From Guate Guate Gaute!

After almost 2 weeks here in Guatemala, I am finally getting used to the local life’s rhythm. It was pretty hard for me to learn to wake up so early in the morning and completely reverse the day schedule. As a European, I was used to have a very irregular schedule, and the day for me usually started at 9AM, which is a common work hour. So getting up here at 6:30 and going to bed at 10PM is something new for me. But it is good to have finally some rule in one´s own life.

WORK May 3-7, 2010

In the week 3-7 May I was primarily working in Santiaguito school. Because I have had already teaching experience from another foreign country as I used to teach kids in Taiwan, I knew that teaching is not an easy job at all – first of all, you have to be really patient with them and second you have to have quite a strong voice to manage group of approximately 20 kids.

There are 6 grades at Santiaguito primary school and the school starts at 8AM and finishes at 1PM. The kids in the first grade can not read and write yet, so they have to remember the English words by listening. The older kids can speak already some English but are usually very shy to speak out. Therefore I use a technique of collective repetition because if they say something all together, they are not shy to speak. It is quite sad that there are no English textbooks in the school. But the reason is quite obvious-the books are expensive here in Guatemala – according to the information that I got, ordinary English books cost around 70-100Q and better books cost 250Q and it is only possible to buy them in the capital or in some bigger provincial cities. We printed out some material from the internet and kids have to copy everything what the teacher writes on the board. I tried to arrange some fundrising to get some money for the books, so let´ s see if I will be able to get some. If I will be successful and will get some donations, my idea would be to at least create some sort of library in the school so that the kids could borrow the books and return them by the end of the school year. Also the level of English of their teachers is very low. They can not pronounce properly and they know just a little bit more than the kids – I imagine that the teachers know only a few more lessons than the kids.

Otherwise, teaching is a real fun and I am glad that the kids are doing some progress. They are doing a great job and I am really proud of them! I have to say that there is not a difference in the kids all over the world, they all like to shout and scream, they all like to go to the bathroom at least twice during the class, they all do not listen and sometimes run around the class.

Because the school lasts only half a day, I went to ADISA centre in the afternoons. ADISA is a workshop for disabled adults- most of them are handicapped physically and there is one guy with the Dawn syndrome too. The great thing is that these people have an opportunity to work and thus join the normal life in all aspects. They make products from paper – e.g. paper bags and objects from recycled newspaper. These products are being sold then. Volunteers are helping them with the work. I also talked to Francisco, chief of Adisa workshop, and he wants me to make a documentary movie about the workshop. They are working on the scenario these days, so hopefully we can start shooting in 2 weeks.

On Thursday the new job started– teaching English in INED high school. The situation there is the same as in Santiaguito. There are no books and the only English teacher who is there can not really speak English. He is only writing some words on the blackboard and students are copying it. So even though this is a high school, the level of students is about the same as in the primary school. At least the students are older and they listen. It is not an exception if there are much older students in the class too. Some of them are 30 years old and are about to finish the high school- Diego, our coordinator is one of these students.

On May 6th there was some special event dedicated to environmental protection and global warming in INED school. A local TV crew was filming it and I, as a representative of Together NGO, had to say few words about our project which is also contributing to the environmental tasks. Diego was translating it and he did a good job (actually he can speak better English than the teacher in the school!!!).

On Friday there was an official celebration of Mother´s day in the town hall. I was invited there as a teacher from INED because the students had some performance there too. There were several performances in the town hall and approximately 500 people watching it- most of them mothers, of course.


On Sunday May 2nd , I went all by my self to San Pedro which is a small city on the other side of the lake (approx. 11 thousand inhabitants). It is a rule here in Santiago that foreigners are paying more than local people. Locals pay 10-15Q for the boat ride Santiago-San Pedro but foreigners 20-25Q for one way. The same stands for tuc-tuc rides: locals pay 3Q and foreigners 5Q. Well, I remember that these double prices used to be in Czechoslovakia too, so it is just how it is.
San Pedro is a nice small city which is far more developed and tourist friendly than Santiago. There are more restaurants, more hotels and hostels, more goods in the shops and more English speaking people and it is also much cheaper than Santiago. I put it down to the fact that San Pedro has not been hit by the hurricane Stan 5 years ago and while Santiago had to build completely new infrastructure, San Pedro could develop and welcome tourists in the meantime. Every Sunday, as in other cities around the lake, there is a Sunday market. I was walking around with my mobile phone and was taking some discreet videos. You can see it on YOUTUBE. I did not dare to take many pictures on the market since I know some Mayan do not like when someone is taking pictures of them. Anyway, it was a very colorful and vivid market accompanied by music that was playing in front of the Municipality of San Pedro. It was some religious music, I only could understand the words Jesus or Lord.

The religion here is quite a popular and widespread phenomenon. In every city there are many different churches. The main religion is Evangelic, but Catholic, Protestant, Mormon,or Yehova witnesses´ are not an exception. Only in Santiago, there are 17 churches, somebody says there are even 70 churches (well, I do not know the truth, though)- in any case, I think this is quite a lot considering that there are only 45 thousand inhabitants.

Lake Atitlan, San Pedro


On Saturday May 8th we went to a 1 day trip to Antigua. It took us some 3 hours to get there from Santiago, so we had to leave Santiago pretty early, at 5:30AM when the sun rose. Antigua is an amazing old city with many beautiful baroque churches and nice houses. It is considered to be the most beautiful city in Guatemala and it attracts many tourists, either Guatemalan or foreign. There are many Spanish schools, nice restaurants, cafés and bars.

We met Mario and his wife from Pro Paz there who gave us some pocket money as an apology for the bad food we are getting in Santiaguito so that we could treat ourselves to some yummy food in Antigua which is also famous for its excellent cuisine. Since we are quite fed up with rice and chicken that is being served practically everyday, me and Jan went to a British pub and got some good burger there.

Antigua is surrounded by 3 gorgeous volcanoes. The city used to be a capital of the whole Central American region for 231 years until the capital has been moved to nowadays Guatemala City in 1776. Only 3 years before that, Antigua was hit by a big earthquake that destroyed almost all of its beautiful architecture. These days Antigua is one of the UNESCO world heritage places. Many places in Antigua are dedicated to San Pedro who was a saint who helped poor people. People here are as religious as in the rest of the country.

That´ s all for this week. Hasta luego!

Antigua, Guatemala

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