her husband Mark and their medical team that was here doing outreach work in the villages.  More about that in a moment. 

Early in the week I continued with my observations in the public school and continued to be fascinated how much these teachers can do with so little.  The students were so sweet and kind to me, offering me their snack foods, and sharing some ipad time with me when they finished their work.  I got to observe lots of student teachers teach this week, although the school was only in session for three days. Teachers were in in-service staff development on the other days.  The math teaching continues to mostly be rote delivery and repetition, although I did witness some word problems at the third grade and responsiveness that indicated an eagerness to extend the learning further in the form of addition problems presented to the teacher during break time.  I got to witness some excellent use of the recess time which is generally overly loud. Some teachers used the time to let students have snacks, then sent the out to play during the 30 minute time slot allotted.  It was a clever us of this loud-school time.

Tuesday evening we met Janet and the Dallas medical team for dinner at Ponza Verde, and swapped stories of visits to villages and life on the road of helping others.  Janet and Mark have been coming here for many years, so have been instrumental in sustaining a single family for many years. An abandoned mother and her four children are now able to sustain because the Rays supported her and the children until the mother was able to slake the father and start her own business making tortillas. After 15 years, they are on the mend and doing much better, health and life better.  Janet and I met to talk shop and worked out some interesting integration for science and math methods courses this fall.

Since this week was the last for all the student teachers, there were grand celebrations on Friday, with lots of food, music, games, etc.  The class I was situated in was a second grade class and the group sang happy birthday to the student teacher, who on this day turned 17.  Tomorrow she is a certified teacher, ready to take over a classroom of young children.  It is quite a phenomenon.

This day marked the last day of our Spanish classes as well.  In the morning, Tom and Johnetta went on a walking tour of Antigua, after which I met them for a cool drink, followed by a trip up the mountain with our Spanish teachers for la cena at the restaurant on the hill.  We had a terrific time eating, drinking, laughing, watching the fog/mist come over the mountain, as it grew into a steady rain.  We made it back down the hill, then headed home for an evening at the apartment.  At one point I looked out the window and saw Volcan Fuego spewing red hot lava, which flowed down the mountainside.  The three of us stood in awe of the magnificence of the event.

Saturday morning we headed out on a crisp morning for the Finca Filadelphia for breakfast before our tour of the Finca.  It was a clear, cool, crisp morning and we witnessed even more puffing of Fuego, although it was mostly steam and big white and grey clouds.  We had a very well informed and attentive guide and enjoyed his talk.  It was disconcerting to witness the six ladies who were building the 100,000 plant starters, since they were surrounded by quite a few children, who seemed pretty carefree, but from the site of things, were not formally schooled, and will probably only ever learn the work of the finca. There seems to be no effort to change this situation.

We met our hostess at her house in the mid day, then rode with her to her beach house on the west coast.  We enjoyed the breeze from the ocean, sunset on the black, volcanic beach, and swam in the pool until we pruned.  The same occurred, with the exception of the sunset, on Sunday, returning to rainy, cool Antigua it the early evening.  We met two amazing women at the beach house. The first was the woman who was the person who established the Ixchel textile museum in Guatemala city that we toured in February with Adam and Catherine. She was an exceptional woman and her story of how she and seven other women restored, curated, and displayed the work was fascinating. We felt when we were there, but to talk to her heightened the experience more.  Today we met another woman who teaches at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, where the textile museum and others reside, and who also heads an organization that studies the government's support of the commitments they make to education.  We had lengthy conversations about what is possible in the world of educational research and support for improvement in Guatemala.  I will meet with her on Tuesday and extend the conversation further to what might be possible between us, UNT, SMU, and Marroquin.  It was intriguing indeed.

We came back from windy, balmy, sunny beach to flooding in Antigua and surrounding pueblos.  Luis got us back safely, after which we walked in the light rain to Welten for a light cena with Johnetta, where we toasted lost luggage, a good visit, and plans to keep the fires burning.  It will be interesting to see where this takes us in the future.  It was great to spend so much uninterrupted time with Johnetta and we hope she finds her luggage before she gets home.

Hope all is well in your world. Ten days until we head north for a few days.  Love jt

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10, 2011

Hi there,

Well, we have 17 more days in Antigua, and still loving our life here. We will be glad to back in Dallas for a few days to see the family, do a bit of work, and go to the Greatest Show on Earth, the circus. Thanks to Adam, we have been going back to the Ringling Brothers event since 2002.  The party will continue.

During our week here in Antigua Tom has been out exploring possibilities for shopping wood items and we hit pay dirt today with a visit to two villages outside Antigua. The artists in Jocotenango and San Filipe are known for their woodworking resulting in beautiful bowls, platters, and particularly fruits and vegetables that are painted and shined to be amazing replicas of the real thing. This is down down to the seeds in the fruit and the intricate lines in the seeds.  We had a quiet, peaceful morning walking through the villages, after our lovely breakfast on the hill at the Finca Filadelphia coffee farm, where we watched Fuego Volcano puff huge belches of white, grey, and even black smoke.  The mountain has been active all week, but today was exceptional. We were a pretty safe distance from this activity, so it was fun. Up close might be another matter. We will find out soon enough, as we plan to hike Pacaya in a couple of weeks.

