And the fog descends again…

Natalia and I woke up at 6 am to a voice yelling, in Spanish, sounding entirely too close to our room. Alcoholism is a big problem here; Sunday is the day to drink, and you can see quite a few people pasandose borrachos come Monday (walking around drunk). In fact, there is one such gentleman pacing up and down the street in front of the Foundation office as I type.

I dragged myself out of my nice, warm sleeping bag, against my better judgement to get ready for a ride. Luckily, by the time I had myself and my bici ready the man had removed himself from our doorstep and found another place to share his tirade against….something. My Spanish wasn’t functioning beyond “buenos días” at that hour and I didn’t catch much of what he was shouting.

Natalia and I moved into the Foundation office last night. Fernando was able to move in to his own room at the office once Dave (one of the volunteers) left, and we didn’t want to be left alone in our hotel. There were no inside locks on the doors, so you couldn’t secure them while you were actually in the room. Plus, the outside door was supposedly left open all night (which we unfortunately discovered was not true on Friday, when we were locked out after coming back a few minutes too late– the dueña thought it was hilARious the next day. grrrr.). So Natalia and I camped out on the floor of the computer room.

I was admittedly very nervous about my first bike ride here in San Mateo. First of all, to go anywhere you have to either first climb straight up the mountain or descend straight down the mountain, only to climb back up on the return.

I was also unsure as to how people would react to this blond chick on a bike wearing a helmet (of all things!). I opted to throw some capris on over the bike shorts, to avoid complete alienation.

Generally speaking, people were very friendly– I got a lot of stares at first, but after offering up a big smile and a cheerful “buenos días!” people usually smiled back and replied with “buenos” or “adios“. Initially I thought people were being dismissive when they said adios as a greeting, but it’s just the same as “hola” or some other generic greeting.

I opted to decend the mountain first… since it wasn’t quite as steep as the road up. I managed to not burn out all of my breaks, which will be useful to have on subsequent rides, and successfully avoided the bus and several trucks passing through town. As I got to the bottom of the “hill” the houses started to thin out and I was officially out of town.

Then the road began to climb towards Barillas… from San Mateo it looks intimidatingly steep, but in fact it was a nice steady spin towards the west. The sunrise was wonderful, and lit up the town as it peeked over the mountain ridges.

I saw three other bikers, on their way to either the bus stop (where a crowd of people was waiting) or San Mateo for work. One of them was a younger boy pedaling, and a man I took to be his dad riding on pegs on the rear wheel. The big brand-name bike is “Maya Tour”… it comes standard with front and back racks, and a stiff fork.

I was afraid of how long it might take me to climb the road back into town (much steeper than the road towards Barillas) so I turned around after about 25 minutes. In fact, it only took me about 30 minutes to get back. Not too shabby! And I only walked at the steepest part for a tiny bit, after I had to stop to avoid a bus barelling down the hill. I passed another guy walking his bike, and comiserated with “Bien duro, este camino” (pretty tough, this road), and he suggested that it would be better to rest a minute!

Tommorrow I have a 2-hour ride planned, since I don’t have to teach until 9 am (today I had class at 8:15). I’m going to try and get a bit further towards Barillas… my goal is to ride the entire 80 km round-trip one of these weekends… that’d be nice. The thing is, just outside of town the road climbs gently towards Barillas… but Barillas is at a *significantly lower* altitude than San Mateo, so I know there’s got to be a wicked descent… which means there’s a brutal climb on the way *back*.

We have a topo map up on the kitchen wall… I’ll have to study it in detail.

Class went well… today was one of my two brutal 5-class days. I had tercero básico twice. That’s about equal to 9th grade. Hooo boy. They are actually very sweet kids… there are only three girls out of 20 students, though, and three of the boys have serious potential to cause Trouble. And yes, that’s with a capital “T”.

One of the students, Gaspar, asked me today if he could have permission to miss class to run an errand with “María” somewhere in town. He apologized profusely and insisted that the errand had “just come up”. Uh huh. Right. I told him to ask the principal for permission, because he has to approve all absences. Gaspar decided that the errand wasn’t so important after all.

Heck, I don’t know if it’s true about the principal, but it sounded more offical than me just saying “no, my class is super important and you have to be there.” and plus, what if he were telling the truth?! Kids miss class here for just about any reason you can imagine. People come to school to give students messages, and they get to miss class. But when in Rome… right?

In between early- morning and mid- morning classes we have a break, and María and Henry sell snacks and bebida (“drink”… generally refering to a warm milk and rice drink… sooo good) for 1Q each. I had a mini-tamale type thing called a chuchito (it’s just like a tamal, except smaller and wrapped in a leaf instead of a corn husk) and some bebida, which was perfect for the mid-morning chill (okay, I was freezing).

I also had quinto magisterio today, which is about 11th grade. There are only five students in the class (one girl), so I am trying to make it more of a seminar. I’m looking forward to working with them– in each of the classes I’m planning to teach “interview skills,” and the students will practice on family members and people around town. With Quinto I’m planning a field trip (paseo) to a town about 3 hours away that was resettled after the Civil War. There is also a laguna and reforestation project there (run by a Swede), which will be entertaining and fun for them. And I’ll get to drive the Foundation’s pick-up truck! (the second foreign country I’ve driven in… the first being a terrifying experience in Vancouver, Canada).

Around lunch time the sun was WONDERFUL and the sky was clear. I was actually borderline too-warm sitting outside and reading for a bit.

After classes I tried to get some more reading done… it’s going slowly but surely. The more I read, the more interested I am in what I’m doing here!! ha ha, that sounds strange, but it’s true. I get all sorts of ideas for things to do with the class, and really look forward to talking to people and doing interviews. Once I get research approval. Oh yeah… there was another hiccup in the IRB approval process. Joy.

As it got later, and cooler outside, the fog started rolling in from down the valley. It’s really fascinating to watch! On a clear day, you can see forever; but once the fog rolls in its’ hard to see down the street even a few yards!

I kind of like the fog, except that I’m afraid to ride in it because of the slightly homocidal buses and trucks that are on the road– bikes are invisible to them.


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