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 year 3

28 septiembre
My first year in Guatemala was a exciting adventure. The second year was more comfortable and familiar, yet still a plunge into another world. This year, my third, it feels like I live here. Much of the novelty and thrill is gone, yet in many ways it is like coming home to an old friend. I no longer think twice about driving out into the crazy frenetic traffic, running errands that involve Spanish conversation, things I found quite challenging at one time - most of the things I do are routine. My Spanish is passable (but still not remotely fluent). I am a long way from exploring all there is to see and experience in this Land of Eternal Spring, but I expect I will be ready to leave when the school year ends.

This weekend I took the long walk I try to do every month or two - the busy Sunday paseo along Avenida las Americas. Agile, adorable little girls in black leotards with tightly pulled back hair knots were performing gymnastics to loud music in the Obelisco, a round plaza surrounding an obelisk that forms the intersection to several major streets. Sculptures along the avenue, gifts from many countries in the Americas, mostly of men in uniforms and on horseback, were joined by a new one this year from Canada. I stopped for a rest at this little oasis of peace and reflection (as the plaque says in Spanish) - a striking pile of rocks resembling a human form, created by an Inuit artist, adorns a small plaza, a red maple leaf of brick on the ground in its center. The kite vendors are out in preparation for All Saints Day on November 1st - I am recognizing the pattern of the holidays. On the way back, a street vendor flashed a grin at me as he chased a fat brown rat away from his stand.

Many of the colleagues that started here with me or were already here two years ago have moved back to the states or on to other international assignments, and there is a group of newbies getting acclimated. I am missing some good friends, but have made some special friendships among the longer staying teachers. The structure of my free time has changed somewhat - perhaps just more directed to activities of interest. Sunday afternoons I sing in the Messiah rehearsals. I will stand in the choir at this year's performance - it is a joy to sing with so many voices in harmony as we learn our parts. Eating out a bit less and exercising more. There is an after school session several days a week led by a physical education teacher. I might actually learn how to use those intimidating looking exercise machines. Still keeping up with the reading and writing groups, enjoying literary discussions with intelligent women from many lands.

School is more stressful this year. My expert network technician left and we have a new young man who is knowledgeable and great to work with, but is still finishing university so only works part time. So I am picking up a lot of the tech support and am running ragged at times. My classes are well honed and seem to be rolling along nicely like watch gears set in perpetual motion. And the students are always engaging. You know the students are interested when no one leaves when the bell rings - my Graphic Design class. I have some regular students who hang out in the computer lab between classes - one does complex 3D modeling and video editing, another creates characters for role playing games and reads online cartoons. One changed all the desktop images on the lab computers, then watched to see if I would be angry before admitting that he was the one who did it. The middle schoolers like to download photos of their friends from the school website and alter them in a graphics program. The other day I was greeted with "all hail, Queen of the Geeks", perhaps a fitting title! (I was assured it was a high compliment.)

A gala event was held at Colegio Maya (my school) to celebrate the opening of our auditorium/theatre/performing arts building. A marimba group played beautifully, with a more subtle orchestration than most Guatemalan marimba bands, including some classical pieces. A mime did a touching and expressive portrayal of a bird in flight shot by a hunter's arrow. But the piece de resistance for me was a performance by Estudio Guitano (Gypsy Studio) flamenco dancers, the same dance group I studied with for a month last year. Having learned a little about the art form, I could appreciate their graceful and lyrical yet dramatic movements, and loved those dresses!

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