My week here has been filled with school visits, but this time in public schools, Monday through Thursday. The school is in Jocotenango, a small village 10 minutes ride in a tuk tuk from where we live.  It is at the foot of the mountain, so is nestled in a bit closer as a village, whereas Antigua is a bit more spread out in the valley. The school is a primary schools with grades K-6.  Each classroom is approximately 15x30, into which approximately 36 desks are set, crammed together in 5 columns.  As in the private school, the students are in uniform, though considerably simpler than the private school I observed Feb - May.  There are no, nada school supplies provided by the school through governmental agencies; no books, no paper, no materials, no overhead project, no computers, no pencils, pencil sharpener, no nothing. The teachers have a textbook that was issued by the government in 2002, and includes all subjects the teachers are to teach, so the materials are basic and limited.  The classes consist mostly of the following steps: 1. the teacher talks about the concept being taught.  2. The teacher dictates what the students are to write in their notebooks about this topic.  3. The teacher gives a few examples on the white board (the only supply). 4. The teacher gives an assignment, either for in class or homework.  Students sit in their desks from 7:30-12:30, with the exception of a 30 minute break to play on the concrete playground in the center of the school. The wild thing is that the half of the school that is not at recess, get to hear the wild, fun squeals of the children who are, hence the noise in the alternate classrooms hits 90 - 95 db when the other group is out.  Que lastima.

I did get to see an exceptional thing this week, a teacher who talked about measurement, then allowed the students to go outside and really measure many things, including the length of the playground, the height of their partners, etc. The students loved it, worked diligently on the task, talked incessantly about the methods they used to complete the assignment, and were eager to do other measurements at home later. This was in a sixth grade class, which was an altogether new experience here in Antigua.  I felt like I was in Denton watching Amy Anderson's class. The teacher and I talked during the 30 minute recess time and I learned that she is studying to get her professor certification, which is equivalent to our bachelor's degree. She only lacks her final exam, so I hope she gets it soon.

The icing on the cake was a trip to Guatemala City with our hostess, Marie del Carmen, who arranged a meeting with a group of people in the Ministry of Education who have developed, tested, and implemented a new math curriculum for the country.  We met with the development team and the team of five teachers who were part of the in-school development team, who now work as deliverers of the curriculum nation-wide.  It was terrific to hear about their systematic approach to the development and the concerted effort they made to include teachers in the design and implementation process.  We left intrigued with each other, with the hopes of possibly working on a partnership of shared documentation.  The curriculum, both in recommended, objective form, also had teacher edition books and student workbooks.  It was grand, with the caveat that the government wants to roll this out as the Guatemalan official math curriculum, but has not offered any financial support to get books in every teachers' and students' collective hands. The original project, Guatematica, was supported by the Japanese government equivalent of Peace Corps, JICA, but that has a limited funding source, designed mostly for development and support. Hopefully, following the maddening election here in September, someone in charge will recognize the value of education and find some funds somewhere.

The rest of this week is the final run of our Spanish lessons.  This past week our teachers both decided that with so little time left, it's time to turn up the burners, so we have both been sweating a bit, but enjoying the sauna of the moment of more learning and improvement. Tom is light-years ahead of me, buried in pluperfectsubjunctive, while I am still sorting out por, para, ser, and estar.  We both speak Spanish here to all who will listen, and get better at it each day.  At the new school, no one speaks English, so if I am going to do one legged interviews, I have to jump in, which I do, haltingly, but doing it anyway. So far, it is working.  Also, our good friend Johnetta Hudson arrives on Thursday afternoon, and we have evoked the powers here to give us more than 24 hours in the day and night so we can do all the things we think she will enjoy during her four days here. 

Signing off as I look out at the light rain, clouds over the mountain, enjoying the cool mountain air, knowing that the heat of Dallas awaits.  17 more days of paradise, then we shift paradise to home.  Hope all is well for you and yours.  jt

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2, 2011

Greetings from Antigua.

Well, we made it home in fine shape from our month long journey here and there and have even gotten all the current pictures onto the facebook in labeled albums, so enjoy.

Our journey this week took us to Lake Atitlan, a lake in the northwest part of the highlands of Guatemala. The area holds geological, cultural, commercial, and historical interest for many different reasons.  Geologically the lake was formed from volcanic action that resulted in a large lake surrounded by mountains, three of which are still active volcanoes, although they only seem to spew steam each morning. The lake itself is quite deep in the center, as the depth has not been fully determined.  It is fed by run off from the surrounding mountains and rain, both of which come in great measure during this rainy season. Due to the fish bowl nature of the lake, when the weather comes in, the water sloshes back and forth, going from completely placid to standing waves in a very short time. The villages along the edges of the lake are far enough apart to operate quite independently of each other, but connect through a system of ferries and launches that carry people and materials back and forth. Only a few villages have roads leading in and out to the rest of Guatemala. The water in the lake is quite clean, aided somewhat by the reeds and other plants on the shorelines that serve to as lake cleaners. There was very little trash in the water, so it seems that a clear effort is being made to maintain its beauty.

Commercially, several things are going on.  Each village is made up of Mayan people who speak different Mayan languages, who have cooperatives of weavers, ceramicists, painters, and wood carvers, who make and sell their wares in the villages, as well as in markets in other parts of Guatemala. The work is exceptional and old methods of dying naturally are maintained in several of the cooperatives we toured in San Juan.  There are fishermen all over the lake in small crafts of wooden boats, probably designed to work with the change in waves as the weather shifts.  We did not see too many fish markets, so either these are used for home cooking, or sold to restaurants locally. We did taste some Black Bass, a fish introduced to the lake by some US folks some years ago, and a prime catch for the fisherman.  Much of the commerce is tourism and shopping for Mayan goods.  We witnessed in every village, including Panahachel where we stayed at the Posado de Don Rodrigo.  Ladies with large bags of folded weaving, poised on their heads, walk the main streets, selling, talking, and encouraging the purchase of their goods. Some shops are in cooperative groups, whereas others are on the sidewalks. The men on the streets are selling boat rides around the lake to tourists who might want to see the lake, or visit a village. Some, as did ours, serve as tour guides as well as drivers. 

