Wednesday, July 30, 2008

i am still alive. sorry

Things here have been awfully crazy and I know I've been a bad blogger. We've arrived here at the mountain school...aka the most beautiful place I've been to in Guate. I'm also not as organized as Ruth and forgot the cord to hook úp to the computer so I can post some pics. (so lame... i know)

Basically, we took a one and a half hour bus ride up the mountains towards the coast through the forest/jungle. Once we arrived, there was more green than I've ever seen... ever. Our first day here was lots of sun and exploring and walking around. Yesterday though, I sat in a thatched hut (also the place where we have our one on one spanish lessons with our teachers during the day) and read a book. In an instant, we found ourselves in a tropical storm. THE loudest thunder THE brightest lightning and THE hardest rainfall. AWESOME! It was perfect temperature, not too hot and sticky and not too cold. I'm pretty sure somewhere in there the lightning hit the school too. It lasted all afternoon and I just couldn't get enough.

I'm fairly sure this school was made for people like me. That is, the captain planet type. They have an outdoor toilet where they collect poop and make fertilizer with it. I{m thinking this is a good idea for good old 1317. Any takers? There's a chuk? a traditional mayan hot(ish) steam bath type thing... anyways erin and I did it yesterday and even though i took a shower today, i still smell like i spent the night INSIDE a campfire. There's a bunch of banana trees on campus, tons of chickens running wild (no i haven't squished any of them) and a medicinal herb garden also super awesome. The first day here they had a guy, Jorge, come and talk to us about his experience and training as a natural health promoter in the communityHe also gave us some recipes for some natural teas he makes for a lot of the students here. So if anyone has the -reah or ameobas, i got you covered.

My teacher is a 23 year old mother of two. Her name is Eunice Maria Merceded. She has a daughter whos name is Fernanda (3), and a son who's name is... you guessed it Fernando(1). I love it. No really... I love her. She's this super strong feminist who's working to try and do the Vagina Monolouges here in this super small rural farm town. I love it. She's also probably one of the best teachers I've had here.

Tonight we're having Noche Cultural and you guessed it, we're the "cultural." Who knows what's gonna go down tonight. I think we just sit and play with a bunch of the kids that live in this community. My family was telling me how much help the students are here. That sounded kinda funny to me because all we do is eat with them. We don't help them cook or clean or anything. She told me that because 75% of this community is unemployed, the students bring in a lot of extra income. She also told me they eat a lot better and a lot more when there's students staying with them. When it's just the family (which in my case is a single mother, 10 year old, 6 year old and the mother's parents.... the mom is the only one who works and it's only a few days a week, the grandpa is 75+ and everyday he has to take a pickup into town to try and find work which is really hard to find so he has to wake up at about 4am) all they eat is beans and tortillas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Crazy.

Thats all for now... I should head back to town before heaven's faucet opens on us while we're on the back of a pickup truck. ... which around here is a taxi.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Maria Tuilia

So very much has happened and since it´s my day off today, I thought I´d take some time to let you know a little about what´s been going on.

First of all... I told you about my teacher Maria, she´s amazing! I love love love her. More than just a spanish teacher she has told me some incredible stories about her time ¨fighting¨ in the war. There´s a couple stories she told me yesterday that brought me to tears and oh how I could explain to you how beautiful this woman is because of all she´s had to fight through. I´ll give you a quick version of one of her stories because, well, I´m not that great of a writer (she is and I told her she needs to write a book... she´s gonna) and because I think it might take me forever.

During the war she slowly was working at a Catholic school as a teacher. One of the preists that also worked at the school started telling Maria and her friend that they should start reading the daily paper to be better informed about what was going on with their country and with the war. They did. After learning more about the war and what was going on in Guatemala, they asked the preist what they could do to be not only informed, but involved. He gave them some small easy jobs. Jobs like watching for the governments military our in the streets to see where they were going, and how many of them there were. After some time, they wanted to do more. The preist was a part of a guerilla movement called ORPA (Organization of People in Arms). I´ll jump a little more forward here... the more she got involved, the more she wanted to do. At this point she´s 27 years old and ORPA has just offered her an opportunity to be a nurse. She had never be trained in anything other than being a teacher so this was a huge decision for her to make. They offered her a car and because one of her dreams had been to own and drive a car, she said yes. (how awesome is that!)

Her very first ¨mission¨ was to go pick up a wounded soldier in the guatemalan mountains. The house they gave her was in Mexico because they didn´t want to risk being in Guate for their own safety. The house was, I think, in Chiapas Mexico. Orpa gave her a husband too...well not really but kinda. She moved in with a guy/pretend husband named David who had also recently joined the movement. On the way to her first mission, she had a car in front and one in back, both with Guatemalan preists who were like her security. Once she got up to the top of the mountain where the soldier was to be waiting for her, she saw him. He was a mess. His face was completley disfigured, two of his fingers had been blown off and he had shards of bomb lodged into his face. He could still walk but his hand had a horrible infection. His left arm had been amputated previously, she thinks with a swiss army knife in the mountains and now his right hand was missing his pointer finger and ring finger and part of his palm.

His name is Pedrito. For the 15 days after the bomb explosion, he lived under a coffee plant in hiding. He had very little food, if any at all, and a severe infection in his hand. His fellow soldiers couldn´t take him out of the front lines because it was too dangerous so they waited until the fighting settled a bit before they got him help. 15 days. During the explosion, his left eye had been blown off and his right eye became blind too.

Maria took him and changed his clothes so he could be a little cleaner and less obvious when they crossed back over the border. He looked like death she said but his spirit was incredibly hopeful. After putting him in the car, she drove back to her house to start treating his wounds. Luckily the guards at the border let her pass without question and she arrived home. Once inside, she stuck him in the bath and cleaned him up. His hand was the worst of it. He had pus and a bunch of maggots there living in his wound. After cleaning out his wound, she called a friend to find out how to get the maggots out. Apparantley, boiling some water with basil in it and then putting it on your maggot infested wound makes them scurry off.

