Archive for February, 2007

What a day…

Thursday, that is. Whew!

First of all… I received a very auspicious email, although I haven’t received any “offical” emails/letters yet, so I will wait to do an official “happy dance,” only because I might be a little superstitious and don’t want to jinx anything! Ha ha.

Except… I’ve told just about everyone and their mothers. It was a little hard to hide it from my housemates, because I shrieked like a little girl and have had a huge grin on my face since then. Other than that, I’m completely professional. Really.

Also– Hi Mrs. H!! Of course I remember you! Mrs. H was my Sophomore Honors English teacher in high school, and I just received a comment on this blog from her 🙂


I have to say– the reason that I enjoy writing (papers or otherwise) is mostly because of Mrs. H. Not to sound corny or anything. After a fairly horrendous freshman honors English/History combined- class guinea pig experience (the teacher of which will remain unnamed) I thought that I wanted to become a computer engineer. Seriously. I even went to computer camp one summer and learned HTML and QBasic.

I had decided that I hated reading novels (even though I was, and continue to be, addicted to a good story) and that “interpreting” them was stupid. Writing about them was even worse, because it seemed like you could just make anything up– as long as the teacher thought that it sounded good.

Then came Sophomore Honors. I had heard horror stories about how difficult the writing would be, and was pretty scared of how much I’d have to read.

But the class was different from Freshman Honors! Instead of reading long, dry “classics” and memorizing mundane facts about the authors’ lives (ahem. DICKENS. ahem, ahem.), we read a variety of novels, plays, and poetry. First up was “The Great Gatsby,” and we learned about colors and symbolism and the historical facts that made the story relevant.

We read “Grapes of Wrath,” which is probably the book that sticks most in my memory from high school. Part of why I found it so interesting was because my dad was living at the time outside of San Francisco (near where Steinbeck based “Tortilla Flat” and “Cannery Row”– which led me to read those books also) and I could actually go see some of the places he described in the books, as well as the Steinbeck Museum.

But I especially remember the project we did along with the book. My first photo project!

We had to photograph representations of poverty. I remember joking with my classmates about how, in our homogenous upper-middle class town, everyone would turn in a picture of the one homeless person that always sat outside of Starbucks. That picture was quickly listed as one that would get you zero points on the assignment, and we had to think of more creative representations of poverty.

I used a disposable camera to do the project while I was visiting my dad in San Francisco. I remember having a lot of fun, getting to take pictures of whatever I wanted (as long as it represented poverty in some way). I still have that project, along with all of my other photo albums at home. 🙂

Writing about the themes we read in “The Grapes of Wrath” was much easier and much more interesting when we had a concrete way to relate it to our own surroundings.

Mrs. H is also the one that recommended one of my favorite authors to me: Isabel Allende (the book was “Daughter of Fortune”), which I credit in part for my fascination with Latin America (the other credit goes to my Spanish teacher Junior and Senior year– hi Sra! and the fact that I have yet to have a “Spanish Literature” class in the classic sense of the term. Maybe I should change that and take one this summer?)

We also read “The Crucible,” “Catcher in the Rye” and “Lord of the Flies” that year– all very memorable books. They’ve since changed the curriculum, and I don’t know what books are included now. I seem to remember there being some controversey over almost all of the books we read in Sophomore Honors… I hope they’re still a part of the curriculum!

Our class was very sad when Mrs. H changed schools mid-year. I honestly can’t remember who we had second semester… which is strange, because Sophomore year was a fairly memorable year (qualifying for the state competition on speech team, getting the lead in a play, dating a total jerk of a first boyfriend, the International Relations class that I loved– another reason I like to write, winning an award in Model UN at Harvard, almost failing Chemistry, almost crashing in driver’s ed… geez. high school.).


Post Script: We lost power last night (Friday) for about five hours, which is why this is posted on Saturday.

Post-Post Script: Berkeley said “no.” But I’m definitley more than okay with that. I guess I won’t be living on the West Coast for another 6-8 years or so 🙂 ah, life.

Post-Post-Post Script: Alright. I think I can go ahead and say, since Simon is hiking in Arizona for a week and won’t be home to pick up any official letters that are on their way (!)– Michigan said “yes”!!! •••happy dance•••


Oreos for Breakfast

Ohhh, yeah. Hey, it’s Mardi Gras. And since I’m giving up processed sugar for Lent in solidarity with my Catholic and Evangelical students… I get Oreos for breakfast today.

