Three Niñas - Corazon Maya

Three Niñas - Corazon Maya
Lupita, Magdalena and Clarita

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to Read this Blog / About Me

Note (Feb7, 2010): I am presently updating this blog, with additional entries for the other schools at which I have studied during May 2009, and Dec 2009- Feb 2010. I hope to have the updates done by the end of Feb 2010. In the meantime, if you have questions, feel free to email me at timtower1@yahoo.com

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How to read this blog
Like most blogs, the most recent entry is shown first. So it can be a little confusing. To start at the beginning, click the horizontal black arrow next to the lowest month listed in the left pane
(November 2008), to display that month's blog entries. Then select the bottom entry- "The blogging begins - Nov2008".

If you wish to read only about the three schools at which I studied, first click on the blog chapter near the top, ("Comparison...").
(Chapter under revision). For comments on and photos of each school, see  the individual chapters with the titles of each school.

To enlarge a photo, double click it. Some are larger than others. After a while I started shrinking the photos because they took so long to upload to Blogger. The downside is that one cant blow up these photos as much.

About Me
I am a 60 year old electrical engineer (born 1950), who did not study Spanish at school. I was raised in South Africa, and have lived since 1980 in Seattle WA. My wife and I have been married since 1988, and we have a daughter who has just started college. I decided to learn Spanish in 2007, after joining a Habitat for Humanity trip to Honduras. Durante ese viaje, me di cuenta que es necesario hablar español si yo desearía aprender la cultura y las costumbres y conocer a la gente en Centroamérica, y quizás haga trabajo voluntario en el futuro. (During this trip, I realized that it is necessary to speak Spanish if I would like to learn the culture and customs, and meet the people of Central America, and perhaps do voluntary work in the future).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Help ! I am too old / too scared / not smart enough to learn Spanish

That's what I thought when Jessie, the leader of our Habitat for Humanity Group loaned me a beginner's Spanish book and CDs during a group meeting in Jan 2007. I had never studied Spanish before. But no one else wanted the book and CDs. We were heading out to Honduras for 2 weeks, so I thought, heck, what have I got to lose?

I started the Spanish course at home, and learnt some basic words, like necesitar and poder, and how to conjugate them. When we got to Honduras, I found that I could understand a little (but not much). I realized that learning a language takes work. So when we got back, I borrowed the Pimsleur Spanish CDs from the library and started listening to them while commuting to work, and while going for walks. These CDs start with the basics, and help you along. They are easy to listen to. Suddenly, learning Spanish became fun - a game.

Several months later, my wife Rita and I were discussing how to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, in December that year. We thought of Hawaii, or a cruise in the Caribbean. Then Rita said, why not spend our money in a poor country, where they really need the tourist dollars, and learn some more Spanish in the process? So we took a 3 week trip to Nicaragua, and had a wonderful time. Great people, few tourists, and what fun getting around using Pimsleur Spanish!

This blog details the next phase of my journey in Spanish - 7 schools and homestays in Guatemala  and 1 in Copan, Honduras. The trips have been fun, easy to organize, and inexpensive. I have met a lot of nice people, both foreigners and locals. For Costs, Weather, and Getting Around/ Safety, see separate chapters. (Under Revision).



Along the way, I met a number of single women ages 19 to 63, who were doing the same thing as I. They all said they felt safe traveling alone in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Some young men would whistle at them but nothing more. So I think anyone, male or female, can do this on his or her own. Perhaps one third of the students were over 50. Why not give it a go - even if only for 2 weeks? If you go in Nov/Dec, you can just show up and choose a school. There are so few students that the schools will make you feel like a VIP. I have heard that the summer months can be busy, in which case, you should consider a reservation. Contact the school directly, or book through websites such as Guatemala365.com. Go for it! It may be your best experience in a long while. And it will feel good helping poor Central Americans do something at which they excel - teaching and hosting visitors.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Costs - My Spanish Schools in Guatemala and Copan

Spanish Instruction
All schools offer Spanish instruction. One can study during the mornings and afternoons, for 2 to 5 hours, usually with one teacher per student (“1-on-1”). The most common is 4 hrs/day, 1-on-1. I have tried 5 hrs/day but found this to be too tiring. One needs several additional hours each day for review, practice and homework, in order to benefit from the lessons.

