Saturday, September 20, 2014

P.s. I was just looking at the Google search terms that led people to this blog. One lucky reader found it by searching: "dog licks extra large boobs." Sorry for calling you out.
This is my classroom, welcome. The kids alternate between calling it 'Megan's Kid Palace' and 'Megan's Coffee Palace.' Free coffee at work, what can I say. It's tiny but we squish in, and I like that outside the classroom is open to the outdoors. Often that means critters, but the kids have no fear of smashing possibly poisonous spiders with their shoes or bare hands, and then picking them up delicately between the fingers and transporting them to the garbage can outside. I try to think of the insects as learning opportunities. Yesterday the students were taking a test on Christopher Columbus but we took a break to crowd around and stare at a worm slug. Later I saw it smooshed across the floor so I guess someone didn't appreciate the educational value.

In more important and all-consuming news I've had an exploding head of allergies for the last several weeks and feel like I might scratch my face off if relief doesn't come soon. I went to the pharmacy an hour ago and bought Claritin for $1.20 and am currently waiting for it to take effect as I nurse myself with a bottle of Diet Coke. Share a Coca-cola with Gerson, it says. Do you know one? 

Mono suggested I apply alcohol to the skin. Won't that burn? Yes, yes it will. Mono has lots of interesting medical advice, like the time Nicole burned her arm and he advised that she have a dog lick it. A solution for every problem. I won't be trying the alcohol, though.

In other big news, Miley Cyrus is being fined approximately $1,270 for twerking against the Mexican flag at a concert in Monterrey. I'm sure she'll feel that one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It's been a month, almost. 

There's been a lot of counting of days in the past year and a half.

Last week was rather eventful among the foreign staff at the Colegio. The week prior administration told the high school Social Studies teacher that they wouldn't be offering to renew his contract when he finishes in December. On Tuesday they went into his classroom and told him in front of the students that he was fired. He asked for a lawyer and thanks to some illegal immigration paperwork on the part of the school, the school agreed to pay him through December despite his not working. Most of the foreign teachers have student visas here with the school claiming that our salary is a scholarship or something? Not sure. I only have a tourist visa because I couldn't do the required background check from Mexico. So. Don't tell anyone.

Then the next day another teacher had a sort of nervous breakdown in which she climbed on top of a student's desk and threw her notebook across the room, then ran out of the classroom to the front gate of the school, climbed it, and ended up at the U.S. Embassy a half hour drive away. I don't know exactly what was going on with her, but she left the country that evening. 

It must be hard to find teachers from abroad and know what you're getting, but it's the same for teachers who come in not knowing. I hear a lot of complaints about the school but to me it's the best part about this place. Guatemala City is not my favorite. It's doable but I don't really feel anything that draws me in. Like if someone said your job is transferring you to Bismark, North Dakota. I've never been to Bismarck. Maybe it's great. But I don't know how many people hold a candle for Bismarck in their hearts. That's how I feel about Guatemala City. I'm probably not fully able to see its better qualities because I'd rather be back in Mexico, but still, it has yet to charm me.

Meanwhile, Mono's discovered memes, so I get pictures like the one above on occasion. At the moment he'spending almost all of his free time studying for an exam he has to take on the 7th so we don't get to talk as much as we usually do. Then there's a little break before he hasix exams between the end of January and the beginning of May, and he'll have to travel for all of those I think. We were planning for him to visit in April but now he won't be able to, and I can't visit over Easter since he has a test in Mexico City that week. Hopefully Nicole (+Mike?) and I will be planning a trip for that week, though. Nudge nudge. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

This is just a dog that I want
 I'm in my second week of taking over the class, and it's been going well. Two weeks of orientation dragged and was mostly me watching the other teacher and feeling like I would do things differently. I cringed one day when she was teaching the students about scarcity.

...and this...
"It's eh-scaaarce." As in, I cut myself and it turned into an eh-scar. It would have been okay but she kind of shamed a little boy when he pronounced it correctly. "It's not 'scarce', you're not 'scared', it's eh-scaaaaaaarce." Extra elongating the aaaaaaaarrrrr sound. Then she made the class repeat after her three times as she pronounced it her way.

Nice lady though.    

It made me look back and think that I probably made a lot of mistakes teaching Spanish last year, too.

... also.
I really like my kids and I think they're easier to teach than American kids. My school is a pretty well-recognized international school, and from what I've heard it's a reach for a lot of middle class families. Our kids are in much better positions than many others in Guatemala, but I think the reason they're easier to teach is that they're less coddled. I don't mean toys or material things, I mean behaviors. My impression is that parents here see their kids as less needy. If their kid is being bad, I don't think the first reaction is to think "How can we make this easier for him? Should we give him Play-Doh to keep in his desk so that he can fulfill his fine motor and tactile awareness needs?" At least I can say for sure that this is definitely not the school's reaction. I'm not passing judgment here one way or the other, and if anyone has seen my cuticles they know I could use some Play-Doh to distract from the picking. I do think, though, that the result may be that kids in the U.S. end up more accustomed to adults doing the accommodating, and don't encounter the same kind of expectations that are the policy at my school. It's not about volume in the classroom or being on task either, because my students struggle with that too, but it is about showing respect to adults and accepting them as an authority from the beginning. I had several kids who struggled to do that even after I'd been teaching them the full year in Minnesota.  

It makes for a more enjoyable classroom, to be honest.

Speaking of showing respect, today I was on recess duty and Otto made a creeped out, halfway disgusted "EEeehh!" noise. "You look like a snake! Or like a dragon!"


I think he's never seen light eyes in the sun before. He told me I had no pupils and it was just all green. Not my eye color, but whatever. I've never had my appearance described as that of a snake before, but I found it unexpectedly enjoyable.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

It's raining right now and occasionally I feel drips from my open window. Rain is fickle and in some places dreary and depressing. In Cozumel it meant wading through streets flooded up to my shins and a gracious relief from the blazing sun. I went to two different pharmacies because I thought I had fungus growing on my feet from this hazardous task, but it turned out just to be itchy skin that never dried out in the humidity. Here the streets flood, too, and the water comes down like a shower, but it's cozy and cool in my apartment and the cloudy sky turns orange from the lights of the city.

Guatemala City is currently in it's rainy season, but Tuesday was the first day it had rained in a month. I was on the bus back from work when it started, and the bus monitor told us that we were being dropped off at a different stop because our street was closed. Why? This annoys me a great deal in retrospect because I asked the monitor twice and she claimed not to know, and then later I found out what actually happened. First I asked her and she looked at me - standing a foot away - then turned her back on me and began talking to a student about the altered route. I said excuse me a couple times then touched her shoulder to ask again and this time she at least paid me attention but still didn't give an answer. Is it because the streets are flooded? I imagine yes, she responded. 

I know now this wasn't true, and that in fact someone was shot a couple blocks down our street. I've heard that here in Guatemala people will not answer rather than give bad news, but don't you think that information might be relevant?

There's seems to be such a disconnect here when it comes to caring about and taking care of each other. What motivates people to lose their recognition of each other as human beings? In Mexico - not so much in Cozumel, but in general - there are dangerous areas, but there seems to be this other side of happiness in people. One of the big changes that I've noticed here is that there isn't music blaring in the streets. Mono and I never agree on volume. His music and his TV are, to me, always annoyingly loud, but it can be even louder when I go for walks. People have their doors and windows open and their music at full volume for the streets. It's as if they're playing it for the neighborhood, and really, I think that's what they're doing. There's a sense of shared experience that I don't see as much here. There are vast numbers of people living well below poverty within this city. The city dump is home to families and individual kids, who forage for what they can and try to avoid being swallowed up and buried alive by the unstable heaps. One Guatemalan said to me, "That's sad, but I'll be honest, our country has a lot of lazy and dirty people." I mean.. I don't see how a country moves forward when people who have no means are to blame, rather than the system that made it that way.

Not everyone thinks that way. Just a probably unnecessary clarification.

But while I'm on the topic of complaining, let me mention the hospitals, which have no capacity to deal with patients. People arrive with emergencies and get turned away because there are no beds for them. Last week one of my students fell on the sidewalk on the way to gym class, had a compound fracture of the two bones in his upper arm, and dislocated his elbow. He didn't get into surgery until this week. Another woman I heard about, who works at the school, had a thyroid problem and needed surgery, couldn't get treatment for a full year, and as a result it turned cancerous. (If any of this sounds ridiculous or is in fact impossible I apologize since I'm just repeating stories I've been told). 

Speaking of death, today I was looking through some of the Social Studies tests from my students. They had to answer a question about what occupation they wanted when they grew up. Otto wrote, "I want to be a soldier. I want to protect people. And also kill them.

Just, I don't know, thought I'd stick that in there.

And I got my hair dyed on Monday and it definitely turned out in the orange family on a scale from 1 to Pebbles. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Yesterday I went to an informational meeting at the school for parents that are thinking about enrolling their students next year. I'm finally getting the teachers to speak to me in Spanish and I was so happy when three different people on separate occasions told me I have a Mexican accent. Beaming. That was not the only thing said about me. During the presentation for Primary, I was in charge of advancing the Powerpoint slides while another woman talked. At the end there was a Question and Answer session, and one parent asked if students have different teachers or stay with the same one. The presenter I was with said, as I was sitting on a chair by the projector in front of everyone, that the teachers don't change but oftentimes with the foreign teachers (gesturing towards me) they aren't accustomed to the food so they have stomach problems. In those cases a member of Administration or another available teacher might step in while the foreign teacher (gesturing) goes to the bathroom.

For those of you who missed it, she just told everyone I have diarrhea. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Remember how I said my roommate was thinking about quitting? Monday was payday and Tuesday she didn't come out of her room in the morning for the bus to school. When I got home that afternoon, her things were packed up, and a pile of ungraded papers and textbooks was stacked on the kitchen table. She must have left just shortly before I got back because she'd done her dishes and they still had water droplets on them in the drying rack.

Now it's just me in the apartment. Empty bedroom here, in case you want to visit.

A couple weeks ago I was reading in bed when I saw
s happen. Mono lifted up Manchas' while he
was on the computer. Look closely at the paw.
The past few days have been more of the same at school, with lots of meetings to learn about the curriculum, procedures, etc. I really love the Primary Principal, Carola. We end up getting off task quite a bit during our meetings, and she tells me about Guatemalan history and politics, immigration and social welfare. Hearing about those things from people in the country is one of the things I really appreciate about traveling. Today she told me I touched her soul when I asked why the kids weren't using leveled readers in class. Then she brought me to a back room of the Coordination office where one wall was covered in leveled readers. Carola had advocated for more independent and guided reading time, but the school didn't want to do it, and none of the teachers are using the leveled readers, so I now have my own private library for my kids.

My kids are cuter each day.

And today I had a meeting with the rest of the new-ish teachers to meet the Head Director. I'm the newest but about 7 teachers have arrived in the last month and a half. This was weird actually. It was rumored that the meeting was arranged for us to voice our complaints to the administration, in light of my roommate leaving unannounced. The teacher I'm replacing did the same thing.

The Head Director came out and she's old. Like 80 or something. Shaky when standing. She apologized for not coming down from her upstairs office to meet us because her toes have been hurting her. She kept staring at me for uncomfortably long periods of time. So much so that people brought it up to me after the meeting. Anyway, the teachers were planning a trip this weekend to camp on some mountain. I wasn't going to go because I'd read that it's dangerous, and then later I couldn't because Carola asked me to come to the new parent's orientation on Saturday. The Head Director said that she's heard we were going but we shouldn't because it's dangerous. Making sure to include appropriate pregnant pauses she said, "There are people there and they might rob you . . . or you might get killed." Another person from the school told someone else that some people had been robbed on the mountain but one guy didn't have money on him so they killed him and threw him in a crater. Now, I don't know about the crater thing, but I don't doubt that the rest is true. Many of the teachers are mad about it because they think the school is just trying to be controlling, but it was also a surprise to them that it was dangerous, so maybe they should listen.

Anyway, it was weird nonetheless to hear a "Welcome to our school," and a "You might get killed" all in the same breath, especially from what felt like my Grandma. I did want to hug her, I did. But as you can see, it did not make for the ideal introduction to dialogue time. Then we were whisked out of the room and unfortunately I overheard Ana Luisa talking to two other teachers, who were asking about when they could talk about the issues they're finding. Ana Luisa said, "That was your chance to express your concerns; she asked if you had any questions." Really not what you'd say if you were interested in making things better.

After school today I walked to the mall by myself. That was a big deal because I was afraid of getting robbed, but instead it just looked like I had a boob job because my money was stuffed in my bra. Guatemala City does not feel like a welcoming place to walk around as a foreigner. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but it's a sausage fest out there on the streets. A lot of places also have armed guards at their entrances, which is not a comforting thing. They freak me out even on the base in Cozumel. But I went. I bought two sweaters because mornings are cold here, for serious, and I walked home with one boob bigger than the other.