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

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