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.