Sunday, October 17, 2010

grateful for our educational system after all

Well, it's been a while hasn't it?

Mostly I think I feel like I'm not doing much so there isn't much to write about. I went to visit a few different agencies about doing work for them but by the time I was able to set up meetings and go and meet with them, I'm not going to be in Xela for the month minimum that they require so they have declined my offers to help. I understand why they put a minimum, but it is still frustrating.

I am looking at various projects in smaller towns as historically I know that suits me better. I am also not interested in spending another winter so freaking cold. So, the places I'm looking are at least a little lower in altitude and I'm hoping that one of them will be something I enjoy. If not, then I'll do what I did in Peru and look around until I find a town that I like and move there and then look around for ways to be of help.

I was talking for a while with an agency in Antigua that is looking for a volunteer coordinator that I think I would enjoy and be very qualified for but while they pay a (very) small stipend, they are really looking for someone to spend two years though they said they could live with a one year commitment. That wouldn't even start until the beginning of December and I'm sure that my savings wont last me that long. I've told them that I have to pass but maybe with some luck the next time they are looking for a coordinator will be about the same time I'm looking to move back out into the world again. I really think that next time I head out it will be to spend a year or two at this type of level, I think it is just the kind of experience I am looking for. It really is a shame that the orphanage was so awful because their volunteer coordinator just left and that position is open with a six month commitment and at very very very little out of pocket expense. But, I still wont go back there.

I am looking at a fun seeming place in a village on Lake Atitlan that I think I will go and visit this week coming that might be just the thing. The agency itself is in a very small town not at all geared toward tourism but is a short boat ride away from those towns when I felt like I wanted to get away a bit. I will be interested to see what they are all about. The work primarily with physically handicapped kids - they incorporate massage therapy in their programs and it would be fun to use that training in that way.

The other place I am really curious about is an organic coffee plantation near the coast. They are a group of 32 families that were all rebels in the civil war that have come together to buy a plantation. They have the idea that they fought with their lives for the chance at a better life and while they may not live it, they have the chance to give it to their children. So there are schools there that go through sixth grade and it is mandatory that all kids go to school and finish at least this level and they are committed to the schools being the best that they can make them. When kids finish this level, the community jointly sets aside some of the harvest funds to send the brightest on to the city to further their education, hoping they will come back and help the community.

This is pretty amazing in a country that has to pay people to send their kids to school because of the income lost when kids aren't working for the family. The schools here also for the most part of a complete farce. It's amazing how much these kids don't learn. No wonder it doesn't seem worth it to send your kids to school, even if you could afford to (you have to buy various uniforms and books and notebooks and all sorts of other stuff). They often will get through their primary (6th grade) education (often at 15 or 16) still barely able to read or write or do any more than very basic arithmetic and subtraction. There are schools that kids can go to to become teachers (through about 9th grade) and they still aren't being well educated so you've got 18 and 19 year olds who are barely educated, despite spending 9 years in school teaching little (and not so little) kids. It's amazing. I guess they are the growing pains of the developing world but it is just so incredible to watch. Easy to judge with the eyes of someone educated in the developed world. I have to stop and remember that it's only really recently that the government has put these programs into place where they pay families to educate their kids and that they are really trying to change things and that progress comes slowly and painfully.

I was visiting with the man doing some work on the house the other day about this. His parents speak Quiche but wouldn't allow he or his siblings (10) to learn it because it is a backwards language that only the poor people speak. (their words and concept, not mine) But they also wouldn't allow any of these kids to go to school because it would make them uppity. Part of what he does is tile work for example but since he can't read or write or do math, it is difficult for him to know how much material to buy or how much it will cost. He used to have to go to someone who would do these figures for him at a price, but he figured if he sent his kids to school they would be able to help him and he wouldn't have to pay for that fee. That's what it took for him to send his kids to school. His eight year old son is teaching him to read and write and do figures (luckily he ended up in a pretty good school) and he loves so much to feel educated even as an adult but he can't share it with his family because they will accuse him of putting on airs.

Anyway, so that is what makes this community of coffee farmers pretty great sounding. I've written them an email but haven't heard back so tomorrow I will call them and see if I can set up a day next week to come out and visit them to see if there is a match.

In the mean time, Xela is still a pretty nice city to be passing some time in. I love to go to the markets and walk around and ride buses to wherever they go, then pay my fair again to come back and the drivers think I'm crazy. It helps to be a foreigner, you always have an excuse for doing crazy things.

I did get to see people today dressed in traditional costume performing a folkloric dance to a Spanish version of "Hotel California". That was pretty great.

missing autumn,
and central heating,
and you all,

a picture of Lake Atitlan

No comments:

Post a Comment