Saturday, October 17, 2009

it's been a month since a post.. and a little over 5 months here in Guatemala!

Helllllo all wonderful family members and friends!! I hope that you all are doing splendid in the US!!! It’s been quite a while since we’ve connected.. my apologies, I really don’t have access to internet tooo often since it’s not in my site. I thought I’d write this one on my own without internet right now so I can take my time and talk to all you all and get all my thoughts so when I get to internet.. bam!! Here’s a post!! Soo it’s been a while. What’s been going on with everyone? I wish I could hear all your stories!! Well I guess that’s for Christmas time, wooo!!

Soo let’s see, what’s been going on here? Lots and lots of stuff.. I’ve been working a lot.. I’ve continued for the past few weeks with classes in all of my schools! Soo working with about 12 classes a week! I’ve done a couple communication charlas about how to give an assertive message and they all presented their assertive message in a role play in front of the class! And to reach that level of assertive messages, we had had 3 previous weeks about targeting our behavior—what is attacking and what is avoiding and trying to find the middle ground of assertiveness.

We also played a self esteem game and wrote nice things on the back of each other’s backs and then we all present what our card says, “Yo soy Sarah and y yo soy amable, una Buena persona, dulce…” and each person goes in front of the class and presents themselves.. they really liked it! Then I hold a discussion with them with questions like, “what happened here?” “how does this activity make you feel?” “what did you learn?” and “what do you want to do now with the information you learned?” “How does this relate to your future?” and these types of open-ended conversations I have at the end of every charla (presentation) I give, because the kids can carry the conversation and discussion in any direction and it’s really good to hear them thinking critically about these types of activities because in reality, they don’t do activities like this in their classes, so it’s new and different and fun for them! Some of the kids put mean stuff on some of the cards, even after I told them not too, so we talked about that too—how negativity affects our self-esteem and our future visions. So all good stuff there even within the negative.

Let’s see, in another few of my classes we played a profession guessing game in groups. There were like 7 people in a group, so there’s like 4 groups in the class—and they have to write as many professions as they can think of and whoever guesses the most gets points. Then people from the groups act out the profession without words and the other classmates gotta guess what the profession is and then those groups get points that guess right.. they loooved that one! This game was with the tercero basicos (basically 8th graders), because it gets them thinking about professions, because a lot of kids in all reality drop out of school here after the 8th grade. So we talked about the importance about continuing in school and how there are a lot of opportunities if they want to continue in high school and the university. I know that I don’t these kids very well yet but I really believe that I can be a positive role model for them and I feel like all the time we are affecting people without knowing it, and better yet, when we realize it, we can focus our energies to asking questions and inspiring others so they can positively affect their own lives. I really believe in this and I really believe in inspiring these youth to create a vision for their future and a vision for their present lives as well. And I know they inspire me all the time, and they will continue to do that for me, too. Anyways, then I asked them to take this personality test that links to professional choices that mesh well with their personalities, so I hope that some of them take it and come back with some results to discuss next week!

Let’s seeeee, we also played a survival game in a few of my classes—where they split up in groups and then we read a story that we are deserted from a plane crash. We have 15 items and each group has to order these 15 items from most important to least importance within their groups. And then some groups presented their order in front of the class and then we read the expert survival rating of these 15 items. Then we talk in a discussion with the questions I explained above. And instead of self-esteem and education themes for the last two I just discussed with you- this conversation was based around working in groups and how that relates to our future and what’s easy and what’s difficult working in groups. And then I’m going to follow-up next week in this class with defining “group” with them, tips on how to work in groups, the importance of listening to others and hearing the opinions of others- all of which they will come up with them in the flow of the discussion. Because really rarely in my classes do I say, this is this, that is that, this is how it is.. I rarely take the role of speaking a lot- i think it is more empowering for them to respond to my questions and then I repeat what they say and that can bring me to ask another question and lead the discussion in whatever way it goes. I like those kinds of discussion because I think it is more powerful and meaningful for them to talk more than me, because rarely in class do they have critical thinking discussions like this. I’m getting better at it every class- it’s still difficult at times to understand what they are saying in Spanish, but the kids help me understand it in other ways most of the time. And I learn new words and expressions that way, so that’s cool! So, I’m excited about carrying this on next week! School’s almost over in the next couple weeks- they have their exams, so I really probably only have two more full weeks in the schools with all my students.

