Archive for the 'field notes' Category

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.


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!

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”…

Eulalia’s Licenciatura Ceremony

Marimba music!!! constant background music… slight reprieve immediately before the ceremony begain… candidates walked in to marimba music, music continued softly during speeches

in a high school– main room. doors on either side with “quinto” “tercero” and “sexto” written above them (A and B groups).

stage at front… on light blue banner behind stage: “I PROMOCION LICENCIATURA / ADMON. EDUCATIVA/ 2004 2005/ SANTA EULALIA” in shiny red letters, all caps

in center of banner- Maya stella flanked by Maya god of medicine on either side of stella (two gods) (according to Julio)

Guatemalan flag on lower stage left, speaker’s podium lower stage right, table and chairs in center of stage, hats on table.

chairs in two columns, aisle in the middle. camcorder set up on tripod at front center of aisle.

paper cut-out mickey mouse hanging from a light on the ceiling! Pooh poster on the wall that says “¡Sonríe!” (smile!)

Man sitting on left side, 4 rows in front of me and across the aisle from me… dressed in fake-faded “gangster” jeans with patches and a wallet chain and a military-green hoodie, brown tennis shoes… spiked-ish (has gel, shaped in front), dyed hair… younger kids (4 years old, boys, in little jeans and hoodies) gather around to see his camera phone (not a Razr)… he takes their picture. NOT ladino
— holding a fat baby in an orange jumper, pink striped hat
— w/ women all wearing cortes, some in huipiles… young-ish girl next to him in a corte and hoodie w/ flip flops, rests head on his shoulder periodically

Audience mixed ingígena and ladino… ladinos stand out (women in jeans, hoodies, short hair, makeup). some ladinas in pantsuits…makeup is the biggest difference, i think!

most men dress similarly… jeans, sweater or button-down shirt (indigena and ladino). a few men in button-down shirts and capixai… some men in traditional shirt and capixai– mostly older men. mostly traditional dress on women– all but ladinas in cortes and shirt. most wear blusas or huipiles… babies in fleece jumpers and hats.

kid w/ Razr… camera phones everywhere! lots of teenagers have Razrs or other camera phone

professional fotógrafo at the front– film camera with big hotfoot flash (looks like a Minolta SR-201… my stepsister’s old cam that i found in a drawer and it turns out the light meter is broken…. can’t get close enough to find out!) and RCA video camera. front and center in the aisle. later in the ceremony he picks up the video camera (rests on shoulder, not handycam) and films each candidate’s family individually as they stand and clap. during the speeches, he takes breaks to film the audience (turns and pans audience w/ camera)… take still photo of each candidate as they get their robes and hat.

LOTS of cameras… at least one camera in every family (either camera phone, digicam, film point and shoot, camcorder). estimate 1/4 people have cameras… about equal numbers of each… possibly more cameraphones and digicams… but a lot of film cams too

lots and lots of camcorders… about 40 people line either side of the seating area at the front with camcorders, filming the entire ceremony (2 hours? 3 hours?). Some more people with camcorders get up, sit down throughout… move closer to get better shot of their candidate.

everyone with digicams takes pictures, immediately checks outcome of pictures… over and over again, in the middle of the speech. kids playing with camera phones throughout….

candidates enter 1×1, holding their official robes folded in front of them. men wearing western suits/ties, women mostly in cortes and huipiles

mostly male candidates– 20 total, 5 women

robes are black with light blue trim on the neck/chest and sleeves, pillbox hats with matching light blue pompom are already on stage.

after an introductory speech, each candidate is called on stage and dressed by the two professors in their official robes. handshake and a hug. no hat yet.

firecrackers (sound like little bombs! always startle me, but no one pays any attention) outside the doors during the presentation of the robes

after each candidate is dressed, they say a vow… hold up right hand… candidates stand in front of stage, on the floor.

general restlessness at this point… people standing and sitting, moving up front to get pictures, coming back to sit down.

i move closer to get a picture of Eulalia when she gets her robes. people are staring at me… i have to think it’s the camera (tele lens on it) and not the gringa-ness. chat, jess, angela have smaller cameras, i don’t notice people staring as much. maybe i’m imagining it… i don’t get nearly as many stares as normal.

crowd at front of seating area… most people still in seats, though. only those taking pictures of relatives/candidates getting up and moving. small kids playing in aisle! kid in front of me keeps turning and staring. he’s doing something to irritate his mom, and she threatens to take him outside.

the speaker invites people to come up and take a picture “como un recuerdo” during the vow portion… about 15 more people get up and move towards the front of the aisle.

background music changes… american pop w/o words. “all for you” plays.. MIDI file on a keyboard

is that KidSongs playing???