Culturally, each village along the lake has its own Mayan culture, including language, dress, music, arts, food, and weaving. The groups, even in ancient times, were not unified, and during the Spanish invasion of the 16th, several groups worked with the Spanish to overcome certain villages of differing Mayan groups. Eventually, the Spanish conquered them all, but initially, they were assisted by the Maya.  There is a strong vestige of Catholocism, particularly in Santiago, where the Oklahoma born priest who was brutally murdered during the civil war in Guatemala, is venerated in the church there. The church was built in the 16th c, and still stands and is a pillar of the community. Other religions, such as Maya and Protestant sects are a part of the communities as well, although fewer and fewer people are following the Maya religion strictly, although there is evidence of candles of certain colors, flowers, and incense in the churches that mixes Maya and Catholic practices. The protestant religious places were less evident in the villages. There is one village that is an enclave for US expats, and is called the Hippie village by the locals.  Most everything there is in English, and where we rented kayaks on our third day, since they seem to know what US tourists are looking to do on a weekday on the lake.

Historically the lake has been itself for some time, and the people have been primarily Mayan settlers for centuries, but the treatment of the people by others outside the villages has been one of brutality and now a certain calm.  The villagers, separated by mountains and a testy lake, kept to themselves, not necessarily increasing their reach beyond the villages for many years until the Spanish conquered and settled the areas with Catholicism and Spanish rule. The country came out from under this rule in the 19th c, and again the 20th, but put in place new governing rules that forced the people of the villages to work in the fields of landowners, named by the government, none of whom were Mayan.  A revolt in 1960-86 led to support groups in the form of guerrillas, who defended the Maya people, but eventually turned on them in some quarters, resulting in loss of life to many in the area. Since the peace accords were written, there continue to be struggles, but the people of the lake are finding some solace from the development of artisan coops, NGO support, and the support of people like JoAnn Dwyer, who provides a medical clinic in San Juan and after school tutoring.  There seems to be a certain calm among the people we met, with an underlying sense that nothing is forever. There are lots of opportunities for outreach, but what is important is that the people themselves have set the pace for what is important and hopefully that will endure as they find a way to maintain and continue to succeed.

We returned to Antigua and have been hanging out, watching the rain, and getting ourselves back to starting point with a trip to the mercado yesterday, a haircut at Franks Salon, and a taste of local food.  It feels good to be back home.  Well, with only 26 more days in Guatemala, as usual, we have filled our dance card with new and interesting things.  I start observing in a public school on Monday, Johnetta Hudson arrives on the 14th, departing the 18th, then two students, Cordell and Bonne, from UNT from Alpha Chi arrive on the 19th, departing the 27th, and in between we hope to see Ron Wilhelm and Janet Ray, both of whom are doing important work in Guatemala through NGOs.  We plan to hike Pacaya Volcano, take salsa lessons, and maybe hit the beach one more time.  Life is good here in Antigua. Hope all is well for you and yours.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011

Greetings from chilly, wet Antigua,

We arrived back in Antigua Wednesday evening and leave again tomorrow for Lake Atitlan, but many adventures have occurred in the interim, so here is the scoop.

A bit more about the Garifuna people I alluded to in the last post. This is a population of Caribe descendents, who mixed with an African populations, brought to St. Vincent Island in the 17th c. Through time and battles between the Spanish, French, and English, many of the Garifuna, now freed "Black Caribes", lived on the coasts of Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala. The Garifuna of Guatemala live in Livingston, on the edge of where Rio Dulce flows to the sea.  Although they have been here since the 19th c, and fished and worked this small spit of land, following the Guatemalan civil war, when many Guatemalan's sought refuge from tyranny, Livingston turned from a fishing village to a tourist destination, serving as a jumping off point to both Belize and Honduras, Rio Dulce, and interesting river travel. The Garifuna have been marginalized, living in ghettos at the east side of town. We voluntarily went on a tour with a man from the ghetto, who wanted to show us the life.  It was devastating to see the level of poverty and sitting around, with seemingly no hope. In contrast, on our last day we went kayaking and the driver of our transport boat, a Garifuna man, who told a different story of Garifuna who work, are part of the community, and choose to live the lives they have. Interesting experience altogether. We did witness many, many Mayan folks coming up and down the river to attend the political campaigns on Saturday, and many Garifuna men and women sitting around the park listening, however not really mixing together.  We were there too short a period of time to know what to know or believe. Another time possibly.

On Sunday we headed away from Livingston on a long boat ride to the town of Rio Dulce, up the canyon, along the river, through the lakes, and to the bridge. We met our next driver, Fredy, who took us through multiple military and police check points, through the Peten region to the Jungle Lodge, at the opening of Tikal, the site of the tallest Mayan pyramids, set in the jungle.  On our first afternoon and night we walked around a bit, had a light dinner in the restaurant, and readied for our 4:30am hike through the jungle for the sunrise over Tikal.  It was spectacular walking in absolute darkness, albeit the head lamps, listening to howler monkeys starting their day of territory marking, birds screeching above our heads, and the rustling of the leaves in the jungle.  We arrived at the fourth temple, which is about 10 stories high, climbed the wooden steps, and found a front row seat, overlooking the jungle to the first, tallest temple.  Although there was no sunrise that morning, there was a grey glow and rising of mist from behind the pyramids 1&2, which began to cover the pyramids, then the jungle top, and eventually over us on the steps.  It was far more magnificent than a sunrise, although that would have been nice as well. After four hours of hiking, history lessons, and study of architecture with our high school hiking buddies from Wisconsin, we found breakfast at the Lodge, readying ourselves for our second hike with the same guide, to see the rest of the park, now in the light of day.