Oh yeah, in two of my classes with worked two weeks on making community maps in groups. So there were different groups split up of groups of girls and groups of boys. They drew up a map of El Chol, with all the major landmarks- churches, buildings, schools, futbol fields, streets, police station… and then wrote symbols for places they like the most/most important in their community, places they frequent the most, places they do not like and places that they would like to improve upon. Most of the kids said they did not like the cantinas in town, or bars with usually drunk men. Some also didn’t like the police station and the municipal and they wished to make those places better. I think that in terms of working with them in the Municipal, we have a little library there- it’s got books, a lot of them are super old, and they are not organized or anything. There is one desk for kids to work on and two couches. The University here worked on a project for the library and got 10 computers donated with cool computer encyclopedia on it. Since the kids showed interest in bettering the Muni—one key way to do that is to expand the library- maybe have study time/homework help/story time/poetry sessions/computer classes for research or how to use the computer programs, world discovery classes.. getting more books, getting more desks and shelves. So there is a major resource of space and potential in this library and I definitely going to work at it during the summer months, because it could be an incredibly more effective space for working in groups, for research, for individual study, for hanging out with friends, a place to go when you’re not in school, and other things, limitless possibilities. Better yet, I want to work with some youth this summer on these types of library projects. And I’m already a part of the Library Committee with 5 other community members, so I got an in! anyways, so I’m really excited about this project for the summer months and for the rest of my time here, too!

Anyways, so that’s about my schools- some themes and classes that we’ve been working on. Next week, I’ve planned 3 more charlas (presentations)—about leadership and role models—one more in depth about listening and communication—and another one about defining personal qualities that we like within our selves, analyzing our strengths, interests, skills and weaknesses and how we can improve on these weaknesses and reinforce our strengths. So next week will be filled with classes in all my schools too!

Sooo, yeah, that’s a lot about my work in the schools. That is one major part of my job here, right? Well the other parts been going well too—accumulating to my community of 2,000 people! That’s been going smoothly for the most part. A couple of nights of the week, I have coffee and eat dinner with different families, getting to know parents and kids and talking about everything under the sun (of course under the somewhat limiting knowledge of Spanish sun)… but that’s going really well, too, though honestly. I’m amazed at times that I can actually speak Spanish! It’s like I’ve slipped into a whole other dimension of communication, meaning, and thought, because language itself as a concept embodies all these elements—of different ways to interact and greet each other in this language, different connotations and use of words and connotations of them, and then thought in terms of how to think about how to say something- just the different tenses of this language symbolize and relate to the meanings of how they see and interpret the world. It’s really cool that I’ve slipped into this and I’m just going to keep going further as I keep getting better, I hope!

And my soccer teams been doing well!! We’ve been playing every Sunday except for this one because we we are taking a rest. But I scored my first goal, I think in my life!, two Sundays ago, that was sooo cool!! It was a great pass to me from one of the other girls, and bam! Right in! soo cool! We still lost, but that’s not the point of playing anyways, right? And we lost last week, but then again, that’s not the point.. but that’s what all losers say, huh? Haha. No, but really it’s just so much fun to play with them, pass, work together, cheer each other on.. and I’m part of a team! And so are they! Woo!

Let’s see, so that’s a big wrap up about what’s going on around here. There’s been a few activities here and there since the big independence day—that was crazy! I went on 4 trips with schools, a zoo, 2 times to a mini waterpark and another trip to another water park! Maaaan, that was fun!! Then we ran ran ran with the torch to the center of town until my legs literally felt like they are going to fall off.. I was kind of miserable, I’m not gonna lie. I really kind of despise running. But literally really fun to be with all the kids and parents and celebrating this day and their school’s involvement!!! That night before the 15th, we came in running with the torch at 11 p.m.. lots of people in town we waiting for us- cheering us on and throwing fireworks. Then there was a 7 piece band that was playing too until 2 a.m.!! Que alegre! (How delightful!) Then for the 15th, there were dances and gymnasticas (when the kids dance around to music and then do tricks like cheerleaders- but its boys and girls)- ohh man it was a hot day. I ate lunch after the Independence Day activities and then went to these natural cold pools called Aguas Calientes with a director of one of my schools, Seno Evelyn, and her husband and three kids- we swam and ate salsa and crackers. It was fuuuun, I did a lot of swimming that week! And a lot of hanging out with members of the community!
I’m going on another trip with one of my middle schools to Lake Atitlan.. which is a huge lake in the center of the country where a lot of tourists go because apparently its gorrrrgeous. Its bluue and its surrounded by volcanoes! Hey if YOU come, we can go there, too!!! Yyyeahh!! So I’m going on a trip with them there next week to celebrate the end of the school year! We’re staying overnight in a hotel for one night all together! And we are also going to be taking a big boat out on the lake!