The costs of my Spanish classes (in 8 schools) mostly varied between $65/ week and $120/ week, for 5 days x 4 hrs, 1-on-1. Guacamaya, Copan, was the most expensive ($140/week – Dec2009). Of this, the teachers received between $30 (Pana, San Pedro) and $47 (Copan). This works out at $1.50 to $2.30/hr for the teacher. (Dec 2009 figures). At Guacamaya, Copan, my teacher received the smallest percentage of the fee ($47/$140 =34%) compared with $30/$65 = 46% at Corazon Maya. The overhead at all schools appeared to be similar, so it was not clear to me why some schools paid a smaller percentage to their teachers than others. Perhaps it was a case of paying what the market will bear.

Food and Accommodation
Most schools also offer optional homestays, which include accommodation with a local Guatemalan family in a private room, shared or private bathroom, and 3 meals/ day Mon-Sat. A few schools include meals on Sundays. Some schools offer accommodation only. There are cost savings to be had if one buys both instruction and homestay/accommodation from the same school. One may also choose to find one’s own accommodation and food.

During my studies at 8 schools, I have always chosen homestays with each school. The pluses have been the chance to speak more Spanish (since few families speak more than a few words of English), exposure to the local culture, the chance to make friends in the community, and excellent value for money. The minuses have been having to fit in with a family and their customs, and, at times, a certain lack of privacy. The food has varied a lot. Sometimes this has been basic, consisting of mainly beans and tortillas, with tea, bread and sometimes eggs. Sometimes one gets pancakes, fruit and vegetables. One may get honey, jam and even that luxury, PNB (two families). Overall, I have done fine with the food. I am a vegetarian so I have not been bothered by the relative scarcity of meat and chicken, which tends to be relatively expensive. A family may have more than one student, in which case one may need to reach an agreement to speak only Spanish at table, to get more Spanish practice, and out of courtesy to the family. There is competition for students amongst the families, so one may visit more than one before deciding. One is usually free to change families at any time, but usually one tries to do this during the weekends. (Once I changed during the week, as I simply didn't fit in). One needs to commit to a family only for a week at a time.

Overall Costs
Overall, my studies have cost me between $150 and $250 /week total, including 20 hrs/week of 1-on-1 Spanish lessons, homestays and misc expenses. Airfare and tips were extra. The cheapest studies (and the best value for me) were in San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, and the most expensive in Copan, Honduras, with Antigua, Panajachel and Quetzaltenango in between.

Tipping
Don’t forget to tip well - the schools and homestays are excellent value for money, and the people have so much less than we do. If satisfied, I tip teachers and families 20% of what they receive from the schools. I also tip other individuals in the schools if they provide good service.

Useful Links: Spanish Schools in Central America

I found these reviews useful:

123teachme - http://www.123teachme.com/language_schools/. This covers schools throughout Central America.


Survey of Spanish Schools in Guatemala - http://www.guatemala365.com/ (I reserved my stay at Probigua through this website. The web manager later emailed me for feedback on my experience there.


The Spanish Schools of Antigua Guatemala, by McCormick - http://www.geocities.com/guatemalanspanishschools/spanishschoolsantigua.html

Guatemala Spanish Schools - http://www.guatemalaweb.com/SpanishSchools.htm

Top 10 Spanish Schools for Waves, Wilderness and Buena Onda - http://thetravelersnotebook.com/top-10-lists/top-10-spanish-schools-for-waves-wilderness-and-buena-onda

Also look at the reviews in guidebooks, such as Lonely Planet (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua & El Salvador).

There are numerous other websites and blogs. Your research will be limited only by your available time!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Corazon Maya Spanish School - SanPedro - Dec 2009 to Feb 2010


The school is called Corazon Maya, which means "Mayan Heart". I studied  here for 2 weeks in December 2009 and for another 5 weeks in Jan 2010. For me, it is the nicest of the 8 schools at which I have studied so far in Guatemala and Honduras.
(0029) Corazon Maya is owned and run by the Navichoc family, and has room for 16 students (8 in the morning and 8 in the afternoon). In December there were only 4 students in total, but this increased to 12 in Jan 2010. During my stay, there have been students from the US, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, S. Korea and Belgium.

The property is narrow and long (about 50 ft by 600 ft), and stretches from the main (dirt) road down to the lake shore. The upper half is fenced and has the kitchen, outdoor communal area, office, PC/TV room and a main classroom (30x 12 ft, open on 2 sides). The latter is where we volunteers teach, where communal meals and meetings are held, and where we play table tennis.
 