Eventually they got him food, antibiotics, and prostetic devices for his arm and hand. He lives in Mexico City now with a group of blind people. Maria says that he kinda fell in love with her during the time she took care of him. During that time he would ask her what she looked like and they would spend lots of time together, especially during meals when she had to feed him. She never had feelings for him so it never really worked out.

I guess what I find so great about this story is that she was never trained to do anything. She had no supplies and no training but it seems like she did everything perfectly. (from a nursing student´s standpoint that is) He would have suffered without her help yet her hours and hours of time and care got him back to a place of functionality and life. Eventually she got some medication and some supplies and a little bit of training but for the most part, everything was on the spot, think for yourself kinda stuff. Seems to me she did okay.

She has told me some other stories too. Stories of amputations in her house, getting arrested and tortured by the mexican police. Stories of running an underground radio station. Stories of being dropped off in Cuba after being beaten. Stories of being awesome.

Listening to some of her stories, I asked her if she was scared (like before she was stripped naked and tortured). She said no. I said yeah right. She said well... I´ve studied psychology so I know that fear is man made and your fear only had as much power as you give it. Who says that? Maria Tuilia.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mi primer dia de classe...que bien

Today was my first day of class. So good. We started out with some history of Guatemala and how Xela, the city we´re in, was highly active in the recent civil war. We were told that one of the purposes of the school 20 years ago was to raise money for the families of two students who were drug out into the streets, tortured and murdered. The income from the school was to pay for lawyers and help support the families. Since then the school has had a hang in many of the social justice issues of Xela and Guatemala. Right now they work with an after school program for children, reforestation up in the mountains, the one and only local women´s shelter, and with different indigenous people here securing their rights.

After a brief overview we met our teachers. Aparently, my teacher is one of the best in the school and kinda badass. She fought as a guerilla in the civil war for 25 years, helped out during the war as a nurse and is barely 5´foot tall. She also might be the cutest thing I´ve ever seen. I can´t ever look at her and think she ever fought in any war. I´ll tell you more about her once I find out more.

I got hooked up with my family on Sunday afternoon. An older couple with12 grandchildren. Two live down the street and met up with us for some lunch. They little one, Emily, is almost one and the older girl, Melani, is 6. We played some bingo today after lunch but she called it loteria like lottery. We had some amazing noodle chicken soupy thing that tasted like gormet top ramen with veggies. So good!

My week looks awfully packed with some incredible trips (like the one to the midwifery in a rural village and the one to the largest market in Central America) and a lot of studying. Looks like I´m going to be learning a lot here especially regarding the social issues facing the Guatemaltecas. It´s so good to be around people passionate about learning more than just the language but the culture as well.
Here´s a picture from one of the streets here in Xela. We were looking for a used book store but we found a good photo op.

Here´s a graffiti stencil from one of the polictal patries running here in Guate. I don´t think this is the good one but I should find out.

I can´t figure out how to arrange my photos so here´s a cool building and my bedroom. oh and Erin finally got here too... los tres amigas!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I´m here.
After a gruelling long day of traveling, I´ve finally made it here. I made friends with the woman travelling with me on the bus so she gave me a ride to the school. By made friends, I mean she talked a lot while I smilled and nodded my head. She told me all about her kids, husband going in for surgery, friends she has in Boston, and how to make dulces. It was good practice for me as I listened to her speak with an accent different than I´m used to. When I finally arrived at the school it was pitch black and looked like we were in a dark sketchy alley. Turns out, all the streets in Xela look dark and sketchy and like alleys at night. They aren´t, but they look it.

Ruth and I spent the day walking around Xela today. Breakfast at a small cafe over looking the Central Park then off to but some probiotic yogurt and a cell phone. No trip is complete without a cell phone.

So far it looks like our weeks will be filled with lots of viajes and mercados, trips and shopping. I´m also looking forward to some good eats. That´s it for now. Ruth is kinda blogging for the both of us so check out her blog for some good pics.

Also... mom I want you to know that we´re talking to eachother in spanish about 75% of the time. It´ll get better once we´re not so frustrated looking for the right words and know more vocab. Love you all... adios

Friday, July 11, 2008

ahh Mexico City

After a three hour flight, I arrived in Mexico City. I slept next to a limo driver from Oakland. He claims to have driven around "50 cents." It was hard not to laugh at that. I think I missed the dinner they served. I figured sleep was more mportant. After my 7 hour layover here, I still have a two hour flight to Guatemala City 4 hour bus ride. Long day ahead of me with only 3ish hours of sleep.

On a positive note, my backpack is breaking. I bought one of those travel pillows that you wear around your neck but it´s super bulky. I had it in my backpack for a while until it started ripping my zipper at the seams. Whoops. It´s still dark outside here (6am) so I don´t think I´ll be leaving to find a mochilla but hopefully can find one here in this ginormous airport. If not I may be pressed to buy a Nacho Libre wrestling mask and use it as a patch. They have enough here to sew a whole new backpack and I have the time to do it... we´ll see what happens.

By the way, while I´ve been at this internet cafe, I´ve heard almost every 90´s blockbuster hit theme song. For example, Don´t Wanna Miss a Thang by Aerosmith, Celine Dions Titanic theme song, ... that´s enough for me. The best part is that of the five people, including me, in here, four of them are singing along. Can you guess who isn´t?

Okay. I´m all done. I should go look for a backpack so all of my belongings don´t spontaneously drop onto the floor...which would be hilarious. Now Sweet Child of Mine is on so I might have to stay a bit longer.