Sending Happy Birthday wishes with love to my mother, Eva!!! ❤️
So, I’m assigned to work in ten rural schools. My school supervisors have been too busy to take me to the schools and apparently, I needed an escort the first time. So I’ve been studying Spanish and reviewing my Healthy Schools materials, waiting for something to happen. This week, all systems are GO!
Photo: Our office where the school supervisors
Miho, my new friend and colleague, invited me to observe her at one of the schools we share. After meeting the director, we peeked in to say hello to Rita who was preparing huge pots of atol for refa (snack). Atol de Avena is oatmeal made as a thick, liquid drink. It’s super yummy, especially when sprinkled with cinnamon. The atol is free for all the children but we also saw several outdoor booths where parents were making sandwiches and arranging other types of snacks that the children could purchase.
Photo below: Rita stirs a pot of atol.
We proceeded to an empty classroom so that Miho could conduct height and weight checks on children. Since it was recess, the children were rambunctious and curious about us. Someone asked if I was Miho’s mom because I also looked Japanese. “Oh, you’re not Japanese…are you Chinese?” I’ve come to love these questions and delight in talking about my Mexican and Diné heritage. One boy tried to make fun of another boy by saying, “He’s indigenous!” Speaking to the children in front of me, I replied, “We’re all indigenous. I am indigenous,” and they nodded in agreement. I’m not sure what they understood since it was so noisy and they were racing in and out. But it was a start.
One boy was especially funny, a real comedian. He made funny faces and postures and bopped kids over the head with a plastic container and used a jump rope as a whip. I prayed that no one would squash his joyful spirit as I took his props away. I saw that he had used white out to dot his hands and asked to photograph them.
All the kids were fascinated by the fact that I am from the U.S., especially since so many of them have family there. In rapid fire succession they began asking me to pronounce their names in English. I told them their nicknames, too. I also told them that a lot of North Americans prefer to pronounce their names in their native language.
The next day, my colleague, Ronal, drove me to several more schools to formally introduce me to directors and teachers and show me the bus route I would be taking from now on. For some unknown reason, my Spanish was better than ever (not great, but better). I also understood everyone, which was a kind of miracle. I remember telling a cook in a cafe about how hard it’s been for me to learn Spanish. She told me to ask God for help.
I got to visit some classrooms and being unprepared, I simply started telling the children that I was from the U.S. and wondered if they had any family there. A chorus of kids said yes. I asked them if, on my bi-weekly visits, they would be willing to do a trade with me: I would teach them some words in English if they would teach me some words in Spanish and K’iche. They jumped with excitement and the teachers were also very happy with the idea. In fact, in all of the schools, the directors and teachers were very enthusiastic about the idea. I will use words that relate to our Healthy Schools program, about hygiene and a healthy lifestyle.
It had been pointed out to me that some of the youth are rejecting their traditional language and dress. So I made a point to telling the children that I had begun taking K’iche classes. When I recited the only word I know: “Saqarik” (good morning). They laughed because I used a pronunciation that is used in another area, but not in theirs. There is so much to learn! [Photo below: Ronal with 5th and 6th graders.]
Since Ronal’s home is situated next door to one of the schools, I got to meet his lovely mother and take a snapshot of her roses. Guatemalanroses, don’t forget! Roses are everywhere but I’m realizing that roses are difficult to photograph. Today, I am working on a charla (talk) to give to a large group of Mayan women next week. Wish me luck!