Lower down, toward the lake, there are a family bedroom, the communal bathrooms and "pila" (for washing dishes and clothes), and 4 small cabanas or standalone bedrooms, one with 2 levels and a kitchen and two with private bathrooms. These rent for about $35 - $40 per week. Nearer the lake are 4 tiled pergolas, each 6 x 6 ft, with 3 windows and a small table, where each student sits with his/her teacher during Spanish Lessons. Here it is peaceful and relaxing, and one is not disturbed by other students. Classes are usually held from 0800 - 1200 or 1300 - 1700, with a half hour break. Students can also study alongside the lake, which is scenic and usually quiet. However, I prefer having a table and chairs while studying, and it is a little far to lug these to the lake (100 yards), so my teacher and I study inside the school grounds.
 


(0499) Two of the private pergolas, for studying. Very peaceful. Bird song is ever present in the garden. One can study in these pergolas, or at the lake, or anywhere else in the school property.



(0507) View of the lake from just below the school, looking SE. The active volcano Pacaya (near Guatemala City) is in the far distance. I usually sit out here in a chair most evenings, with  beer and my Ipod. Very relaxing (mostly). Sometimes they have water pumps going at the lake, but these are relatively quiet and canal phones tend to block out most of the noise. The standard Ipod earbuds may not work as well.








(0485) Another lake view in front of the school.









(0454) I am staying in this  Cabana on the school property, which is peaceful and has many pretty flowers and shrubs. It has a private bathroom, nice hot shower and a beautiful tiled floor.










(0455) View of 10,000 ft San Pedro  volcano from in front of my cabana.



(0460) Here I have a table and laptop set up in front of my cabana, ready for my Spanish class. There is a 120 V outlet on the porch, but one needs a 12 ft extension cable to reach it from the garden. Alternatively, one can study on the porch and the power supply cable will reach the outlet.





(0464) Here I am studying in front on my cabana with Mildred, one of my 4 teachers at the school. She has a degree in Marketing (Mercadotecnica) and is now studying psychology. She studies all day Saturdays at the local branch of the university.







(0598) Recently, since the school acquired wifi, my teacher (Micaela) and I have relocated to the main classroom, where I can use my laptop and wifi. (See picture, left). This has added much to my Spanish lessons, enabling us to look up the definitions of strange words, and to explore articles of interest in the Spanish version of Wikipedia. For example, recently I chose to read to my teacher a history (in Spanish) of Columbus’ four voyages to the Americas, using a book from the school’s library. Wikipedia provided detailed maps of the 4 voyages, which added much interest. I had not realized that it was only during his fourth and final voyage that Columbus reached the mainland, first landing at present day Honduras and later traveling down the coast to Panama. Another interesting addition provided by Wikipedia was pictures and details of Gutenberg’s invention, in 1449, of the printing press with movable type. I had to read a story about this in another Spanish book, and it was stimulating for both of us to use the internet to expand the details and photos. We then discussed how the subsequent dissemination of Bibles and other printed matter amongst the people gave birth to the Renaissance (el Renacimiento). We mused that perhaps it also led to Protestantism, since people could for the first time read the Bible themselves, and in this way realize that the sale of indulgences by the Catholic clergy was not Biblical. This thought led us to discuss religion and politics in the US, South Africa and Guatemala. Religion is a big thing in Central America, and is more central in people’s lives than in the US (in my opinion).


(0468) Marta busy in her kitchen. She also has a gas stove and a refrigerator. Tortillas are usually made on the wood fire. Making tortillas (the Spanish verb is "tortear") is harder than it looks. I battled to make mine round and stop them sticking to my hands. Making tortillas is almost exclusively a job done by women. We joked that men don't have the aptitude.

(0691) Mealtime with fellow students Jim and Lauren (medical students from New England), and Sheryl (missionary from Missouri). Norm, her husband is also studying here.















 (0502) The Pila where the dishes are washed.








(0462) Marta and Josepha, Chema's wife, shucking corn. I tried to help but soon developed a blister and had to quit. It is harder than it looks.







(0458) View of the lake from below the school, looking north.




