All going well

8 09 2009

I noticed just now that my hose-squirting friend has been converted into an ally.  I just came in from watching the children at recess, and he was standing in the yard, holding the hose, waiting for the word to add a little more water to the current batch of mortar.  He was as passive to the swarms of first-graders screaming around him as his older companion.  I think maybe even more so, because the “mason” would stop and stand with his hands on his hips and smile as he watched them, but the little boy stayed solemnly focused on his work.

The school boys were engaged in activity that should perhaps wait another ten years or so … Each one was trying to catch himself a girl.  It took a little while for me to realize it wasn’t just tag.  There are more girls than boys, so the boys pretty much had their pick.  They try to corner them or just chase them down, and at any minute you can see two or three of them leading their trophies away, until they lose them.

If anyone wonders where stereotypes of “females” came from, they should visit here.  Talk to a typical uneducated teenage girl … their conversation is as inane, full of innocent wonderment, giggly, …. etc.  as the most chauvinistic person could expect.  I’m not referring to character; just that a lot of them aren’t getting a quality education.  Of course, I’m sure there are lots of exceptions as well.  It is just a different world for women here.

I have looked at myself, and thought about the reactions I tend to meet.  Just look at it: I’m blond in a world of dark hair, light complected in a world of dark complexions, tall in a world of short people, educated in a world of little education, relatively thin in a world of “plump” women.  I think that it should be abundantly clear that any attraction based on these novelties is not worth ten cents!  Even take into account another couple of large factors – I appear to be wealthy in a world of poverty, and (as long as I’m single) I carry with me a free pass to the US in a world where mansions are built by remittances from formerly poor family members there.  The fact is, that in America, a country of 300 million, I am guessing there are a good 25 to 5o million people who share every one of these characteristics.  I just happen to be one of the very few in Jalapa at the moment!  (Probably not half a dozen.)  So I can’t help be conscious of people looking sometimes.

Right now, at school, I’m engaged in translating the standards of the ACE curriculum so that the administration can submit it for approval to the government.  It’s a joke.  To start with, we’re breaking the first rule of translation: Always translate to your native language.  I’m working on math right now, and I’ve never done more than addition, subtraction, and multiplication in Spanish!  So I have to try to research how to say “greatest common factor,” “reduce fractions,” “count by 100s,” ïmproper and proper fractions,” solve word problems by dividing 3-digit numbers by 1-digit divisors,” and so on.  If nothing else, it is extremely inefficient.  If this were a real job at a for-profit agency, I would probably refuse to do it and tell them to have it done right, or else issue a gigantic disclaimer in ALL CAPS.  As in, “I have no idea at all how to do this, and it is going to turn out pretty bad.”  But I figure that I won’t do worse than anyone else here would, and they can’t afford to have it done right.  On top of that, they tell me that no one will ever actually read more than the first page or two.  Finally, the government shouldn’t get too uptight about it, because the English churned out by these Latin American governments frequently makes me cringe!

I was finding it frustrating at first, because I don’t like to do work that I can’t do well.  But Sharon came in yesterday and repeated to me what James had said, about it taking a tremendous load off of him to know someone was seated here at this desk working on the things which had been so neglected previously.  So I am going to give them the best I can.




6 responses

8 09 2009

Next you’ll be getting chased all over the yard:) Glad to hear you are having a good time. Anyways, have enjoyed your blog. Uwe na usiku mwema rafiki yangu. Tutuonana tena. Kwaheri

8 09 2009

It took me two or three reads before I figured out what that first sentence meant! I don’t think it’s too likely … 😆

8 09 2009

Having high standards is a good thing….but you are providing a gift they can ill afford. What a great opportunity to share your life. Your contrast and comparison about the many differences between the two cultures should make us all think a bit.

8 09 2009

I trust that everyone understands the way I meant that comparison (as I know you did). It is just something that takes a while to settle in. I saw it in Bolivia as well, but there were a lot of blond foreigners there! It truly is a little different feeling here.

There are a lot of different factors here; another one I want to write something about is what it’s like living in this little isolated pool of Americanism while here. At least, things in this home are quite hybridized. It leaves me with a little more conflict to deal with, but that’s a subject for another time.

I really don’t feel able to contribute much. They have suggested some things to me though. Lee has suggested I could go with one or two women who do some outreach work in tinier churches nearby, and I don’t know what all.

And although this isn’t a contribution, it looks like I will be able to swing that trip to Tikal during my final week here. More on that later!

8 09 2009
Jerry Smartt

I read an article in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” where it was reported that living abroad enhances ones creative thinking. It emphasized that time spent traveling abroad did not equate with time spent living abroad. Creativity was mediated by the degree to which an individual adapted to different cultures. You can find the article at
Do you suppose there is any link between your viewing of the little water-hose fellow and translation of arithmatic/mathematics? ☺
Just a thought…I close now..I tired..I retire to bed. It pleases me the idea.

9 09 2009

Hmmm … Maybe I should get creative about this translation.

Lee and Sharon were a little disconcerted last night when they found I was getting about 5 pages a day so far, in 4-5 hours, and that math alone is 29 pages. I think they might get a little creative now! They suddenly began remembering native speaker resources I might avail myself of. I said they could run it through Google …..

I think once I can do it on my own terms, I might make a little more headway. I also think my vocab will be a bit stronger when dealing with language arts, for example, rather than math. This stuff (the math) was half “translated” before I got started on it by someone using Find & Replace. 😯

P.S. I’m glad you’re OK! I was a little worried about you being sick.

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