Our guide was Antonio Ortiz, son of one of the original archeologists who began the uncovering of Tikal.  He had grown up playing in these jungles, so shortcuts through undergrowth were part of the tour.  We hiked, climbed, and stood in awe at the uncovering of a civilization that had collapsed before the Spanish arrive in the 16th c.  It turns out there was a ten year drought, and no amount of animal or human sacrifice by the rulers could coax the rain gods, so the commoners, the uneducated ones, killed off the ruling class, and disappeared into the jungle to live and survive. Because they had been the farmers for the rulers, they could subsist on the farming they knew, and remain the uneducated people of Guatemala today, from everything we see and read.  There seems to be a move afoot to change that, but it will take much time and energy, as these were the same people who were brutally killed in a genocide move by the military and guerrillas, who were there to protect the Mayan people, but when the people would not serve either militant group, were killed by both groups.  There seems to be some effort underway to rectify this atrocity, but change is slow.  Just last week the brother of one of my new Guatemalan friends was murdered in the barbershop.  He was running for political office that was bent on bringing about change, but others had designs for less change. And so it goes here. Ron Wilhelm works with villagers throughout parts of Guatemala, helping them tell their stories of the tragedy of the Guatemalan civil war and the pain of lost people, who may or may not ever be recovered.  His skill as an ethnographer is of great use and help to the people he meets and works with, no doubt. Releasing that kind of pain takes many hands and years to bring about.  Here in Antigua there is an excellent photographic exhibit in the España cooperativa about the civil war and the photos tell the story of mass burials, very young boys with guns, and Mayan women pleading in groups for answers, retribution, and salvation.  The Maya, it seems, left more than pyramids.

We spent a hot, restless night of bugs and mosquito nets, since the electricity is turned off in the evening at the Jungle Lodge. The next morning we toured the two museums on the grounds and were met with beautiful pieces, which were unlabeled, and without documentation of any sort. The pieces were magnificent, but viewing limited, due to the limited knowledge of where and how these were brought here. The ceramic museum was a bit more welcoming, with some sinage, and a great display of the first kings' bones with his 6 kg of jade we had heard about. The pieces were well reconstructed, but again, without documentation, objects behind glass. In the afternoon we left for Flores, the town south of Tikal on the lake.  Our hotel, Peten Esplindida, was on the shore of the lake, across from an island, connected by a short bridge from Flores.  After the amount of sweating we had done in the past week, between Livingston and Tikal, we opted to hang out in the room, catching up on emails, and waited for the cool of the evening to go down for a dip and dinner near the pool next to the lake.  Some folks we had met from Vermont, touring Tikal when we were there, wandered over and had dinner with us. It was a pleasant evening of chatter and story swapping. They are in the medical field and had originally planned the C American trip to Honduras to do medical relief. but the trip was cancelled due to fear.  So, they created their own trip, and here we were. They were headed to Antigua, so we gave them some tourist advice, and agreed to meet at the Welten for dinner Saturday night. We spent the next day hanging out by the pool, watching movies, and readying for the short flight to Guatemala City.

The flight was short, but the wait quite long. Our 5:00 flight turned into a 7:00 flight, due to an overburdening of the airlines by a group of 120 Japanese tourists, who had chartered all six planes leaving from Flores. Unfortunately, they had overlooked the nature of the slowness of Guatemala and arrived at the airport, just 25 minutes before their scheduled flight, so all flights got delayed, since it took nearly an hour to get checked in past the ONE person checking passports, airport tax stickers, and tennis shoes.  We arrive in GC, picked up our transport, and arrived home at the apartment around 9. Such is the way sometimes. The next day was my workshop at the school on the learning brain, so I reviewed my materials and found that what I had sent forward was what I needed, so put together some notes, and crashed.  Tom had gotten so worked up over the lateness of the flight and the circumstances surrounding it, that he was exhausted from frustration.  He crashed the minute we had unpacked.

Thursday, I showed up at the school early to watch other presenters, just to take note of style, to sort of see where I fit in. Needless to say, I didn't since everything was ppt, written in Spanish, and spoken in Spanish. The teachers were receivers of information, with limited, if any interaction or feedback.  I knew I was an outlier, for many reasons. I also discovered that I was an add in, an expert from out of town who had been squeezed into the schedule. I had originally be given a 90 minute session, which in writing was 60, and I was the last presentation of a four day week of constant sessions.  I decided to honor the 60 minutes, used no ppt, engaged the teachers throughout, turned the learning over to them, and surprisingly, spoke in Spanish the entire time.  I had three interpreters at the ready, who threw me words now and again, but between what I knew how to say, hand gestures, drawings on the board, and interactive learning, we got the job done, and everyone left seeming to understand what went on. But, as with all 60 minute workshops, at the end of a long week, when you wish you were somewhere else, who really knows what went in and stuck.  I had prepared well, given back the gift of time to a place that had given me so much time and freedom, so walked away feeling ok.  After the workshop a woman with whom I interfaced daily at the school invited me to her 18thc hacienda in the city for lunch.  Like two little girls, we sat at a small table on the porch, telling each other stories, while I listened to the story of the death of her brother, her father's military background and his political affiliations, and the life of a Guatemalan woman living in Antigua.  It was glorious.

Tom and I were invited to breakfast with the teachers and administrators, which involved getting across town, meeting a school bus in front of one of the Catholic churches, and riding north through the mountains to a lovely log structure, where we had breakfast with about 50 people from the school.  It was loud, wonderful, and tasty. Along the way there and back we saw fields and fields of vegetables, fruits, and people in them tending the produce, trucks being loaded with large bags of avocados, etc.  It was truly amazing, with the exception that you are reminded that the people working these campos/farms are workers, not owners of this land, and in all likelihood will never own the land.  Such beauty and sadness mixed in a single place.

