Friday, April 1, 2016

Shoe Crazy: Day 2,089

Yesterday, Handsome and I went out to meet the families.  Most of them don't yet have their first-semester grades--they'll probably come out next week--but it's been about 2 months since I was out there.  I had planned to go in February, but one of our cats became ill--we think it was a spinal tumor--and was eventually put down.  So, Handsome's days off became "deal with cat" days instead of "drive shoes to Solola" days.

Anyway, the families were happy to see me and happy to see the shoes.  There is a rule of "one pair of shoes per person in the family," but I just kept recalling the story of the boy who realized that hard work does have rewards, and I didn't deny them a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of dress shoes.  I took my entire shoe stock out to Solola, and Handsome figures we brought back only 25% of it.  The rule mostly exists so that families don't just buy a lot of shoes and then go and sell them elsewhere for actual money.  Additionally, it takes a long time (and a fair amount of money) to get that many shoes bought and down to Guatemala, and my mother (predominantly) spends a LOT of time trying to get the sizes and styles which are most needed.

Some of the women look through the last remaining shoes in the box

Their purchases will be noted in Annalisa's binder

The crates were donated by one of our good friends at COTA and are very helpful for storing project materials.  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Kiss: Day 2,023

Perhaps one of the most touching moments of yesterday was as the families were leaving.  One of the new boys in the program took my hand and kissed the back of it.  This is a sign of deep respect reserved for the elders of the community.  In fact, I don't think I've ever seen anyone under the age of 65 be the recipient.  I must admit that I typically foster affection with my families which, while not contrary to respect in any way, typically fosters hugs, not hand kissing.  I was very touched that the child thought to do that and quite surprised!  (I'm only 30!)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Saying Hello to 2016: Day 2,022

Yesterday, I headed out to Solola once again.  I had bought school supplies on Saturday and sent them with someone trustworthy going that way.  This time I took my friend Genesis with me; she blogs over at Expat Mom if you want to read her stories of life overseas.

Sunday afternoon was interesting as we went to visit three families for possible inclusion in the program this year.  The first family we visited was a lot further of a walk than we expected, but it wasn't any harder than I had experienced.  The woman's story is that she was living with a man--marriage isn't common out in the areas where I work--and he decided to leave her and their daughter and go illegally to the United States to find work.  He managed to do that...and also find an American woman to marry legally.  He came back to present his new wife to his family before leaving again, and the woman called him out on it saying that he had, at the very least, a daughter to support.  That daughter is now grown and married.
However, about 7 years ago, the woman took up with another fellow and had three children with him.  According to her, he only recognizes the first two children as his own--meaning his name is on their birth certificate--while the baby, who is a year old tomorrow, has no listed father.  This should, in theory, mean that the fellow vanished about a year ago.  The second man was already married, maybe even legally, and decided to go back to his first wife.  The woman says she receives no support from him.
And if all of that were true, then the big screen TV and the sound system wouldn't be such a problem to have found in the house.  However, what we did find were men's shoes and men's clothing, not in a big bag as though she were a clothing vendor, but scattered around in a bedroom and the living room.  Manuel is looking into the situation, but until it can be confirmed by outsiders that the man is gone, has been gone for a while, and is not supporting the family (and that that big-screen plasma TV isn't hooked up to Q150/month or more cable), we cannot take this family into consideration in good conscience.

The second and third families we went to visit were families which we had visited a while back.  However, with one family leaving the area and another family choosing to not send any children to school this year, we had two empty places and I had these two families on my heart.  Mostly our visit was to confirm that they still wanted to be a part of the program, update the information I had on the family, take a new picture of the family (which I lost when my hard drive died last January), and see if they had already bought their school supplies.

We added their school supply lists in with what we still needed to buy (things which had been out of stock when I bought supplies in Antigua the day before), and we headed to Manuel's house for the night where we ate dinner and then divided up the school supplies among the families.  I was reading off the lists while the kids put the different things in the bag.  They all have good educations and are going to good schools; so I decided to start doing the numbers in English.  Then I started doing some of the items in English (glue, scissors, pen, etc); however, one kept tripping them up.  I would say "pencil" and they would hold up a pincel, a paint brush.  We got to bed sometime around 11 pm.

Today we had to buy school supplies for the new families and the supplies I didn't get in Antigua, give out supplies, and meet with the mayor.  I met Andres Iboy (the mayor of Solola) a few years ago during his first term in office.  I had started the program in another part of his municipality; he had heard about it and wanted to know if it could be offered elsewhere.  So, he's always interested in hearing about the project, and in the time I have known him, he has never claimed that Educacion con Esperanza was ever his doing (unlike other politicians I have heard of concerning other organizations).  However, I told Manuel that it would be better to have that meeting after our meeting with the families; we had too much to do beforehand.  So, we went and bought school supplies and headed out to the meeting location.

