Central America Journal 2004


Guatemala Highlands

March 15, 2004

Dear Everybody,

XelaWell, we are here in Xela (Common name for Quetzeltenango). We have survived one day of school. I am happy with my level of conversation, but I have certainly forgotten my grammar. My little Tuesday night class has been doing conversation and composition this year, so I can understand what is good and what is not so good in my progress!

Let me go back to the beginning...

We arrived without any incident, except that the place to change money was not open, so we had to wait until the next afternoon to do that task. It always takes a long time in Guatemala. One stands in lines, and everything is done in triplicate paper work. Dennis Leder, SJ, of the Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala City picked us up. He took me to my place, Casa Benito, where I had a good breakfast and about a 3 hour nap. The casa is a place for sisters and other women to stay, not very expensive and very clean, except for the inevitable cockroaches that one sends scurrying when the lights come on in a dark room. This little critter, while I do not like it, at least is familiar from various situations in my past, especially Tenn. I stayed there until Sat eve, when I was invited to stay at the University.

A couple of surprises. The first was that my camera is jammed, and I found it out on Friday afternoon when I went to take my first picture. I couldn’t do anything about it until Saturday at 10:30, and then I only had a little more than an hour in which it could be worked on. But it is now fixed. In the meantime, for insurance, I bought another camera, not a very expensive one, so I know I’ll have at least some pictures.

The next surprise is that the travelers checks that I got through AAA are not accepted everywhere, and we had to go in search of the correct bank. But we found it, just in time to get our money changed before the weekend. Whew.

invasionsThe best part of these first days, however, was the visit to the Parroquia Dios con Nosotros. We had to go in search of the correct phone number, and my attempt to set up an appointment with Fr. DeGroot went through the secretary in my less than perfect speaking and comprehending.. So we asked Dennis to confirm. Confirm he did, and Padre DeGroot came and picked us up at 11:00 and escorted us around this immense parish until 4:45 in the afternoon. This is the underside of Guatemala City, in a barrio called Mezquital. Sections where tin shacks appear over night are called invasions, and there are a lot of them in the parish. He took us to three clinics, one of the parish's that does only natural medicines, one that does regular medicine, and has a reduced price pharmacy, and another that is run by an NGO (OGN in Spanish). There we met a Maryknoll sister with whom Jane Ellen Burns of our congregation lived in the past!

DeGroot and ChildrenThere are at least two daycare centers within the parish, a primary school, and another for middle years and a technical college. There are three full fledged church buildings and numerous chapels in various barrios. Probably 130,000 people within the parish boundaries and growing daily.

XelaThe place of the friars was also inspiring...simple tin roof, cement block exterior walls and cardboard room dividers. It had been the place for the place for the volunteers until they began having too much trouble with their visas. Now they go to Mexico instead...

Enough for now. I need to write a couple of thank you notes and get to a conference in a couple of minutes.

BUT Happy Birthday, Paul!

Love to all.

Beth

March 18, 2004
Breaker

Dear All,

Atitlan from Pana

I just wrote a long letter then pressed some key by accident and lost everything, except a letter “d.” The Spanish keyboard trips me up like this quite often until I get used to it.

This actually has not been my afternoon. I tried for an hour to change a traveler’s check. After the fourth bank, which I now know is the only one in Xela that will take the kind that AAA sells, I still couldn’t get money. They won’t give any without calling the company in the US and the phone call would not go through. Interestingly, in Guatemala City, they assured me at the first bank that their branch would take this kind, but get here, and of course, they don’t. Two morals, I think. Nothing works as you would expect in out of the way places in the developing world and DO NOT BUY AAA travelers checks.

My houseBut there are some good things too. My house is just around the corner from the Maya ceremonyschool and I can get there in 5 minutes. I get served fresh fruit and bread every morning and several days we have had fresh refrescos (tropical juice drinks), today’s was of mango. Yesterday a fine walk to the top of a steep hill, El Baul, where we had a view of the whole city. An excellent presentation of a Maya ceremony, in which we could participate in the prayer for peace, with a question period following. Very informative and interesting. My teacher, Isabel, would you believe, knows a lot about Ignatius of Loyola and is beginning the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life TODAY. What a Maya ceremonysurprise! Tomorrow she and I and John and his teacher are going to the branch of the Jesuit University to meet the priest there who has just come to do campus ministry (They have never had any campus ministry because they have no resident students). Not so good: the days are flying by and the first week is almost over.

IsabelLooking forward: tomorrow afternoon we go to Panajachel, on our way to San Lucas Tolimán to meet the JSTB students. Should be a very interesting weekend. We will get back on Monday about noon, in time for afternoon class.

Sorry there isn’t more detail, but it was in the letter that went into the dark hold of cyberspace. The next installment will probably not be until next Wednesday.

Prayers!

Beth

March 23, 2004
Breaker

Lago Atitlan
JSTB class
Clinic, San Lucas
Coffee
Santiago Atitlan
Rother memorial
Baptisms

Dear Family and Friends,

It is Tuesday morning, and we have had another great weekend of experiences. After class last Friday, John and I had arranged for a mini bus to Panajachel, and also reserved hotel rooms ahead, as there was a music festival in Santiago Atitlan and all the rooms were filling. We considered it our afternoon of R and R, and so decided to do things the easiest way possible. (By the way, when we went to the travel agency to reserve the hotel rooms in advance, they took my infamous travelers check, so I had more cash than I wanted.) We arrived in Pana about 5:00 in the afternoon, time for a bit of exploring and even some

Launches
Tree farm
Santiago dress
Santiago street
shopping, as we knew that whatever we bought would come home with the JSTB contingent, whom we were meeting in the morning. A great Italian meal rounded out our rest afternoon.

In the morning, we negotiated for a launch to speed us across Lago Atitlan to San Lucas Tolimán, where we were to meet the JSTB students from the Prophets class who are there for a week of work, observation and social analysis. They had arrived the evening before after some adventures of their own. Twenty minutes after we boarded the lancha (aka speedboat), we arrived in San Lucas, a bit wet but no worse for wear, and just in time to go with the students out to see some of the projects of the parish. The students are all part of Gena Hens Piazza’s Prophets class, and are there to make connections between the prophetic literature and the situations they encounter in real life in Guatemala. The church is set up to receive volunteers, and literally hundreds stream through there every year. Some of the projects are the hospital and clinic, the school, which has about a thousand students between the primary in the morning and the secondary in the afternoon, a reforestation project with its own seed bank. They grow, harvest, roast and sell coffee, too—fair trade, of course. One of their most important works, though, is resettling indigenous people who have been kicked off the fincas, buying up land and giving it to them for their colonias. They have probably resettled eight or nine groups of people in the last 35 years, sometimes raising the money rather quickly, sometimes taking years and years to collect the necessary funds.

On Saturday afternoon, we took a truck to Santiago Atitlan, the next pueblo around the lake, but which is a different ethnic group and different language, and also a different parish. The reason was the music festival, but we never found it. We heard later that it was all gringo music and the attendees were the expats. So our attention turned to the very important church and the grave of Fr. Stanley Rother, a great advocate of the indigenous, who had been assassinated there in 1981. There is a chapel in his memory around the side of the church, and the tomb within. Very moving. He was the one who got the women to weave the colorful stoles so many of you have or have seen. His memory is well loved there, it is clear. I also attempted to look up the people that the Marin parishes are connected with, but the priest was hearing confessions (a long line) and Mass was to follow. The other people only work during the week. So I was unsuccessful at that attempt. The rest of our couple of hours in Santiago Atitlan were spent wandering the market and absorbing the ambiance of this very indigenous town. One of the big massacres of the war took place here, and it was here, I believe, that the townspeople were successful in getting the army to leave and doing their own patrolling.

The students were all divided into teams for the various liturgical events of the next day. Turns out John had a lot to do because the pastor, Dom Gregorio, was in the US for the week. The first big event was baptisms. One of the students, Antonio Garcia, was just ordained a deacon, so he was given the responsibility for the baptism that occur every Sunday. There were 50! The whole church was full of the families and the whole liturgy took about two hours. John stood beside him for moral support, and also helped with the two charismations.

I am going to send this letter before it gets much longer. I have already lost one version of it! Will resume in another.

Beth

March 23, 2004 (Part II)
Breaker

Going outDear All,

I left you after the baptisms in San Lucas. In the afternoon, the students were divided into several groups, two going out to colonias for masses, one visiting an evangelical church in town (the one student from PSR did this, as it was close to situations in which she will work) and some staying at the church to observe the funeral and burial of the well loved butcher who had died the day before.

I was in the group in which John was the presider for two of the masses. He had worked with his teacher during the week on the pronunciation of the texts, and he did quite well. One of the students is from Mexico, and he served as deacon (actually he will be in a couple of months), and could introduce everyone and everything and personalize everything. One of the women students gave the homily in each of the places and others were in charge of getting everything set up, talking with the people, etc.

Let me describe the two sites. In the first, Huyachel, we were in a simple wood walled house. The first room had a dirt floor and the second room, where the Mass was, had a cement floor and a single electric bulb hanging from a wire. The walls are built with about an inch between the boards for ventilation, a type of construction I saw everywhere in Nicaragua also. The people had everything ready for Mass, and a cantor led all the singing in all the possible places, lectors read the readings and the prayers of the faithful, and served the cup. The only thing that a student did was the homily, and ordinarily the presider would have done that, so the students didn’t take any initiative away from the people. Many children came to Mass here, and were well behaved, sitting or standing near their parents.

Santa TheresitaThe second site was even farther south, and therefore even hotter. The colonia, Santa Teresa, was one of the church resettlements. The evangelical church was meeting a few blocks away, and they had a powerful sound system and a LOT of clean, well dressed people in attendance. The people at the Mass were sparser, and seemed either poorer or did not have the same tradition of dressing up. But they did have their own loud sound system, to compete with the evangelical church a block or two away! Here the children either played outside or clung to the glassless windows and peered inside at these white skinned people worshiping with their parents. Quite different traditions about the children, and I would have liked to ask the resident priest about it, had there been time.

I forgot to mention that our means of transportation out it the rural areas was in the back of the pickup truck. The word has moved over into Spanish, but they say it with their own clip and lilt which I can not communicate in writing (“pickop” is the actual word).

In the evening, we all went to the host’s house for a bit more of the history of the parish. This part was not translated, so I was happy that I could get most of it. On the first day, I was even able to fill in a story that the student who was translating missed. I just did it spontaneously, and surprised myself. I need to remember that because yesterday, when, back in class, I was redoing the same things I took last week, because I don’t know them well enough in the mind of my teacher.

The trip home was by hired truck directly to Xela, about 2.5 hours. Got home in time to unpack and clean up and prepare a composition about the weekend for my afternoon class.

Time to go... more in a couple of days.

Beth

March 24, 2004
Breaker

Dear All,

Mercado Democracia

Have a bit of time this morning, so will dash off another quick note. As far as doing things, today we walked to the Mercado Democracia, several square blocks of indoor and outdoor markets, where we made a few purchases of more necessary things. We stopped off at the University Rafael Landívar, the Jesuit university that we had visited the other day with our teachers, to use the baños, a very nice convenience, especially in the mornings. We also found one of the other universities, this one by accident, but at the church there, St. Nicholas, there were two very interesting (to us) fliers posted: there is a week of Spiritual Exercises going on right now, from 7:00 to 8:00 pm, led by the Jesuit who serves as a chaplain at the University. He told us the other day that all the years that the University has been here the Jesuits had served the surrounding parishes and convents, but had never had a campus ministry, until him. He came just a few months ago, and he says things are poco a poco as far as getting things going relative to the campus.

This evening the school is showing Romero, and since we are both going to El Salvador, though at different times, we decided to re-see it with our recent experiences in mind. I did see in the paper yesterday (and my teacher had me read two articles about it from the daily paper) that the right wing government got elected in El Salvador by a landslide. The turnout was also huge. Makes me wonder if the CIA was "helping" things along a bit...interesting that my teacher was also wondering the same thing.

Things are settling down a bit. Every day is not new now, though every day does bring something new in it. There is plenty to digest from all this. One thing I am aware of is how much the situation in Guatemala has deteriorated during this last government, which seems to have been more blatant than usual in robbing the country. All the members of that government are now out of the country, unable to return because there are warrants for their arrest. One of the articles I skimmed this morning -- yes, I can now skim the news in Español if I have some sense of the vocabulary and topic -- was about how many massacres the former president Rios Montt is now accused of. While he was in the Congress, until he lost this last election, he had immunity. As soon as he lost his immunity, he was gone. With this kind of culture of government, it is no wonder that the situation for the poor is so desperate.

Enough for now.

Hope all is well with all of you.

Beth

March 27, 2004
Breaker

Hola!

Saturday afternoon, and a bit of a breather! I just got up from a nice nap. This is the first weekend that we have not been on the go from the beginning to the end, so I am happy for the breather. We had made some tentative plans for today and tomorrow, but they got changed on the spot this morning. So I will tell you about this morning here.

MariaThere are a few "approved" vendors that come to our school to sell. One is named Maria, and she is about 4 feet tall. Yesterday afternoon, a couple of us bought something from her. Nice work and the price is reasonable (no negotiating with the "approved" vendors). After we made our purchases, she invited us to her home for this morning. It was very near, she said. And we could see more weavings, which translates, of course, into “buy more.” Knowing that, we said yes. But the experience was well worth it. "Close" turned out to be Nahuala, about half the way to Panajachel, however. To get there, we took a microbus to the place where we caught the chicken bus to Cuatros Caminos, the major crossroad, where we caught another chicken bus to Nahuala, then rode in the back of a pickup up the mountain to her pueblo, and from there we walked several blocks farther into town to their very humble home.

Maria learned weaving from her mother, who learned it from her grandmother. She introduced us around to the various women in the courtyard who were all related to her, including her mother, who is ailing these days. We learned that Maria is 45, so her mother is probably about 20 years older. No one older than Maria speaks Spanish, only Quiche, but the younger ones do go to school in Spanish. As we were walking through the pueblo, Maria told us that the new houses going up were because those families had someone in the US who sent money back. (One of the biggest sources of income for Guatemala is the money sent back by those working elsewhere). Their houses were made of mud bricks, but one had been plastered and whitewashed. In the courtyard, besides the ever-present laundry tubs, called pilas, so Sweat lodgetypical of this country, there was something round of mud bricks that looked like an oven. Turns out that it is the way one would bathe and works just like a Native American sweat lodge: build a fire and throw drops of water on it for steam. The grandmother can not use it any more because one needs to crawl into it, something she is no longer able to do. The latrine is outside the courtyard, and is covered by a little sheet of plastic for privacy.

Maria weavingMaria set up her loom, which is tied to the pillar outside her house, and then she sits on a strap attached to the bottom, in order to hold the tension. There is a bobbin and a stick for pounding the threads close together. She showed us how she weaves the kind of cloth I bought yesterday, which in my ignorance I had thought was embroidery on top of the weaving. Not so, it is all woven by hand hour after painstaking hour.

We were served hot sweetened tea for the showing and buying part. I did get three more pieces, and a couple of us will pay her on Tuesday at the school, the next time she makes the trip in. This part of our experience was conducted inside Maria’s house. It was noticeably cooler inside, very clean. A cement floor, a couple of electric lights, two beds (her sister lives with her), a few benches around the edges that were holding the possessions, and an altar. Maria didn’t mind if we took pictures, so hopefully, I have the weaving demonstration recorded on film.

Then Maria escorted us all the way down to the highway and talked to the bus driver on our behalf. “They are my friends,” she said, and made sure that the assistant would notify us where to get off. Which we did, in Xela in Zona 3. Since John was already late for taking his family to lunch, we took a taxi to the little park near our school.

I got home in time for midday meal, but the Señora was not home. She did call, saying that they were still at the doctor’s office. (Their oldest girl is pregnant but having some difficulty, and she and her 2 year old, Miguelito, have been staying at the house most of the week. She got better news and everyone was clearly relieved.) The meal appeared soon after they arrived at home...take out Chinese. I would have sworn that I was in the US. I, the señor and the uncle had an interesting conversation about the different kinds of food available in Guaty. Out came a bottle of rum and the two men had rum and cokes for Sat afternoon main meal. (I took note of a possible present for them when I leave). Then the nap!

We were going to a concert tonight (sacred music on the marimba in a church within walking distance), but probably will just go to Mass and get dinner out. (Note later: we decided we didn’t want walk the considerable distance to the concert nor to walk home late at night.) Tomorrow we were going to the market at Momostenango, but probably won’t do that now that we had this extra trip this morning that we weren’t expecting. Actually, I am quite ready for a bit of down time.

Cooking at 9000'Another letter could be given to our adventures buying the ingredients and making penne pasta with marinara sauce for the school dinner last night. We had to walk the couple of miles to the market and find the ingredients (never did find basil), and get some wooden spoons as there are no utensils. We cooked it on the stovetop that is there in the school, but barely did get that large amount of water to boil at this altitude. However, we did succeed in making pasta, sans boiling water, it was edible and no one got sick from my cleaning of the tomatoes for the sauce. That excursion took most of our free time yesterday morning!

One other interesting note: When I came in this afternoon, the two older girls were watching their little nephew and watching TV. The movie was "Lord of the Rings". I watched it awhile in Spanish...lots of talk here about the Passion of the Christ, which is available in all the stalls on DVD...

Enough for now.

Beth

March 29, 2004
Breaker

Dear All,

We begin our final week in Xela and in this school. I have returned to my first teacher, and am studying from 8:00-1:00, which is much better for me. I also notice that the teachers are much fresher, too, unless, of course one has a teacher who only teaches in the afternoon. There were a couple of days last week in which my teacher was too tired to teach well, and I was likewise too tired to learn well. But, were I in her shoes, I wouldn’t teach well after 10 hours of uno a uno either. My comprehension is improving, but I am more conscious of all the mistakes that I make while speaking, so get tied up in talking. I talk more when I am not talking to instructors.

We will be having a bit of a change for this weekend. We were going to Santa Clara La Laguna (and we probably still are), but Sr. Johana Bruno, who was going to host us, is in California with her mother, whom the family has just put into hospice care. So we will see if it is still ok to visit Sr. Liz Remily in the same clinic. Will keep you posted. We have the names and addresses of our families in Antigua, and we could easily stay here if it is an imposition on Sr. Liz. It is not possible to arrive in Antigua on the night of Palm Sunday and expect to find hotel rooms, so it is a good thing that we have our family addresses already. Class starts at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, and in this school we will have seven hours of class por dia.

San JacintoTo continue my saga of the weekend. I was ready for less stress after completely full days since we got here. Saturday’s visit to Maria’s house was a bit more than we had expected, so we decided not to go to the Sunday market in Momostenango, but to go to pueblos very close to here, which we did. We walked to a traffic circle where I expected we could catch a bus, and that worked fine. We got off in the first town, Salcaja, where the oldest church in Guatemala and in all of Central America is located. San Jacinto was erected in 1496, only a few years after Columbus touched land in the Caribbean. We found the church just fine, but the only Mass is on Saturday, and it was locked up tighter than a drum, so we were onlyMarimbas, Salcaja able to see the exterior. Turns out they are renovating it, so I don’t know what we would have been able to see of the interior even if we had been able to get in. However, down in the town square, there was a marimba concert that we listed to for about 45 minutes. There were two huge marimbas with three players each, several drummers and other percussionists. Very enjoyable. We had purchased the Sunday paper, so we sat on benches and read the paper and listened to the concert.

San Andreas XeculSince our original intention had been a bit thwarted, we decided to travel on to San Andreas Xecul where the most colorful and bizarre church in all of Guatemala is located. That entailed jumping onto another chicken bus, going about 15 km farther down the road, getting off at a particular crossroad, and hopping into the back of a pick-up truck and traveling about 5 more km up to the town proper. Here there was a Mass in progress, and we were able to attend the last half. We were the only persons who were not indigenous. We were standing out the door of the packed church, where there were a lot of mothers nursing babies. One of the liturgical innovations of this town: after both parts of the Consecration and at the end of Mass, someone sets off a string of firecrackers! The church was beautiful in the Guatemalan way and old, and we were able to see it before it was locked up. We also got pictures of the exterior, which is the most colorful in all of Guatemala. Then we hopped a picop to the crossroad and a bus for Xela. We learned that the buses don't return to the same traffic circle, but go to the main and extremely dirty terminal in a whole different section of town. So we hailed a taxi to take us to the center of town for Q20, or about $3.50. That taxi ride cost about the same as all the buses and picops for both of us for the rest of the morning.

The rest of the day, for me, was resting, and a little homework. I was asleep in front of the TV at 8:00 p.m. and in my own bed with the light off before 9:00.

One other interesting thing. The rainy season is not supposed to start until April, but since Saturday it has been raining in the afternoons, and quite hard, with thunder and lightening. Glad for sweaters and umbrellas, which we didn't expect to use until much later. It never did rain the last time I was here, but it was a also drought year for Nicaragua. Hopefully, this one won't be. There it will be so hot that all the rain will do is increase the already high humidity. But it will also settle the not inconsiderable dust.

That's a bit more of the weekend. I feel more rested today, and appreciate being back with my first teacher. We keep reviewing things that I have had, but each time around, it gets better. So I am not unhappy with the review. I am hearing things now that used to be just ambient noise. I still need people to speak “mas despacio, por favor,” but I can get much more rapid speech than at the beginning of these three weeks. This experience makes me much more sympathetic to the needs of the students I teach who are learning in another language.

Until later,

Beth

March 30, 2004
Breaker

Dear All,

A short letter today. Study goes along little by little. John has already passed me in verb forms. Fortunately for my pride, I can still speak much more fluently and understand more than he can. But he is gaining. A couple of breakthroughs: the other night I dreamed in Spanish, and I am reading some poetry of Ernesto Cardinal of Nicaragua and understanding it. I read and discussed some with my teacher this morning.

Mostly I wanted to comment on the weather. The rains seem to have started and, if so, it's about six weeks early. Now the reason for bringing the sweater and turtle neck has appeared. Last evening about 6:30 there was such a downpour that lots of the streets flooded, because the drains are so small and because they are filled with garbage (the bane of the third world). We were at Mass at the time, and the water came in the roof and fell on the head of the lector! The house where John is staying flooded briefly, but the señora caught it before it got into his room. This morning, I woke up to a totally white horizon, when usually I look out on a substantial hill called El Baul (the Trunk). Fog had enveloped everything. All the wash is hung outside, and of course nothing dries in weather like this.

Tomorrow a group of four of us are going to the famous hot springs, Fuentes Georginas in the afternoon. As long as we don’t have an electric storm, it should be enjoyable to be in the hot springs in the rain... But if there is an electric storm...Next letter you will know. If there is no letter...

I can’t believe we are getting ready to leave Xela. The time has passed so quickly.

We may have to rearrange our trip to Santa Clara a bit, as the person we were going to visit, Johanna Bruno, is in the US, attending to her mother who is dying. We are going to call the other sister, Sister Liz, and see if it is still convenient for us to come. If not, we can stay here until Sunday, when we can go directly to Antigua. Or we can show up at the University Rafael Landívar in Guatemala City--they have rooms.

More on Thursday, probably.

Beth

April 4, 2004
Breaker

Dear friends,

A short letter from here today. We leave tomorrow. Hardly seems possible that our three weeks here are over. We are just getting to know our way around the town. Today we went in search of capas, (capes) to protect us and our luggage if we have to travel by picop tomorrow. No sign of the rain letting up yet. We were successful in finding only large garbage bags, but these have the advantage of being quite disposable. We can also use them in Antigua if we get rained on during the Semana Santa processions. We are assured that it seldom rains much for Semana Santa when it is this early, but then every one says, "but this year..."