I’m really happy that in my town there’s a lot of out of school activities- for such a small town- they LOVE to celebrate! I love that- it’s a really celebrating culture for all the holidays, there’s lots of cultural presentations and dances. There was a fundraiser dance at 10 a.m. in one of my middle schools last week! We danced for a couple hours- I’m like, I can get into this- dancing at all hours of the day! Usually these kinds of things are at night, but sometimes, here, they just gotta happen before lunch! One of the directors of the school, a really wonderful and soo well involved woman in the community, Seno Evelyn, she was teaching me some of the Spanish dancing moves to different types of music with different beats. That was cool because I don’t want to be the fool that is the only one dancing completely different than everyone else when I think I’m doing a greeeat job dancing. Mmhmm. Soo, yeah, all good stuff happening- the music here is fun- I’m gonna bring some back to listen to with you guys- there’s a lot of different kinds, too. They are a big music culture, well I guess all cultures are, but they are also very visual too- very artistic, too! I’m so amazed at how talented some of my youth are in drawing and art.. it’s amazing. Another great potential there in how we can tap into their art talents as a project. We’ll see, all these things will come together, I know.
Oh yeah, I would like to share one of the poems that one of my students wrote because I have read it about a million times and every time it captures me intensely because it is just so incredibly sad and real and so well-written. First in Spanish, then in English. *This homework was to write an acrostic (words or sentences starting with each letter of your name.)
Her name is Ingrid and this is her talented work:

Inolvidable es mi dia cuando
No te puedo ver,
Grito tu nombre y el silencio se
Rompe, que
Dia cuando no estas a mi lado.

Unforgettable is my day when
I cannot see you
I scream your name and the silence
Breaks itself, that
Ungrateful day when you are not at my side.

Isn’t it powerful? I talked to her earlier this morning and expressed my adoration and impressiveness of her poem- and humbly she did not say much to me- only a polite thank you. I told her I’m excited to read more work like this from her next year and I told her to continue to succeed in this form of expression of writing her thoughts in poetry. She seemed slightly flattered. She is so sweet. What do you think of when you read this poem? We all may have our different ideas. I was incredibly struck by it, and still am every time I read it. It is so honest. I just wanted to share this with you.

Yesterday in all of my 6 classes for the day, we talked about our strengths, interests and weaknesses- about reinforcing our strengths- about using our interests to build a career- and thinking about how we are going to improve upon our weaknesses. Then each student made a “Coat of Arms” and inside the Coat of Arms, there are 5 questions: What talent do I have? What activity do I like best? What is a characteristic about my personality that I like best? Who is my mentor? (and they did not know what was a mentor so we talked about who is a mentor and what the role of a mentor is in the lives of others) and the last question was, Where do I see myself in 5 years? (in this question, they all put they want to study and have a degree- so when walking around and talking with the students individually I asked them, “well what do you want to study? If they did not have an answer, what are your interests? Well then, there are careers in this, that and the other. They seemed happy that I was taking the time to ask them and you could tell they are nervous and uncertain about their futures because they laughed when I told them that they could actually go to the university and they COULD actually do what they dream. They smiled.

I really felt in this exercise I connected with some of the kids—I wish I could take the time in every class like this one to talk to the kids individually, but the reality is that I cannot do that. So at least I was able to do time with the majority of the students, and I gave my all to connect with them about their ideas and visions for the future and gave my all to encourage them to follow these visions. It’s more complicated than it seems though because things happen like, parents move to the US, they get pregnant, their girlfriend gets pregnant, they have to take care of their brothers/sisters, they have to take care of their parents or grandparents, their parents get sick and cannot take care of them, their parents do not believe in education, it costs too much money to afford, they are expected to be at home with the family or expected to start their own family, the parents do not want the kids to continue because it’s a pride thing and education is sometimes threatening to tradition—there’s a million and one reasons why they would not be able to continue with school. And we are going to be learning about life skills such as good communication, self-esteem, developing professionalism, sexual health, how to make good decisions, establishing goals and personal values and finding opportunities and outlets in education- and hopefully with the support of class next year- some of these kids can use these skills to support their thrive towards their education despite possible roadblocks.