All of the families were there and waiting for us.  They were all happy to see us.  They were all happy with their school supplies.  And I got a sunburn.  Manuel told them that if the first marking period grades were not adequate that he would start going around to the schools and talking to the teachers.  One mother--whose kids tend to have good grades--wasn't pleased with that; she thinks that if other people start realizing that some families are getting help that all the families will demand to receive help as well.  To some extent, I see her point, but at the same time, why do the neighbors think a white lady visits her family every year?

Near the end of the meeting, Manuel asked me if we were going to stay for lunch.  I asked about the meeting with the mayor; so he called about that.  The mayor wasn't available today, only the vice-mayor.  Since that fellow probably has no clue who I am and probably wouldn't be able to have the conversations we need to have, I said that Genesis and I would head home instead; we both have responsibilities here.  Besides, I already had plans to stop at my very favorite eatery in Chimaltenango for lunch.  So, at the end of the meeting, Manuel dropped us off in Los Encuentros, and we headed for home.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Disappointment and God Reasons: Day 2,004

You might remember that about 2.5 years ago I dealt with a little disappointment concerning moving out to Solola where I thought I'd be more useful; I cannot find that I ever explicitly told you about this, but God had a reason for me to not move, and that was to watch two neighbor boys while their sisters were in school and mother was at work.  (Their grandmother had been watching them, but her son--who lived in another town--got sick; so she went to care for him.)

Right now I feel like I'm going through something similar.  A friend had thought about putting a bakery in one room of our house which was going to help out a lot with the rent; while I was in the States visiting family, she decided not to and didn't tell me.  So, I came back to that.  (She had posted on Facebook, but I hadn't seen it.  Still not a great way to find out.)

So, we talked about what to do with that room, and I had pretty much decided that I would use it as my office.

Today I found out that neither young lady will be coming to study in Antigua next year.  (One isn't going to study at all while the other will only be studying on the weekends in Solola.)  In short, we prepared our house to have two rooms not being used by us in addition to having a guest room...and then neither of those two rooms' intended purposes happened.

However, a friend called looking for a place to stay for a while and occupied my guest room a couple days ago.  And so I need another guest room.  But I have the room that was prepped for the girls.  (Okay, I don't *need* a guest room, but they're useful.)  In short, God knew I would need the space for my friend.  It doesn't really make it less disappointing that Mercedes and Wendy won't continue studying, but at least we didn't prepare the house for nothing.  And, trying to look on the bright side, as I don't have my residency yet, leaving the country in May was going to be difficult while juggling my responsibilities with them.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saying "Goodbye" to 2015: Day 1,985

I am always struck by the generosity of people who have so little.  As I spent yesterday and today visiting my families in their homes, I--and the three people with me: Manuel, his son, and his son's friend--was greeted with anything from a snack to a meal in just about every home.  (At one home today, I finally just had to eat a single tortilla, thank them for their generosity, and tell them I was completely stuffed and couldn't eat anything more.)

We didn't have an end-of-year meeting like we had last year.  Between some personal issues and going to visit my folks, I had over a month that was taken up by non-program stuff.  Which is fine.  We simply asked the questions at the home visits which I do every December.

This time we started our visit with David's family.  David just turned four; so he won't be going to school this year, but he's always happy to see me.  His oldest sister is Wendy, one of the two I was hoping to have come live with me next year to continue her studies as there is no high school in their village.  Due to their mother's poor health--which is, thankfully, improving--the family has decided that Wendy will take a year off from studying on a regular basis.  She will still be taking technology classes on the weekends when her younger sister is home from school.   We all hope that their mother is feeling better next year so Wendy can continue her studies.

Then we went to visit Jesus's family.  (I know that sounds funny from an American standpoint, but it's actually a really common Spanish name.)  He's the father of the family, and their family holds a special place in my memory because when I first met the family, they had just had a litter of kittens, and while I was doing the intake paperwork, one kitten just jumped right up on my leg and made itself comfortable there.  Anyway, he has three children in school.  The eldest, Olga, just finished 6th grade.  I asked her parents if she was going to keep studying, and they said "no."  So, I asked why, and it's mostly a money issue.  When it was explained that the program helps with the costs, the "no" became a "maybe."  We'll see what happens there.

After that, we went to visit the family of Luis and Mercedes, the other young lady I was hoping would come live with me to continue her studies.  Luis failed his technology class and his Spanish class and didn't pass the make-up test for those classes; so he failed 7th grade.  He has decided to not repeat the grade and will be heading back to work in the fields.  For me, this puts a lot of pressure on Mercedes as someone has to care for their little sister Clara (a special needs child) once their parents are gone.  She is a little nervous about studying so far from her family; she feels she will miss them.  She has not given me an answer one way or another, but if she does not continue her studies somewhere, her family will forfeit their place in the program; they have no potential students left.  (If Mercedes were to take a year off and then decide to continue her studies, I would certainly give them a spot; however, she will be 18 in March.  In this culture, that is quite old to be a single female...even if the laws have recently changed.)