And I’m working on a paper.

Hence the short blog to say: I’m alive. I’m still working. I’m currently watching the sun rise outside of my window (oh, I have a new room– pictures later) as I write about the representation of the subaltern in Latin American literature, namely in Hombres de maíz and I, Rigoberta Menchú, an Indian Woman in Guatemala.

More interesting than it probably sounds, I swear.

And thus, I continue. Oreo package number 2, on its way.

Trip to Tiaktak

Chat was invited by Isabella Jacinto, in sexto magisterio, to spend the weekend at her family’s house in Tiaktak, a small aldea about a 3-hour walk away. Chat asked if he could bring the other gringos, she said “of course!”

left @ 6:30 –> 3 hours walking
cut ovr road… up mtn from SMI– foliage change to tall skinny pines with long needles (taj) and shorter needles(k’ub’ taj)

sunny! clay-y mud, rocks

left road and followed path… let Felipe and Diego (brothers, tercero and segundo) borrow Nikon point and shoot

Diego took pictures of cows “paisaje” and gringos! and friends

passed people cutting trees… could hear chainsaw in the distance (Felipe aid the trees were mostly used as fuel, maybe for construction… most houses are cement block or poured concrete now)

also piles of “abono” for the milpas. Felipe said no milpas here, though.

asked him how he knows the names of all the plants (he was teaching me the names of pines and spiney things in spanish and chu’j… i told him what they were in english— similar to the plants that i saw in washington last summer) he said “nuestros antepasados los supieron, entonces nosotros sabemos también”

last 45 min on a dirt road… houses in aldea scattered among trees… land = public? ~70 families in Tiaktak

Isabela Jacinto’s family–>
1 concrete block house in construction for her older brother across the street
wooden slat tienda, connected w/ roof to kitchen, 3 other wooden-slat houses… one with bed
chicken hut–> dead chicken (adolecent) stuck between slats and roof!! while i was sitting and writing, a weasle came up and gnawed it’s head off…. dropped the head from the roof, scampered down to pick it up… dropped the head when it saw me and ran off… came back 30 seconds later and picked up the head. i think it lives under the rock where i was sitting– dog barking at it earlier

in the kitchen:
concrete hearth w/ metal area for pots over fire
smoke goes out pipe in side wall, or up through slats in ceiling (to loft) and out space btwn roof and slats of walls
table up against the wall next to the door, four chairs to sit
three other chairs by the hearth… something is always on the fire! either bebida or food

lunch begins as soon as we get there… sweet boiled coffee and the pancito we brought, followed by cauliflour soup in a chicken-y broth and lots of tortillas wrapped up in a pañuelo

water to wash our hands before lunch is collected in the gutters on the house, flows down into a black cyndrical tank– not purified

telephone in the tienda rings… connected by an antenna…

talking to isabela’s dad– very much looks like his oldest son, Juan Jacinto (father of María de Jesús)… this is “tierra fria”, short growing season. plant corn in march, harvest in october

sheep, chickens, turkey-like birds running all over the place… no pigs! weird… lots of pigs “in town” but none here

Asked isabella about the phrase “every mind is a world”… said that in Chu’j it is {ch’ok’ ch’ok’} but not sure if i caught that correctly

other notable things that have struck me:
•every student has two names– one in Spanish and one in Chu’j… when talking among themselves, in Chu’j, students use Chu’j names. Fernando (student in cuarto) said that sometimes a student only has a Spanish name, or their Spanish name translates directly to Chu’j.

•the phrase “Every mind is a world”…. every student seems to recognize it… Verónica was able to explain it’s meaning to me, as was Isabella (only two students that I asked specifically)

Back at Isabella’s Family’s:
snack = rice drink!!!

took a paseo to land owned by Isabella’s family (I asked… families do own the land they build on here, unlike– it seems– in town, where land is seen as communal property? at least re: the road)

we were taking turns standing on a rock at the top of a hill… trying to get down, i lost my balance and fell. couldn’t stand up right away!! dehydration?? dizzy and shakey…

Isabella says it’s because gringos don’t know how to walk! we’re not “acostumbrado a pasear”… ha ha!

