Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Revelation (Day 376)

I seriously didn't see this coming, but it has hit me, and I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it.
I am a status symbol.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I mean, I didn't notice it in the last year, but today something happened that really made me take note.  I had a co-worker offer to take me home on his motorcycle.  Since I barely have enough for bus fare until Wednesday when I will cash my check from today, I accepted.  (Hey, that's 9 more pieces of bread and 2 tortillas! Or, if you want to split it up more evenly, 6 pieces of bread and 6 tortillas!)  He offered to take me home--to my house--for lunch during the middle of the day, but I turned him down for various reasons.  However, when he took me home after work, I noticed something funny.  I had never ridden with this guy before, but every time that he passed a group of people (especially males), he would give them a thumbs up.  I've only ever seen this when people are taking pictures.  However, his thumbs up was a little past center, as if he was pointing behind himself with his thumb.  And when we got to San Lorenzo del Cubo where he lives, he wanted to take me to see the church in the center of town...even though I've been to San Lorenzo once with my Guatemalan brother.  When you add it all up: He wanted people to see me on the back of his motorcycle.  I won't be riding with him again since the school where we both teach closed today, but he still wanted to be seen with me.

I am a status symbol.  And there's no good way to explain how I feel.  It's not that it's okay with me, but it's more that I just don't mind or don't care.  If it is important to them, fine.  It's not important to me, and I think I should probably go back to being oblivious to it (while still understanding that it exists).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Special Anniversary Post (Day 372)

I know this is a bit delayed; however, there's a good reason for it.  Sadly, it's going to be a bit more delayed while I go and get the bread for my dinner.  But there will be a real post here by tonight.
Apologies.  The neighbor boy came over and wanted to debate with me for...2.5 hours and then go home and debate by phone for an hour.    You can expect this update tomorrow sometime.
Okay, here it is. (FINALLY!) The past year has been a grand learning experience for me hashed out of a lot of good experiences and a few bad experiences.  There are lessons that I have learned but still haven't applied, and there are lessons that I have yet to learn as well.

Worst moment of the past year: Being told that I would receive nearly nothing of the money I raised for my upkeep when I was asked to leave the Hogar.
Best moment of the past year: My students.  (Is that not a moment?)  I hear very often that they want me to continue as their English teacher.  However, I suppose the best moment was when I was working with my normal group of missionaries in the school where I normally teach every week.  I took a few weeks off to translate for the group.  And in the school where I work, they customarily give each person on the mission team a few gifts to remind them of the country/their time here/ect.  I received only one gift (while most people received 5-7 gifts).  I will admit that I was a little upset.  I mean, there's a lot that I don't have here in Guatemala, and I could really use some help every now and again.  I thought if anyone was going to help me that it would be my own students, and when they gave me just one thing, I felt like they didn't want me there.  However, after I finished translating, the head principal of the school came up to me and let me in on a little secret: the students didn't want to give me anything.  It wasn't because they didn't like me; it was because when they give things to the people in the missions groups, those people leave.  My students actually asked if they could give me nothing because they didn't want me to leave.  (They were overruled because the principal didn't think it would be fair if I received nothing while I had worked all week.)

Best take-away lesson: I'm now bilingual.  Granted, I speak my second language like an 8- or 10-year old, but it's just missing a few pieces now.

Worst take-away lesson: My English (spelling) has suffered.

My typical day/week: There's really nothing typical about it.  I came down here to do one thing, and then life changed.  So, I just sort of made myself available where needed.  One day I can be introducing two similarly-focused missionaries to each other so that they can help one another out.  Another day, I can be picking oranges for a neighbor.  Another day, I might be debating the finer points of the Bible (in Spanish!).  Another day, I might be untangling thread for a different neighbor whose eyes are too bad to see anything smaller than her weaving.  Another day, I might be translating for a mission group.  Another day, I might be giving massages.  The common thread to all days is that I'm typically teaching English.  So, baring incredible amounts of irregularity in my schedule, here is my "typical day."
6:00 am: wake up, get water heating up for breakfast, let my chick out into the courtyard so that she can look for bugs and other interesting things to eat, wash some clothes and hang them on the line so that they'll dry by mid-day
6:20 am: shower
6:45 am: dry off, get dressed
6:55 am: make milk (remember that water I was heating up?), eat breakfast of hard cookie-like bread and hot milk, put the chick back into its box in my room, let the cats out, feed the cats and dog.
7:00 am: go to the bus to go to work (when I'm working in I said, there is no "typical"), do my daily devotional on the bus
7:50 am: buy the newspaper
8:00 am: start work
11:00 am: finish work, run errands (if in Antigua)
12 noon-ish: catch the bus to San Antonio Aguas Calientes (a.k.a. "home"), read the newspaper
12:45: arrive home, start soup cooking, take a nap
2:15 pm: wake up from nap, eat lunch (soup)
2:30 pm: Find a neighbor who needs help (usually, they find me)
4:30 pm: walk the dog/buy bread for dinner and tomorrow's breakfast
5:00 pm: return home, spend some time reading the Bible
6:00 pm: start cooking more soup for dinner, play computer games/knit/sew
7:30 pm: eat soup (dinner) with bread
8:00 pm: debate theology with the neighbor boy (this has become part of my "typical" day within the past week)
10:00 pm: send the neighbor boy home because his mother has called and is worried about him, check e-mail, catch up on facebook, sometimes read news in English
12 midnight: SLEEP!

This is actually more like a Frankenstein's monster of my typical day, but it will have to do.  And, of course, whenever I find just a spare second in my day, I'm hoping on the computer so that I don't stay up so late at night.  That 1.5 hour nap in my afternoon is because I only get 6 hours of sleep at night!  (FYI, I'm skipping dinner tonight so that I can write this, and I'm hoping that the neighbor boy's mother sends food with him.)

This year, I've also learned what hunger actually feels like.  I really don't recommend this to anyone, but it is quite the experience.  Last weekend, a missionary friend gave me breakfast and took me out to dinner.  I said, "Henry, this is crazy.  I have just eaten more calories in one meal (dinner) than I typically eat in one week...maybe two."  And yes, I felt really sick the next day from eating too much food.

My students graduate tomorrow.  I'm excited...and proud.