Then we went to visit Veronica's family.  Veronica is the girl who failed 2nd grade this year after being sent to live with her paternal grandmother's family.  Her mom tells me she is living at home again and only goes to sleep at her grandmother's house and that she will repeat 2nd grade.  Her younger brother, Adolfo, will be in 3rd grade and another brother in 1st.

Then we went to visit a family who has always weighed heavily on my heart.  You might remember Ismael who, as a 14-year old in 3rd grade, decided to drop out of school because he was embarrassed to be with classmates so much younger.  I can't say I completely blame him.  However, his 12-year old sister just finished 2nd grade this year and has gone to work in the capitol saying she's no longer interested in studying.  Now, those of you in the States and in many other countries with advanced educational systems probably find the second part of what I just said more disturbing than the first part; I assure you that anyone who lives and works in this country is more disturbed by the first part.  At any rate, we're all disturbed together.  Their 10-year old sister just failed 1st grade for the second time.  I suggested maybe they should have her work for a year and let her decide if brain work or manual work is more her style.  Yes, I'm frustrated.  Anyway, Manuel had a talk with the dad and said that as the father of the family, he needed to lay down the rules about who makes decisions in the family about work and study.  So, both the girls are going back to school in 2016.

Then we went to visit the family of Ronaldo.  He will be in 9th grade this year, and that's exciting for me, but it's also a little sad.  Because he is missing a hand, he was allowed to continue studying while his other 4 brothers had to go to work in the field after 6th grade.  This year, his youngest brother will be in 5th grade, and, quite frankly, I'm dreading the family visits the year after next.  Ronaldo really isn't that great of a student unlike his other two brothers who I've had the pleasure of knowing, but his family doesn't think he can do field work.  What his family sees as a weakness is the only thing that has kept him in school, but I think that knowing that his family feels he is less than whole is also what holds him back.  If Maynor--the youngest boy--is taken out of school at the end of 2017, I don't know who will be more crushed: Ronaldo or myself.  It feels like someone has said that Ronaldo's judgement day is coming in exactly 2 years, and I'm helpless to stop it.  I asked the mother if, after working in the fields last year, Efraim would be returning to school, and she said no.  Carmelina, their oldest sister, isn't doing too well either; however, they had lost the contact number for the organization that was helping with her seizure medication.  Fortunately, I still had it in my phone and was able to give it to them; so, hopefully that gets fixed soon.  (That was also the organization that fitted Ronaldo with his prosthetic hand; so maybe that means he can get a new one without having to go all the way to Salama in January.)

Then we went to visit their cousins.  The story is much like the story we heard about Olga in Jesus's house:  Marta Lidia--who earned the most points of any child in the program in 2014--has finished 6th grade, and they're not sure whether to send her to middle school because of the cost.  Also, apparently, Marta is afraid of not being able to finish and making me which point I yelled--she was outside--"No, this is what's making me angry!"  Of course, it was a joke because I'm not one to get angry.  But if someone is sincerely trying and falls short, I'm completely okay with it.  So, they're going to see if they can get her to go.

After that, we stopped in with our other widow, Maria.  It was a pleasant surprise to meet her eldest daughter, Feliciana.  She was a little shy and didn't want to explain who she was or what she was doing there at first, but after some cajoling--which I tend to think I'm pretty good at--she warmed up to our presence.  She has a wonderful control of Spanish, but then again, her mother's Spanish isn't that bad.  Luis and Griselda had dropped out of school about 3 months in.  I can't say that surprised me much, but it was annoying.  Some days I want to blame them.  Some days I want to blame their mother.  Some days I just want to flop down on the ground and throw a temper tantrum.  If anyone has any better ideas, I'm all for hearing them.  Their youngest sister, Amalia, will also be starting school this year.

Today we went to visit Nicolas's family.  We were concerned he was going to pull his family out of the program.  To be fair, last year was not a good year for them as far as the points were concerned.  They weren't earning enough during the entire year to even pay for their school supplies.  However, the elder daughter has improved her grades significantly, and the middle daughter's grades have stayed about the same.  It was really great to walk up to their house in the drizzle and see that they had constructed a new building with two rooms in it.  When asked if they had received help to build it, Nicolas told us that he had been saving for many years and that with the help from the program to buy food, he'd been able to save a little bit more money and built it during the year.

