Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26, 2011

Is is a beautiful day here in Antigua, after a long, soaking early evening rain in the valley.  The use of hiking rain gear came in very handy.  Angela, my Spanish teacher got drenched riding home on her Vespa Wednesday, so she tried my German bicycling poncho yesterday.  I'll find out later if it worked for her.

Very early this morning we kissed Adam and Catherine goodbye, as they journeyed back to Dallas to jump into the fray.  However, we filled every moment since the last post with interesting things.  Yesterday we took a large jeep to a coffee plantation near Antigua, Fina Filadelfia, and were personally toured through the fields, processing plant, drying beds, roasting area, and finally to a cup of Guatemalan coffee.  It was amazing to learn about the process of creating the cup we had and it reminded me of the continued use of the indigenous people to maintain and create the industries in the country.  They are the essence of the coffee production, and work as migrant workers all over the country, along with their unschooled children, to keep the coffee flowing to Starbucks, etc.

During this month, every day we notice many indigenous workers outside one bank and yesterday I learned why from Angela.  The workers of all sorts are given vouchers for their pay, which they can turn in to cash at the bank.  Angela informed me that hardly anyone has a bank account, because the Guatemalan economy is so shaky, hence when banks fail, all is lost for the working poor.  The lines outside the bank are long and the looks of the people are that of patience.  In spite of the hardships, people are up early, heading into work in crowded buses, on the back of motorcycles, in tuk tuks, walking, riding in the back of pick up trucks.  Because of the cost of education for uniforms, books, rides to school in buses and vans, extracurricular supplies, etc, home funding for school is often a challenge, if not impossible.  In spite of this, families sacrifice to see that education is within the grasp of the children.

We both continue to progress in our development as Spanish speakers.  I have for the first time understood the distinction between the use of ser and estar, and can only hope to begin to use the terms correctly when speaking in the future. Tom is working on much more complex forms, but is working very hard to keep up with the expectations of his teacher Evelyn.  Angela and I have formed a very nice relationship and she is my source of cultural learning here, from the perspective of the pueblo life.  It is an eye opener each week, and I find that I am becoming more at ease with my Spanish speaking with her, in spite of my continued fumbling for word usage and pronunciation of the 8 syllable words.  She is amazingly patient and helpful in many ways, both speaking and teaching about culture.

During our Spanish lessons, Adam and Catherine shopped for family, friends, and their house, and Catherine's jewelry collection. They were very successful on all counts, and returned with the spoils just before the rain.  After classes, we met at a small restaurant, Kloster, near Santo Domingo, and discovered that it was a fondue place.  It was initially a wet meeting, but the night of candles, rose petals in the fountains, and excellent cheese, meat, and chocolate fondues, and of course cafe de Guatemala, was terrific. We talked, laughed, and recounted our week of adventures together.  It was a great way to end a wonderful visit. We were so glad they came and will miss them.

Today marks the beginning of a new adventure for both of us.  I am staging my materials, clothes, mind, to head out to Thailand for two weeks, to conduct workshops on curriculum, mathematics, music and math, and PDS.  I will be joined by my UNT colleague, Colleen Eddy, who will present on math activities for secondary, whereas  my thoughts will be focused solely on elementary levels.  Tom has decided to return to the beach for three days this week, with plans to stay in the same little beach hotel we enjoyed Tuesday with the AC.  I will continue to blog from Thailand, and hopefully we'll hear about some of Tom's late night adventures on the volcanic beach, watching the mother turtles coming and going, if in fact they do at this time of year.

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

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