follwed a path along a barbed-wire fence… came up on a very large (1/2 mile across) clearing… eerie first impression. downed, charred trees against a misty sky (the clouds are starting to roll in) with gray-green, short grass everywhere… surrounded by scrubby pine trees, dark green

there was a forest fire, it seems, Isabella says 5 years ago or so… very large trees lying on the ground. in a bowl between “mountains”, surrounded by pine forest

some sinkholes filled with water, bordered by fallen trees. about 3 ft deep (shallower one) and 5 ft deep (deeper one)

lots of brush, vines, thorns

sheep graze and drink here… path goes through to another bowl, eventually to peoples’ milpas. some houses seen in the distance.

talking to Isabella– she is one of 4 girls, 5 boys… oldest boy is Juan Jacinto (about 35). She is the only girl in her family to have gone to school… says that she is the only one that wanted to go to school. Her older sisters either live at home, or are married and have children– they didn’t want to study and don’t speak spanish. She has one younger brother. Her mother never went to school, because there was no elementary school in the aldea when she was younger.

She says she would like to continue and go to university after finishing at Yinhatil Nab’en. She doesn’t really want to teach primary school… she’d rather study pedagogy in the university. but, she says, her father is almost out of money, so she’ll have to get a scholarship.

She asks me how much I have left to study at university… i told her one class, but that i wouldn’t be able to get a job that i want after i finish my degree (i told her i want to teach college students), so i want to go to graduate school, and will also need scholarships. she asked me how much it costs to go to university in the US, and I told her it depends on where you go, that there are state schools and private schools, and that the private schools cost about as much as an average person earns in a year. and that students in the US don’t usually work full-time like many university students do here… she asked me what i studied… i told her “spanish literature, latin american studies, and anthropology”

we compared how long each of us had been studying… she for 15 years, me for almost 16

Isabella says that the war didn’t really reach Tiaktak, and that the forest fire was a result of people, probably burning land for milpas.

dinner = soup that tastes (and looks!) like “Sunday Market Chuchito” filling… orange, maybe squash? with chuncks of beef… lots of tortillas, this time just stacked on a plate and not in a pañuelo.

above the table, on the wall next to the door, are a bunch of hooks with various pots and pans, a gas canister, and utensils hung from them. around the corner from the table, the wall juts out a bit and there is more storage area. there is another counter top/ table against the far right wall (if you’re sitting at the table) and a door next to it, to the right. on the wall behind me more pots and pans are hanging, there is a cupboard, in the pots and pans, as well as the cupboard are big ceramic mugs, white, with machined designs on them.

shortly after dinner (and more coffee), Isabella offers to show us to where we’ll be sleeping and prepare a chu’j for us (steam bath).

we walk down the road, past her sister’s house, and through a milpa (her family’s). about 1/4 mile away the family has another wood-slat house, where Isabella and her sister sleep (i assume… Isabella’s sister is gathering clothes from the wardrobe when we come in). Jess and I are given the bed in the far left (standing in the door) corner. it is already dark and hard to see around the room. Brian and Chat get a wooden platform covered in blankets on the other side of the room.

the chu’j is outside, behind another wooden-slat house next to the one we are sleeping in. it is slightly bigger than the one we use in SMI, and built into/under a hill where a milpa is planted. Isabella explains the ritual to Brian:

First, you smack yourself with the branches provided, to clean yourself. Then, you mix hot and cold water and douse yourself. Wash with soap if you so desire. Rinse. Dry yourself by smacking yourself with the branches again. Towel off. If you want, you can pour a little bit of the hot water over the coals in the far back right corner (standing in the door) to produce steam. if you’re not careful, you’ll create too much steam and can burn yourself (i did this the first time i did a chu’j… i dumped two small buckets, about 1/2 liter each, on the coals and nearly suffocated!) if you dump cold water on the coals, the fire goes out. the hot water is very hot, and needs to be mixed with a bit of the cold water provided in order that you don’t burn yourself! the chu’j isn’t big enough to stand up in… to get in, you crouch through the doorway (careful that your towel doesn’t fall off!) and then sit on a bench along the left side of the structure (about 3.5 feet tall, total). Traditionally, chu’j is done twice a week, the night before market day. our neighbors upstairs also prepare one when they are ill.