And then onto the house of Luisa.  You may remember that she got lost in the first year, but then last December I asked Manuel if we could go to her house just to "make sure" that she wasn't interested in the program.  They were interested, but they weren't sure how to get a hold of us.  So, this was their first year actually participating in the program.  The boys were thrilled with their Christmas present.  This year each family got a bag of marbles, some hygiene items, mini candy canes, a pen or two, and some hair ties.  After giving out 8 presents yesterday, I asked Manuel's son if marbles were popular here, and he assured me that they are.  Edgar and Cristian definitely confirmed that.  "BOLICHES!  MAMA, MIRA!  BOLICHES!!"  (They're called "cincos" where I live, but also during last night's conversation, I was informed of other potential names for them.)
Luisa confirmed that her neighbors who were also in the program have moved the entire family to the capitol, and then she mentioned another neighbor, a single woman who unknowingly got involved with a married guy, had three kids by him, and then had him go back to his "real" family.  So, we might go visit her at some point during the year and consider her for inclusion in the program.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Myers Briggs and Jung: Day 1,938

I take a M-B style test roughly every year or two.  I find it fascinating to see how a person's personality changes with time.  When I came to Guatemala just over 5 years ago, I was very much an INFP; I had ranked as that since middle school.  After being at the Hogar and being a teacher, I became an INTJ.  For a long time after that, I kept scoring as an INTJ which for someone like me is frustrating because while I think that thinking is a good thing, I also think that feeling is equally important.  And while I like to have matters "settled" (a J characteristic), I'm always open for changes in plans (a P characteristic).  For example: I go into a meeting with a list of what we're going to talk about, but if I see that there is something more important to talk about, sure, let's talk about it!  While I make plans--just to not be fumbling around at the last minute and wasting others' time--they are 100% flexible to adjust to the needs of the group.

So, I have accepted that I am an intuitive (N) introvert (I), but beyond that, I'm a little more fluid.  On the T-F scale, while at the Hogar and teaching, there was little space for "Oh, well, this person is trying hard; so they can have a better grade."  No, there had to be a separate category for that on the grading rubric, usually called "participation."  Everyone had to be treated equally so that I wouldn't be accused of playing favorites or anything like that.  In my project, there's a little more flexibility, and I think Jeanne stated it best on Thursday that there's a point when you have to bend the rules simply to encourage.  A grade of 79 is my "hard limit" for earning the first point, but when a child's report card has a 78 or even a 77 as the highest grade, I'm no longer in a position where I have to say "No, tough luck."  My goal is encouraging kids to get better grades now, not grading them.  Yes, you may have a point.

So, I'm pleased to announce that today I tested as an INFJ.  The I, N, and F were all 82% strength while the J was only 64% reflecting my flexibility.

(From my results today.)

Some famous INFJs from history for you: Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson, and Ron Paul.  Interesting mix which just goes to show that one's personality doesn't dictate what side of history one will be on.

If you'd like to learn more about the general concept, Wikipedia is a good start:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What's next?: Day 1,937

This is more about the meeting on Thursday.  I had the chance to talk to Mercedes and Wendy's mothers (as well as Mercedes's brother as their mother's Spanish isn't very good).  I presented to them the option of the two teens coming to live with me next year.  It's common knowledge that the two young ladies want to continue their studies; however, to do so where they currently live is not highly practical nor financially sound...which is why they received the invites.

To be clear, I would not be inviting them to come live with me if they hadn't shown over the past two years that they are mature, responsible, and respectful.  I would not be inviting them to come live with me if they hadn't shown that they actually care about studying and believe in the importance of an education.  I wouldn't be inviting them to live with me if their families had not proven to be trustworthy.  Because, in the end, I will be the one responsible for them and anything that happens while they are in my care can be made to be my fault.  (Mercedes will be 17 next year, and Wendy will be 16.)

Do I think they will accept the invitations?  I think Wendy's family will.  In the past few months, her mother has been very sick/weak from what I understand.  The family is Q10,000 in debt and the father has been unable to work as he has taken over all of the housework.  (I'm not sure why Wendy can't do it in the morning and Floricelda in the afternoon, but I won't complain since they're both pulling good grades.)  Wendy's uncle was taken in by a relative when he was a boy, a relative who didn't live in the Solola area, and he later returned much more educated and able to earn well.  Having Wendy come to live with me would just be a different kind of "relative taking in a family member to help with finances" sort of move.
Will Mercedes's family?  I don't know, and that frustrates me because, while I believe that everyone should be able to have a quality education if they want it, I think she's the one who really needs it.  She has a special needs little sister, and someday, when her mother dies, she'll probably be the one who has to care for her little sister.  That means she either needs to earn well or marry well...both of which are more possible when one has a better education.  At the same time, though, the family depends on her to help out in the home now.  Could they do it?  Could they make it work?  I think so.  But I think it will take a lot more convincing than Wendy's family.  Please be praying.