Saturday, January 16, 2010

Guacamaya Spanish School, Copan - Dec2008 & Jan 2010

 Dec 2008 (my first of two visits there to study Spanish). See end of this chapter for my second visit (Jan 2010)

 This school was started about 12 years ago by a group of teachers from another school in Copan. It began in a rented facility near the square, and later moved to a house several blocks away. The business is owned and run by Enrique Carrillo. The atmosphere here is relaxed and tranquil, although this may be in part due to the fact that the school is only a third full. Enrique interviews the teachers and gives each one an exam up front. The school is professionally run, and has two PCs for student use. Internet in Copan varies between moderate and slow (often the latter), but at least it works.




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Maestras Yarely, Dunia, Nelly and Julia. Great ladies, always giving us students a hard time. Julia threatened to fine us every time we spoke English.
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Daisy, who takes care of all our food and drink needs, holding the house kitten. She has a great attitude.
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The school has several study areas inside and about 4 out back, which are quiet and relaxing, with flowers and shrubs. I have been studying there for 3 weeks, for 4 hours each morning (including a 30 min break). Many afternoons I have returned to do my homework and enjoy a quiet cup of tea out back. Often a dove shows up to add charm. There is also a puppy, with sharp teeth.
My teacher Yarelli is top-notch and clearly knows her stuff. She has a college degree in teaching, and has taught at the upscale Mayatan Bilingual School in Copan.





She has got me started on the Spanish Subjunctive, which has to have been designed by devious Spanish teachers to confuse wanna-be Spanish Students like me. For those who don’t know about this devious grammatical structure, it is used in a subordinate expression when the main expression uses a different subject (or an undefined one) and expresses doubt, emotion, or desire. But usually only if “que” joins the two expressions. In the subjunctive, the subordinate verb changes e.g. “I believe you are coming” is Creo que viene. But, “I don’t believe you are coming” changes to No creo que venga. (Venga is the present subjunctive of venir, to come). Now, in my opinion, both “I believe” and “I don’t believe” express doubt about the outcome. But in Spanish, not so. “I believe” is certain, hence no subjunctive, while “I don’t believe” expresses doubt, hence the subjunctive. This, by the way, is only Subjunctives 101. It gets a lot deeper. So, right now, my brain is going on strike and is saying it’s time to take a break for at least a month and to speak only English. I find myself walking down the street looking at the locals and wondering how come all this just comes naturally to them. They must feel so happy every day!
Guacamaya has just acquired a hot & cold water dispenses with unlimited instant coffee, creamer and tea. At break we get cookies. You have no idea how nice it is to jolt one’s brain with caffeine when it is weighed down with the subtleties of Spanish.
I have enjoyed the various communal activities at the school. Some have been during school time in the mornings, such as scrabble. What a gas trying to figure out words in Spanish with the letters which one has (7 at a time). Another time a group of three students and three teachers sat together and each wrote down a letter. Each of us had then to think of a verb, a noun, an adjective, a body part, and a food beginning with each letter chosen by the group. Another time we each had to think of two priorities for Barack Obama. Then we had to describe these and why we felt that way. All of this is Spanish of course (with the teachers coaxing us as we went along).
Another morning activity was to prepare a traditional Honduran lunch. We all had to buy one ingredient – mine was a can of coconut milk. Then we helped prepare and cook everything in the upstairs kitchen (where Enrique lives with his family and Mother).
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Dunia supervising the cooking.
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Several teachers invited their family members to the feast. They cooked special vegetables for me, a vegetarian. My teacher says that I am the only vegetarian she knows. They all seem rather impressed that I have enough energy to go on an hour long walk every morning before breakfast. Who knows, maybe my example will spawn a whole new vegetarian craze in Copan. (I am not holding my breath).

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Enjoying the lunch which we prepared.
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One afternoon activity was a 4 hour outing to the hot springs. These are in the mountains, about an hour’s drive away, along an awful road. I am sure this is impassable in the rainy season. There are two warm swimming pools, Jacuzzis (for an extra $10, which I declined), and an interesting hot and cold river. This is a challenge. The scalding water pours into the river upstream. The photo shows the gang of locals gathered around a warm spot, with steam rising on the right from the incoming hot spring. Every 5 minutes one of the older boys would boss a younger one into re-arranging the rocks to allow more or less cold water to enter upstream, thereby controlling the temperature... well, sort of. I found that a gush of hot water would come and one would have to beat a hasty retreat. I was the only gringo who joined the locals in the river. They thought I was a little strange. It was a relaxing evening, with beer and sodas available, albeit at a large markup.
Another afternoon outing was to the local butterfly and orchid houses. Both were built by an American naturalist who speaks fluent Spanish and who moved here from California about 15 years ago. He is amazingly capable. His young Spanish assistant gave us a tour of the butterfly house, in Spanish, with color cards to help us identify the butterflies. She was fun and clearly enjoyed her job, which can be contagious.