dark by the time we do chu’j… afterwards, all climb into bed! candles on a small altar in the center of the room, against the back wall. towel with print of the last supper up on the wall, figurine of the virgin mary next to a stuffed rabbit next to a candle.

miserable sleep!!!! woke up feeling like things were crawling on my scalp… COLD!!!!!! strangely refreshed at 8 am, though. was hoping to get up earlier, but oh well.

breakfast was (and it might sound strange) chicken noodle soup and tortillas… SO good! and sweet boiled coffee.

relaxed for a bit, went for another paseo without isabella to the same place as before.

came back to catch a car back into SMI… ate a bowl (BIG bowl) of chilicayote squash first, sweetened.

one pickup was leaving at 12:30 (which is really 1:30…) we all crammed in to the back bed of a pickup, with a rack on the top to hang on to. bumpy ride! Brian + a couple of kids hung off the back.

it took about an hour to drive back along very windy, bumpy roads… two guys (older, forty or so) started talking to Jess and me. they asked what we were doing in San Mateo, and then said “oh, so you speak a little spanish, then?” then they asked if Chat and Brian were our husbands. Umm, no. Did we plan to get married soon? Ummm, no. Did we want to marry someone from San Mateo? Uhh, maybe? How do you answer that question without being offensive?!

Back to San Mateo for a total of 10Q, and in time for dinner!

Día de Cariño

I’ve decided that I would have liked Valentine’s Day a lot more at home if they had canceled classes like they do in Guatemala. Or at least, in San Mateo Ixtatán.

Yesterday (yes, I am aware that •today• is actually Valentine’s Day, but I’ll get to that point) classes were canceled in honor of Valentine’s Day, so that we could go on a paseo together as a school. Classes weren’t canceled today, because the students in sexto magisterio had to go student teach in the elementary school and had their own paseo.

We left the school at about 7:30 in the morning, and walked for 2 hours to “Hit Hop” (I don’t know how it’s actually spelled, but that’s what it sounds like). Hit Hop is a very large (about 3/4 mile in diameter) field surrounded by pine trees. The grass is short and perfect for playing soccer, and the field was divided in parts by large rocks/boulders that stuck up from the ground.

Basically, kids goofed around and played games until lunch. And threw pica pica, or confetti, in each others’ hair.

And in my hair.

But they didn’t just •throw• it, mind you, they took big handfuls of it and •ground• it into your •scalp•. Awesome.

They’d also get their hands wet, cover them in glitter, and smear glitter on your face and in your hair.

I seemed to be a favorite target– I wasn’t sure at first whether to be flattered or pissed.

I was flattered. I shreeked and chased them and took my own handfuls of pica pica and ground it in to their little scalps. It was fun. At one point, a group of girls from cuarto magisterio tackled me, camera and all, to the ground and all threw big handfuls of glitter and confetti on me, until everyone gave up in giggles.

Notice the guilty hands in the background of this picture 🙂

I was •starving• by the time lunch rolled around– we hadn’t brought any snacks, and between the glitter/confetti-ing and the sun… whew. My bloodsugar was non-existant.

Thankfully, lunch was delicious fried chicken, black beans, chicken-flavored rice, and ample tortillas. And soda in glass bottles, (aka: “agua” har har) of course.

After devouring the food, we began the “secret gift exchange.” This had been planned a week in advance, so we all knew who to buy gifts for. The rule was, you couldn’t spend more than 10Q. (about $1.50). To pick secret friends, we drew names out of a hat. All students and teachers included.

I bought 5 mini snickers, a bag of peanuts, a bag of corn balls, and a bag of pica pica for Enrique in quinto magisterio. And wrapped it up in a piece of red tissue paper with a BIG PINK HEART. hee hee.

The gift exchange was a long, drawn-out, and chaotic production. About par for the course.

A volunteer began by standing up and describing their “amigo secreto.” Then, the amigo secreto would have to come up and take the gift, and repeat the description of their own “amigo secreto.” Yes, it makes sense, but the system would break down when someone received a gift but forgot to bring one to give, gave a gift to someone who had already given theirs away, or left early and was not there to claim their gift. A lot of people, after having received and then given away their gift, would just walk away or start goofing off and distracting other students.

As I waited for my secret amigo to announce my name… I watched my legs slowly get sunburned. Yeowch.

