Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17, 2011

Greetings from chilly, wet Antigua

This was a bonus week here in Antigua.  Our friend Johnetta Hudson came to see us starting Thursday afternoon.  Her trip in was a bit delayed, and her luggage never arrived, even though she is leaving tomorrow, but we pulled together resources of what was in the house and got clean clothes on her, along with the other things needed to make it for five days, and we had a blast together. We also got to spend time with Janet Ray and her husband Mark and their medical team that was here doing outreach work in the villages.  More about that in a moment. 

Early in the week I continued with my observations in the public school and continued to be fascinated how much these teachers can do with so little.  The students were so sweet and kind to me, offering me their snack foods, and sharing some ipad time with me when they finished their work.  I got to observe lots of student teachers teach this week, although the school was only in session for three days. Teachers were in in-service staff development on the other days.  The math teaching continues to mostly be rote delivery and repetition, although I did witness some word problems at the third grade and responsiveness that indicated an eagerness to extend the learning further in the form of addition problems presented to the teacher during break time.  I got to witness some excellent use of the recess time which is generally overly loud. Some teachers used the time to let students have snacks, then sent the out to play during the 30 minute time slot allotted.  It was a clever us of this loud-school time.

Tuesday evening we met Janet and the Dallas medical team for dinner at Ponza Verde, and swapped stories of visits to villages and life on the road of helping others.  Janet and Mark have been coming here for many years, so have been instrumental in sustaining a single family for many years. An abandoned mother and her four children are now able to sustain because the Rays supported her and the children until the mother was able to slake the father and start her own business making tortillas. After 15 years, they are on the mend and doing much better, health and life better.  Janet and I met to talk shop and worked out some interesting integration for science and math methods courses this fall.

Since this week was the last for all the student teachers, there were grand celebrations on Friday, with lots of food, music, games, etc.  The class I was situated in was a second grade class and the group sang happy birthday to the student teacher, who on this day turned 17.  Tomorrow she is a certified teacher, ready to take over a classroom of young children.  It is quite a phenomenon.

This day marked the last day of our Spanish classes as well.  In the morning, Tom and Johnetta went on a walking tour of Antigua, after which I met them for a cool drink, followed by a trip up the mountain with our Spanish teachers for la cena at the restaurant on the hill.  We had a terrific time eating, drinking, laughing, watching the fog/mist come over the mountain, as it grew into a steady rain.  We made it back down the hill, then headed home for an evening at the apartment.  At one point I looked out the window and saw Volcan Fuego spewing red hot lava, which flowed down the mountainside.  The three of us stood in awe of the magnificence of the event.

Saturday morning we headed out on a crisp morning for the Finca Filadelphia for breakfast before our tour of the Finca.  It was a clear, cool, crisp morning and we witnessed even more puffing of Fuego, although it was mostly steam and big white and grey clouds.  We had a very well informed and attentive guide and enjoyed his talk.  It was disconcerting to witness the six ladies who were building the 100,000 plant starters, since they were surrounded by quite a few children, who seemed pretty carefree, but from the site of things, were not formally schooled, and will probably only ever learn the work of the finca. There seems to be no effort to change this situation.

We met our hostess at her house in the mid day, then rode with her to her beach house on the west coast.  We enjoyed the breeze from the ocean, sunset on the black, volcanic beach, and swam in the pool until we pruned.  The same occurred, with the exception of the sunset, on Sunday, returning to rainy, cool Antigua it the early evening.  We met two amazing women at the beach house. The first was the woman who was the person who established the Ixchel textile museum in Guatemala city that we toured in February with Adam and Catherine. She was an exceptional woman and her story of how she and seven other women restored, curated, and displayed the work was fascinating. We felt when we were there, but to talk to her heightened the experience more.  Today we met another woman who teaches at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, where the textile museum and others reside, and who also heads an organization that studies the government's support of the commitments they make to education.  We had lengthy conversations about what is possible in the world of educational research and support for improvement in Guatemala.  I will meet with her on Tuesday and extend the conversation further to what might be possible between us, UNT, SMU, and Marroquin.  It was intriguing indeed.

We came back from windy, balmy, sunny beach to flooding in Antigua and surrounding pueblos.  Luis got us back safely, after which we walked in the light rain to Welten for a light cena with Johnetta, where we toasted lost luggage, a good visit, and plans to keep the fires burning.  It will be interesting to see where this takes us in the future.  It was great to spend so much uninterrupted time with Johnetta and we hope she finds her luggage before she gets home.

Hope all is well in your world. Ten days until we head north for a few days.  Love jt

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