ON THE WAY TO KINO DYNAMIQUE
Kino Kabaret was born in 1999 in Montreal and throughout the years, it spread all over the world and these days there are kino kabaret events in quite a few cities around the globe: Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Munich, Brussels, Paris, Sydney, London, Bratislava, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Madison etc. You can find the complete list of all kino kabarets in wikipedia. The idea is very simple: film enthusiasts gather together at certain place, they spend a couple of days together and produce short films.
This year I attended my first Kino kabaret called KINO DYNAMIQUE in Vienna. It is organized by guys from KINO5 and it took place in a space called Mo.ë – very punk and simple space but comfortable and inspiring for film production. In case of Kino Dynamique the task was to produce a short film within 36 hours – people meet at 11 AM for a production meeting, they present the project in front of the other people and ask for help and they have 36 hours to make a short film which is going to be screened at a cinema the next day. It is pretty challenging to make film with people who you have just met, but I think it is even more interesting this way.
During these hectic filming days there was no time for sightseeing and I actually enjoyed the city through the screen of my Sony camcorder much better then if I was just an ordinary tourist. I also have gone to the locations where I would probably never gotten – such as a rooftop in Vienna district no.4, some apartments, an Arabic market near the kinolab etc. All the films which were produced during the 6 days ( 3 x 36 hours) are shown on the KINO5 VIMEO page. And pics are HERE. ENJOY!
And this is the video that I produced during the second session of KinoDynamique:
Article can be found at: http://issuu.com/emiliep/docs/masymasaug_11
Even though Pristina is not one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it´pretty amazing how many nice cafes and bars are there. And I shouldn´t forget to mention the amazing people! Dia and Nora from the organization 7arte, our local hosts, knew all the cool places in Pristina, they took us to explore its magic in the evenings.
My favourite place is Pristina is definitely DIT E NAT, a bookstore and a non-smoking coffee shop with terrace (thanks god because all the other bars in Pristina are full of cigarette smoke). We hanged out there every day after our workshop because it was located just next to the EU centre where our new media workshop took place. Every saturday night there is a jazz concert. They have nice fresh juices /1.5 EUR/, so called “bambi”- chcocolate milk /1EUR/and a good machiatto /1EUR/. Along with your coffee, you can read one of hundereds books that are in the shelfs – they had film books, art books, philosophy books (in English) and some local poetry too.
Dia and Nora´s favourite place is a tiny bar called TINGLE TANGLE. Again, they have quite cheap drinks there, and you can see some very surrealistic drawings on the wall. Once we had also lunch there (nice veggie sandwiches)- during the day, many students come along because the university is nearby.
It seems that there are a lot of jazz sessions in Pristina – a really cool place to listen to some jazz is a place called HAMAN – it´s a very stylish place, with nice and comfortable couches, but this place was a little bit more expensive (bottle of Chardonay 12 EUR).
TETRIS is a very specific place. It´s one of these “hidden” places which you have to know in order to find it because there is nothing written at the entrance. I will tell you a secret, if you find a wall which says “Pristina post, Washington coast” then you found Tetris. It serves as a simple place for film screenings (for up to 20 people) and they also have a very simple bar with cheap drinks. On wednesday night there is usually film screening – we saw some local short film production – a great film made in 2002 which was a parody about 9/11 and another kosovo comedy film about son and father from some village collecting iron and selling it in order to survive. (I will try to add the names of the films later). Saturday night at Tetris was dedicated to 80´s party, pretty insane, but obviously disco music rules no matter where you are.
Here I will post some useful links for the culture, film, music scene in KOSOVO:
Interesting online platform for art, vlogs, culture happenings etc KOSOVO 2.0
Docuemntary and short film festival in Prizren DOKUFEST
OK, here I am in Pristina, Kosovo, attending a New Media seminar organized by Nisi Masa, 3-8 May, 2011.
From the very first moment I was wondering how I will get there. It was a last minute call and one week I applied and second week I went. I got the info, that we will stay in the hostel Velania. I was pretty surprised, when there was no address information, only the quarter of Pristina, that´s it. The other challenging fact was, that I landed to this small Pristina airport during the night. Few taxi drivers tried to scam me from the very first moment – the first price was 30 EUR (which is another surprising fact that in Kosovo you pay with Euros) even though I knew it should be around 15EUR. But I used this old technique and started walking into the dark (yeah, it was 2AM), and of course on of these guys came to me and started negotiating – after 15 minutes I got to my price.