My secret amiga was María from segundo básico… one of the toughest basquet players around 🙂 She bought me a “say it with roses/ i love you bear-with-flowers” (yes, it was labeled in English :-)) and a rosary. A very sweet gift!

A lot of the kids really went all-out for the gift exchange. I mean, nice wrapping paper and everything! The stores around town have been stocking heart-themed tschochky for a couple of weeks. Everything from plastic flowers to plastic hearts to plastic bears and random molded plastic shapes that say “I Love You” or “Día de Cariño.” Everything sells for between 10 and 30 quetzales. Candy unfortunately didn’t seem to be such a popular gift… sad day.

After the gift exchange, we rounded up and headed home.

Except….. the once-pristine field that we had walked to in the morning was now covered with garbage. And I do mean •covered•.

Plastic bottles, bottle caps, wrapping paper, plastic pica pica bags, pica pica itself, food scraps, chip bags, candy wrappers, boxes. Lots of plastic bottles.

The solution? Throw everything into one of the natural sink-holes in the field and burn it. Well… almost everything. Somehow the organic materials, the one •safe• thing to burn, were left out. And only a small portion of the total garbage amount ever made it in to the fire in the first place.

And the gringos were able to rescue some of the plastic materials for the trash heap. Awesome (not).

We ended up leaving a large portion of garbage in the field, while Jess and Brian hauled a torn garbage bag full of plastic bottles back to San Mateo, only to be scolded for not leaving it at the field where “the municipal government would pick it up.” Yeah, right.

I wonder where we went wrong? Well. For one thing, we did not warn the students ahead of time that they needed to pick up their garbage. Nor did we provide ample garbage bags.

But the interesting thing is, everyone can talk the talk about garbage and waste management. They all know throwing garbage on the ground or on the floor of the classroom leads to too much garbage in the street and a dirty-looking place. But they keep doing it.

Why? Is this the difference between “communication” and “education” that we talked about in Environmental Ed last semester? I think it is. We’re “communicating” the correct things to do, we’re just not “teaching” the correct things to do.

It was especially interesting that María brought the issue up at the faculty meeting today, pointing out that the “voluntarios” (gringos) were the only ones that stayed behind picking up the garbage. This brought up the issue of trash management in the school in general, which somehow led to a discussion of spitting on the floor, which prompted Julio to say that it is “just part of our culture.”

The “just part of our culture” bit was not kindly-received by the well-intentioned gringos present, but I could see his point to a certain extent. Maybe not in regards to leaving a once-pristine field full of garbage (which goes against my personal values to such an extreme that I can’t write it off as “cultural relativity”), but definitely in regards to some of the gringo teachers’ complaints on how the school and classes are run. I was almost glad Julio finally pointed out that perhaps some of the “improvements” the gringos (myself included) are trying to make (aka: force) are not, in fact, “improvements” at all, but just “how things are here” (this mostly in regards to how classes and disciplinary actions are run).

I also wonder if Julio’s “outburst” (with such a laid-back guy, that’s as close as we’ll get to an “outburst”) was perhaps a bit of underlying animosity towards the foreign-managed Foundation? We have to keep in mind that the Foundation is based in the US, is run by US Citizens, and has come here and opened up the first high school in town and changed quite a few things around. Plus, this is the largest number of US volunteers that they’ve had yet. There is a lot of resentment from other people in town, which resulted in a confrontation once. Even if the compañeros at the school generally like the support of the Foundation (be it monetary or otherwise), there is still the possiblity for underlying resentment of the foreigners trying to change things (and worse, we’re gringos, who always seem to want to run the world– well intentioned or not).

In my personal opinion, I think it would be more of a challenge for all of us volunteering here to change •our• “save-the-world” “our-way-or-the-high-way” “scare tactic and memorization” attitudes to conform more to the laid-back, cancel class for Valentine’s Day attitudes of the guatemaltecos.

After all, when a year (or three months, in my case) is up, we’re all going to go back to our homes, and the guatemaltecos will stay here in their home, and we’ll all get back in to our respective routines. Maybe our students will have learned something useful, maybe they won’t have.

The only thing we can really control is what we will take home with us— how our attitudes and beliefs about how the world “should” work* have changed over the course of our being here this short time.

