Monday, September 12, 2016

New Villages: Day 2,222

Our waiting list is currently at five.  That's not five families, that's five communities, and there are more who would probably be interested in joining if they were aware we existed...and there are probably more who I would present it to if I knew they existed.  So, while I've been adamant about adding no more than one new community per year, I'm thinking about maybe adding two in 2017.

The main reason why I've been interested in only adding one is quite simple: it takes time and energy to build a relationship with a new community.  Trust is not something easily built in this country.  Their government says they will change things for the poor, but no change ever comes.  Foreigners come and then go back to their country, forgetting all about the people they've met.  So, when I say that I am going to do something, they don't believe me.  It puts an emotional strain on a person as I struggle to learn names and familial connections in an effort to prove to these people that I am who I say I am.  Currently, Educacion con Esperanza serves 11 families with 24 children in school, but because we work for the economy of the entire family, it can be said that we serve 80 people, half of those either in school or pre-school.  But let's stop with those numbers for now because I don't want any of them to become just a number.

However, numbers are the other reason why I've hesitated to add even one more community.  This sort of work takes money, and I haven't started a 501c3 (NGO).  Why?  Well, because I don't know how to.  And I read things online and it says to fill out this form or that form and, quite frankly, it all sounds really difficult to do from here and really time-consuming to do from there.  But I did some number running the other day.  To support the village where I'm working right now, I require $3,000/year.  Yes, that's food, school supplies, and bills for 80 people.  (That's only $250/month.)  Obviously, that can vary based on the enthusiasm of the students for their studies, and the bulk of that is needed in January when the school year starts.  However, after doing that math, I felt a lot better about adding one community this coming year...and then I felt a lot better about adding two communities this coming year.

Do you have $10 you could spare per month?  Do you have 24 friends who could spare $10 per month as well?  You could adopt a community.  You could make life better for about 80 people.  You could send about 24 students to school.  Be on the lookout later this month for an online campaign to raise the money to send a community to school.  Or, if you prefer a paper version, I can get you the address of my sending church and you can mail them a check.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

These are a Few of my Least Favorite Things: Day 2,217

So, I headed out to Solola on Thursday afternoon.  It was to be an overnight trip.  I don't do a lot of those just because I like sleeping in my own bed with as many blankets as I want and the bathroom all to myself.  I also like having a door on my bedroom so teenagers don't accidentally come barging through the curtain to get their own clothing out of the wardrobe while I'm changing, but maybe that's just me.

On Thursday, Manuel and I talked about the meeting the following morning with the mayor.  Manuel had called him on Monday to set it up.  And while I don't prefer mornings as that means we have our normal meeting with the families in the afternoon, I figured that it might be okay just this once as the mayor and I have been trying to get together since February or March; if there was a set meeting with him, I was going to be there.  We also went to get many of the food staples we would be distributing the next day, and his kids helped us divide them up into 2- and 3-pound bags.

So Friday morning arrived.  We ate breakfast and headed out early to make sure we were on time for the mayor.  We got to the municipal building and...the mayor wouldn't be in.  So, between the options of twiddling our thumbs until our meeting with the families at 1 and meeting with the vice mayor, we opted to meet with the vice mayor.  Now, since we're not actually affiliated with the government, the vice mayor really had no reason to know who I was or why I was in his office.  He sure pretended to know why I was there, but some of the things he said made it obvious that he had no clue what I was about.  It was probably the most unproductive meeting I have had in my life...and it's certainly the most unproductive one I've had in recent memory.  (At least Manuel had a chance to share about the project with some community leaders seated behind us in the waiting area; that felt productive.)  If the mayor still wants to meet with me, he's going to have to come to me...or at least to one of our meetings with the families.

After that, Manuel apparently had set up another meeting without telling me anything about it; needless to say, I felt a little awkward.  There is an "obras sociales" office in Solola that he's apparently connected with.  They don't know much of what I do either, but at least they were a little more interested in listening instead of taking over.  They only opened their office in March, but they help the poorest of Solola find the help they need.  I was quite impressed.  They asked if they might use me in case they need to go to the US embassy; I don't know how much help I'd be, but I told them that if I could help, I would.

