Monday, October 13, 2014

The Swiss Family Robinson

I have plenty of time to read here, which is one of the reasons that I picked up The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Swys  at the used book store (this edition is almost 500 pages).  A teacher who used to work at the same school as me read an abridged version to his class each year, then showed the Disney version of the movie.  The story is about a family from Switzerland who is shipwrecked and needs to survive on an uninhabited island.  The family includes both a mother, a father and their four sons.
     This book made me think about how dependent I am on others for both my needs and wants.  I can cook, clean, and sew.  But I would not be able to build a decent shelter, cook over a fire, or know how to make something from nature into clothing.  For all our advantages there are to our modern civilization, it seems like  we are less knowledgable about skills that make it possible to take care of ourselves.
     If I taught older elementary or middle school students, I would consider reading it aloud to my class.

a new doll

Last week one of the activities at school was a visit to a place where a small group of people make dolls.  The dolls are made of recycled materials and their clothing reflect typical Mayan dress.  (Mayans are the indigenous people of Guatemala and parts of Mexico.)  It was interesting to see people at work making the dolls, as well as the large variety of dolls.  I see many women dressed in typical Mayan clothing, and the colors and designs reflect what town or village the women are from.  This doll is dressed in clothing representative of the designs the people from Quetzaltenango wear.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

language school

I finished my sixth week of language school.  Most of the time I feel like I am learning a lot.  The picture to the right shows where I spend my mornings.  Classes are one on one, so I get to learn at my pace.  The focus of my lessons has been on grammar (especially all the different forms of verbs) and conversation.  Class is Monday through Friday, and I am at school for five hours.  There is a break mid-morning.  There are daily assignments, usually a combination of reading, writing, and grammar practice.  I enjoy the homework
Some afternoons and Saturday mornings there are activities.  The first week I got to know the city a bit and visited another town nearby.  Other activities have been hikes in the mountains or a visit to a tourist site.  One Saturday I went to some hot springs.  This week I went biking in the mountains. My favorite activities have been the opportunities to get out of the city to enjoy nature.
While studying, I am staying with a local family.  I have a place to stay and all my meals are provided.  I do not have to think about grocery shopping, cooking, or washing dishes, though I am beginning to miss all three.
If you ever visit Central America for an extended period of time, I would suggest beginning your stay with a couple of weeks at a language school.  It will give you an opportunity to learn more Spanish, get adjusted to a new place, and interact with local people.

Monday, September 8, 2014

enough water

Saturday I went to Fuentes Georginas with the directors of my school.  To get there, we took a bus from Xela to Zunil.  Once we got off the bus, we hopped into the back of a Toyota pickup.  The Toyota pickups here are a bit modified.  They have some bars around the outside and down the center of the back so passengers can lean against them, or stand and hang on.  The drive was about five miles up the mountain past many fields.  We stood so we could get a better view of things.  We got off the truck at Fuentes Georginas, a place to enjoy the hot springs.  After getting my fill of sitting in hot water, we headed down the mountain.  It felt like we were walking through the clouds.  A nice peaceful walk where I could see the fields and there wasn´t much noise.  As we descended the mountain, it got cooler and at times quite foggy.  We had walked about an hour when it started to sprinkle, then rain.  We caught a ride on another Toyota pickup to speed our return to Zunil.  After just a few minutes, the driver stopped.  I wondered what was going on.  He proceeded to pull out a big piece of black plastic like you might find on the farm and handed it to us.  We held on to the plastic and used it to keep most of the rain off of us until we got back to Zunil.  Then we walked a bit more in the rain to get on the bus to return to Xela.  A good way to spend the morning, made more memorable by getting soaked.  I did tell the director I had enough water for the day. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Testament

If you have never read anything by John Grisham, I suggest his book The Testament.  It is the second time I read the book, and it was just as good or better the second time.  The story revolves around the heirs of billionaire Troy Phelen, including a daughter who is a missionary in South America, whom the children never knew.   Grisham is an excellent story teller with likable, realistic characters.  It would be a good book for a book club to read and discuss.

Monday, September 1, 2014

hiking

On Saturday, our school activity was hiking in the mountains.  Quetzaltenango is surrounded by mountains.  We walked out of the city, then into the country.  We saw lots of small fields with vegetables like corn, brocoli, and leeks.  It felt good to get out of the city.  We walked  to a nearby town, Almolonga, saw the market there, then returned to Xela via chicken bus.  The music on the chicken bus made me laugh, as it was the song Red, Red Wine by UB40.