*(isn’t that a joke? “should work”? like there’s an absolute right way to do •anything•)

On a very happy side note— I was accepted by UM’s Environmental Justice Master of Science program!!! WOO! Still waiting for responses from the four anthro programs I applied to…

Protestas y Demonstraciones

It started this morning in my 4o Magisterio class… some of the students said that Diego Ricardo’s grandmother had died.

Towards the end of class, some of the students from 1o básico came in asking for “collaborations” (colaboraciones). The kids in 4o argued that Ricardo was their [something] and so they should be in charge of collaborations. So the primero kids agreed to leave the money for the cuarto kids to manage.

I asked the students what the money was for, and they said that they were going to bring it to Ricardo’s house as a gift since his grandmother had died. They were going during the next period, since that was the class he taught to them.

In tercero, about 15 minutes into class, Julio came in and announced that class was canceled until 10 (when recess officially ends) so that we could all go as a school together to Ricardo’s family’s house.

Some of my students from cuarto found me on the street and grabbed my arm– she said that she stayed with Ricardo’s family (or in a house next to them?) so she knew where to go. She is actually from Tiaktak– just boards in town to go to school.

At Ricardo’s family’s house, the family (many old women… about 10, 5 men) were outside sitting on the stoop/street with a microphone. The house was two buildings: one two-storey concrete structure with a balcony, painted brightly, and one adobe structure to the right of it. Dogs and pigs running around.

Visitors (in this case– the entire school) took turns speaking on the microphone. Julio presented gifts from the school… Veronica presented a big bag of sugar that the cuarto kids had purchased with the collaborations.

Ricardo stood with the people from the school, not with the family…

I stood in the street with the cuarto kids, and then we were offered chairs in a building across the street. The family made a speech on the microphone.

veronica gave me a néctar de manzana… most kids are talking amongst themselves, younger ones are playing

Dogs started fighting… an older woman in a huipile beat them off with knotted ropes. There were fires going in the house… smoke coming from the adobe structure. Women wore head dressings…. the entire family lived in these buildings?

Eulalia said that the family would be there all day to accept visitors.

We were there 10-15 minutes total

Julio called the teachers together on the street and asked if we wanted to go show support for a protest at the Municipal palace. Eulalia said that there were people that were not letting construction vehichles pass on their property, and people were protesting. We were going to show support. It had nothing to do with the funeral, they said.

We walked up to the municipal building together. Some people were making speeches in Chu’j… most kids/ teachers were milling around and talking. Police with guns… ladinos…. first time i’ve seen them

we went from there (as a group) up the big hill towards the cemetary. apparently this is where they were not letting tractors pass…

i asked the students what was being protested… they said that they were trying to build a new highway through town, with two lanes so that two cars could pass at the same time, and paved. a woman living at the top of the hill did not want them to build it, because they would have to use her land.

the crowd congregated outside of the woman’s house, at the corner by the cemetary. kids climbing on the gate… the woman wore a san mateo huipile, and spoke very strongly in Chu’j with men in cowboy hats and jeans surrounded her… people lined the street and milpa accross from the house.

one man has a sledge hammer… a couple of my students take it and are playing with it

police down the hill a bit from the crowd— about 60-70 people total. mostly men. some women with kids, mostly standing in the milpa. some students paying attention, some fighting (play) in the background. several of my students climbing on the gate to the woman’s house.

Magdalena from cuarto gives me a chocobanano.

Julio and other teachers standing off to the side– truck coming downhill and stops just before the crowd. 15 minutes later, a bus comes up the hill, stops on the other side of the crowd and blares it’s horn. ends up reversing back down the hill.

i asked students what they thought about the protest– they said that the woman should allow them to build the highway, because they need a better road through town, with new pavement and wide enough for two cars to pass.

Chat goes and talks to Julio… we head back to school. I wanted to stay!!

Ladino police and construction workers stare at me as we walk down!

Julio stops and talks to the police for a second…

I ask Julio and Eulalia what was going on, to confirm. Eulalia repeats that the gov’t is building a new road with two lanes so that two cars can pass at once, and new pavement. they need part of that woman’s land to build it, but she won’t let the construction vehicles pass. i asked if the gov’t pays her for the land, and Eulalia said no, because the road was for the use of all the citizens.

