Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 18, 2011

Greetings from Jeanne:

It has been an interesting week here in Antigua.  I finished a week of observations at the school and was able to glean some new information that might support my hypothesis that there are differences in how mathematics is taught in Central America and Mexico and the US.  I have a line on some possible sources that will help me gather additional information.  I me two teachers who teach in the public schools in Jocotenango, a pueblo next to Antigua, who said they would be willing to talk to their school administrators and possibly gain me entry into this unknown world.  I hope to meet with their school directors sometime in the near future, with the potential to visit in July. From an information gathering perspective, things are looking good.

We continue to work on getting our financial life sorted out here.  We learned that the UPS truck only comes to Antigua once a week, on Tuesday, which affected our newly pressed MCs, which arrived in Guatemala City on Wednesday last week.  We hope to see these sometime today, but who knows. We are faring well in spite of the multiple thefts conducted electronically last week. Thanks to everyone who offered to front us the cash. We appreciate you immensely.

Two big things have been happening this week: 1) we have participated in the Semana Santa events in multiple new ways, and 2) I have begun to speak Spanish openly, albeit still stumbling a bit, in public settings.  First, Semana Santa events.  Sunday Tom and I went to the La Merced church about an hour and a half before the procession. Outside the church there were hundreds of people, many vendors selling food, drinks, sunglasses, cotton candy, etc.  Immediately outside the door was a very long alfombra (carpet) that was brilliant in color and long in size.  We walked the route of the procession from its start for about a mile.  We saw alfombras being constructed of flowers, whole vegetables, sawdust, plastic figurines, fruit carved into animals, etc in varying lengths and design.  We took many, many pictures of these, all of which are in albums in my facebook.  We watched the procession along the boulevard reforma, in front of the farmers market where we shop.  There had to have been thousands of cucuruchos (men and boys in purple, with white veils and purple bands, in facebook), ready to carry the anda (float) along the many miles of this procession. We took a break from the street fair, came home for the afternoon, then walked back to the route, where we met the procession for a glimpse of the event in the night. It was magnificent to see the same anda in the dark, and the same number of cucuruchos waiting to carry the anda.  There were scores and scores of people watching in both the morning and evening. The mixture of solemn devotion to Jesus, coupled with the festive atmosphere of fun and food, is truly amazing.  When our hostess asked us if we would be here for Semana Santa, we had no idea why she thought this was so important; now we are being to get a glimpse of that why.

Yesterday, we participated in the construction of an alfombra at the hotel owned by Tom's Spanish teacher.  His teacher Evelyn had designed an alfombra of all flowers that began as a circle in the center, then was framed with a rectangle of long pine needles, which was trimmed in baby-breath flowers.  We worked for several hours with her hotel guests, her family, and Evelyn to create the concentric circles of purple, off white, red, yellow, and pink flowers.  The work was relaxing and it was great to be part of the community process of preparing for the procession of Jesus on a float through the streets of Antigua.  All around us were many other hotels and individuals who were creating alfombras of varying sorts.  It was particularly interesting to watch the clean  up crew sweep up in a matter of minutes, the trampled alfombra.  Our incense still burned, along with the candles that Evelyn's mother burned in front of the picture of the crucifixion.  It was an unparalleled experience.

It was during the wait time between preparing the alfombra and the procession that I had a chance to speak Spanish to a woman who teaches in Jocotenango.  She is one of the teachers who is studying English and she and I struck up a conversation.  I found that once I got started, I was able to keep going and we were able to work out a way for me to possibly visit hers and the upper level school near by.  I agreed to speak English with her, and she agreed to speak Spanish. She was patient, helpful, and very delightful.  It was a new day and a great beginning toward one of my goals here, to speak with natives without fear and with clarity. 

We have agreed to take a break from processions today and tomorrow, and are preparing ourselves for the big, big processions of Thursday through Sunday. Easter here is far less important than the lead up to the resurrection on Sunday.  We plan to follow it all, then return to a simpler life of research, Spanish lessons, and seeking opportunities to live a life of peace and quiet, but with an eye for adventure always open.

Hope all is well for you and yours.  jt

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