Groundhog Day

The cuarto magisterio students have gotten in the habit of insisting each day, to all of the gringo teachers, that today is a “sacred day” and therefore we shouldn’t have class. I asked them today why it was a sacred day, and they replied “because we’re Mayan!”

I told them that in the United States, today really is a sacred day. Every year on this day, a rodent (I didn’t know the word for “groundhog” so I said a “big rat”) comes out of his little house. And if the rodent sees his shadow, winter will last for six more weeks. If the rodent doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.

There were ten seconds of dead silence and they looked at me like I was insane.

And then they asked if they could have class off.

•••

I found a new bike route!

This week I’ve been focusing on trying to get my own schoolwork done, and therefore have not gotten a single gota (drop) of exercise. Can you say “Lazy Slob”?!

So it was after lunch today and I was staring at my computer screen helplessly trying to figure out what I could say about Rigoberta Menchú that would be new and interesting… And I realized that my introduction was nearly two pages long. The paper is only supposed to be three pages (one page per book that I read for it). Errrr…. break time.

I’ve been concentrating on trying to “remove myself” for set periods of time, per one of my professors’ suggestion, so I can get work done for home without feeling a) guilty b) crazy or c) overwhelmed. I told myself that this week I was allowed to be culture-shocked and eat lots of chocolate and drink lots of coffee to make myself feel better. Next week, all that stops.

I’ve found that a couple of things help me to remove myself: first of all, switching languages. Spanish is for work, and when I’m writing things for work and planning lessons and talking about work, and English is for home and the work I need to do for home. Although I’m writing my literature papers in Spanish, and the next few books I have to read are in Spanish… perhaps I’ll have to find another way to separate things.

Music also helps. I’ve had Catch-22 on perma-repeat on my ipod since I got here, mostly because that was one of the last CDs I listened to at home, so it puts me in that mindset. Also because I now know all of the words, and can just mindlessly hum along. And the beat is good for typing quickly. Heh.

Biking is very important. Exercise has always helped me to clear my head and think more… “efficiently.” I just need to get into a habit again. I made excuses all this week, and the route I had been taking bugged me because it was an out-and-back. I HATE out-and-backs. I can never stay motivated the whole time, be it a ride or a hike or whatever. I need to have a destination if it’s an out-and-back, so I can stop and get some coffee or whatever and then recharge my motivation for the ride back! Plus, I had no idea where I was going or for how long. I’d ride for about 45 minutes and decide it had been long enough and geez, I still had to go all the way •back•… yeah, that breeds laziness.

So this new route is a loop. I start out right by the school, which road turns out to hook up with the road I had been taking before, but lets me bypass the town center. I go downhill for about five minutes, turn twice (switchbacks) and then end up going back •up•hill towards Barillas (same route as before, so far).

At the first tienda there’s a turn-off. You can either continue steadily and gently uphill towards Barillas, or turn sharply left and head up a steeper hill.

I took the steeper hill today.

OH my goodness.

Yes, I walked. After I bottomed out on my granny gear. My legs are getting soft. Ick.

Halfway up the hill (and past that last tienda) I realized I had left my water bottle sitting on the kitchen counter. It has been hot and sunny all week, and the roads were full of dust flying everywhere. Isn’t that always how it works? ;-P

So of course I kept going. Up, up, up. The road was of varying steepness, but I’m sad to say I walked a good portion of it. There’s a goal, right?

At the second turn-off I turned left again, because it looked like it went downhill and back towards town. Mental note: it’s just as hard to get back on your bike on a steep •down•hill as it is on a steep •up•hill. Duh.

I swung down a little-used dirt road that looked like it might have just been cut not too long ago… and ended up in a little aldea who’s name I could not pronounce. It started with a “c”… There was a congregation of women in front of an open-air building, singing and drinking. One of them shouted “venga! venga!” at me (“c’mon! c’mon!”).

Up and down some more… more walking because my lungs just couldn’t handle it… and suddenly I was at the San Mateo cemetary! And someone was shouting my name!

I ran into some of the cuarto magisterio students. One of them said “hi,” but the ones I met later on pretended not to know me (yes, I look like a dork wearing my helmet around here… and who has seen a gringa on a bike? at least I wear capris over the lycra– that might be bad!).

And all that was left was a nice (read: STEEP) downhill back to the Foundation. In all, it was an hour-long ride… perfect for before classes most days! I could make it a bit longer for my “late” day… so it’s two whole hours. Whee!

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