Monday, August 20, 2007

Guatemala #10

My friend Pablo (my landlady's grandson) asked me the other day: "What does Guatemala have that the U.S. doesn't have?" I thought it was a very interesting question, and even more interesting was thinking of answers. Here's a sample of the list we came up with.

-Volcanos (or at least not many outside of Hawaii)
-Tortillas (tortillas in the US are not the same)
-lots of different kinds of birds
-some kinds of fruit
-some kinds of vegetables
-cheap public transportation
-open-air markets
-a large percentage of the population comprised of indigenous people
-huge stone ruins from previous civilizations
-traditional Guatemalan marimba music
-cloud forests
-colorful, handmade woven cloth
-gringo tourists
-black beans, in three styles (enteros, colados y volteados)
-pastel de tres leches (3 milks cake)
-upside down question and exclamation marks (¿¡)
-Pollo Campero (a chain of fried chicken restaurants...I was later corrected on this as Pollo Campero has recently opened restaurants in some southern US states, as well as Indonesia, and possibly China)

That's a start...feel free to add to the list if you've been to Guatemala.

Volcan Tajumulco, San Marcos Guatemala

I liked his question because people are always talking about what the U.S. has and what "developing countries" don't have, but Pablo's question takes it from another angle!

Snake in a hollow tree, Costa Rica

This post is taking a lot of different turns, so, I hope you can keep up. My friend Ruth asked me in a letter what people call me here. It's kind of a funny story, so I think I'll share it. At first I began introducing myself as Beth. However, the way that went was,

Person- What's your name?
Me- Beth
Person- Huh?
Me- Beth
Person- (hesitatingly) Bet?
Me- Yes, Bet.

(In Spanish, the "th" sound doesn't exist:)

Then, because diminutives are the rule rather than the exception, and because Bet, isn't really a name on it's own, everyone began calling me Betty. I might have gotten used to hearing that, but I couldn't bring myself to introduce myself as Betty. It just wouldn't come out. Especially not with my last name, too, Betty Peachey. So, at the end of my first week here, I decided to go with my middle name, Anne, and become Ana. Everyone I had met the first week became very confused, but it all got sorted out, kind of. At the moment, some people call me Ana, others Anita or Ani (using diminutives), still others, maybe one or two hang on to Betty, and some people put the two together to make AnaBeth (pronounced AnaBet). I decided that out of all of those, I like AnaBeth the most. So, now I introduce myself as AnaBeth. This has produced a new confusion because on official documents, my name is Beth Anne. So now, the question is, why do we call you AnaBeth, if your name is Beth Anne? Unfortunately my only answer is that I have some inexplicable bias against the name Betty. So, that is the story of my name. A good strategy is to try not to confuse people. Don't do it like I did!

Volcan de Agua, photo taken by Melissa Engle, MCC photographer

How am I? I was telling my parents the other evening that I'm both feeling better than I have the whole time I've been here (more comfortable with language, life in general, logistics, culture, the churches, work, etc.) and feeling more homesick than I have the whole time I've been here....all at the same time! It makes for an interesting combination. So, really I'm doing great, but I just get these pangs of homesickness for funny things like pickles, or the season of summer as it is in Pennsylvania, and of course family and friends.

I'll try to outline a bit of what we've been doing so far, in the past 6 months that I've really been working, as opposed to just studying Spanish. I am somewhat nervous about writing about this, because I want to communicate it as it is, and not give false impressions. Almost all of MCC's workers are placed with local organizations. So, in general MCC doesn't create it's own projects, but supports local organizations with service workers, capacity building and economic support. I'm working with the local Mennonite church conference. We've started a school of music, using as a base the 9 Mennonite churches, and the hope is to add other arts, sports, and skills in years to come. But those are long term goals. Right now we're still trying to figure out how to best do what we've got, which is Saturday music classes at two of the 9 churches.

The classes are group classes, in the areas of singing/choir, keyboard, guitar, music theory (learning to read music) and in one of the locations, a special class for young children. I've had a fun, and somewhat frustrating time figuring out how to be a good teacher in Spanish, and in a different cultural context. By now, I'm definitely on my way, which is a lot closer than I was at first! I'm teaching keyboard, to about 45 students (thankfully, not all at one time!) whose ages span from 9 to 65 years old. The students can choose between studying guitar or keyboard, and then also have to take the singing and music theory classes. There are also several who chose only to study singing and theory.

Children's recorder class, in Zone 11

What I've been most excited about recently, is realizing the diversity in ages, walks of life and gender that exists among the students. There are kids, adolescents, youth, young adults, middle aged and older adults, and in each age and instrument group, a good mix of men and women.

So, that's a bit of a taste. We've got many challenges ahead; more activities, concerts with the students, improving the program of study, trying to begin the process of sustainability, both economic and in the sense that people are committed to the project, and willing to make it continue, planning next year, etc. But, for the meanwhile, things have calmed down a bit to a nice routine, which is a welcome change from the hectic beginning of planning, implementing the plan, and the first two months of classes, with little experience to guide us!

Woven wall hanging, Chichicastenango


Megan Highfill said...

Okay, I would just like the clarify, that our sophomore year, I worked my butt off to make a pastel de tres leches "just like [Kristhyan's] mama did in Venezuela". So we do have them here. In fact, I've made one in the last month. So there!

I miss you, Beth...and you'll always be Bethy to me, though I really like AnaBet.

love always,

AAGlenn said...

Love the question you were asked.
And I love the list that resulted. We need to think about what is great about each place we are, each day.
Hugs and peace, Alice Ann

Alan & Beth Claassen Thrush said...

Great post, Ani/Beth. Thanks for sharing a diversity of thoughts. I would love to be able to participate in one of your classes! Keep up the good work.

Alan & Beth Claassen Thrush said...

That´s from me, Eli/Beth :)