Ladino guy with long-ish streaked hair (light brown with some almost-blond streaks)… jeans and a button-down… with ladina woman in jeans and a red hoodie, short-short dark hair (cut like Lindsay’s), makeup. has cameraphone up in front of him constantly! about 2 rows right in front of me

after vows, candidates get up and receive pillbox hat… i go up and take a picture of Eulalia getting hers… people move closer and go back to their seats again…

something political…. some guy was not allowed to come to the ceremony? why? the university wouldn’t allow it for some reason. he still received his degree, though… weird. his family didn’t come either… profoto doesn’t have anyone to film

ceremonial presentation of diplomas to the three professors… one of the presenters (one of the new licenciados) addresses audience almost entirely in Qan’ qobal … Chat asked Juan Jacinto to confirm what language it was. I thought it was Chu’j because of the glottal stops… but those could be feature of other Maya languages too (not familiar enough with them yet). Chu’j speakers can understand Qan’qobal, but not the other way around, apparently (according to Julio and Juan Jacinto) speaker mixes Spanish words in (ie: licenciado, other academic words)

candidates parade out to MIDI files of american pop w/o words… everyone congregates in front of the building… i leave to go buy batteries! come back and Eulalia’s group (BIG group! family, friends, co-workers –ie: us!– all walk through Santa Eulalia to a restaurant for dinner).

half of the group eats at a time– rice flavored with chicken broth, blackbeans, chicken. we can hear them hacking the rotisserie chickens apart right behind the divider our table pushes up against!

random assortment of refrescos…. Eulalia opens one and passes it until someone decides it’s the flavor they’d like. i get piña (Canada Dry label…). tortillas are softer than in San Mateo… stay soft even when cool. also paler, less yellow, more white

I ask Chico about “kaxlan” (“chicken” in Chu’j, supposedly used by Pan-Mayan movement to refer to non-Mayans, according to Warren). He inisists (as did Gloria, and María) that “kaxlan” refers ONLY to Ladinos, and not gringos. I swear I heard my students using it to describe me… they said it once when we were going over descriptive words, and then i asked what it meant, and they wouldn’t answer, and then one of them said “not Guatemalan”… and then said it was the opposite of “Chapín”. he looks slightly uncomfortable… but i can never read his facial expressions. he might be laughing at me, he might just be amused that i picked up on “kaxlan”, he might even be pissed off that i’m questioning what he said. who knows?!

people rotate in and out to eat… Eulalia opens gifts… crowd walks back towards main road to pile into busito that we rented to drive back to San Mateo. all of about 1 hour… drive back to San Mateo takes about 1.5 hours (arrive home at exactly 8:20)

Week of Jan 22-27

This entry comes from my personal field notes, but I thought that some of the points I addressed were worth publishing, because of the frustration and confusion they cause me. Names have been removed where the subject in question might have been offended by the commentary.


Kids reading photos—interesting points
→ student in 4o Magisterio can tell where person is from based on clothing…. Can tell what region, etc by the design on the huiple
→ try to fit the entire body in the camera frame when taking pictures of themselves
–> Motorola Razors and other camera phones… 1/3 kids has one, i swear—- i should take a survey. that would be really interesting… just a poll of hands in class. i already asked who owned a digital camera, and no one said that they did. nearly all have taken photos before, however… last year the tercero, quinto, and segundo classes did a project with disposable film cameras. about a month long. each class focused on a different theme (3o= historical buildings, 2o= stories of self, 5o= i’m not sure)

something I stopped myself from saying today about the students acting out in class:
“Did you get the savages under control?”
YIKES! We’d say this at home re: unruly students without giving second thought! But that carries some pretty bad connotations…. I have the same sort of reaction to a bet my fellow teachers have going. They agreed to buy whomever “hooks up” with a “native” first five beers (one from each of the other teachers). The one rule is, no Ladinos count. I asked “why” and got made fun of for being too PC. Interesting… the guys’ reaction to me and Angela pointing out that “the furniture girls”– the girls that work at the local furniture store– are most definitely white (or Ladina) was funny– they got pretty pissed off.

the other teachers keep refering to “the Mayans” and “the native girls”… why do i bristle so much? do “Mayans” refer to themselves as such? I haven’t heard anyone say so yet… only on the ABC special on “Apocolypto” har har. where everyone they interviewed (in Antigua! aka: Gringotenango, crawling with US and Euro ex-pats) responded affirmatively to the question “Are you Mayan? Do you call yourself Mayan?” well gee, there’s a camera shoved in their face, and they’re probably being paid to prove Disney’s point that “the Mayans” are so proud of an ancient history that (supposedly, according to Mel Gibson’s Apocolypto) has lead them to poverty today. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the Spanish conquest and subsequent US economic and military conquests in the region…

everyone here (that i’ve heard so far) refers to themselves as “Chu’j”, not “Mayan,” although the “Pan-Mayanist” movement supposedly smoothed over (and continues to smooth over) regional differences… there is the “Matematicas Maya” class… but that’s about it so far.