Julio said that they would widen the road all the way through town. i asked what the business owners on either side thought of that, and he said he didn’t know. probably they would have to tear down one side of the buildings to make way for the road…

The whole situation struck me as very interesting… cancelling classes, first of all. It seems like that happens quite a bit! Valentine’s day classes are also canceled so we can all go on a field trip all day.

It almost seemed that, with the “protest,” Julio was just looking for an excuse to keep classes cancelled, since we were only 15 minutes at Ricardo’s family’s house.

We lament so much how little knowledge the kids have… how much potential there is to teach them, how much they need to be taught. But– they have a different kind of knowledge, i think. Different from our normal concept of “elementary school education” or even “secondary school education”…

My students are amazing :-)

You have to check out their first 1500 photos: all of them are in the “Fotos Estudiantiles” set.

Yes, some of them are blurry, were unfortunately taken with the camera whose lens is scratched, or have the heads/feet cut off. Some of them also need some cropping (we’re learning how to do that this week). But so many of them are amazing!!

I am just blown away by the creativity of these kids… I love seeing how they experiment with composition/location/subject/action/lighting/etc as the week with the cameras goes on!


One month down…

Two to go.

I’m not counting down, honestly. I’m just amazed that a month has gone by so quickly! When I got here, and found out I’d be teaching almost 20 hours a week… I thought “how the heck am I going to fill 20 hours a WEEK with my project!” I thought the project itself would only take about 50 hours…

Now I’m thinking, “How am I going to finish in just two more months?!”

Let’s re-cap.

Three of the classes have learned how to use digital cameras… just the picture-taking part. They had the cameras for one week, and took some awesome pictures! I’m really excited for this coming week…

The “theme” they’re working with is self-portrait/autobiography. So this week we’re going to be in the computer lab deciding which of the 2,000 (that’s not an exaggeration) pictures they want to use as their self-portrait. Then they’ll copy and paste the picture (count on a day to learn that), crop the picture (another day), and type their autobiographies into the blogger software (two days). That’s a week in the computer lab right there.

As homework over the weekend, they have to find photos of family members to bring in to class.

The next week, we’ll make our family trees and talk about where we are in them (one day), attach photos to the family trees (one day), talk about family history and stories passed on through the generations and discuss how we can learn more about family history (one day), spend a day thinking of questions to ask about family history (one day), and a day practicing the interviews in class (one day).

Over the weekend, they’ll conduct interviews with their family members on family history and stories.

Then, a week in the computer lab. I will scan the photos into the computer, so they can copy/paste into a word processing software and make digital versions of their family trees (two days right there). Then they’ll type up the interviews (one day), decide what part of the interview they want to use to tell a story (homework and one day), and type their stories (homework and one day).

Then, on to community. They’re going to start by drawing a map of their community, just what they think it is (one day). Then we’ll talk about different types of community… discussion and reading, maybe (one day). We’ll talk about important places in their community, symbolism for the community, etc (one day). We’ll talk about people in the community, all of the different sub-communities (one day). We’ll plan what pictures we’re going to take to represent the community (one day). There’s another week.

That’s four weeks. We’re at March already!

And then a week with the cameras again.

And then another week in the computer lab. We’ll edit photos of the community (copy/paste, crop: one day), print photos of the community (one day), physically paste phots onto a photo map of the community (one day), write descriptions of the symbolism of the building/location in the blogger software (two days).

And then a day deciding who we’d like to interview to learn more about history in the community and talking about portraits. A day deciding what questions to ask and talking more about portraits. A day practicing the interviews in class. Two days interviewing and taking portraits of the person we interviewed.

And ANOTHER week in the compu lab… finishing things up! Typing their interviews, going over what’s important in the interview to the story they want to tell, editing photos… printing photos and text and arranging them on nice paper for a “gallery” display… oh boy.

I don’t even know if we’ll get to the “country history” or map unit that I had planned… I guess that’s something for the next teacher?!

And all of this is contingent on a few things: 1) the students being able to open email addresses, and then remembering those addresses and their passwords; 2) the internet working; 3) the batteries in the cameras not dying; 4) Henry being able to get print cartridges in Huehue; 5) my hard drive not exploding (I keep getting the message: “Your startup disk is nearing capacity. Please delete some files to continue working.”).

Ohh, boy.

Have I mentioned that I like challenges? 🙂