Monday, March 30, 2009

Library on the Web

March 30, 2009

I've taught the staff at my library how to blog. The link to Biblioteca Nuevo Amanecer's new page is available below, or permanently on the side bar at the right. Check out their page if you get the chance. (Even if you don't speak spanish!)

Biblioteca Nuevo Amanecer

Feria Part 1

Videos on Feria as promised and ahead of schedule (I'm feeling good about the GRE). Hope you enjoy.

Feria Part 2

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Visits to Mini Library Communities

March 24, 2009

Today Hugo and I hired a driver of a four-wheel drive truck (many thanks to the Muni for paying!) to take us out to the three of the communities that are participating in the mini-libraries project: Los Rojas, La Vega el Cerro and Buena Vista el Cerro. It was a bit of an ambitious trip, but we managed to visit all three schools and get back to the center by 2 pm.

These schools, as previously mentioned, are extremely isolated. I had hiked to Los Rojas and Buena Vista in the past, and it takes 1 ½ and 2 ½ hours respectively to reach each one on foot. In car it takes about 45 minutes as the roads are horrible. Hugo made fun of me because I was so terrified driving down into Los Rojas, but I think anyone who was not accustomed to Guatemalan rural roads would be, and even the majority that are. A steep down hill road, which could hardly be considered a road at all, complete with sharp turns and drop offs the equivalent of cliffs… not something you want to be on if your brakes give out. La Vega is even further out, and takes a good hour and 15 minutes to reach it in car. I would guess at least three hours on foot.

Our purpose was to meet with the parents of the community and discuss their responsibilities for the completion of the project. Many of them are already way ahead of us, as two of the schools had their bookshelves completed to show us upon our arrival. It was also an opportunity for them to ask us questions about the project. I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was, when I learned that through this project many of the community members of La Vega learned for the first time what a library is. The education level in these communities is very low, so it is nice to see the parents showing such an interest. You could tell from the quality of the bookshelf that the parents made in La Vega that it is something very important to them. These communities are some of the poorest in Guatemala, which makes them some of the poorest in the entire world.

We also took the opportunity to bring out some of the books that Child Aid had donated to give the communities an idea of what type of books they will be receiving in April. As things have been very busy the last three weeks with Feria, and Semana Santa is following in less than two weeks (both of these events mean a week off of school for students), we are holding off on the purchase of the remaining books until mid-April. The communities will be officially receiving their “mini-libraries” around April 22nd.

Tomorrow (with luck) we will visit the remaining schools of El Durazno, Quiquibaj and El Cebollin, before heading over to the neighboring municipality of Huitan to celebrate the opening of their community library. This means that we have to leave the center by no later that 7 am, and will hopefully be back by 5 pm.

Feria 2009

March 23, 2009

Feria has officially ended. As a recap from last year, Feria is ostensibly a one week celebration of the town’s patron saint, but it normally runs closer to two or three and is more of an excuse for the town to let loose and go crazy. Vendors come in from all over the country selling food, games and cheap plastic toys, the town elects Señorita Flor de La Feria (Miss Flower of the Fair) among a billion other various señoritas, parades run daily, a giant speeding Ferris wheel is propped up on wooden blocks, neighboring municipalities arrive to compete in soccer and basketball tournaments, drinking begins in earnest, dances run into the wee hours of the night (things stay open past dark), fireworks take over, and a few religious traditions occur (like Jesus being carried down my street). Needless to say, it’s kind of nice to have the tranquility of a sleepy rural Guatemalan town back.

I did partake (solely for your benefit of course), in almost every greasy delicious feria food offered, mainly to put in the video I am making of the whole shebang. It’s unlikely I will have this ready however, until after Easter, because I’m heading down to Guatemala City next week to take the GRE, and then hiking through the jungle of Petén for 5 days to the Mayan ruins of Mirador. However, keep a look out for it in the upcoming weeks.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