And I know how much the parents a huge part in the lives of these youth- in all reality- the parents make most of the decisions about their future- so the youth are not empowered to making their own decisions. And that is why next year I want to start off the school year by holding a Parents’ Night in each of my four schools. So that’s four Parents’ Nights- I’ll bring refreshment and snacks. And I will invite all the parents, in a typed-letter explaining what parents’ night is and why they should come! I don’t know how many parents will actually come because parental involvement in school is sadly extremely limited- but it would be an excellent way to greet as many parents as I could- have them know me- and talk about what we are going to be working on in my life skills class with their youth. I think I’m definitely going to plan this for the following school year in January.

And then also this summer I want to continue planning my idea for a Book of my Life for not only 8th graders (which has already been created), but also for 6th and 7th graders and also for my high school students (because I also work at two high schools!). This Book of my Life will be an investigation of the history of this kid and their childhood, the history of their parents and the history of their grandparents- what the town was like, what kind of work they did, how they felt. All these elements to the book are completed through a series of conversations and interviews with members of the family. It is a year long project and the youth have homework involving research and interviews every week in class. I am constantly reminded of how important this is when I think about how much of a storytelling culture this is- and how much over the years because of their illiteracy and also their focus on verbal storytelling, they do not have documents of their family or documents of their history or anything- and how cool to begin through the eyes of a youth- and how cool if the youth can feel some type of security and knowledge of who they are through having written done where they came from. And how cool if the youth could share with their parents what their grandparents have told them. And how cool if this could open up age barriers and open up windows for communication between generations. I just think it could be such a neat project to do with all my students in my 4 schools (I’m going to have almost 500 students next year!!! Woah, that’s a lot of students and lots of Books of my Life to read!!!) But I’m here to work hard and I feel this and I know it. And I have been working hard and I will continue to work harder because that is exactly why I am here. I have a fantastic job, I really do love it!

And I try to constantly remember how lucky and grateful I am to have the opportunity and privilege to leave my home country and learn a new language and work and live in a new community. This is something so special and unique and for it I owe great consideration and thanks-- the opportunity to travel around the world and the sad fact is that most of the places and people that we visit in the developing world could hardly ever realistically travel from their home town to visit where we are from or even to visit other places in their home country. This is the sad fact of the great inequality in this world- an injustice of opportunity and wealth- and injustice of so many more things as well. It seriously kills me to hear the stories how these peoples’ family members have travelled for a month through the desert of Mexico to get to the US- how some of them have not had food for days and some starved to death and some were shot and killed by the police and some they have no idea what happened to them because they have not heard from them since they left- imagine a family member disappearing and never knowing where they are, what happened and if they will ever come back, or if you will ever know what happened to them at all. This kills me because we should not have to risk our lives for our family in this way- we should not have to endure such pain and torment to ensure better futures for ourselves and our loved ones- we should not have to suffer in these ways- it just seems so unfair to me- it seems so incredibly unjust and wrong and completely sad.

It’s absolutely horrible to think about because we are all humans- we all share the same sense of feeling and emotion- we all share the same love for our family- we all share the same pain in life no matter whose side we’re on. Humans share much more than we don’t. We share much more than we think or acknowledge because we have been fighting against one another for so long that we forget our common humanity- we forget about what unites us as individuals because we are so focused on what tears us apart- and what separates us within this world. I really believe our strength is in our ability to acknowledge our common ground always- our common vision and our common struggles- our commonality in all- between peoples, between cultures, between countries. And not to forget our differences too, because these differences also are incredibly important and real- but the importance and significance of our communion as humans and peoples, first and foremost, triumphs these differences because our significance as one human race is more powerful than the historical and socialized differences that have come thereafter.

There is some food for thought for myself and maybe for you all too- wow. Sorry sometimes I can really go in a whirlwind of thought, in all honesty. Sometimes I do not know how to stop. Anyways- I’m going to get going because I have a date to drink coffee and chat with this woman, Dona Mari, and then I’m going to a youth group dinner at a evangelical church in my town.
I wish you all the best today and every day- with all the happiness, contentment, peace, sense of fulfillment, health and love that you can imagine. I love you all very much, and I really do appreciate whole-heartedly the fact that you take the time to read my words about my thoughts and my life here. This type of sharing, though somewhat distant, is really something beautiful. Thank you always and I look forward to seeing most of your during Christmas time! I love you all with all my heart and take care of yourselves and others always. I love you!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sarah,
    It is so much fun to read your blog and I feel that I am there with you.
    Recently I got daisies which as you know Kayte and you both love! With the colors of the daisies I thought that you were here, it is a nice, cozy feeling. Look forward to seeing you at Christmas.... love,hugs and Kisses, Mom