Saturday I worked all day writing on an article that I am trying to send off for publication on the Fiesta Math Night project.  Although we have several short pieces in publication now, this one involves the report of the findings from four years of narrative writings by the students on the FMN experience, from start to finish. There were some amazing things learned, so the publication is warranted. Hopefully today it will hit Tom's careful editing fingers, and the publisher by the end of the week. Today is a great day, because we get to skype with Adam and Catherine and my mom. We plan to take ourselves to Panza Verde, a restaurant in town named after the people who stayed in Antigua after the 1773 earthquake that emptied the city. They got this name for surviving on avocados, hence the term, green bellies.   We are off tomorrow for a four day jaunt to Lake Atitlan, where more adventures and new learning await.

BTW, pictures from the first three and a half weeks of June are posted on facebook, so enjoy, I know we did.   Hope all is well for you and yours. Love jeanne

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19, 2011;

Greetings from Livingston, Izabel, Guatemala, where we have been residing since Wednesday afternoon. More about that in a bit. First, happy Fsther's day all fathers who are reading and following the blog. I hope the joy of fatherhood has been as uplifting as the lives Tom's and my chldren have been to him, and by extension, me.

When left off last, we were laying by a pool in Copan, Honduras, enjoying a sedate life. The next day was quite the adventure into Mayan antiquity. We ventured to the ruin of Copan, deserted some time before the conquistadors found central America. We were fortunate enough to have an outstanding guide who was born, raised, and lived in Copan, and studied Mayan history at the national university of Honduras, and belonged to the society of historians and archeologists, all determined to continue the study of Mayan history and culture. We walked, climbed, and tunneled through ruins of magnificence and careful preservation. We learned that they were u touched somewhat because the Spanish found no gold there. The tamales were magnificent, but what marked this site was the intricate carvings that included Mayan dating, details of you and old leaders, that were carved with great depth, sometimes all the way through the stone, up to eight inches. We learned of these oddest on of the area and the greed of the rulers to continue to oppress the servant people, as they captured more and more lands, eventually collapsing under the inability to sustain. The fourteenth king turned to the people and create a representative system, bit this was scoffed, destroyed and life as they knew it ended. We learned that inside the pyramids were other pyramids and large alters, in full color, that were discovered through tunnels, that we uncovered and now walkable, somewhat. We were able to see the Grand alter in replication in the museum. The plastered, full size, brilliantly painted alter was approximately 40 feet high with multiple figures of the kind we saw in the ruins. The museum also had multiple statues original to the site. The museum was an open air configuration of three levels: the underworld, where we entered through the mouth of the serpent, the living worl, and the heavens, which showed the open sky above. Needless to say, it was magnificent. Something poignant was the absence of the mention of women throughout the entire tour. This did not parallel what we saw in the square in Copan. All other central areas in Guatemala, Peru, Chile, Italy, Germany, etc, people gather in the central square in the evening, but here only men were noticeable, no matter what time of day or night. The next day we learned from our driver that men in Honduras were a bit machismo, and expected women to stay home, hence, no women were around, although some were on side streets, working in shops, restaurants, and sold food from carts, but not in the square. Very different.

We were driven four hours, by our trusty guide Isreal, who only spoke Spanish tom us, even though he could speak English. He patiently waits while I formed careful sentences, hoping for some sense making. He got is to our launch at Rio Dulce, where we boarded a boat for Livingston, Izabel, guatemala, at the mouth of the river and faces the Caribbean. We checked I to the Villa Caribe, which overlooks the river and ocean. That night we arranged a trip to Playa Blanca, which included a walk though a series of seven waterfalls, on the way to the beach. Since all transportation here is aquatic, since there are no roads to Livingston. The falls were fantastic, which were traversed by climbing up the jungle mountain, along rocky, slippery shores. We played for a while below the highest fall, in a pond of crystal clear water. The beach was more grey than blanco, and the water brown, rather than Caribbean blue, green. We learned that there are so many rivers feeding into the ocean here, that the water along the Guatemalan coast, although just miles from Belize, are all like this. I was pleasant enough. The exciting part was the boat ride home in the driving rain, with seas rising all around us in the oncoming storm. When we returned we wandered into a visitor center, in search of kayaks, sailboats, something, and met two ladies fro the US who were here on a Rotarian International project, and got invited to visit a school with them the next day. Needless to say, we said yes. We did arrange the kayak trip for Saturday. On Friday morning, the next day, we boarded a launch with the rotations, and were tours through a school designed for the advancement of Mayan children, set in the jungles, on a small tributary along the rio dulce. The school is 20 years old and focuses on increasing educational opportunities as well as commercial experience for the students in restaurants and hotels in Livingston. The school is centered on supporting the Mayan communities in the mountains surround the peninsula north of the school. It was amazing to see the industry, intent, and concern for increased education. On our final day we went kayaking, which of course, required a launch ride up the river, to the place to kayak. By the time we got in our individual kayaks, it had begun to rain,a nd hard, so we paddled in the rain, which was a break from the stifling heat of the launch ride, slowly meandering along other rivers. We paddled through jungles for about six miles, and a had a glorious time with our garafuna guide, who had lived his entire life here. The rain stopped and started all afternoon and continued throughout the evening, where, as we had each night, watched the storm through the picture windows of our cabana, which overlooked the river and sea.

