Greetings from Jeanne
Well, it has been a quiet, seemingly uneventful week here, but it turned out to be quite eventful at the end. We discovered that three of our electronic connections to finances were compromised, but all is restored at this time. We will seek other means of transacting in the future, but now stand alerted to the notion that this lovely place has its limitations when it comes to electronic banking transactions.
In spite of this end of the week discovery, we had a good week in paradise. I returned to the school and was able to put in five consecutive days of observation. It has been an amazing learning experience, watching teachers who are excellent at what they do, lecture. My mind spins with possibilities for them if they had materials, preparation, in essence, a supported curriculum. Unfortunately, they do not, so the lectures continue, and the 3-7% who get it, do well, while most of the others continue to struggle, but marshal on, in spite of their lack of understanding or competence.
I was sitting under the massive awning outside the cafeteria, reading between a few cancelled classes, since the math teacher had to judge talent contest instead of teach, and had a lengthy conversation, in broken Spanish, with the principal of the school, who also oversees the secondary division. We came to the agreement that a supported curriculum, with manipulatives, videos, etc, would make a tremendous difference. It was enlightening to share common thoughts with such an astute person. He really cares about learning all over the school, and as a chemist, he knows the need to connect the math students are learning to mundo real. Unfortunately, this stuff is expensive, and they are trying to keep the costs of this private school within some limits.
On the weekend, we observed the Saint Bartolome Bacerra procession, which was quite long. Instead of walking along with them, we started at the square, and walked the route back to where we met up with the procession, the Roman Guards, and waited for the floats and waiting carriers. As we walked the route backwards, we were able to see some magnificent alfombras, the flower, vegetable, leaves, pine needles, sawdust carpets that citizens lay down just prior to the arrival of the procession, assuring that the carpets are still in tact when the procession arrives. It was extraordinary to observe the intensity of work, numbers of flowers, and commitment people have to the preparation of the carpets. We even saw a scout group, who included a purple flower flur de lis in the center of their alfombra, to show the world brotherhood/sisterhood of scouting. The procession was heavily attended and very, very long in its path. We got to observe the changing of the cucuruchos, the people who carry the float. Each person from the different pueblos who want to carry pay a small fee, send in their height, and then are assigned to a particular turn in the procession, along with a specific number along the side of the float. As the float comes around the corner, poles with rounded tops, wide enough to hold the float, are placed under the float. The men or women, depending on the float, who are carrying, step away, person by person, until their replacements have stepped into the pre-arranged holding place. when an entire new crew of carriers are in place, the procession continues. This goes on for the duration of the procession, which in the case of this one, lasted from 7am-midnight. An amazing site to witness indeed. This will go on for the next two weeks as the approach to Easter continues.
Today I was most fortunate to accompany a new colleague who works for the ministry of Education, who took me to a public school in Santa Ana, a near by pueblo. The difference between it and the school where I have been observing was striking. The school is much, much smaller in size, population, but very much the same in other ways. All of the children wear uniforms, arrive at school clean and ready to go, listen to teachers readily, and show deep patriotism by standing at attention for 45 minutes as a program of Guatemalan flags, songs, and program were presented. My colleague took me to observe a class of kindergarteners, whose teacher is a student in the dual-language program, which helps public school teachers learn and teach in English. She had some pretty interesting looking materials, but we only got to witness her teaching a song to the children about being proud to be boys and girls, which both groups sang with equal vigor, across all gender lines. I hope to get back there and possibly to other classes in the public schools later in July.
Tom and I continued to enjoy our Spanish classes this week and are both improving in our speaking, writing, and listening. I actually understood the ladies in the market this week, and did not have to walk to the next vendor out of confusion, which is a giant step forward. One day I will find the courage to bargain, but for now, I listen, weigh the offer, listen again, and when I hear the one that suits me, I buy. It is a real learning experience. Tom patiently lets me stumble, which is just what I need, since I have depended on him far too long in Spanish speaking countries. This aspect of our trip has been really worth it.
Hope all is well for you and yours