Monday, October 4, 2010

Guatemala...the more it changes...

Sunday, September 05, 2010 7:26 PM

Greetings to All,


 I am here in the highlands, in the School for New Mayas, in Xix, cozy in the sweet room in the ecotourist hotel on campus, while outside the rains pour down. I missed traveling through mudslide area by a day and a half, athough the roads ran with waters and we skirted landslides the entire seven hours of bus an van rides. Just a few hours ago I read on aol about the deaths due to the mudslides. A number of major roads are closed throughout the country, either because bridges have washed out or because they are completely underwater. To think that much of the country for the past seven years was in serious drought. Now all is rain.


Here at the school, there  is a lot of joy and serious difficulties as well, along with some very chilling intimations on the political front, which I will write about later.The students greeted me Friday night with the entrance to my room all decked out in cutouts and paper flowers, traditional dancing, marimba and a welcoming address by a new, very charismatic scholarship student. In the last two days many have made their way to my little patio to visit and to send their thanks to those who are helping them. So...thanks.

The students all look healthy and vivacious, but there are too many empty spaces, as the enrollment for the boarding students is half of what it was last year. This drop is due to the dire economy. There have been a number of groups and individuals visiting the school and helping to build a few houses in the community for widows or giving some direction for maintaining the hotel, but these visits so far have not translated to much in the way of funds. At present, our New Mayas Society is the only outside source of funding, and our contributions have been limited to providing for 12 scholarships as well as internet for one year (using a cellular signal), plus food for a few months.The director has funds for food for the remaining of the year, ending mid October, but not for salaries, so the teachers have agreed to work the final month gratis. They will continue to receive their salary from the government for half days teaching in the primary grades. It is up to the school to come up with salaries for middle and secondary years.


The hatching of fifteen ducklings was greeted yesterday with great excitement and attention. All these last two days clumps of students have gone down to the tiny fenced pond to marvel at the puffs of bright yellow and black feathers. This afternoon Mama had nudged them all into the water, for their first swims. There is a second clutch of eggs in the second house, presided over by the second female. The male struts about, wagging his tail rapidly, looking extremely proud or perhaps just looking for action. You would think that these students, all from farming families, would be inured to these events, but they are thrilled as can be at these small marvels.


The buildings have a fresh coat of paint. I am not sure how but somehow over the course of the year school leaders and students have gotten more training in building maintenance. Keeping the spaces sparkling is a huge accomplishment, especially for the students who come from hamlets where all they know are outhouses and rooms with dirt floors, wood fires on the kitchen floor. But they talk about how much they have learned about cleanliness, both personal and in the rooms and classes and are very proud. A Spanish Volunteer who works for an orphanage on the Gulf side of the country, in Rio Dulce,who visited for a week, said he believed this was the best run project he had seen in years working in Guatemala.


The director was successful in getting a Peace Corps volunteeer placed here, a young woman from California who has her background in ecology, biology and related studies. She has great enthusiasm and energy, is getting worms to use in a composting unit which she will have built so as to teach the students some good, organic farming. She has a lot of plans for projects in the finca which is in the process of being b ought. I hope the rains stop long enough and the paths dry out so I can get down there to see it again. It has not been possible to bring up wood to sell to help make payments to the bank because of the rains. Anyway, I think she will be a great asset to the school.


Students tell me they love having people visit for a few days or a few weeks. It is their window to the wider world. If you get an itch to try something truly off the beaten path, give me a holler through cyberspace. It you have talents and skills you would like to share for a couple of weeks or months and can manage to make yourself understood in spanish--you don´t have to be polished--you would be so welcomed.


And if the spirit moves you, a check to New Mayas Society, care of me at 4564 Shenandoah Avenue, St. Louis MO 63110, will be most appreciated.


Mary Sennewald



No comments: