Lake Atitlan
chicken bus

Santiago Atitlan
Independence Day
language school

a new year
Semana Santa
las Americas
Machu Picchu
year 2
Santiago Sacatepequez
lake weekend
UK in winter
Caye Caulker
El Salvador
year 3
Carnival Trinidad
Rio Dulce
Semuc Champey
journey's end



Guatemala Journal


 year 2

10 octubre
Life is good as I begin my second year in Guatemala, the Land of Eternal Spring. I have a cozy place to live, know my way around passably, am settled in an interesting job, and have friends who have welcomed me back with abrazos (hugs). It lacks last year’s excitement of discovery latent in every detail and the sense of stretching myself in the process, but it is comfortable and feels right.

Although still challenging, the school year has certainly been much easier to slide into this year, there were so many things to learn and organize last year. I am working on making my class material richer, have taken into consideration the small successes and setbacks in the classroom last year, and can gauge the effect of changes in the students’ discussions and projects. We’ve had time to do some real graphic design projects this year before tackling the yearbook in my Graphic Design/Yearbook class, and it has been a delight for both the students and me. I’ve introduced Robotics (LEGO MindStorm kits) in an 8th grade exploratory class, a good basis for understanding beginning programming concepts, and it seems to have become the hot topic around campus this fall: “You mean I can’t take robotics since I’m in high school?” – David, 9th grade; “When are we going to get to play with these?” – Bernardo, 12th grade. And I’m teaching an after school adult class in Digital Photography, fun stuff.

Two students have been suspended for viewing and/or downloading pornography in the computer lab. That, and the pervasive use of messaging or chat software, including access to adult chat rooms, has opened up discussions about the responsible use of technology. The secondary librarian and I lobbied for no Internet filtering last year when an incident came up (although we have installed popup blockers and spyware catchers to get rid of those annoying ad windows), and we forged a policy of intellectual freedom based on education. I am organizing a student assembly, with willing and enthusiastic student speakers, officers of the student organizations, on the responsible use of technology and a parent discussion night.

Labor Day weekend I visited my friend in Tegucigalpa. Jenn had a bad cold and was not feeling up to accepting a Sunday afternoon invitation, but encouraged me to go along. We drove up to a friend’s country place near Valle des Angeles. Once again I felt like a welcome old friend, even without Jenn along this time. Our group included an aide to the first lady of Honduras, and a government minister (equivalent to a major department secretary level in the US). Ricky catered an outstanding typica dinner. Claudia and others filled plastic bags with water and hung them strategically around the outdoor patio. I had seen this in various places in Central America - what are they for, I asked? Their purpose is to keep the flies away. Apparently the fly will see its very large reflection, and will be scared away by the larger fly – it didn’t work, there were dozens of flies! We ate, drank Honduran beer, some played volleyball and soccer, watched the rain. We joked and had a few serious discussions as well. I learned how to do Reggaeton, a sexy dance banned in at least one Central American country. After my return, I received a poignant email from Andres, who spent his early childhood in Guatemala and was touched by the photos from his homeland on my website.

Saturdays I’m taking Salsa dancing lessons taught by two young Guatemalan men. After a few more sessions, they plan to take our mostly gringa class to a disco to strut our stuff – or embarrass ourselves, most likely.

Last weekend was a special treat. Who would ever have expected to see the Dalai Lama in Guatemala? On one of many stops on his visit to Latin American countries, he was welcomed by Nobel Peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, an indigenous Mayan (recognized around the world but not as respected by the upper classes in this country), in her native Quiche and in Spanish. The Dalai Lama spoke in Tibetan and English with a Spanish translator. With a quiet, gentle, sometimes amused, delivery, he gave a brief but beautiful message about the power of compassion to stop violence, hatred and war. Sitting with a group of teachers in the audience, we couldn’t help but feel he was talking to us as he predicted the future peace of the world depends on teaching the younger generation compassion through education.

I voted by absentee ballot this week – a ballot I received from the American Embassy, voting for presidential and congressional candidates. My Colorado ballot has not yet arrived, and it’s highly doubtful I can get it and return it in time – I called the county clerk’s office and they were not even mailed out yet. In a country where mail can be delivered 2 to 3 weeks late, the system is not working for me so I couldn't take the chance of waiting in this most critical election. If the ballot appears and is returned in time, it will supercede my embassy ballot, but most likely I will lose the opportunity to vote on the state and local issues.

(more to follow)

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