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The Paroissien Diaries

Xela and the 2nd volunteer experiment

GUATEMALA | Saturday, 10 October 2009 | Views [818]

Things learnt thus far.

-If and when in doubt, wear a surgeon mask. 
-The term ´Gringo´ (used for naming foreigners in Central and South America) I was told comes from the saying ´Green Go Home´ referring to the US Marines stationed, well, everywhere really. 
-Doing 30 push-ups two days in a row will change nothing
-Nothing will ever slow a chicken bus down including cliff drops, oncoming traffic and certainly not double lines....speed bumps help somewhat
-The NZ word ´Jandal´meaning thongs or flip flops comes originally from´Japanese Sandal´
-Reading ´The Swiss Family Robinson´ makes you feel incredibly stupid.
-Always, Always check whether a flush works before using the toilet- If you dont you could face a very akward conversation with the internet cafe owner.
- Don´t read the local newspapers...they all tell of horrific bus crashes complete with graphic pictures.
- Gum Trees are not native to Australia...If I see a Koala....
-In an emergency the London Tube Map thats been in the front of your bag since 97 will work wonders. 

And so the highlights of last month begin with the wonderful memories that occured in abundance at Casa De Patty our homestay.

Casa De Patty and the people.

Patty- mum extroadinaire, cook, cleaner and chef at El Naual the Spanish school we attend. Patty was awesome, up at 5.30 every morning running after the little tackers and then working all day at the school. Always laughing and always making sure we had everything we needed. 

Abuela- Grandma
In fact we actually dont know her name and so settled for Grandma. 
cook, cleaner, principle day carer and 5.30 am wood chopping expert! 
Abuela was slightly confused about what exactly a vegetarian was, Beth spent the majority of meal times slipping bits of meat onto my plate. Concessions made to vegetarianism include giving Beth the smallest chicken breast ( no bones). and
ham doesn´t count as meat.
Also had a tendency to overfeed and had a love affair with eggs and because Beth refused to eat two eggs every morning I was on a diet of at least 4 eggs a day! 4-6 eggs a day! 

Javier- 8 yr old son of Patty and also known as ´The Drummer´
Javier mostly walked around all day banging the empty 10 litre Agua bottle. In what turned out to be a very unwise decision we went to the local fair and replaced the agua bottle with a real drum. Silly, very silly! Although we can grant that he at least didn´t have the old fashion pots and pans.

Diego Andres 4 yrs..nicknames include ´Diego the terrible´ and ´Diego the alarm clock´
This kid had an unbelievable set of lungs on him and by god did he use them. Without fail before 5.30 everymorning there would be screams and or tears... no one knows why, not even Patty. A very very funny kid, its a shame I couldnt understand anything he said. Unfortunately he had a problem with not telling anyone he needed to go to the toilet and so at all hours of the day every member of the family would ask Diego Andres if he needed to go...needless to say there was some more ammusing moments with Diego. 

Nancy, 16 yrs
Daughter of Patty and easily the most level headed in the family. Very nice and relaxed although potenially long suffereing I imagine. When we were there she was sharing a room with all 4 of them including a bed with Grandma and mum.

Lodgers our back, Mario and Rafa.
Cool uni students who had a love for drinking Quezelteca, the local fire water, in the park. Aghh those were the days... 
´Hola Rafa, are you going out tonight?´
Na, not tonight.
Why not
Cause its raining...we hang in the park Andres.
ohh right, yer, fair enough. 

As you can see, drinking in the park can be a potential disaster in the rainy season..the social ´off season´

- Along with these colourful characters, seemingly millions of different relatives, friends, chickens and bossy young Guate girls were always in the house. Monday nights were always a favourite when the wonderfully loud and fantastic church group kicked down the doors and took up residence in the living room. This church group was complete with guitars, tambos and the 80´s beat producing key board! Rock on religion! 

Other moments included our favourite time of the week...´Bath Time.´ There wasn´t any hot water in the house and being 2800 metres above sea level its pretty chilly up here and so once or twice a week we braved the shower. Not fun. Not a good time to lose the deodarant either. 

SCHOOL AND THE SPANISH ASSAULT- 4 weeks, 4 one on one hours a day. 

A definite highlight of last month was my profossor for three weeks Profossor Horacio. A machismo, young, intelligente and very immature guate boy. We were an unfortunte match in our ability to muck around in class and disturb all the other students. He had also been teaching too long and would often set me long writing tasks so he could text his girlfriend or answer his phone. Saying this I had an awesome time in class with him. A highlight was trying to explain Aussie Rules Football to him in Spanish...one hour later and we had gotten as far as a piece of paper with an oval on it, some stciks at each end and a shit load of scribbles going in all directions and a very confused look on Horacios face.

other highlights include
-Being able to do more than order a beer in Spanish
Seeing Beth absolutly dominate, she's not fluent but...
-The excess energy that explodes from you during breaks at 10.00 and after school at 12.00. Running around and speaking english as fast as you can to as many people that can understand you.

Extra Curricular Activities 


-not really a crowd favourite this one, but a fun couple of hours being taught by an old Mayan woman with no teeth who had serious skills with her hands.

- 3 weeks in and the highlight still remains when Pat and Ally (fellow students) attempted a tough twist move, banged heads and fell to the ground. Very ammusing.
- Bandy after 4 weeks now are currently performing the ´basic step´ at local theatres. check local guides for details.

Educational SpeechesJaime, the inspirational director of the school and community centre  educates the students and volunteers on Guatemalan and Mayan society and issues. 2 problems arise.
1. its all in Spanish 
2. its all in Spanish

Luckily the topics in spainish are about uncomplicated ideas such as Mayan Prophecies, Guatemalan history and the roles of sex and politics in Guatemala.
-I found it interesting that in a school of over 15 students I was the only one asking for translastions.
´aghhh, umm yere, can you stop, umm yere...what???´

Community LunchesEvery friday all the students gather together in the kitchen and cook a dish to share with volunteers and teachers a like. A wicked afternoon of cooking, eating and talking...in English. Anyone seen cooking an egg or bean is immediately shunned from the community. 
Lunch themes thus far include- speciality, Asian, salads, breakfast (a tough one with no eggs) and our personal favouirte, yes thats right, The baked potato party has made it all the way to Guatemala! A special shout out to all those original baked potota party animals in Cornwall... the sprit lives on in Guate. 

Pattys Magical KitchenPatty does cooking class once a week which is awesome! 

Milosh´s Polish Government Sponsored underage Beauty ContestDont ask. Go Poland.

Movie NightsMovies include:
Volver- a third viewing of this awesome movie and it keeps getting better. Penolpe Cruz is wicked in the hilarious movie about life outside of Madrid.
Azul oscurro, casi negro. The Spanish can make a movie. See it. 
Plan columbia. Cashing in on the drugs Trade. Another reason why Beth and I thank someone that we are not from the United States! England may have been bad, Australia too, but not this bad and not this recent. Notably this goes for all Central America and South America, not just Columbia.

Extra Extra curricular activities
Beth squeezing huge amounts of mustard coloured puss out of the boil on my left buttox while im bent over doubled in pain. haha theres not turning back now darling! 
-Quiz nights where I won a free dinner for guessing what the name of the piecring is between a man testicles and bum hole. Dont worry mum, I dont have one. 
-Friday night tequilla nights. No one can drink tequilla like the volunteer coordinators. 

Weekend tripsA 5 hour bus ride to the beach where we met a storm, ate fried fish and a friend snapped his surfboard on his second wave...

A Volcano climb. 3800 metres above sea level. An exhilarting feeling, and what you feel is a great physical effort until you get to the top and there is a small mayan market manned by Mayan women decked out in tradiotnal dress.
´How did they get up here in those shoes´
´well, they didn´t get the cable car did they Andrew!´
oh well, spose we better buy something small now that we´re up here.´

The hot springs, that turned out to be the ´Hot, wierd, sauna´ 
notably used for such horror movies as ´jack the ripper´and Freddy Jrugar´

Weekend in Mexico! 
lifes tough when you mosy on over to mexico for the long weekend to drink Corana and eat Tacos. Honestly thats all we did, oh and drank tequilla. What? This all comes under the cultural umbrella experience! Oh we also managed to go to an awesome national park where we saw the only poinious snake in Central America. 

Cultural XelaThis section highlights all the wonderful things Xela has to offer.

The local enourmous cemetary! Unfortunately yet to be explored because of its notioriety for danger and muggings!? Who robs someone at a cemetary? Harsh! 

Museo Xela
Now we believe that this Museam was created from a notice in the paper that read. 

´Have you got anything Old?´At the Museam of Xela we want anything thats over 10 yrs old´

Thus the 1st floors collection of stuff hliariously includes photos of granny, Jonnys boxing medal, phones/ computores from the 70´s and 80's and long scripts of writing with no reference cards. 

Following the sucess of the first donation drive, the 2nd notice in the paper read
Got anything wierd? Got anything strange or smelly? We want it! 

Thus the 2nd drive produced a museam with the foetus of an 8 legged goat (tampered?), two kittens glued together, and amazingly two human foetuses! To top this however was the amazing kiwi flag which unfortunately had been labelled the Australian flag...ammusingly like everything else really...pavalova, lamingtons, Russel Crowe, Crowded House etc etc oh woe is NZ!

Mercado de Ropa
The wonderful clothes market which could only be described as the biggest charity/op shop in the world. This is where I happened to pick up a lovely tweed jacket for under 30 cents...get in! The only slight problem is that all the clothes come from North America and so happen to be abolsutly fricken massive!!!

Independece Day
Marching bands, school girls twirling sticks and a concert were we could clearly see the front because everyone is soo small. Moshing anyone? 

INdependece week fair
where one could clearly invisage the faris wheel rolling freely down the street or the pirate ship flying off into the distance. We stuck to the old fashion ball games. 

Volunteering at El Nahual 

Finally we arrive at probably has been the most rewarding of all experiences in the last month here in Xela. I wont go into detail what exactly the school contributes to the community here, this will come later. Briefly however, El Nahual provides english and art classes to over 150 kids at numerous local schools around the community. Beth and I have managed to work our way into taking over the program at El Nahual itself. Our job includes teaching english and art to children aged 5-12 over two different classes 5 days a week. Its a really important project as for some of these children its the only education they recieve. It has been hilarious and even after 4 weeks we are seeing some really fantastic improvements. 

More hilarious moments include
-Atleast three 4 year olds rock up everyweek and last week a three yr old in all his glory waddled up complete with older brother and his milk bottle. Currently teaching ´scribbles´101. 
- Planning for classes where the ability levels are soooo different. Some kids can speak English in sentences and some who cant read or write in Spanish, let alone another language. 
- Not knowing what an 8 yrd can achieve in Australia let alone a child in Guate. 
´come on! its not that difficult! of course you can read ´war and peace´, its easy.

These children are awesom at repeating what you say. Spot on at saying exactly what you ask them to say. Ask them to remember it though and haha thats another story. This repeating game is very funny in class however when you ask them to say something and they do it and you say ´good´and then they repeat ´good´right back at you, and no one knows when to stop repeating. Thats when I usually yell out ´peter piper picked a pack of pickled peppers´Always stops them in their tracks!

Projects completed succesfully include
Under the Sea- we made fish, mermaids, star fish and fully decorated a wall of the classroom. it was ace! 
Verb week- sounds fun i know! 
Personal information booklets- these were very cool including name, age, family, likes, dislikes.

This week we´re doing a couple of lessons on manners and questions haha a good one! Before we jump headlong into jungle week! monkies, parrots, aux verb do, and lots of english grammar games to trick them into learning. Fun and games ahead!  

So thats its folks. life in Guatemala. 

look out very soon for a message from the school about donating. This month sees me getting my hands dirty by giving all my contruction skills (none) to help build the schools new building which desperatly needs materials to build with! 

rightio. love to all 
para xxx


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