I loved the plants and butterflies and the serenity of the place. Later, the naturalist gave us a tour of the orchids. He showed us some that are found only in Honduras, including one that he discovered and which is named after him. He said there are 25,000 species of orchids world wide. Fascinating.






















Our last outing was a 3hr afternoon hike into the mountains with a local Mayan guide, Albert, and my buddy Helen from Seattle. Other students decided to pass on this outing - suddenly they all seemed to have a lot of homework. We climbed into the nearby hills to visit a village.


Albert was fun to talk to, and he kept us entertained along the way, perhaps to keep our minds off the steepness of the trail. After about 2 hrs we came to a small school in a clearing.
The Honduran kids have their summer holidays between Nov and Feb (opposite to the US) so we were surprised to find a bunch of kids playing outside the school. We investigated and found that the families were having a meeting to discuss plans.
The government pays for a teacher, a lady who lives in Copan and who makes the trip up and down to the school each day. We did not meet her, but I would have liked to have done so, if only to meet one super-fit lady!





I enjoyed my stay at Guacamaya School, and would recommend it to others. Likewise with the family of Elena Gonzalez. Copan is a quaint little town. It is different from Antigua. The Ruins and Mayan culture are the main attraction. Overall is is probably safer, but there is a lot less to do, and several of us became a little bored after 2 weeks. Also, I did not find it as peaceful as Antigua, and the weather was not as good. I will be posting a detailed comparison of the 3 schools and families later. I believe there are plenty of volunteer opportunities, and for those who prefer a small town, it could be the ticket.



Update - Jan 2010 (3 week stay in Copan, including 1 week of study at Guacamaya)

When I first studied at Guacamaya, in Dec 2008 (for 3 weeks), it was my third school. I rated it better then the two at which I had studied in Antigua, even though it was more expensive.

My second visit, in Jan 2010, was not as impressive. By then, I had studied at 5 other schools (in Panajachel, Xela, and San Pedro Lake Atitlan). I now rate Guacamaya in the middle. I consider my other 5 schools to be better value, and more enjoyable.

This time, I felt that Enrique, the director, wasn’t putting in as much effort as before. Perhaps he finds that enough students attend his schools these days so he doesn’t need to. Unlike most other schools, he didn’t provide tea (only coffee), and no snacks. His hot water dispenser no longer worked. I complained and he had this fixed. He also bought some tea bags, but these were used up by mid week, and although I asked, he couldn’t be bothered to replenish these. I ended up by bringing my own tea. Small things perhaps, but one might expect these at such an expensive school.

Last year he added an extension behind his school. This has perhaps 8 cubicles, open at the top, inside an enclosed courtyard. Due to the poor acoustics, which do not muffle the echoes very well, I did not find it peaceful when when other groups were present. The wooden tables and chairs are poorly made, and rock back and forth – I wasn’t able to find one chair or table that sat squarely. The chairs are straight backed and uncomfortable. Why he didn’t simply buy the common plastic chairs beats me – these are quite comfortable and sit squarely on 4 legs. There are 3 other quieter study areas, in the back yard. Go for one of these if you can. These are peaceful. I studies in one of these during my first visit.

The cost of 1 week’s study (5 x 4hrs) at this school is $140, more than twice that at Corazon Maya, San Pedro ($65).  The level of Spanish instruction is no better than at my other 7 schools, although I do like my old teacher Yarely, and the other teachers are fun. She doesn’t benefit much from the extra cost – he pockets nearly $100/ week for each student. He appears to be well off. For further discussion of costs, see my separate blog entry entitled Costs.

Enrique’s activities are inferior to those at the other 5 other schools, and there were no educational movies or communal dinners, which were such fun at Corazon Maya, PLQE and Jardin De America. He wanted to charge me $20 for a 3- 4 hr walk to visit nearby villages. Compare this with $6 for 2/3 day personal guided hike to a sacred lake near Xela (with EM school, part of PLQE).

On the other hand, my stay with Elena in Casa Dona Elena was once again great. I rate her guest house among the 2 top places at which I have stayed in Central America. She is dedicated to her guests, and cooks well. The only disadvantage of he place (and of most places in Copan, I suspect), is that the dogs bark. For me, earplugs were essential. After a week or so, one starts to get used to the dogs at night, although they can be quite aggressive if one goes exploring. Maybe it was my brightly colored bike shirt - who knows.

Overall, I found Copan once again to be a cute town, with nice people, if somewhat less peaceful than Antigua or San Pedro. There are noisy rude drivers, and lots of barking dogs. One can find peace, but one has to work for it. One idea is to climb up to the cross on the hill above the microwave towers. In the early morning this is usually very peaceful. The towers of the museum on top of the hill are another good spot - one can climb up there and view the sunsets, before the museum closes. Copan is located in a pretty valley, and the excellent Mayan ruins make it a worthwhile destination, as do the butterfly house, bird park (very well done), and the hot springs.

I shall return to Copan again, since I like the people, and love staying at Casa Dona Elena's. Also, I have some good friends there. But I doubt that I shall study there again. If your travel plans permit, you can have a better learning experience at less cost in other schools.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Adventure in Math - San Pedro La Laguna - Dec 2010

137-This is my group of seven Tsu- tujil Mayan girls, to whom I taught math for 1 hr each afternoon, for 8 days. The girls were from poor families, and were being sponsored by my second school in San Pedro, Corazon Maya. At first, it was a challenge for me to learn the Spanish versions of the standard math expressions, but the girls helped me and soon we got along fine. I am sure they made allowances for my Spanish mistakes.

Olga 12 (right) was the youngest, and was in Primaria 5 (5th grade). She was one of the quietest, and just sat quietly until I came around to assign her more problems or to help her when she got stuck. She was also one of the brightest. Rosayda, 15 (above and to her right) was in Basico 3 (9th grade). She was struggling to understand quadratic equations and their roots. Next to her is Magdalena (13), in Basico 1 (7th grade), then Lesli (14) in Basico 2, Karina (17) in Basico 3, Doloris (13) and Karen (13), both in Basico 1.

205- I used a white board for explaining problems. One difficulty was that the girls were at 4 different Math levels, so during any given explanation, I would sometimes hear “me aburro” – I am bored – or “me confundo” – I am confused. The latter was more common. They were motivated to learn, and several requested problems to do at home. Karina was working with complex numbers, which is quite advanced. Yet she and others often had trouble with negative number math like -3 +1. Several would continually forget the order of evaluation in a math expression, i.e. items with parentheses first, then multiply/divide, and then add/subtract. Multiplying numbers by adding exponents challenged them but later they got the idea. It was always a busy hour, since each girl needed help most of the time, and there was only one of me. Sometimes I would have half of them yelling out my name at the same time. The girls lacked text books, which were too expensive, so each had to copy down items written out during the class by their teacher. Often, I found that they lacked understanding of the fundamentals.

206-My friends Kathy (Canada) and Miguel (Sweden), from my previous school, came to visit me several times. Here we got a group photo.











238-The afternoon before my departure the school held a party for the mothers of the 23 poor families, their sponsored girls, and the 2 part-time volunteer tutors, Nancy (English) and me (Math). Nancy was then living most of the time in San Pedro, although (like me) she hailed from Seattle! What a small world. Her last job had been the manager of a non-profit in Leavenworth, WA.





239-During the party, Nancy and I got to hand out to each Mom a plastic basket for Christmas, containing a bottle of vegetable oil, some sugar, flour and misc items. This was paid for by the school. We later enjoyed herb tea and bread rolls.

My outfit must have seemed rather strange to the guests. I was wearing my red shorts because my one pair of long pants was drying on the line at my family's house.




240 - The Christmas baskets were received with gratitude.












241-We two tutors got to make a small speech in Spanish. This was quite fun. I told them that this was the first time I had tried teaching Math in Spanish, and that it been quite a challenge. I thanked the girls for their patience and persistence. Afterward, all the Moms and girls lined up to give each of us a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Never before have I been kissed by so many women (40+?) in the space of about 10 minutes. It’s a pretty cool Mayan custom.

The blue cable on the wall to the left of my head is for connecting up one’s laptop to the internet. (No charge). Internet access was iffy – working only some of the time. Nevertheless I was able to use it twice to talk to Rita in Seattle, over Skype.