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,

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