Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Antigua, Guatemala, February 27, 2018

I'm not sure what happened today but I sort of hit the wall.  I couldn't wait for class to be over; in fact I told Sheny at 11:45 that I'd had enough.  That's never happened before.  Usually before I know it it's noon and class is done.

Sheny has been the most patient teacher on the planet working with me and my Spanish.  I don't know how many times she has had to correct me for making the same mistake over and over and over.  It is possible to take private lessons from her via Skype and I may do that, although I thought I'd do that last time too and never did.  Antiguena Spanish Academy is one of the cheapest; apparently because they have a lot of students all of the time and therefore can keep good teachers and survive.  Even though it's a long way from Marta's, if I come back, I'll still study there.

Walking home was weird too.  I had the feeling that I was done with Antigua and won't be back.  After lunch, I went to the biblioteca where believe it or not, I got to work with a student.  She was doing homework that she'd been assigned a month ago that is due tomorrow and was just starting it!  And what homework!  She had to copy a page from a book.  What the hell for I'd like to know but it's like what my friend Lynnn from the biblioteca says- public education tends to be quite poor, almost as if 'they' want to keep the people stupid so they can keep carrying the bananas!  As a farewell, the four employees at the library graciously spoke about my time there, as did some of the kids.  Out of about the dozen kids that came for the free cake and juice, I had only worked with 2.  Such a shame because I could have had so much fun with them.  Oh well.  I told Erin, the Development and Hospitality Manager that I was disappointed with how my 2 weeks went.  I didn't volunteer to organize books on shelves, cut and paste or sort papers.  I came to work with the kids and according to Erin's description of a posting in the library, it's an opportunity to have a lot of fun with reading and homework groups.  That didn't happen but if I made life a little easier for them doing the mindless work I did, then that's what really matters.

After 'work', I went to the Rainbow Cafe where they often have speakers on Tuesday afternoons.  Sue Patterson, founder of Wings and her assistant spoke about their project.  According to their website, "Wings provides quality reproductive health education and services to the underserved, primarily rural Guatemalan youth, women and men".  (Wings.guate.org).  They have trained a lot of locals to answer questions in their home villages to help spread the word.  Because Guatemala is such a Catholic country, it is a huge sin to not have numerous children and to even consider contraception. 

Did you know.....

     -  Women report they would like to have only 2 children, but the national urban average is 3.1 and rurally it's 3.7.
     -  1 in 3 Indigenous women have no access to health and family planning services.
     -  Guatemala is made of 50% Indigenous people and 50% Latinos.
     -  The Civil War lasted 36 years and ended in 1985.
     -  The government is democratic but they have no party platforms or policies.  There are many candidates and the winner depends on who bribes whom the most and is the most popular.  They've already got 17 candidates planning to run in the next election.
     -  Congressmen are not elected but chosen.  They work for the party that pays them the most.
     -  The prisons are apartments.  Prisoners come and go as they please, enjoy alcohol and women.  Most of them have not had a trial.  The main crimes are kidnapping and extortion.
     -  CICIG was established by the UN about 3 years ago.  There's a Columbian judge in charge and there are more than 200 people in jail because of their investigations- all for corruption.
     -  Guatemala has the worst economic indicators in Latin America.  These include a low GDP, high unemployment and low income and wages.
     -  Guatemala has the highest income in Latin America even though 60% of the people live in poverty.  75% of the Indigenous live in poverty and it's increasing.
     -  Spending on education is 2% of the budget.  It's 12-15 % in the US.
     -  Most kids have access to primary school but most drop out.  Girls quit by Grade 3.
     -  1 in 100 finish high school.
     -  1 in 100 can find a job with their education.
     -  Only 30% of the people have formal jobs.
     -  Teachers need grade 12 to teach!! Recently that changed and now they need 1 year of training
     -  50% of children and 80% of Indigenous children are chronically malnourished.  They don't get enough animal protein and this leads to height and cognitive stunting. 
     -  The mortality rate has been greatly reduced due to vaccinations.
     -  Half the population is under 15.
     -  Guatemala is the size of Tennessee and has a population of 16.58 million.  
     -  Women are paid 70% of men's salaries.
     -  There are more NGOs here than in all of Latin America combined.

Sue was an American Diplomat, working for many years here before she spent a few in Florence, Italy.  She worked at the embassy: handling visas, immigration questions and helping Americans in trouble.  I enjoyed the presentation and learned a lot about this poor but awesome country.

Marta made her best supper yet - quesadillas with pico de gallo and guacamole.

Tomorrow I'm going on a tour with another NGO - Niños de Guatemala.  We're going to the chicken bus factory and I am so excited!

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