Then we went over to the bank to withdraw some money out to buy the beans (and to pay Manuel back for some of the stuff we had bought the day before) before heading back to his house to eat lunch.  His wife is a good cook with the ingredients she has.  We had time to put the beans in bags before we ate, and we even got the stuff packed in the back seat of the truck.  That was good as it started pouring while we ate lunch.

Fortunately, Santa (the woman whose house we meet at) has a large enough kitchen building that we all fit inside.  Little Maria Isabel's grades didn't improve, but the teacher got more creative at marking her report card.  Another little boy's grades tanked, and I'm not sure what's going on there; his teacher apparently said that he doesn't understand anything (after two semesters of understanding a lot?).  He could still pass.  We ran out of sugar and soap.  Two families are still in the negative, but one has a child not yet in school (and is guaranteed to get out of the negative next trip) and the other family has a child whose grades weren't out yet and usually earns at least 7 points; so I expect them to be out as well.  I offered to let them buy a few things because I don't want anyone going hungry.  One family turned me down; the other family bought a few pounds of beans.  There's a saying in Guatemala that if more people show up to eat than you had planned on, you just put more water in the beans.  I'm curious how long that family can make those few pounds of beans last.

I don't often let families go into negative points, but I do if I feel that spending the points which put them in the negative is more important than not spending those points.  I also have a limit of sorts.  It's a rough calculation based on how many points the family normally earns coupled with any guaranteed point earners (kids under school age, special needs kids).

Chickens (good for both eggs and meat) and fruit trees (avocado, plum, apple, and limon) are in the plans to add to the point catalog for next year, at least in the Solola area, but that's a potential update for sometime later this month.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Language Thoughts: Day 2,216

So, I realized that I haven't posted a normal update here in a while.  I kind of let my "Mission Moments" cover the bulk of what is going on with the project and little updates over on the Facebook page have helped some of you stay up to date as well.  (If you are on Facebook and haven't "liked" our page, I invite you to do so!  I'll try to do better about keeping the blog up to date, but the Facebook page is just so handy for quick little updates.)  I did take a trip out to Solola last week, but I'll write about that in another post.

This post is about language.  I sometimes feel like there are four languages going on around me.  First, obviously, Spanish.  Second, English.  The third and fourth are two similar situations: words that were English and are used in Spanish with little to no change and words that were English and are used in Spanish with Spanish pronunciation.

Let's start with the first of those two: words that were in English and are used in Spanish with little to no change.
Examples: e-mail, internet, chat. (Are you sensing a theme?)  Many of these words are based on technology, and rather than inventing a new word for them--okay, sure "correo electronico," but I don't know anyone who uses that; although they might say "correo" since the postal system here is basically non-existent--they simply adopt the word already in popular usage which happens to be in English.  You also see this somewhat in verbs such as textear, but since Spanish verbs have to follow a certain pattern in order to be conjugated (that thing we do in English when it's "I run" but "he runs"), they can't keep there exact English appearance.

With the second, I can only think of one good example right now, but I know I've heard others.  That's chance.  Now, remember, these words are English words but they have been taken to fit Spanish pronunciation.  That word right there in italics is a two-syllable word: Chan-say.  I have no clue how or why this happens.

Now, in the multi-lingual community, there's something called "code switching."  This refers to switching of languages during a conversation.  The rules about it are interesting with plenty of theories by linguists who study this stuff.  (I suggest the Wikipedia article for a thorough overview.)  I don't claim to be a studied linguist, but I have noticed a few things.  Words which retain their same pronunciation can be code switched.  Words which change their pronunciation don't really work with code switching.  I'm not positive why that is, but I have some theories.  First, it could be because any true bilingual knows that "chance" (since it's the only example I can recall right now) is an English word and should therefore be pronounced as such.  Second, it could be because, in Spanish, "chance" doesn't usually use its article ("un," masculine).  In English, I would say "Give me a chance!" but Spanish would simply be "Deme chance!" not "Deme un chance!"

Just some language ramblings.  Hope you are all doing well.