After a couple of hours’ ride on an unusually empty public bus (known affectionately by the ex-pat community as a “chicken bus”), Alan, Caroline and I caught a boat across the lake to get to Santiago, checked into our hotel and crashed.
Wednesday morning we caught a tuc tuc (motorcycle taxi) up to Tzanchaj to visit the school there, only to find that it was a holiday and school was out. The director of the school, Nino Tecun, lives right next door and his wife gave us the keys. She is a traditional Mayan woman and doesn’t speak any Spanish, only Tzutuhil, but we manage to communicate with smiles and gestures and the two words of Tzutuhil that I’ve managed to learn.
Some of the neighborhood kids saw we were there and came to say hi, so we went in and looked around and goofed off with them a little before heading back.
The next day we came early in the morning again and got to check out the school in action. There is a new teacher there, Candelaria, and it was good to see her teaching. She’s good, and the evidence is clear in talking to the kids. I had fun talking with them and quizzing them on their work. It’s safe to say they’re way ahead of most Guatemalan first graders. First grade, by the way, was just added to the school this year, occupying the new classroom that was added last year.
This school is five years old in total, though when I first met Nino four years ago he only had 11 children at the school, meeting in a rented room so tiny that it couldn’t hold any more than that. PEG built the new building three years ago and at the moment the school has 53 students, 30 in first grade and 23 in kindergarten. Another organization added a second room on to the school, and a third organization has a program to purchase beadwork from the parents of the students. Part of the money goes to the parents, and part to support a school lunch program.
That’s Candelaria, the new teacher, and Caroline, the new director of PEG.
The local hospitalito also comes out twice a year to de-worm and check the kids over. I love seeing things like that build on each other. PEG isn’t doing that medical work nor the school lunch program, but because PEG helped build the school building those kids are getting a healthy lunch a couple of times a week and some basic medical care.
The government has also started providing a morning snack, usually some milk or atol, a corn-based soupy drink popular among Mayans (and I like it too!). At this point, PEG only pays for one of the two teachers’ salaries at the school, and it’s great to see that project gradually moving away from needing us at all.
This project is particularly special to me, and not just because they named the school after me. I have to admit, though, that I was a little disappointed to find that the kids have finally learned to say my name correctly. I liked it better when they called me David de la Moto, which means Motorcycle David.