Archive for March, 2007

Dead in a Gutter

I’m pretty sure I saw a dead body today. At first, I thought the guy was drunk and passed out. I saw him as the bus pulled around a corner through an aldea outside of Paquix, the junction before Huehuetenango. The guy was just lying there, sprawled across the white-painted concrete gully that doubles as both curb and drainage system. As we passed him, I saw that his eyes were open.
I slept in as late as humanly possible on Sunday, which for me was about eight o’clock. I got up and reheated some of the eggs and beans Angela had made the night before for dinner, poured myself some of the weak coffee Angie had made fresh, and settled down for some quality reading and writing time. Which of course degenerated into quality email and IM time.

The happy campers returned, dry and warm despite the rain last night, around 10 am. By that point I was nearly organized and nearly ready to go…

Angie and I decided to take a stroll down to the ruins, since it was a bluebird-perfect day. We bumped in to some of our coworkers and students returning from their Sunday-morning soccer game, then stopped by the basketball court and waved at more of our students playing basquet.

Heading up through the market, we decided to check out the prices of blusas and boleros (blouses and the little woven bags that everyone and their mother carries—I have a serious bag fetish). We were unable to find boleros, and I didn’t have enough money to buy a blusa, so we headed back to the Foundation. I was feeling pretty antsy by this point, so I finished gathering my stuff together and decided to wait for the 1:30 bus to drive by the office.

Angie and Fer sat with me, and I was getting nervous, so we all walked down to the “photocopy place” (really just a tienda owned by one of our coworkers that happens also to do photocopies). Good thing, too, because just as we arrived the bus to Huehue pulled up, bypassing its normal route past the school and Foundation offices.

I guess I lucked out—my first long-distance bus ride in Guate was on a “Pullman” (kind of like an old Greyhound). This meant not only did I have my very own seat, but my backpack did too! I asked if I should put it down under the bus with the rest of the luggage, but the ayudante said that as long as there was space I could keep it with me.

I chose a seat in the very back of the bus, which meant that over the many “tumulos” (speed bumps) through small mountain towns I was airborne. It also meant that I could see the entire bus, and that I had a big window, which is why I chose it.

Aside from the dead man at the end of the ride, the trip was uneventful. The bus broke down twice (about par for the course), people got on and off seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and the driver passed slow-moving trucks on blind curves through the “zona de neblina” (fog zone) no fewer than three times. Good thing that new metal rail was put up! That’ll keep a loaded bus on the road!

As we drove in to Huehue, with the sun setting behind the mountains and turning the sky brilliant shades of red and orange, I noticed a flash of yellow on a moto whiz by. He had to stop, because the bus was blocking the intersection, and upon a closer look I realized that the yellow was actually a maize (yes, that’s an official shade of yellow) sweatshirt emblazoned with “Michigan” in block blue letters. Heck yeah.


I’m Alive!

Oh goodness, it’s been a while since I last posted! Almost a month!!

This is not entirely my fault. We lost internet service for about three weeks… which, in fact, was the last time I posted.

Things continue in San Mateo:

The weather is gorgeous and sunny during the morning, and the mist rolls in from downvalley around three in the afternoon.

The kids have interminable energy, which they use to generally follow their own plan (and not mine!). You can’t help but love them for it!

I am in round three- in- two- months of a recurring stomach bug… I’m starting to fear it’s not just first-year-teacher syndrome. I guess I deserve it, I’ve spent long enough bragging about how I’ve always been able to eat street food and drink the water without problems wherever I’ve been!

My thesis research is going well– sometimes frustrating, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes utterly confusing, but mostly interesting and fun 🙂

Stress is mounting over some big decisions to be made– I will officially have two days to decide on a grad school when I get home! I am currently leaning very heavily towards Michigan (over Arizona), but there are a lot of logistical things to work out with coordinating a program between SNRE and Anthropology.

This Friday is my last day of teaching! On Saturday and Sunday I will be taking family portraits for a few of my students and conducting interviews in town, and Monday morning at six I am heading off to Huehuetenango. From there I will spend a day or two in Todos Santos Chuchumatán, and then another couple of days across the border in Mexico (partly to renew my visa, partly to see an “indigenous photo project” in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas).

I am greatly looking forward to that week as a time to decompress a bit, see some new places, and think about something other than what I have planned for class the next day!!

Then there’s Semana Santa– Mom will be here to go hiking with me 🙂 yay! And we will be painting some murals in the school, then heading to Antigua for a couple of days.

And then– HOME! I must admit, I am looking forward to being home again. It’s not that I don’t like it here, because I do (and this is probably the first time I’ve been in a new place for an extended period that I can see myself returning for another extended period).

I think with all of the things I need to organize at home (living situation beyond August, plans for summer after June 20th, feeding and medically insuring myself beyond August, officially clicking that “accept offer of admission” button) plus an extremely stressful and mostly unplesant living arrangement here, I will be glad to settle back in to my own (or at least “known”) space for a little while.

Whew, I have a lot of other things to write about too! I will try to catch up on some events/topics over the next couple of days.

For now, I am going to go read in the sun 🙂

Dinner at Don Pedro’s

We had dinner at Don Pedro’s tonight, thanks to Beth’s influence here in town.

Towards the end of the meal, she brought up the topic of Civil War… and Don Pedro quite willingly started talking about his experience (and naming other people that might be willing to share their stories).

He said that from 1982 to 1991, the war was in San Mateo. Army planes would pass overhead and drop bombs… three people from San Mateo, that lived near Don Pedro, were killed. Army trucks and tanks would drive through town every day. He said that occasionally things were so dangerous, that for three months he would take his family to sleep in a cave outside of town, without even blankets, because they were afraid to stay in their house overnight.

He said that even giving eggs and bread to “responsables” (those that were responsible for organizing the town) were accused of being guerrillas by the army.

He said that he spent a lot of time in Barillas on business, to support his family.

He said that in 1991, the guerrillas left the town and moved up by Hit hop, and that’s when the war ended.

Fer asked me after dinner if I really thought this was the “most important thing” that the students should learn—because there’s “so much that they don’t know”
— he says that it will be too “decontextualized” for them…

i don’t know how else to do this!! I don’t think that I am the appropriate person to be teaching them about the history of Guatemala– I think that’s just a perpetuation of this postcolonial motif…

The only thing that I feel like I can do for them is help them gain the tools (ie: interview, writing, reading skills) that will help them learn things for themselves. I’m trying to encourage them to think for themselves for the first time in their lives, rather than memorize historical “facts” that they read in a government-sanctioned textbook.