Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. Most Latin American countries have a strongly religious community. (I won't say anything about their faith as that has an interesting range, but the religious traditions are strong.) So, since Advent is religious--the road to Christmas, so to speak--they celebrated it in grand style. In the morning, we went up to the village for church. With the Salesiano group on holiday, we are no longer spoiled with our own private services. The seminarians came by and walked us with us. (Have I mentioned that I REALLY like having that seminary near us and that I'll miss them when they go back home to Colombia on December 18?)
Church was fairly uneventful. We had the usual disruptive boys problems. I'm thinking that us adults need a separate mass so that we can actually get something out of the service. There were quite a few baptisms and a children's choir. I don't know if that stuff is normal or not since this was our first Sunday in town. (I reckon that the baptisms are not normal every Sunday.)
After church, we were supposed to go down to the seminary and play on their ball courts, but that was only until noon, and since there were not only baptisms but the priest was being long-winded, we didn't get back to the Hogar until 11:45. By the time we had gotten down to the seminary, it would have been time to trudge back up the mountain. So, the guys just helped us watch the boys at our place for a little while.
After that, we just continued things around the Hogar without them. I did some correspondence work and uploaded photos from Saturday (I'll have to talk about that too) from my camera. Since Sundays are visit days, there were some parents who wanted to see pictures of their boys, but since I sort by day, not boy, that was a little difficult. Finally, the boys just gave me a day to look at and that went fine. I had some pizza for lunch (sadly, pineapple ham pizza, my least favorite), and after lunch, I played keep-away with some of the guys. They didn't really like my play style, but I'd rather wait and watch for them to mess up then to wear myself out trying to make them mess up (and maybe not succeed). Worked just fine, if you ask me, but I guess it made the game too slow for them. (Not that I was ever in the center that much anyway. Despite never being a soccer player, I can actually kick with both sides of both feet.)
Around 4:30, a group showed up to do our advent celebration. First they played a game where the leader would say a word, and the boys would have to run to grab a baton (was actually a ching-ching, but I'll save you from weird cultural words at the moment) and run back to their group. Whatever group ended up with the baton had to sing a Christmas song with that word in it. The next activity was to put on a Christmas skit. Each group had part of the Christmas story and had to act it out. They used crepe paper to make costumes. If it had been a costume contest, I would have voted for Danilo Polanco's angel costume; he made such a formidable looking angel.
After the skits, we had a parade with a nativity up the mountain to the chapel. Each group took a turn carrying it. We did some call and response sort of thing at the door. And once it was inside, they did a few more readings and a few more songs. After that, we went down to the ball court again, and they set off some fireworks for us. I'll admit that I was a little concerned being so close to the fireworks, but with metal roofs and cement walls, I guess it isn't such a big deal. Once they were done with the big ones, they gave the boys sparklers (which they call "estrellitas" or "little stars") and set off some other flare-type fireworks on the ball court. After that, they passed out some Christmas presents to all the boys. The Peques all got a wind-up car, a wind-up airplane, a spikey ball, and a bag of candy. The Medianos and Grandes each got a backpack and a cap.
Finally, it was time for dinner where we had tamales and hot chocolate. (Obviously, I didn't have the hot chocolate, but it made me wish there was some hot cider around as it was a very cold evening.) Once most everyone was done eating, Daniel came in with his guitar and played some sing-along music. It was a fun evening. If Christmas itself is half this fun, I might just make it.
I believe I've talked about Escuelas Abiertas before (maybe about 2 weeks ago). In case I didn't, it's basically this government funded program where the schools are open on Saturdays and Sundays during their big 3-month long break. Supposedly, the boys can go for all sorts of activities, but I haven't been that impressed by what I've seen so far. (Okay, I got to meet about 7 of the Miss Guatemala contestants, but that isn't really a big deal.)
Anyway, Saturday was their big national conference, and the Hogar was invited by the Satellite school where some of our boys attend for classes. So, we went. Daniel and I shared one of our few conversations in which we were in agreement that the event was pretty pointless. You couldn't see anything since the stage was a million miles away. You couldn't hear anything since there was talking and bands playing all around. And you couldn't really do anything.
I do have to say that they had quite the security at the conference. There were four lines for entering the facility. Two lines for men and two lines for women. Each gender had a line for people with bags and coats and those without. Since I was wearing both a coat and had a bag, I went through that line. The woman who was running security for that line asked me to open up my bag so she could look inside. She only looked in one compartment and didn't even pat down my coat pockets which were hard and bulky. About an hour later, the President (of Guatemala) walked onto the stage. This is actually the second time this week that I've been within 500 feet of the President and haven't had to go through any sort of intense security check. (The first time, there was none at all.) The President didn't stand behind bullet-proof glass, and only one guy proceeded up onto the platform before him...looking mostly at the steps in front of himself. If Obama could enjoy the privileges afforded to Colom, it would do wonders in restoring any sort of belief in America.
In the afternoon, there was a playground and a few activities for the boys. So, it was a bit better. I'll still admit that I was glad to come back to the Hogar.
As for being busy, it mostly comes down to the cats and my boss. I don't have the time, interest, or patience to take care of three kittens. Even two is pushing the limit. At any rate, I only have two hands, and most of the time, those are needed for typing and doing work on my computer. I can't spend all my time dragging kittens off of my keyboard. And when I get up to go to the bathroom, I have to find ways to safeguard against random typing or the computer getting shut down. Additionally, what order I take the kittens off my lap in plays a large factor in either my success or failure as some are more prone to climbing back on (and two hands vs. three kittens is a losing battle). Additionally, I can't find a lot of the kitten supplies I need in Guatemala; so I have to be creative. Sadly, I don't have the time to be creative. One of these current issues is a litter box. I have a basket of sorts (but it has holes in the bottom and sides) which has the bottom lined in plastic with a chunk of cardboard on top of the plastic. It needs dirt, and I was told by Estuardo where I could get dirt, but unfortunately, I never have the time to go get dirt for it. So, last night was a cold night as I had only a fleece blanket to wrap myself in; the kittens peed on my sheets and quilt. (Fortunately, I noticed them doing this; so I tossed them into the pee basket and put the sheets and quilt in the shower.)
My boss is apparently not happy that I spend my mornings in my room. This is not something that she has talked to me about. It is, again, an overheard conversation. However, those are mornings that I spend preparing English lessons for the day. Apparently, she thinks I should be out "helping," but the understanding which was reached before I came here was that my jobs were not with the boys.
- facilitate faster communication between Carmen/Diane and the Hogar.
- help organize the store
- teach English
So, since I'm in my room working on either 1 or 3, I'm not sure what she has the right to get flustered about. If I had a key to the store, I'd work on that in the mornings, but I haven't been given one (nor have I asked for one); so I can only assume that she doesn't actually want help with that.
For posterity sake, I should note that on Thursday night/Friday morning, I ate Taco Bell for the first time in...forever? I am typically opposed to "fake Mexican food," but that I was eating it in Guatemala at 1 am with a 15-year old and a 20-year old Guatemalan was just too funny.