The most striking thing about our stay here, beside the watery world, was the mix, or non-mix of the garafuna, Maya, and Spanish cultural groups that live in this town of ten blocks on the hill. The garafuna, a group of freed caribe-African decendants, lived in abject poverty at the east side of town, whereas the Spanish lived in the heart of town, although there was some mixing at the docks. On Saturday the Mayan people flooded the small village for shopping, and yesterday, to register to vote. There is more to be learned here, although we did tour the garafuna village with a garafuna guide on our second day.

I have run out of blogging time, as our launch out leaves in 45 minutes, and we are not packed yet. Pictures will be up next week, so keep checking Facebook for the three and a half week photo journal. We find our way to Tikal today, so more to come next week.

Hope all is well for you and yours. Love Jeanne

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 12, 2011

Greetings from Jeanne,

We are sitting next to a lovely, palm tree-lined, dark blue tiled pool, having a gin and tonic, checking emails, enjoying our new setting in Copan, Honduras.

Our time in Puerto Vallarta turned out great, albeit different from years past somewhat. On Sunday we got caught up on what our current time share situation was and are set for a while. on Monday we hung out and attended a cocktail party at the place, Tuesday lingered on our balcony, after a long, hot walk into town. Wednesday was an exceptional day. We rented a car and drove to a beach town oath of Puerto Vallarta, Los Alayas. We played in the light waves, rode the inflated banana over the tougher waves, behind a speeding boat, and just hung out with all the Mexicsn families enjoying the beach, waves, and fares. We drove tonthe hotel for a quick rinse off, then out tom the cliffs, north of town for a champagne, seafood dinner, overlooking the bay, while the sun twisted it's way through the clouds, shooting orange, pink, gold streaks onto the water and sky. The waiters really got into this being our 33rd anniversary and brought us flan decorated with Happy Aniversary along the edge, and more drinks. We slept well that night. On Thursday, we hung out, swam, as we did most mornings, and found our way to Jota Be, a Dance hall, which hosts salsa lessons from 9-10pm every evening. We joined the class, learned a few new steps, then stayed for an hournor more of salsa dancing, as the only couple on the floor. It was so cool. On Friday, we went into downtown to shop for the kids, then returned to readymourselves for the next of the trip, getting oarding passes, laundry, and just reorganizing luggage to accommodate the new goods. In the evening we went to the marina where we boarded a boat, which took us across the bay, north of PV, where we were served a lovely dinner on the beach, then walked into an outdoor heater when it was dark, to see a dance performance of authentic Mexicsn dance. The show was an extradonary display of feathered costumes, exceptional dance, and fire twirling. It as dazzling. We rode in the front of the boat on the way home and enjoyed the wind in our hair, waves, stars, and moon. Such a night.

We trekked our way back to Mexico City on Saturday and enjoyed our lovely cena at the Hilton, then headed out down reforma toward the zocalo. There were throngsof people out walking with their families, novias, novios, etc, enjoying the cool night, ice creams, time together. We joined right inon all counts. The zocalo was camped in by numerous people making political statements regarding the government, violence in Mexico, the drug cartels, etc. They were peaceful, but determined. It wad glorious to witness such resolve. On Sunday morning in MC we went out to take photographs of the extraordinary bronze sculptures we had noticed the previous week in front of the Palacio. It turns out they were all completed by an artist from Mexico. For those of you who follow us in picots, you'll have to wait a few weeks, and we'll make some new albums of these when we get back to Antigua. We went to the museum of tolerance across from the Palacio. Mostly the museum focused on the holocaust, but there were displays of atrocities since tis this time. They showcased atrocities in Guatemala, Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur, etc. The museum is donein film, graphic, and writing, and authenticatesmthe horrors, leaving the viewer eith a sense of senselessness of thismkindof abuse toward humanity. There are extensive educational programs, projects,a nd opportunities for community members to rise up and act well toward others. Amazing.

We started our long, long trek To Honduras Sunday afternoon, arrived in Guatemala City late, flopped down, rose very early, jumped in a van, and spent old people time napping and laying by the pool, where the almost full moon jas just risen above the tile covered roof of our hotel, where we sit, write, read, and are enjoying life on the road. Ruins of Copan tomorrow.

The adventure continues. Hope all is well for and yours. BTW, forgive the extra ms throughout,as I am typing on an iPad, so hit the m, n, or no space bar on occasion. Jt

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 5, 2011

Greetings from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico,

We are sitting on the porch of our condo, looking out at the sun on the waves of bluish, green water, as it laps up on the shore,though the waving palm trees that line the shore. We look like two old duffers enjoying our vacation. It is truly lovely.

We arrived here yesterday after a whirlwind week of museums, ballet, and trips in and out of Mexico City. We used the Hilton Reforma in MC as out home base, returning MondY, Wednesday, and Friday to a welcoming team of HH staff who spoiled us rotten. We had happy, happy hours every night with drinks and cena, and beautiful breakfast each morning. When in Mexico City, we attended the performance of the National Ballet Folorico Company at the famous Palacio de Bellas Artes. The performance was extraordinary, set in the beauty of the architecture of this hall. More here: Also in MC we went on a tour of the floating gardens of Xochimilco, which is a series of canals, marking the original waterways of Mexico City. We had lunch on the flat bottom boat, which was prepared by a lady on another flat bottom boat. The mole, barbacoa, and other Mexican food accompaniments were wonderful. Our guide poled the skiff along through ecological centers, farms, and many miles of waterways, making for a very pleasant anniversary afternoon.