March 12, 2009

I’m sure in my last two years of blog posts, that I have mentioned the Guatemalans’ love of loud noise somewhere. Its amazing the level of sound they can tolerate, and that there aren’t more deaf elderly. I just left the election of Señorita Flor de La Feria and am now suffering from a major migraine. To drive the point home, please check out the speaker set they deemed necessary for use in a regular sized gym. I was vibrating the entire event, and not as a result of my cell phone. Wouldn’t want the neighboring towns to miss out. I don’t doubt they could hear it… sound travels better here, across valleys to neighboring ridges, and forget sound barriers: no insulation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Niña Parvulos

March 10, 2009

Feria started off with a bang today, with the election of Niña Parvulos and Niña Bilingüe. I was lucky enough to be selected to judge this event which seems to contradict the very conservative Guatemalan culture, although it is very deeply ingrained here. If you thought the US was the only country in the world where mothers dressed their four year-olds up in skimpy clothing and paraded them around like dolls for the world to see, you thought wrong. The girls competed in the categories of Traje Típico (Mayan Dress), Talent (the only talents that appeared were dance and some type of activity with a hula-hoop) and Ballroom Dress. At the end of the day, a six year-old named Marleny, walked away with the main title. Before the end of feria the town will elect the following: Niña Estudiantil, Flor de la Feria, Señorita Deportes, Señorita Magisterio, Señorita Deportes Magisterio, and Hija del Pueblo Mam. Woohoo for beauty contests!


March 9, 2009

The other day I witnessed a disturbing sight. A bola – possibly our one and only – was lying prostrate in the middle of the street in our main square at 11 on a week day. (For all those who don’t speak Guatemalan: bola is the female version of bolo, which means drunk).

This could be deemed disturbing for several reasons:

Someone got so drunk that they passed out in the town square in the middle of the day.
Alcoholism runs rampant here, and there is little infrastructure to deal with it. Most people, when they reach the level of passing out, are abandoned by their equally inebriated drinking buddies, and the powers that be (ie la policia or, in this case, our one and only “traffic cop”) are loath to deal with the situation. Left to their own devices, they crash wherever they are able to take their last step, occasionally piss themselves, and generally lose their cowboy hat to the wind or trouble-making children. Additionally, women technically don’t drink, so it is likely, this woman didn’t have a drinking buddy to cuidarla from the get go.

Could she get hit by a car?
This, while possible, was unlikely. Being that we’re not exactly a raging metropolis, traffic is slow at best. Always putting safety first, our “traffic cop” or some other authoritative figure had taken it upon themselves to place two orange cones around her. Lastly, she was kind of hard to miss; besides being surrounded by the two traffic cones, everyone within a two block radius was staring at her. Women rarely drink (in public), and it is even rarer that one would drink so much by mid-day that this would occur. Hence: a huge spectacle.

Why is no one taking it upon themselves to move her?
This I cannot answer. I was not readily moved to take up the call either. My site mate and I discussed the matter, and decided that two gringas moving her out of the center of the road would only draw more attention to her, which is the last thing she needed. Whether this was to make ourselves feel better for not moving her, or was really in her best interest, is up to debate.

This does not inspire a great lasting first impression of the town.
A Trainee was visiting my site mate to get a better idea of what her life would be like once she swears in as an official volunteer in a couple of weeks. Bolos don’t create a great impression, but bolas even less so because they are so rare. Also, because no one was moving her, it didn’t make the people of the town seem very considerate.

I could go on, but I will try to prevent this blog post from becoming too long.

I am sorry to admit, the only living creature with any sort of compassion was a chucho (stray dog), who lay down to cuddle and support her in her moment of shame. (I apologize to anyone who would have loved a picture of this, but it just didn’t seem appropriate).

I feel incredibly sorry for this woman, who is the known bola in our town, and whose social status can sink no lower. It is frustrating that there is no organization or person who can provide her with the support she needs to overcome her alcoholism. It is frustrating that her children are being left without a mother or family to raise them. It is frustrating that people seemed to view the situation with humor rather than with any form of empathy.

She was finally moved on to the steps of the municipal building more than an hour later, by the aforementioned “traffic cop” and one of several bystanders, when a delivery truck needed to pass. I saw her again the next day, stumbling around, clearly drunk again, possibly unaware of her humiliation the day before and without hope or the likelihood of overcoming her addiction.