Next day I was walking in the streets of Pristina, following this creepy map in Lonely Planet. I have noticed that there were almost no street signs and I got totally lost. I asked some girls sitting on the street pointing in the map where is the center – they told me the way but were not able to answer my question where were we, I mean in which street we were located. They said that the streets are being renamed all the time and that they do not follow the newest names. Few days after I understand why, when we watched this documentary film: Blue Wall Red Door. It explains the constant changes of the street names in Pristina – before there used to be Serbian names and sometimes even the street names were missing completely, but after the independence they implemented new Albanian names and again changed them several times. So the postmen have hard times in Pristina, because the senders usually only describe the color of the door and that the house is close to that restaurant which has been abandoned like 15 years ago. Poor postmen in Pristina!
Time is flying – two last weeks in Guatemala had passed as fast as the water flowing down the hills during the rainy season, I just can not believe that our volunteering period is over.
I continued working in Centro de Salud. The workers had their monthly evaluation of malnutrition programme deadline, so there was a lot of paper work. Because of lack of the computers in the centre, I had to rewrite some files in hand and then eventually in the computer too. One day, I went to work to Cerro de Oro which is a little village about 10 km far from Santiago. There is a little clinic with two doctors. We were weighing small children that were accompanied by their mothers. They were standing in the line and I realized how huge difference is in their age. There were some 15 years old mothers standing along with 40 years old!!! First I thought that these young moms were older sisters of those babies and on the other hand some older women looked like grandmothers because they already had grey hair. But they were all mothers of those babies!!! They seriously should learn more about birth control because this is just insane.
The very last week I was also intensively working on the film about EVS and I also started making the other film about ADISA school and their programmes for disabled children and adults which was really interesting. I visited a couple of schools were the disabled children are placed along with normal students. I heard that disabled people are usually perceived very badly in Guatemala so it is good that children in normal schools are learning how to get along with disabled classmates. Actually, some of them have only problems with concentration or with writing skills but normally you would not even noticed that there is something wrong with them. Juanito was an exception he is 10 years old boy, he lost his arms and legs when he was a little boy and ever since he is dependent on the wheel chair. He is a very nice guy and when I was filming him in the class, he was smiling and he seemed happy. He was shy though so even when I tried, he did not want to speak in front of camera.
We were collaborating to produce the movie with Argentina, the director of ADISA school and it was really a great team work. We went to the local radio Voz de Atitlán to ask for a help a broadcaster to record the voice for the movie. So we were in the professional recording studio and it was interesting to see how it works. I was also introduced to Argentina´s son Ricardo, really nice guy, who can speak perfect English (probably the best English I have heard in Santiago) and he helped me with editing the movie because you can imagine that it is pretty hard to produce a movie in Spanish when you actually don´t speak much Spanish. After a work we went to have a worthful glass in a local bar. I actually did not know about existence of bars in Santiago because you just dont see any on the streets and this bar was kinda hidden too. You also never see the locals smoking on the streets and you hardly can find cigarettes in the shops. The beer in the shops is also quite expensive so people just seem to live a very exemplary life, going to churches instead of pubs.
TRAVEL TO THE PACIFIC COAST
Finally we also went to a trip to the ocean. Guatemalan PACIFIC COAST is pretty rough and forlorn. First, we visited PORT SAN JOSE where we spent a day by the ocean. Me and the Estonians girls went to MONTERRICO which is supposed to be the most beautiful part of the coast. The waves were enormous and it was impossible to swim because the undercurrent was very strong. It was an off-season so there were almost no people in the town, just few American tourists. We spent a night in cabaňas on the coast, it was great to fall asleep with the sound of the ocean. The bus ride back the next day was pretty tough- we had to first take a boat a cross the river that divides the coast with the inland and then change the bus three times. So we took those funky chicken buses (how they are called) and I was really surprised when we ended up paying 100Q in total and spent half a day traveling back to Santiaguito.
I also had another interesting experience in the hospital. I got something in my eye end it was pain like a hell so I went to the emergency room. Well, I was waiting for the emergency for two hours o it was not really emergency. In the meantime I went through the medical check- because of course when your eye is hurt the most important thing to check is patient´s weight, body temperature and pressure. Anyway, the doctor saved my life, I already saw my self as a blind person until the end of my life so I was so happy that after couple of hours he helped me to get rid of the pain and he made me to see again! All this fun costed 200Q! Who was saying that Guatemala is a cheap country? How can poor Guatemalans afford to pay this incredible amount of money for a medical care? And this price was not set up because I was foreigner, everybody is paying the same!
To make some sort of conclusion to those almost two months I have spent in Guatemala:
I have to admit that I have learned a lot of patience here since the mentality of local people is so different. I also learned that we should appreciate the things that we have in our life and in confrontation with those disabled children I also realized how lucky I am that I was born healthy. I am also thankful that I did not have to struggle with a severe poverty when I was a small child and did not have to work hard like many Guatemalan children do. It was another unforgettable experience in my life that I have done and if someone was wondering what to do with their free time or how to be beneficial in the life and do not just go after the money and fame which is volatile anyway (as my mum usually say: The money will be always there, but we will not), I would just recommend everybody to go to some developing country and do something meaningful and help people who actually need it. You will see how great feeling it is after all. The only bad thing is that the fun and experiencing someday finishes and finally you have to come back home to the everyday reality, back among the ordinary people, back to take a metro, back to the life where internet runs fast, where you can find anything you want to in the supermarkets, where people do not care about the others, where money means more than anything else. I am not looking forward to come back home to be honest.
I start to feel like at home in Santiago Atitlan. Everything became somehow familiar to me and I am not longer staring at the Mayan women wearing their traditional colorful dresses neither at the men walking on the streets with machetes wearing their typical white trousers with black stripes. Sometimes I just can not help but observe what kind of stuff the Mayan women are holding on their heads. Once I saw this woman holding an enormous box on her head – there was now way how could someone hold the big box in his hands. I can never understand how can they balance it and still walk like models with their heads straighten. And the big Friday or Sunday market is also something that always makes me wonder – hundreds of people being squeezed in this small shopping street close to the main square, the vendors shouting and selling fruits, vegetables, meat and Made in China stuff, people bargaining. It is also possible to buy different kind of animals- You can buy rooster for 70Q, small rabbit for 20Q, dogs, chickens etc. Sometimes there are some crazy religious fanatics walking around and invoking God and propagating his words. But still, when I hear tzutuhil it still sounds like a language from a different planet.
Mayans have beautiful black hair and dark skin lashed by the sun. They are very short which is caused by the subtropical climate and the nutrition. I did not see any tall people in Santiago, they are all shorter than me, I would say 160cm is the average for an adult men. People here are very kind. I did not meet any bothering people as in other developing countries that would go after you and force you to buy something or cheat somebody. They are not spoiled by the tourism industry yet. (Well, just a little bit). Who knows how the situation will change in few more years when more hotels will be build and more tourists will flow here.
It is great just to walk on the streets while heading to work, not being dependant on any kind of transportation, just enjoy walking and looking around. The only thing that makes me really sad is seeing the forlorn dogs. There are dozens of them everywhere you look. Some of them are walking with me, some of them are just lying on the street, some of them looking for a food and some of them slowly dying. They are all skinny and most of them look very sick. Of course the ponds for dogs are nonexistent in Guatemala since this is a developing country where half of the inhabitants live under the poverty line and life of a dog does not mean anything. I remember once when I was in San Lucas, I saw a dog in a garbage bin, he was old and molt completely and he had a broken leg. I always think of my dog Frantisek who is happy back home, gets enough food and does not have to live on the streets.
WORK 24-28 May
I started shooting a short film about ADISA, the Asociation of Parents and Friends of People with Disabilities, the school and the centre for disabled people. ADISA was founded in 1997 when the daughter of a couple who run the centre, Argentina and Francisco, died because of Meningitis in the age of 9 years. There are about 60 children in the school and dozen adults in the centre where they make products from recycled paper. Being a teacher in the school is a tough work. The children require constant attention, there are some kids with serious physical handicaps and some kids mentally retarded. But it is great that such places exist and that there is at least some hope for these people.
In the afternoons I was helping in the CENTRE DE SALUD which is a medical place in the centre of Santiago. It is a governmental centre so the medical care here is free including the medication. They also have a special educational programme Mi família progressa. The programme financially supports mothers and the workers from the centre check if the children are not malnourished and teach the mothers about baby prevention and hygiene and things like that because they were never thought as they never went to school. So I was helping in the consulting room to take the mothers with their 1-5 years old children. Every hour there was a group of approximately 10 women who entered the room at once, the assistant Miguel was explaining them in tzutuhil (as they can not speak Spanish of course) all the previously mentioned things and then we were checking their kids. It is not unusual if the family consists of more than 5 children. Sometimes the mothers are very young, even 13 years old!!! And do nt get me wrong, these girls were not raped, it is legal here! The majority of the mothers are illiterate, so they only sign the papers with their fingerprint. I just hope that their children will attend school one day! Have I ever mentioned before that the illiteracy rate in Guatemala is about 30 percent and even higher in the villages?
One day after work in Centre de Salud, my coworker who has a sweet name Miguel Angel took me for a walk. We Europeans go to have a coffee, here in Guatemala guy takes you to the church, isn´t it sweet? Of course it is still muy dificil hablar en espanol but I am trying hard. My only advantage is that I can speak French so I always derive some words from French, sometimes it works, sometimes not.
After almost three weeks of preparations and negotiations I finally realized the documentary screening. Oh boy, you can imagine how I was disappointed when I went to the school where the screening for the students should have taken place and instead of the students there was only bunch of teachers because there was again some kind of misunderstanding and the director did not know that the projection was meant for the students. I showed them the documentary film called MADE IN L.A. about three Mexican women who went to work in Los Angeles in a clothes factory but got less than average salary (3,25$ per hour instead of the minimum 8.25$) and decided to demonstrate for one year all around the States. It was interesting to see how the teachers were vividly discussing with the specialist on human rights Lea whom I invited to come and discuss about human rights. They also mentioned the Guatemalan Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú during the discussion who is fighting for the rights of Mayan people and recently is living in Mexico. She seems to be pretty big hero here in Guatemala. There was also a discussion about religion going on, the only thing I understood was that Bible is macho (“Biblia es machista!”) and that there is no place for women in it at all! Right.
MAXIMÓN- SECOND TRY
We tried to make another excursion to the local god Maximón but it was evening and the place was closed already. BUT- there is another Maximón in the town who is believed to be a fake Maximón. But the guy who owns him and displays him does not doubt that this Maximon is real. Anyway, it was very interesting to see it and hear the story. The owner told us that Maximón has the power to cure people or and his wife Maria who is lying behind him makes the women pregnant if they can not become and ask her for the help. Again, people are worshiping him cigarettes, Quetzalteca, money, candles and they talk to him through the guy (I forgot his name). He told us that people from all around Guatemala and from abroad are coming to get cured by Maximón.
LLUVIA, VOLCANO Y FIN DEL MUNDO
The official winter season started in Guatemala which means that it is raining a lot and it is also much colder these days. This year there is a lot of rain all around the country, it has been raining 4 days in a row without a break. I have never seen such a constant rain in my life. It seems we entered some stage of emergency already. This happened couple of years ago when during the rainy season there were some mud slides and it torn down couple of houses i
n the neighborhood villages. That is why they preventively evacuated people from there and they are now being relocated to the municipality of Santiago Atitlan. Some roads were closed completely and again there was a shortage of electricity. Fortunately, the rain finally stopped on Sunday when I finally get on the internet where I found out all the messages from my friends and family asking me: “Are you alive?”. Because in the meantime on Friday there was the volcano PACAYA near Guatemala city erupting, the leaking lava killed couple of people and the Guatemala airport was shut down because of the ubiquitous ashes. Later on I also learned that the enormous rain was effected by the tropical storm Aghata that hit whole central American region and 131 people died.
I think that this planet is going crazy-we entered the second decade of the 21st century and only during couple of months there were disasters such as earthquake in Haiti, earthquake in Chile, eruption of the Iceland volcano. Will we even live to see the year 2012 when the Mayas predict the end of the world?
MAY 17-21: Work and Sickness
I was supposed to have a meeting with the director of ADISA school Argentina on Monday in order to discuss the documentary film I am going to shoot. Argentina was not there and I was not surprised any more because THIS IS GUATEMALA! People promise something but usually it takes them longer time to do it or if they promise to be somewhere they are usually late. They love to use the magic word “ahorita” – a moment, which in their case means ages. So what I have learnt, if I come to the meeting 15 minutes late, I will definitely not be the last one. The same stands for the whole organization of this volunteering program. I can see that Guatemalan people are not flexible, it takes ages until they decide to do something, so sometimes I got a feeling that we are wasting a lot of time. It seems to me that Guatemalans completely lack organization of their work because everything seems to be very chaotic. They hardly plan ahead and sometimes they make decisions in the very last minute.
In the afternoon I had another meeting with a director of the Human rights organization that is based in Santiago Atitlan. My idea was to get someone from the organization as a guest speaker for the documentary screening event. Well, the director said that he is very busy and that they are only solving local human rights problems and that he does not know much about international human rights. I asked him if he knows Fidel Castro. He said yes but that he does not want to discuss the figure of Fidel Castro in front of the public- what if there is somebody that likes Fidel Castro? That was his answer!!! I was shocked- how can this guy be a director of a human rights organization when he holds such an opinion? In my opinion, someone who is fighting for human rights and is a director of human rights organization should speak openly and should explain people that there are bad persons such as Fidel Castro!
I have a question for you (It is actually a joke that Mario from ProPaz thought me): How do you prepare CUBA LIBRE? ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Find the answer in the end of this post.
Ok, I will stop joking because what I want to talk about now is serious: I finally also get sick. Before me all the French people and Riin had all sorts of stomach problems. The hygiene here is alarming and the quality of the water is really bad. Local people can drink the water, some of them even use the water from the lake for cooking! So here is the deal-after a month there was a cleaning lady that came to clean our rooms and bathrooms- the only thing she did was that she piled our staff on the table, made our beds and gave us a new soap, that´s it. No cleaning, no sweeping, no disinfection, nada!
This time, I did not have a stomach problem but I was the first one who got cold. I got cold on Monday afternoon while I was sitting on the terrace and edited the video from the trip around the lake with INED. I was so occupied with my work that I even did not realized that it was very cold outside. So since Tuesday I stayed in the bed for 3 days. Dr. Miguel from Chuk Muk prescribed me some medicine and since it did not get any better, I went to the hospital on Thursday morning. I went with Marie who has been sick with her stomach for 10 days. There were some American medical trainees in the hospital so it was good that I could talk to them in English. My Spanish is still very bad even though I can understand much more than in the beginning.
So this week was pretty much uneventful- I stayed in the bed in the pain sleeping all the days long. And the only thing I did was attendance at the Spanish classes and watching lots of stupid romantic American movies (do you want to know which one? – The Accidental Husband, The Ghosts of My Exgirlfriends, Devil Wears Prada, 500 days of Summer and one good movie- Julia and Julie with Meryl Streep).
On Saturday we wanted to hire small wooden boats and cruise on the lake but since it was raining we could not. The rainy season started and it has been raining basically every single day lately. The rain is very strong here- I have never seen such a heavy rain in my life, the water is pouring from the sky and it is soooo noisy! The water flows in the streets and since the city is hilly it all goes straight down to the lake and it takes all the dirt from the streets. I suppose that the lake must be very dirty because the drain from the houses goes there as well.
The weather got better in the afternoon so we decided to go and see local legend MAXIMON! Maximon or Ri Laj Mam in tzutuhil (or San Simon in Spanish) is a local god. Mayan people worship him in few places around the lake and his reputation is influential especially in Santiago Atitlan. If you come to Santiago and you look like a tourist, all the kids would scream on you: I will take you to Maximon!
Maximon is a wooden statue of a man who wears fancy clothes, sometimes wears sunglasses and smokes cigars. His appearance differs from city to city because there is not a precise description how should he look like. There is always a group of religious confraternity, cofradíaz who take care of him and the statue stays in their house. People then come to their house and worship him with a local alcohol quetzalteca, cigars (Maximon in one of the mayan dialect means tobacco), hens, pink candles or money. All the sacrifices have their ritual and symbolic meaning. The origin of the god is not certain, some people say Maximon was a Catholic leader in the 16th century, some other say he has his origins in the precolumbian Mayan beliefs and some other even say that he was a conqueror of Guatemala Pedro Alvarado or a burnt leader of the Mayan uprising against Spanish conqerors.
It costs 2Q to enter to see him. Diego warned us that we have to pay 10Q (1euro) for every single picture that we take. I was planning to shoot some videos there but they were charging 50Q and plus there was no guide who could explain us the origin of Maximon in front of camera so we decided to come back some other day. The old men who were sitting there around the table behind the statue in the candle light offered me that they will tell us story for 1000Q!!!! No, thank you. So now you can understand why I do not attach any picture here.
On Sunday I and Jan had a meeting with a music teacher Santiago Sapalu who has his own small music school in Santiago and teaches religious music to the students and he plays on Sundays in the Evangelic church too. We made an interview with him which will be a part of the upcoming documentary film about religion in Santiago.
And there was another big event on Sunday- the final match the Czech Republic vs. Russia but we actually could not find any cable TV in the city and we did not find any on-line streaming either :( So it was a nice surprise when I learned the result of the match later on- the Czech team won, yay!
That is all from me today, hasta luego!
PS: And answer to my question is: Kill Fidel Castro! :)
I am sitting on the terrace of Santiaguito school, enjoying the beautiful view on San Pedro volcano, palm trees and green garden and listening to the birds- it is cloudy Saturday morning, a bit chilly because there was a big storm yesterday night, so we did not have electricity for a while which was quite romantic. We sat around the table with the candle light and were drinking couple of cervesaz with the other volunteers- quite chilly evening. I usually feel very tired by the end of the work week, so there are no big parties on Friday night and we go to bed as early as usually.
While sitting on the terrace and writing these lines and editing some videos, I can also hear the chants from the Miel church which is close to the port, about 1 kilometer from the school. In Santiago Atitlan, there is a big meeting in the church these days that lasts for three days and we can hear constant singing and celebration from there because it is very loud and the songs are wafting in the air. The day before we had a lecture with Diego who explained to us what this church is all about – it seems to be an Evangelic sect that was founded by Gaspar Sapalu, Santiago Atitlan-born priest who is calling himself the Apostol! I went to the church yesterday to witness the ceremony and I sneaked in – the non-believers were not allowed to come in. I was totally shocked when I first entered the church. There was a couple of thousand people there- mostly women because this event was dedicated to them. I really could not believe my eyes. They were all singing and dancing and waving with shawls or some big leaves and they seemed to be in a trance. I would compare it to the live show of Madonna when people go crazy while seeing her! There was some priest on the stage (it was not prater Gaspar himself) and orchestra and couple of dancing women waving flags and everybody was devotedly singing the songs that were very melodic and rhythmic – not like slow chorals in the catholic churches in Europe. I would call it a Christian discotheque.
In the evening we got a chance to go to the church again with some Guatemalan women who are staying with us in the extra room in the school. So we were allowed to enter the church legally with them but I was told that I can not take any pictures or videos- they obviously remembered me from the afternoon when I was shooting there. I tried to take one picture and I was caught straight away! Ha, if they knew how much material I had shot there before, they would have sent me to the hell immediately, I guess. The atmosphere was the same – all the women were crazy. There was just one difference- the pater Gaspar was there too! So we saw him on our own eyes. He is 60 years old and got his PhD. degree in California. The sect was founded in Michigan in the US and has many followers all over Central America and United States. After this incredible experience me and Jan decided that we will make a film about religious fervor in Santiago and about all the sects that are here. It is really very interesting. I plan to make an interview with one of the ladies that have attended the sectarian disco session. – Update: The women refused to talk in front of the camera.
WORK 10-14 May
I continued working in INED (Institut nacional de education diversificad) which is a high school that our coordinator Diego is attending. The school schedule is in the afternoon only – from 1PM to 6:30PM. The students are 13-30 years old, some of them are older because they did not have a chance to attend high school earlier (because they did not have money and were working in order to make money to be able to pay the high school or their parents did not let them study etc.). The level of English of the students is really basic – some of them can not speak at all, so I would say that there is no difference between students in the primary school and high school. They also have no textbooks and their English teacher Salvador can not speak English- so I have to communicate with him in Spanish! He is basically only writing some words on the board and students are copying it. The students have no clue to what a grammar is, and can not make phrases in English. The fifth grade (which is going to graduate this year) ,where Diego is studying, is majoring in tourist guiding classes, so these guys should speak some English if they become tourist guides. The idea was to teach them some more specific words related to tourist industry but I am afraid they have to start from the very beginning.
TRIP AROUND THE LAKE ATITLAN
On Tuesday and Wednesday the fourth and the fifth grade plus the director Phelippe and a few teachers went to a trip around the lake Atitlan. I was asked to come with them and film the whole trip. It was really great because like that I could see the lake from all sides. We went to SANTA CATARINA, which is a small village on the west side of the lake. We went swimming there in the lake and I found out that the students can not swim – only few guys could – which really does not make any sense to me when these kids were grown by the lake! Well, I understand that the women only go to the lake to wash the clothes or to get the water so they never need to learn how to swim.
We continued by the van to SOLOLÁ which is the capital of the whole province. We went to the local market which is colorful as other markets around. We spent a night in PANAJACHEL, the biggest city which is on the north side of the lake. It is quite touristy and many Americans are buying piece of land and build houses over there. No wonder why – the beauty of the lake attracts many people and the lake is number one tourist attraction in the country. In the 60´s and 70´s it used to be a hippie hangout place in the Central American region. It is inhabited by Kaqchikel Maya people who are wearing different kind of colorful clothes. We visited the Butterfly Park (Mariposario) close to Panajachel in jungle with many kinds of plants and there were three monkeys in the trees too.
The next day we continued to SANTA CLARA and SAN JUAN on the western shore of the lake. In the mountains above the lake close to Santa Clara we witnessed the real Mayan ceremony. A Mayan medicine-woman was praying to the Gods and smoking big cigars in the holy place in the mountains in front of the fire. There are just few shamans like her remaining around the lake. In San Juan we visited a waving place called the Asociación de mujeres de Color where they produce different types of textiles with natural colors made of some special plants (www.asociacionlema.es.tl).
I also started shooting the documentary about the volunteers and about the places where we are working. On Thursday I went with Jan to Chuk Muk which is an area couple of kilometres far from Santiago Atitlan. There is a clinic for the people who are living there. It is all together some 5 thousands people. The area with new houses was built after 2005 when the hurricane Stan hit the region and destroyed many houses. The clinic has one doctor and a nurse. Doctor Miguel is super nice young guy who studied medicine in Cuba and now got a job here in Chuk Muk. I made an interview with him and was shooting him while he was working so I saw the families that are coming there. Usually only Mayan women with children come there because men are working during the day or they are never sick, who knows. The second part of doctor´s job is visiting patients at their homes. I went with him, too and saw the whole Chuk Muk area. It looks somehow weird. The houses are not very nice, they all look the same and there is nothing but the houses. It is like living in some remote place in the middle of nowhere with no facilities. We visited some pregnant woman in her home who had two other kids, they were sitting there, all dirty. They probably do not go to school.
On Friday morning I went to Centre de Salud, clinic in the centre of Santiago Atitlan that is right on the main square. I was interviewing the director of the clinic and the stuff- Graciela (Diego´s wife) and Miguel Angel. The function of the clinic is to make enlightenment in hygiene, pregnancy prevention and checking malnourished children, among others. The health service is for free in Guatemala because there is no social or health insurance system at all. So it is good that even poor people can get a medical treatment and medicine.
I took an initiative and I visited one human rights organization by myself. I wanted to invite the stuff to the screening of human rights documentary films that is being planned on every Wednesday in Santiaguito lecture hall starting next week. I wanted to ask them if they could hold the discussion about the documentaries but since my Spanish is still very limited I could not explain it. Hopefully I will succeed next time. My idea is to show the documentaries to the high school students, teachers and some educated people from Santiago. I think they don´t know much about human rights. The capacity of the space is small, though so it will not be as big an event as I had planned before. There is no cinema in Santiago, so we can only show the movies to a couple of people. I have few DVD´s that I got from People in Need NGO in Prague that I want to show here – some from Cuba and some from Mexico.
OK, that´s all for this week, hasta luego, amigos!
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.
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!