We spent Tuesday of that week getting to and enjoying the Olmec museum in Xalapa. Tom had gone there last year and wanted to share this with me. It was magnificent in size, restoration of artifacts, and presentation. It was great to see. The hallmark of the collection was the immense size of the carved heads, which stood about 12-15 feet. There were also masks of people smiling and children playing and waving, all in very minute detail. As with the Mayan and other ancient cultural groups, no one really knows why the Olmecs no longer thrive in this area. We walked around the center of Xalapa and then down, down hill to the dammed river, which serves as a small town lake. As rhe capital of Veracruz, there is a large state house, with outstanding murals that tell the story of Mxican independence. Moat interesting is the chronicle of the independence from US and other oil companies, with the formation of PEMEX, the national oil company of Mexico, since 1938. It was a nice time and particularly nice bus trip to and from MC.

On Thursday last week we took a bus to Cuernacvaca where we toured the Morelos Province museum of history, gardens of the summer home of Maximillian, and 16th c. Cathedral. In had studied Spanish there several times across the last six years, so wanted to share my experiences with Tom. We enjoyed a day of museums, but were really taken with the lively evening at the zocalo where there was formalized Mexican ballroom dancing with live bands, fire twirlers, and just folks out with their children, enjoying the cool of the night.

We have not moved too far from our spot here at the Sheraton buganvilias, but have the rest of the week to figure that out. We have been co ing here since 1994, so feel pretty confident that something will come to mind. If you have travelled with us here, we have some sad news: Hector's closed six months ago. We arein search of his new spot. We heard about a lace to maybe rent a bare boat, so who knows, we might get out on that great Banderas Bay yet.

I will get pictures of the Mexican adventure as soon as I can, so keep checking Facebook and something will appear.

Hope all is well for you and yours. Love Jeanne

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28, 2011

Greetings from Jeanne,

Well, this week we hit several major high points.  First, we received, after 25 days, our replacement credit cards that sweet Adam sent April 21. This is a major relief since we head out for a month of travel on Monday (more on that below).  A second milestone was our plans for traveling in Guatemala during the second half of June solidified on Thursday. The folks at the boutique hotel, Doña Beatriz, a few yards from our apartment, made all the arrangements for us, including a stay on the grounds at Tikal National Park, and on an island in the lake near Tikal.  We are ecstatic about this (more on that as well below).  A third milestone was the five meetings I had with teachers and school directors this week.  At each meeting with the teachers, I spoke only Spanish, because they only spoke Spanish.  Each meeting lasted approximately 2 hours at a coffee shop and resulted in some very interesting things (more on this one below the other two).  The best of all, we are both feeling much better and are about health-ready to travel soon.  We have been battling stomach problems for about two weeks, off and on, and have nursed ourselves back to health by eating carefully and a whole lot less. As a result, there is a whole lot less of both of us.  We both desperately needed to lose weight, but did not sign up for this extreme weight loss program.  We have vowed to keep the eating to a minimum on our trip, so hope we abide by that. Our fourth happening this week was a Wednesday morning tour of La Reunion, a resort nestled near Volcan Fuego, an active volcano we can see from our apartment in Antigua. One of the teachers at the school invited us, so we went.  Here is the website for the place:  It was a magnificent morning, which included a delicious breakfast on the open air porch, overlooking the valley and foothills. We rode golf carts around the place, and enjoyed the six star tour treatment for which the resort is famous. We didn't even know it was there, but were thrilled to be there for a morning.

The below parts: We leave on a 24 day journey starting on Monday.  We fly to Mexico City, via Panama, then spend a week in and out of Mexico City, with side trips to Jalapa and Cuernavaca, spending our 33rd anniversary in Mexico City on June 3. We plan to enjoy museums, floating gardens, parks, the subway, and markets in this part of the country.  After a week we'll fly to Puerto Vallarta, where we have gone for many years to stay at our time share, Sheraton Buganvilias.  We have no real plans for this leg of the trip other than to swim, lay at the pool, walk the malecon in the evening with the local people who come down the mountain to watch the sunsets. We return to Mexico City for a day, then fly back to Guatemala.

The other below part: On June 13, we begin our east Guatemala/Honduras Maya tour for nine days.  We begin at Copan, a Mayan ruin in Honduras, then spend four days on the Guatemalan Caribbean coast, in Livingston, a town only approachable by boat, which is at the end of Rio Dulce, a river that flows from a lake, through a canyon, to the ocean. We have read about sailing, canoeing, hiking, and motorboating opportunities along the river, lake, and ocean, so plan to enjoy our time playing in the water in this idyllic setting. We will be met by a transport service that will take us to Tikal for two days, then the lake for one, after which we will fly back to Guatemala City, then Antigua on June 22.

We will be home for four days, one of which I will present a workshop/conferéncia on "The Learning Brain", based on the neurological theories posed by James Zull, which I use in my classes at UNT. The administration is very happy about this and welcome the notion of encouraging other methods of teaching to reach the children, so that they learn, not just recite.  Tom and I will attend a dinner that evening with the school personnel.

We will hang around Antigua, or follow the interesting things that come our way for the remaining three days, then head out to Lake Atitlan for a four day stay on the lake in Panahatchel.  This mountain lake is nestled among a circle of volcanic mountains in the northwest part of Guatemala.  We had hoped to do some volunteer work there with my Alpha Chi group, but that never materialized, so maybe another year. This is where Ron Wilhelm and Kim Batchelor provide services through an NGO Methodist group at the lake.  We'll make an effort to find their contact there and hopefully tour the facilities.