This afternoon we went shopping for little thank you presents for our families. I got some flowers for the señora and some crayons and a little book to color in for the grandson who has been there much of the week.

Swimming at FuentesYesterday we went to the famous Fuentes Georginas, and just as we got there, it started to rain. So we enjoyed the hot water with cold rain falling on us. I am glad I saw the same place in the sun three years ago because it is very beautiful, but this was very relaxing, and at a time when I really needed a break.

The stress of the week has been getting plans firmed up for the weekend. Because it is the beginning of one of the biggest travel days, we were encouraged to have confirmed reservations for everything. Everything, that is except the leg of the trip from Km 148 on the main highway into Santa Clara. We are assured that there are buses and microbuses that run along there regularly. Sr. Liz is expecting us at the clinic tomorrow afternoon. I had wondered if she would want us to cancel, but when we called, it turned out to be anything but—like she could hardly wait for us to arrive. I am hoping for a low key Saturday, to catch up with myself a little bit.

Today, I gave a copy of the poems of Ernesto Cardinal to my teacher for a small gift. I found two more copies and will leave one with Helen in Nicaragua for the library that she is building and bring one home for myself. I can actually read this poetry and, for the most part understand the nuance. On a day when I could hardly recall a single one of the dozens of prepositional expressions, I look for bits of encouragement. My teacher could see that I was feeling overwhelmed, and she assured me several times that it is not possible to learn this all at once, and that I should only try to do five or so this evening and five more each day. “Poco a poco,” everyone says at every turn.

Since we will be traveling and getting settled in Antigua, I expect that the next installment will come on Tuesday. I will try to fill you in on the time at the clinic in Santa Clara and give my first (new) impressions of Antigua, and city very different that this one.

Blessings on your holy week.

Beth

April 6, 2004
Breaker

Dear All,

Clinic, Santa ClaraWe did have a wonderful weekend in Santa Clara with Sr. Liz. She made us so welcome and even made us feel like we had done her a favor being there for company (she has been alone for a month because Sr. Johanna has been in the US for the dying and now death of her mother, which occurred on Saturday last while we were in Santa Clara). We were able to remember her in our Mass that evening. The clinic is wonderful, a situation recognized widely because people come from far and wide to use the services. Their philosophy is to start up and stabilize a relatively modest operation, and then to turn it over to others in about twelve years. They run the entire clinic on Q 3000/month (divide by 8 to get dollars), and have, at most, half dozen employees. This scale makes it possible to continue for whoever takes over. The sisters have New schoolalso contributed major funds to erecting a new school in a poor barrio of their town called San Antonio. Everybody is so proud of the school. Liz had horror stories about the parish church there that make most of ours pale in comparison, consequently, she was especially pleased to have Mass on Saturday so she didn't have to go on Sunday and listen to a 45 minute harangue. She took such good care of us that we rested and simply had a good time.

Which was just what the doctor would have ordered had she/he known what this week has held for me. John is having a better time of it, but for me it has been a difficult transition. My house in Antigua has nice people in it but the facilities make it a bit difficult for me. There are three little cubbies for the students with walls that only go part way to the ceiling, and between me and the next person there is only glass covered with a white cloth. We are practically breathing on each other. At least I have a window, but I can't open it at night for the noise. From about 3:00 a.m. on, trucks rumble by about five feet from my bed and make the house shake. I have not slept more that four or five hours per night. The family is nice, though, and we do talk Spanish at all meals, so I am hoping that I get used to the noise in another night or so, with the help of the earplugs that I just got. My teacher this week, however, is not much help. She seems to know only how to do grammar, and it is not possible for me to do grammar and grammar practice for seven hours a day. I hit the wall yesterday, but today was a bit better. But, even though I asked to read and converse in the afternoon, all we did today, again, was grammar for seven hours. I find it extremely difficult, and not at all fun. I remember the same thing the last time I came to this school, so I realize that I won't return to this school in the future. Fortunately, we are going to Guatemala City for tomorrow afternoon, and I can rest at the university there tomorrow night, and the school week ends tomorrow because of Semana Santa. About that I will write next time.

Hasta luego.

Beth