Antigua, Guatemala, February 14, 2018
I am suffering a bit of jet lag because I was awake at 5 but didn't have to get up until 7. After a great breakfast - banana stuffed chocolate pancakes and fresh fruit: papaya, watermelon and pineapple, I was on my way to the Antiguena Academy office to register for classes. I met my teacher there - Tatiana and together we walked to school. We got there after 8 so the good tables were taken. We sat very close to a really loud talker so I asked that we move somewhere else. We went outside in the courtyard where it got quite windy but at least it was sunny. Tatiana started telling me about her personal problems. Her husband of 26+ years told her on New Year's Day that he has a 14 year old son with another woman. She seemed very upset and depressed and it's only because of her faith in Jesus and God that she's able to cope with the news. I only understood parts of what she said but I found it rather weird that she'd pour her heart out to me and we'd only met 30 minutes before! I had asked Julio, the director of the school to have Sheny, my teacher from last year but I guess I get her next week. After the counselling session, we worked on the past tense, I read a story and we talked about other things. During my travels in South America, I thought I made out pretty well understanding and asking for things but today, I left the school with a pain right in the middle of my forehead. It's very difficult studying again!
After lunch, I took a chicken bus to Familia Esperanza, aka Common Hope. There I met with the volunteer coordinator and she discussed some dos and don'ts. The biggest one is that I can't wear shorts - NO ONE in Guatemala wears shorts except tourists! Also, it's very important to greet people you meet whether you know them or not. Always I hear 'hola' or 'Buenas tardes' when I'm walking along the sidewalk. Thirdly it's important to ask permission to enter a room or if you think you're walking in someone else's space. You say 'con permisso' which means "with your permission".... I'll enter or may I? After, I went with a social worker to visit client's homes. I was shocked at how poor they are. We saw four families. Most of their houses are made of cement blocks, but if they've added a room, that will be made with sheets of plywood. They might have 2 rooms and beds will be in the larger space. There are no closets so clothes are in piles. They all had a fridge, a blender and a tv. They do not have washing machines, motorcycles and definitely no cars. They all have power and gas to cook with. Parts of the homes are open to the outside and in one place 20 people lived. They are all related and each family has a room or two. They had 2 dogs and 4 pups that they mistreated and about 10 chickens. One's husband has been drinking/drunk for 23 days. (60% of Guatemalans have an alcoholic family member.) Another woman has epilepsy and worms in her head. That sounded pretty strange to me but she did not look well. Apparently most days she can't get out of bed so she can't work. A 4 year old has a very badly abscessed tooth. Her parents don't want it pulled so they're just hoping it will get better on its own. Her dad just lost his job but at least the mom works. The fourth family has very bad colds and fevers. That dad works and mom takes in laundry. The social worker reminded all of them of the doctors, dentists and social programs at headquarters. Even though it only costs 33 cents to ride the chicken bus, they don't have that to take advantage of the programming. I was hoping to take "my" family shopping so they could fill their cupboards but that's not allowed. That creates problems: reliance on the sponsor and jealousy and thievery amongst neighbors. I am allowed to give Axel one book and I can buy the family a food basket. That's it. My visit with my family will be February 20.
We went back to headquarters and I was introduced to a worker in the library. Tomorrow I'll report directly to the library to work from 2-5. I am looking forward to meeting some kids, practicing Spanish and helping this great organization.