One more thing below: The results of the meetings with teachers and administrators netted some very interesting possibilities. First, the principal de la primaria escuela (elementary school) has begun an action research project that duplicates the successful, published study conducted by Monica Daniel, a former PDS graduate, and her mentor teachers in Denton ISD last year, whereby students read for five minutes during each return transition time in the day.  The directora has pretested the students, established baseline, and the teachers are now requiring the students read 5 minutes when they return from the two recesses, once in English, and once in Spanish. She will collect formative data in mid-June and again in July, August, September, and October, and will share the results, so that we can compare her findings against what others are doing with the model in other schools in Texas.  Also, the school directoras are very interested in an exchange program between the school and UNT COE. This is something I will have to begin to broker when I get back. Finally, the teachers are very eager to try new ideas that might help their lagging students, since there is a pretty sizable group that cannot learn with any long-term comprehension, with the instructional methods used.  All agreed to share what they learn and I look forward to hearing from them.

Today was my last Spanish lesson for a month, but there will be lots of practice in the days ahead. Tom had his last lesson yesterday, and is ready for practice on the road.  We will be posting lots of pictures from our adventures across the next month, and may or may not be posting again until our return in late June, as we will not take our laptops with us for the month.  We'll try to keep up with emails, since most of the places we are staying have wifi.

Today is a rainy day in Antigua, with a temperature of 72. It feels and smells like Philmont.  The town is abuzz with the world soccer champion game between Barcelona and Manchester. Red and Blue strips, UNICEF symbols of the team were everywhere.  After our short walk in the rain, we enjoyed watching the final victory in our apartment.  We are hanging out, with the windows open taking in the cool air, listening to the birds, and gathering our thoughts before the next leg of our Adventure 2011.

Hope all things are well for you and yours.  jt

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18, 2011

Greetings from Jeanne,

It has been a quiet time here in Antigua since my last post on Mother's Day.  Since that time, Mother's Day, May 10 has come and gone, with much national flare and no school.  The school where I observe closed for two days, and for a week before the days off, the school was a flurry of Mother's Day gift making.  There were celebrations for the mothers at the school, all over town, and in every home.  Tom took me out for mother's day dinner at Del Cerro on the top of the hill, and it was lovely to see the night lights.  We had a lovely time. Earlier in the day we went shopping and several places in town were handing out roses and other mother's day treats.  It is quite the deal.

Our new friends also stayed for another week, as they were invited to take Spanish lessons from a new instructor, and provide commentary on her behalf at the end.  They have moved onto their next leg of their adventure in northern Guatemala and beyond.  They were truly delightful, funny, and interesting.  They were a wealth of information about places they have been and things they have learned along their way.

During this time we have also been experiencing some stomach troubles and general achy feelings here and there.  Tom has been on antibiotics, but we are both on the mend.  It's been tough going, since we have been pretty careful about what we eat and drink, and feel better tonight after a cup of chicken soup and cheese pita breads.

The big news last week was the meeting we had with the principal of a public school in Jocotenango.  This is a small village just outside of Antigua.  The standard communication here is word of mouth and personal reference.  So, this is how it played out: I met a woman during the alfombra building event on the Monday before Easter, who teaches in Jocotenango.  I told her that I was looking for a place to observe in a public school, and she agreed to help me out.  Later that evening, another teacher, who teaches 6th grade math, agreed to help me get into the school for observations.  Tom's Spanish teacher, whose hosted the alfombra construction, wrote a formal letter on my behalf, asking the principal at the school for a meeting. Tom delivered it, I typed it in Spanish, then Tom took it back to his teacher, who gave it to her secretary, who gae it to her math teacher husband, who carried it to the principal.  Five days later, I received a message from Tom, in reverse order, saying I could come by for a meeting when I wanted to.  So, on Wednesday, May 11, Tom and I took a tuk tuk to the school, and were greeted by a large, iron, locked door.  We knocked and someone opened a small door in the larger one, and we said, in Spanish, that we would like to meet with the directora.  After just a few minutes we were admitted by the directora herself, Señora Romero.  The word had traveled quickly, because the first thing she said to me was "You are the one who doesn't know how to speak Spanish". Well, of course I had to agree, but I assured here that Tom was "perfecto".  We stood in the foyer for a bit, then were invited into hre office to visit.  I did all the talking in Spanish, slowly, haltingly, but with a fair amount of confidence, and it worked.  She agreed to let me come in July for two weeks to do observations.  It was uplifting and exciting to affect this event.  Initially, I felt like Dorthy trying to get into Oz. It was far less trying, but similar in so many ways.

I am in my last week of observations at the current school, as they go into finals next week. It has been quite interesting to see test preparation, when the students actually know what is expected. There is a fair amount of hand wringing and the teachers seem a bit more on edge, but the students are going through the motions and redoing what they have done in preparation for what they have to do next week.  Everything is rote, repetition, and regurgitate what has been delivered in lectures.  The students have been responding with willingness and readiness.  As always, the teachers have been wonderful about letting me observe and learn.  This is a truly amicable place. 

At this point I have written my report to the school and have been asked to conduct a one hour workshop on learning and teaching methods in mid June.  Of course, I have agreed, and look forward to the opportunity to pay the school back. It seems that I'll be talking to the entire faculty from preschool to high school. It should be interesting at best, since some folks speak Spanish, others English, some both.  I hope to have an interpreter, since one hour is not nearly enough for me to speak this technically in Spanish.  I am sure it will all work out.

We have continued our Spanish lessons and are both making good progress.  Tom is going great guns and loves his work.  I have moved into another form of verbs today and am enjoying the progress, although for a week, I was pretty miserable sorting myself out as a learner.  All is well now.  We both speak Spanish all over town, and I am enjoying more conversations with teachers who only speak Spanish.  A few of the speak slowly enough for me to sort out how to respond.  It is what I had oped to accomplish and look forward to more learning and practice.  

For now, we are working on getting healthy again, and plan to continue to enjoy our time here. We may even make it to Guatemala City for a film premiere this weekend, depending on things in general.

I hope this finds you doing well.  Love to all.