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.