Thursday, November 11, 2010

San Juan La Laguna


San Juan is so fantastic! We are working with a project for disabled kids here and it is so fun. The staff is amazing, the kids are really fun, it´s a great way to spend our days. In small villages, the rates of kids born with genetic defects of some sort are really high because of the amount of years and years and generations without ¨fresh blood´as it were so there are a disproportionate amount of disabilities. Some are mental defects, some physical, some combination of both. Then on top of that, most of them grew up speaking Txu´tujiil so even the language therapy we do is odd because they don´t speak Spanish anyway. It makes it harder to gage their mental capacities but we blunder along happily with a lot of laughing along the way. One of my favorite kids is named Mishel and he has pretty significant Autism. He will engage given the right stimulation though which is nice. He also loves loves to hug which is very sweet. Yesterday he wanted a piece of string to play with (shake in one hand over his head) and he had one but then we went on to other things and it got left behind ( I took it away then forgot it) then later on he went looking for the box where we found the string the first time and so I had him follow me over to where we were sitting and I cut him a piece of string and gave it to him then got distracted by someone else and totally forgot then in just a minute or so he came over and started hugging me and looking me in the eye and shaking his string and hugging me. Maybe I´m making it up, but it looked like an engaged ¨thank you¨ to me and it felt good. There are kids with Downs Syndrom and Spinobiffeta and Cerebral Palsy and all sorts of other things I haven´t quite figured out the English translation for. Some kids have had testing done and some haven´t so there are lots of best guesses.

One of the things that is so great about this project is that they have a psychologist and a physical therapist and speech therapist and once a week a musician comes and once a week an artist and there is a volunteer that has a therapist dog that does work there. Instead of just somewhere for people to dump their disabled kids for the day, they are actually helping and making a difference. The hardest part is probably educating the parents. Culturally here, disabilities are viewed as a punishment from God for not being a good person. This means that kids get hidden away in little rooms and parents typically have as little to do with them as possible. Slowly but slowly hopefully ideas get changed. In talking with the staff it certainly seems like some of the parents are becoming more and more willing to try to work with their kids to help them become more independent.

Bego and I are living in a hotel for the time being. There is a woman at the center who has a house with a couple of rooms that volunteers stay at but the guy with the dog is in the big one and the other one is way way too small to be shared by two people. He goes back to Spain at the end of the month so we´ll move then. We have a beautiful view of the lake right now and a bathroom in our room and cable TV. Such luxuries! The home we´ll be moving to is very traditional - I´ll just have to post photos rather than try to explain, but it will be fun to be living with a family.

We are going to start weaving lessons today. All the ladies of  San Juan do weaving and it is well known for it´s beautiful natural dye textiles - really great stuff. We are going to spend a couple of afternoons a week at the house of one of the students at the school. They have had three kids with disabilities out of eight. One died already, one is completely housebound and will die soon. Griselda is at the center but wont live to see 15 and they have a baby that no one knows about yet. I don´t know what the disease is but it is degenerative so the kids won´t make it to adulthood. The mom had a surgery with the birth of the latest kid so dad started weaving because he couldn´t make enough money to support his family farming. They are so poor and their lives are really hard, but they are such wonderful people with really ready smiles. It is great that they ended up being who we will be able to support with a little financial help for the weaving classes and being able to take a little food with us when we go for lessons. We just happened to meet one of their daughters at a weaving collective in town and then it turned out that her sister was at the center so serendipity stepped in to help out.

We are meeting lots of really nice people and have offers to go crab hunting on the lake, go out into the lake in a boat for full moon, go hunting in the hills up above San Juan, take walking tours to the small villages in the area, go up to the local lookout (Indian nose) and all sorts of other things and we haven´t even been here a week! We thought San Juan would be kind of boring, but it turns out that there is so much to do. I´m skipping eating lunch to finally come to the dang internet!

I will get pictures together soon, I promise.

Love to you all,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Life is grand

I feel so so much better! Thanks for bearing with me.

My dear friend Bego from Casa Guatemala arrived in Xela yesterday and it is so brilliant to see her. I knew I was feeling tired of traveling alone but until she came, I didn't understand quite how much. I have made friends here in Entremundos house but it is totally different to have a friend come to see you. Even if it was a friend made so recently, to have a history with someone is so much more important than it seems like it would be.

She and I leave for Lake Atitlan tomorrow. We're moving there. Going to look for some great volunteer opportunities, going to look for a perfect apartment to move into. I am so excited to have a partner in crime. I'm so excited to live at the lake. It really is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

We've been exploring everywhere the last couple of days. Doing things that I kept meaning to do but never quite got around to. One of those things was the museum which was pretty great. Well, most of it was pretty boring as museums are, but then, there was a very back room upstairs - the very best museums have a half hidden back room don't you know. It was full of taxidermied animals, which I happen to love. So we're looking at various birds and large cats and even a ChowChow dog, which seemed kind of odd to have in a museum, but hey, why not? Some animals were more mundane, like a baby calf except turning the corner, it had two heads. Straight out of Ripley's Believe it or Not. Definitely getting more interesting.

**please note at this point that it is not allowed to take photos inside the museum. there is a full time guard in this final room to make sure that you are unable to share any of this with the rest of the world.** 

Then jars of animal fetuses started to appear which were pretty creepy. Didn't love that part too much. Things are definitely taking a turn for the strange. I couldn't help but start thinking about Geek Love and getting creeped out.  Then in the back corner, these jars of animal fetuses turned into jars of conjoined twin animal fetuses.

Geek Love.

Hard to look at even though you kind of had to, cause what the fuck IS that? But you were looking with squinty eyes cause you really didn't want to know, except that you did. Kind of like scary movies. So finally coming out of that extreme weirdness, we were confronted with this...

I don't know. The guard swears they are real and they were found off the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. There is no way. I found this photo looking it up on the internet and there is nothing to be said about these diablillos del mar except this photo. They have to be created. But then I was just looking at animal bones all mixed up together and two headed and tailed baby crocodiles so what do I know? Nothing except we were so creeped out and laughing and thank God somebody was there to share that. Because some things should not be experienced alone.

Man, I wish I had photos of those siamese twin fetuses. Except not really cause then I would look at them. And share them with you. And you don't want that either. Except you kind of do.