—–’s description of the Sunday market (on a sunny day) as “sensory overload”… all the colors, noises, food, different modes of dress, etc

—– wanted a “mind-blowing” experience. Mind blowing. Interesting… you blow your mind, and then go home to the same things you had before. As hard as you claim your life is at home… you have choices. There are no choices here. Not the ones we have… Some of my students asked me if they could come to the US someday… what was I supposed to say? I said “finish high school, and go to college here, and then come study in the US.” Is that even an option? Maybe. They could finish high school here and get a scholarship to the local University… and work for a bit here… but chances are if they finish college they’ll become high school teachers here. They would have to fight against everyone telling them that that’s what they’re supposed to do with their college degree, if they wanted to do otherwise.

As — tried to argue to me (argue? Why the hell was he arguing this??) poverty is about not having choices. Right, that is exactly right. We choose to be here, we have the luxury of being here, using this place to “blow our minds,” marvel over the simplicity of live, the friendliness and truthfulness of the people, and then go home to our comfortable “first-world” (WHY do people still use those terms? but really, is “developed” vs. “developing” any better? how about priviledged and not priviledge? excessive and not excessive? but that’s just reversing the essentialism, isn’t it? is there any “nice” or “correct” way of labeling the different economic levels? am i just way off topic right now?) lives, therefore we are not poor. We come here and feel better about ourselves after living “simply” here (really, we’re living like kings here compared to the vast majority of people) and thinking that our lives are somehow purer having passed through here.

The same with [my friend] ——… he wanted an “authentic” “broadening” experience in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico… and got sick of it after a month so went back to the USA and his car and school and a job. He was upset that he couldn’t go walking in the hills (he was surprised he had to “fear” the Zapatistas.. well duh.) he was pissed that he couldn’t get whole wheat or other health products (aren’t “indians” supposed to be closer to the earth? don’t they eat healthier food?), and he was irritated at the noisey vendors and cars all over the place (must be evidence of American-commercialization, right?). He didn’t have a single good thing to say– his Spanish classes focused too much on slang and dirty words, his host family wasn’t “indigenous”, and therefore it wasn’t worth accepting their invitation to church or learning their culture.

What makes us think that we’re better people for choosing to pass through this place, and these peoples’ lives?

It eases our guilt at living as we do at home, with such excess. It gives us an excuse to be hypocrites—we can go home with a “pure” conscious after living simply here for a few months, weeks, or even days.

Is there a solution? Would we want the solution? Can one person even make a difference? Or would it take a mass effort—would it even be worth one person making an effort without the effort of the masses? Or is it better to just go on as we are, until we destroy ourselves, and let nature start over from scratch?

I get a lot of crap for reading, studying, and being here for a purpose other than “imparting my knowledge” (choke, gag) on the students and drinking cheap beer (choke, gag). — is constantly making fun of me for reading about the Guatemalan Civil War (tonight, during “truth or dare”– I can’t believe i actually played that– he had the “dare” of imitating one person in the room. he imitated me talking about Rigoberta Menchú. because i’ve been reading that book for the past week?

I don’t think people see what i’m doing as being very worthwhile. my students aren’t memorizing math tables, or reading literature, or learning english. according to one of the Guatemalan teachers they’re “expresando nuestros lindos sentimientos” [said sarcastically to my face]. ha ha, we’re playing with cameras!

i feel like even the students sometimes are just “humoring the gringa.”

Worksheet de las Cámaras

Vocabulario de la Cámara


Visor- la ventana en que planificas y compones tu foto antes de sacarla

Flash- la luz que sale automáticamente en lugares oscuros

Lente- el “ojo” de la cámara, lo que transforme la luz para que forme un imagen

Medidor de luz- determina si hay bastante luz o no, y si necesita flash o no

Botón de obturador- el botón que toques para abrir el obturador

Obturador- la puerta que permite entrar la luz

Batería- proviene electricidad a la cámara!

Abertura- la cantidad de luz está determinada por el tamaño de la abertura del obturador

Sensitividad de película- la rapidez con que la película (real o virtual) reacciona a la luz

Rapidez del obturador- la rapidez con que el obturador abre y cierra para entrar la luz

Exposición- determinada por la cantidad de luz que toca la película y cuánto dura

Zumbido óptica- el zumbido físico, más calidad

Zumbido digital- el zumbido virtual, menos calidad

Dibuja la cámara debajo. Pon los nombres de cada parte: