Monday, October 19, 2009


So, the title of this blog is...too strong a word for what this will be, but I like the word, so work with me.

Just as I suspected, this blog (and my journal) are very bottom priority along with God and sleep and reading for fun as I scramble to figure out just what to do for teaching. Exactly the same things are bottom priority when I'm at home and a student, frantically doing all my activities and studying and whatever else pops up as "more important to finish" than what ever else it is that I want to do. I've already told you all that life falls into routine no matter where you live, right? Well, it does. And I don't think people fundamentally change much from who they are at home, either, unless they really consciously work to make some changes. Attitudes and behaviors are habits, the same way that languages are.

So what have been my habits for the past 4 weeks? Man, I really couldn't tell you. Time also passes very quickly. Right around the time of the last blog, a month ago, the school shut down for a week because a very great number of our students were out sick... I still got to go to school and bleach the whole thing from top to bottom. It was actually kind of a good time... I moved a couple weekends ago, and I now have internet! Yay!! It has helped me greatly with two things: preparing for classes, and procrastinating preparing for classes... The exact same way that internet works for students, too... preparation and procrastination.

Speaking of students and preparation and classes, teaching is surprisingly like student-ing, except the stress is not, "oh, this is for my future!" but rather, "Oh, crap! I'm responsible for preparing these kids to succeed in their future!" And you know, some of them don't want to succeed, and that's fine by me. I like red pen. The others, though. :S I hope I'm doing right by them. The school routine is... much like senior seminar (for all you bio and chem majors that might be reading this)...senior seminar 5 times in a day, until you realize that you should really get them doing hands-on stuff, too. :) Poor kids! All that to say, life is pretty "boring." I leave for school at 7 a.m., teach science for four hours, eat, teach French for one hour, try to stay awake to do work at school, come home, try to stay awake past 8 p.m., eat, prepare for the next day... One day a week of Spanish lessons (do you know that now since I live alone, I speak more French in a week than Spanish?), one day a week of salsa classes. (I love to dance! And Guatemalan guys love to dance! But they're short. I get thwacked in the head every time I turn or spin.)... Weekends? They vary slightly, but mostly the teachers get together at a restaurant Friday and/or Saturday night and eat and drink. Not much else has broken my routine. I haven't traveled much. I wandered around a market Saturday for 3 hours. That was nice. Bought candles, for when the electricity goes out, which seems to be at least once a week.

Well, I can't think of much more. Hope you enjoyed reading, I guess! Feliz noches!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunburn in September

So, I look like my Swedish friend, "la belle tomate," or "the beautiful tomato" after a WONDERFUL day of sitting in the sun beside a pool, READING. I love to read. And I always bring way too many books with me wherever I go. But I like books.

So, today's post... I don't know! What do you want to hear about? I guess I'll address the misconception that my life is "adventurous." It is somewhat I would say, but there are many others who are far more adventurous than I.

No matter where you go, life falls into a routine. Even things like not walking alone after 7 p.m., or thinking about where to hide your cash on your body, or paying attention to who's walking around you become a routine. Methods of public transportation... Almost everything. :) Even throwing toilet paper in a wastebasket rather than in the toilet becomes routine!

I also wouldn't consider myself adventurous because I'm doing "sure" things. I got picked up at the airport, the school took care of figuring out phones for us, I get picked up by a teacher bus to go to school every morning, and already when I arrived I had a ready-made network of people who already know what to do. I didn’t have to figure out how to open a bank account on my own, or how to go about getting insurance, I didn’t have to find a place to live… I have the support of my parents (i.e. they hold back their, “You really shouldn’t…” comments)…

I’ve had people tell me that they’re envious of me, but in terms of adventure, I envy those who go alone, don’t take anything but a backpack, and who don’t have a plan: they just show up wherever with the confidence of being able to find a safe place to stay. Do they even expect to find a safe place? To me, that’s adventurous. And sort of an analogy to the way I believe we’re supposed to follow God. I’m pretty confident he doesn’t exactly give us the map of our life at the beginning of it. But we like to make plans. We don’t like to take risks, and it’s a risk to say, “Ok, God. Put me where you want me, and I’ll try not to want to know where that is before you tell me.”

The word “adventurous,” according to my Mac’s Oxford English dictionary, means “willing to take risks or to try out new methods, ideas, or experiences,” or “involving new ideas or methods,” or “full of excitement;” excitement being “a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness.” Now, I’m definitely willing and excited to try out new methods, ideas, or experiences, but I certainly don’t feel like I’m extremely willing to take risks. If I was, I might just take a walk around town alone at midnight. (Does all risk equal stupidity?) But even during the day, there is a certain amount of risk involved in being here, though it doesn’t feel like there is. Being caught in a sticky situation is a risk of just being alive and I don’t like not knowing how I would respond, but who among us does know how we would respond to things like having a gun pointed at us, or being kidnapped, or any number of other things that we hear about happening to “other” people? Every one of you is my “other.” Comforting thought, eh? (No, nothing has happened to me, I just think about these things occasionally.)

But speaking of risks, leaving the house in this country, as in any other, is definitely a risk. :) If I were to die here, there’s about a 99% chance that my cause of death would be somehow related to a vehicle, whether it be from being hit while walking on the sidewalk, or getting into a crash on the highway or somewhere in town. To give you an idea of what it’s like here, I’ll describe my trip to the pool on Saturday, which led to my tomato-ness.

The only rule in Guatemalan public transportation is, “pack vehicles as full as you can,” so it’s not uncommon to see vans, or “microbuses” (said “meecro-boos-ase”) crammed with as many as 20 or so people. The big public transportation buses are all school buses (some still yellow, some painted with artwork) that trail black exhaust behind them wherever they go. The buses that go between towns are called “chicken buses,” I’m not sure why, and they are commonly packed with 5-7 people across a row. (“Sitting” is made possible by the squishing of your thighs between two other people’s thighs.) Thankfully, none of the chicken buses I’ve been on have been that packed, but there are definitely times when it’s been 3 per seat, and it’s also difficult to get on and off the bus because of all the people in the aisle.

Xela is in the mountains, and I know my brother hates mountain driving, but I really don’t think he’d have a problem with it here in Guatemala. You see, his complaint is that you have to go so slow, especially around the turns and stuff. Well, that’s not necessary here: you just go as fast as you want. Going down the mountain from Xela to Irtra, where the pool was, you just kinda coast down the mountain, building speed, stopping occasionally to pick people up or drop them off. Fruit and snack vendors hop on and off along the way, but you don’t eat that stuff if you want to guarantee not getting sick. (The consistency of your poop is acceptable table talk here among most of the expats. :) Street food is known to play a role in its status.) Occasionally… no, more often than occasionally we pass people we think are going too slow, and then another 500 meters down the road we pull over, so it wasn’t really necessary to pass anyway. Natives eat their fruit that was wrapped in plastic, throwing the seeds and pulp from their limes on the floor, and when they’re finished, the peel and plastic wrap go out the window. The surest way to get trash thrown into one place is to put up a sign that says, “no tirar la basura,” or “don’t throw your garbage here.” I have a feeling that there would be a lot less trash on the street if every garbage can had that sign on it.

Driving up the mountain, all the trucks laden with… who knows what are way too slow, so we pass everyone we can. It’s definitely better to pass if you see a car coming, and also if you have to slow down and stop to pick someone up right after you pass. Definitely make sure you hold onto something attached to the bus as you whip around turns so you don’t ram the neighbor woman and her child, who are both staring at you not-so-surreptitiously. Don’t let it bother you when there are baskets set on your feet, either. Everybody needs to fit! But actually, it’s kinda fun to ride in the chicken buses. They’re really not bad, but I guess I haven’t ridden in a jam-packed one before. I’ve heard they can get pretty bad.

Now, contrary to what you might believe after reading my description, I actually hear about far more robberies than I do traffic deaths. I haven’t heard of any chicken buses crashing since I’ve been here. So all in all, the public transportation is good, if not a little into emitting tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year.

But that’s all this belle tomate has for today. Daily life goes on here just the same as at home. Except that here, cats jumping on the roof make your walls shake at night. (This just happened – I type my blogs at night in Word while I don’t have internet, so I don’t have to waste precious time trying to describe life while sitting in a café trying to chat with friends.) If what I wrote in this blog makes you a bit dubious, don’t be. You just use your brain, and 9 times out of 10 you’ll be all right. Does that one time out of 10 make this whole experience an adventure? A risk? I’ll let you decide.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Work? Nah....

More random things to write about. I guess this could fall under the "things that amuse me" blog, but it's too much work to figure out how what my sister says I need to do to keep the same topic together. :)

* First off for today, everything in Guatemala is "something-ito," "-ito" being a diminutive. I repeat, EVERYTHING is ______-ito in Guatemala: host family's son Carlos = Carlitos; frijoles (beans) = frijolitos; queso (cheese) = quesito; ahora (now) = ahorita;.... The list could seriously continue for the length of the Spanish dictionary, minus verbs.

* I'm not much one to enjoy being stared at, but it's kind of unavoidable here. Staring, staring, staring all the time. Amusing? Well, maybe not.

* Our house isn't very thick, so we can hear the neighbors as if they live in the house, and at night when all the stray cats are out, since the roof is metal and the sound carries, it sounds like we have ladrones, or thieves, jumping on our roof all night. That part is kind of amusing, just because you tend to forget about the cats until one thuds onto the roof and you jump until you remember that it's just a cat and not a person. At least, you hope it's not a person. :)

* I heard somewhere once that people eat an average of 7 spiders in there lifetime. Now I'm not one to necessarily believe that, since... well, how can you collect that information? But if it is true, I'm thinking that number must be much higher for people living in Guatemala. I wouldn't recommend visiting if you're not into dogs or spiders. :)

In other news, the second week of school has been survived, and I'm about to start the 3rd. :) Still kinda like it down here, so apparently it can't be too bad!

Whoever reads this, have a good week ahead, and we'll see when I update this again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First week, etc.

So, the first week has been survived. Only….35 weeks left? I guess I haven’t calculated. Nor do I intend to. (I counted down the weeks til finals most of my semesters in college, but I don’t need to here. :) It’s somebody else taking the finals this time. I just gotta write ‘em.)

Hmmm… I’m playing opera on my computer now (Batti, batti) and it apparently attracted the cat who is now outside my window meowing… I ought to investigate further and see if the song works on other cats…

Back to the first week: unremarkable. In a good way, though. Ask me about it if you have any questions. Otherwise, not that exciting.

The weekend, though! Wow! I went hiking. With… people who are in shape. I’m still laughing at myself for thinking that I really wanted to invite myself on that trip. It was actually quite good -- beautiful views, and good company. And fortunately I’ve already completely forgotten the feelings of “almost dying” from over-exertion combined with lack of oxygen (we’re at over 7,000 feet) and the sense of not being able to go on yet knowing that I must, both having been replaced by a great sense of the accomplishment of SURVIVAL! :D It was a great time, when it was over! A couple other girls at the school and I are going to start an out-of-shape-hikers league, coached by a very patient gym teacher, and we will conquer the world, I think. :) Either way, we’ll see.

In other news, I’m happy to say that no Guatemalan has yet tempted me to consider staying in Guatemala longer than previously anticipated! History to that comment: I told Mom one day before leaving that it might be dangerous for me to go to Guatemala, since I’m a sucker for brown eyes. However, people here are very short, and…well, they must just have MHC (major histocompatibility complex) genes that are too similar to mine because I’m just not tempted. (If you’re not sure what I mean by this comment, do a little research on pheromones and human male/female attraction.) (And remember always to take my ramblings with a grain of salt.)

No hay mucho más que es interesante. I’m having trouble sometimes between the English, Spanish, and French. It goes back to language not really being about specific words meaning specific things, but being more of specific sounds that communicate specific concepts that are running through the mind. So I’m finding more and more lately that while I’m trying to speak either Spanish or French, the concept I want to communicate isn’t necessarily in any specific language in my mind, so that when I say that concept out loud in either language, I do not realize if I say phrases in the opposite language of that in which I’m trying to communicate… Clear as mud, right? See, language is a habit, which is another thing throwing me off: I’ve now gotten used to saying things like, “It’s..” or “There are…” or “…, too” or “and” in Spanish, so they just fly out of my mouth automatically in Spanish whether I’m speaking Spanish or French, but other things like “One can/could…” or filler words, like “well…, in fact…, actually…,” etc. I don’t know in Spanish, so I’m still in the habit of saying them in French they will automatically creep into my Spanish sentences with a very Spanish accent without my even realizing that I’ve said them until I get a funny look.

I do highly encourage all of you, though, to undertake the intellectual challenge of learning many languages, though: just do it better than I’ve been doing! Learning a language might even hold off the Alzheimer’s you’ll get when you’re old!

Anyway, I’m off now to get some work done! Adios! Au revoir! Tootle-oo!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My umbrella's wet, but so am I...

It rains here in Xela. Everybody is surprised by how little it has rained this summer, though. I'm kinda grateful for that, because... I like rain, but I don't like getting wet that much, and it takes quite a while for stuff to dry here, even when it´s not raining.

I´ve finished with the two weeks of orientation, and tomorrow, CLASSES!! Scary.... I´ll feel much better once I kind of get the hang of things, like how exactly to prepare what to teach, how long to talk/lecture, what homework to give... I just hope that until I get the hang of things, I can prepare everything I want to prepare and still have a little time leftover to study Spanish and explore a little.

I started with Spanish classes right away when I got here, and I´ve arranged to meet with my teacher (who lives near the school where I work) two times a week, until I feel like I have more of a schedule, and I might add more classes. This is a pretty cheap place to live and to study Spanish, so if any of you want to come on down... :) Just take safety precautions. And don´t be dumb.

So the school! The new teachers (both the ones who haven´t worked at the school before, and the ones who have no teaching experience) started Orientation the 3rd of August. Everybody else came the 10th. The school is a small Christian school that was started in 1961 for children of missionaries, but it has since been opened up to others, and now the student population is 85% Guatemalan. They do not accept more than 15 students per class. The city of Xela (pronounced ´shay-la) is pretty much all stone and concrete, but the school is on a very green hill that overlooks Xela, and it´s really nice. Thankfully I work at the top of the hill, and I do not need to climb it if I don´t want to. :) Estoy contenta, or "I´m happy."

I will be teaching physics, biology, chemistry, and global science as my "core courses," the ones that everyone has to take, and I´ll teach French as an elective. :) I can´t wait to giggle to myself over the pronunciations... Although when I was in France, I very much enjoyed listening to people speak French who´s first language was Spanish. Most of the time, I like that more than French people speaking French, because the ....spanophones? espanophones? pronounce every syllable, unlike the French. My class sizes are 3, 6, 13, and 15 students (not respectively). It should be an interesting experience! I hope I do well.

As for people I work with, it seems like it´ll be a great year. We are mostly younger than 30, but there are people of all ages around. We come from all over the States, but there´s a concentration of people from Texas and Oklahoma. The school´s director is from Texas, which explains the heavy recruitment in the area. :) A few of the teachers and staff members are permanent residents of Guatemala.

I can´t think of anything else that might be interesting to know... Well, I guess I really want a scooter! They look fun! And fast. THe shower water gets heated as it´s coming out of the shower head, so water pressure is not strong. My host family doesn´t think I really mean it when I say I don´t really want to eat bread for every single meal. It´s an unknown concept, not to eat bread. I have eaten many more potato- and wheat-based carbohydrate products here than corn-based, contrary to what I thought would be the case... All the lights in my host house are....not incandescent... A little dim-ish, but do-able. I get looked at and stared at a lot, and I don´t really like it, but hey, what can you do. Just not come, I guess. :) All in all, I do really like it here. I love the family that I´m staying with, and I am looking forward to finding out what God has in store for this year. Right now... "HA!!!! Joke´s on you, God!" is all that´s coming to mind, for sending me on a fool´s errand to try to teach science and French. On verra, on verra: We´ll see, in French. (Oy, that´s another thing -- I can´t speak Spanish because French keeps popping out of my mouth unexpectedly, AND I can´t speak French, because Spanish has started to replace it! My mouth is so confused.)

Anyway, if you have anymore questions, let me know! For now, hasta luego! See ya later!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things that amuse me about Guatemala...

I'll probably keep updating this particular post as the year goes on -- I mean, I will find plenty more things amusing before the year is up, but here is a start:

* Pedestrians have no right of way. Ever. The only rule is, "Don't get hit!"

* The sidewalks are very tall in this country, sometimes about a foot and a half off the ground. I think this is because if they weren't, the drivers would drive on them as well, and then there really would be no place to walk.

* Guatemala is a great place to go if bananas are your favorite fruit.

* They don't drink cold milk. It is always warmed first. Well, I'm not sure they drink milk. So far I've only had it with cereal.

* In Guatemala, driving is best done if the tint on your windows is so dark that no one can see in, and you can't see out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009



A quick beginning blog... Quick, because I should work on planning my life as a teacher! Drawers and cabinets to explore, things to arrange, etc.

I am here, and I love it! I mean, who wouldn't wanna stay in a country where you're told, "Estas linda!" ("You're pretty!") after traveling with no sleep for 36 hours! It has been a HUGE blessing so far to be here with IAS, the Inter-American School, because they picked me up from the airport, had cell phones for us right away, have taken us on tours, are teaching us about public transportation here, and are taking care of lots of stuff that I had to figure out on my own when I studied in France. It is totally worth not flushing toilet paper, not being close to home where everything's familiar... I can't think of bad things right now. I like it here. And I love the family I'm staying with. They are very, very nice and helpful. The Spanish is...slowly improving. :)

Anyway, off to work. I'll try to explain more about the school and stuff later, and I supposed I'll try to post a blog at least once a month.