Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Arrivals and departures, Carnival and Limpiras

Hi there,

You don’t know me yet, but we have some common passions, especially here in Nueva Mercedes (NM).... So let me introduce myself, my name is Filipa and I am originally from Portugal. I will say 6 months in NM and having lived in Latin America before I feel home here, though I can say NM has shown me more in a couple of days than the capitals I lived in before did, for months….
Expectation is a word I will erase from my dictionary while I am here, starting from the fact that it is quite chilly and that tortillas are everywhere, yes, but having no skills to do it I had to make an order at a local’s place (probably the only thing I can order around here too ;) ) .

Foodies aside, and I look forward to my first visit to teleman’s big market next week*, I have had the pleasure to visit most of our projects and start to know some kids by their names (believe me, there are many and it isn’t easy…though I have no doubts that I’ll get there).
I arrived to NM the 3rd of February after a one day trip. It was so dark so dark I couldn’t see the house until the car was parked outside and its lights introduced me to  this two floor wooden/bricks structure which is now home. Anne promptly jumped out of bed to receive me. She will be leaving tomorrow* and then back for a couple of days, so I’ll save my goodbyes to then.

Baby vegetables
Anne took me the next day to the school where I visited all the classrooms and introduced myself to the kids. Sharing my nationality with Cristiano Ronaldo (football player) proved to be a plus as it is the only reference we could share, Latin America already sounds as an abstract concept here, less to say Europe. My name being quite similar to the Spanish male name ‘Felipe’ the kids picked it up easily and already know perfectly how to get my attention inside or outside school by cackling my name whenever they see me: ‘Felipaaaa’.

Edwin explaining technical details
After some morning support to grado 2 we took advantage of the break to pass by the local store, where we can buy milk and any essential product that misses our weekly grocery in Teleman.Instead of the usual PM activities at school we meet Edwin, our local volunteer on the ‘hortalizas’ project and visited some gardens to see me progresses. Most of visited families proudly showed us the fruits of their work, most vegetables timidly showing their little leafs as they just started to come out and, in some cases, with proud 10 and 15 cm.
Students from Basico are passing by to collect their grants for the month so I am slowly getting to know them too and our PM activities with children are a great way of getting closer to them. Friday AM we were introduced to the typical Guatemalan Carnival: instead of disguises and parades children run around smashing special eggs, which their mothers prepared by emptying them from their natural content and replacing it with flower. 

Oh, and the favourite body part of the victim to smash the egg in... is someone’s head… so Anne and I came home with the looks of two old ladies, but after a shower and washing our clothes, flower became a memory and no longer part of our looks. 

Carnival Egg fight
That same day, PM, I delivered the children a Power Point Presentation, were I displayes pictures of Portugal. I shared with them our typical delicacies, landscapes and landmarks….only to ask them: ’¿Y ustedes?¿que hay de lindo aquí?’ –(how about you, which beautiful places/things can you name here?),  they didn’t understand the question….taking by their agreement when comparing one of the main squares in Lisbon with its statues and century old palace and Nueva Mercedes .’ ¡Si,es igual!’ (Yes, it is the same!).

I can imagine the giant question mark in their heads when I asked if there was something beautiful in their country, nearest city or town…. I ask myself, does it even matter, here and to locals, to think in the beautiful surroundings? I guess there are other priorities here and they speak louder, I can only understand that. Anne and I came armed with a map and then I could show the kids where was Guatemala, Central America, Europe and our countries, as well as the countries of volunteers who left, as the kids ask every once in a while: ‘ ¿Georgia? ¿ Katerina?’.

 ‘¿Saben si hay otros países donde se habla español?’ (Do you know if there are any other Spanish speaking countries?) – Again they seemed lost, after a small explanation of what is a country, and that the world is composed by countries, they were surprised when we showed them the huge extension of land where they can both be understood and understand by using their Spanish skills. One of them seemed very interested in the financial profiles of each country: ‘Cuál es la lempira de Japon? Y China?’ –(what is the currency in Japan, and China?- Limpira…..I am considered as a fluent Spanish speaker and I could not understand the word, so the kid helped me out: ‘moneda, moneda!’ – (coin)-  ahhh, got it! Must be Q'eqchi and I still have to look it up on our dictionary here. So there he went, how many quetzals was an USD, how many quetzals was an Euro. I probably wouldn’t think in those terms about money when I was his age….also I wouldn’t have to ever worry about it.

I will have to say my goodbyes to Anne soon and hold the fort while our new team is gearing up, hopefully arriving in short time. I know Anne for a very short time but I have seen her dedication, effort, how she bounded with the community and she greatly surprises me with her level of Spanish, being a speaker for such a short time she speaks it incredibly well. Besides being my guardian angel these days, showing me around and having infinite patience for my questions. Thanks a million Anne, you are a star and I am sure I will hear the kids asking for you for many months….as they are doing now for Georgia and Katerina. I will miss you but know that you will be doing great on the other side.

Night is slowly falling and I feel cold, so I will just warm up some water and get another cup of tea, while I brainstorm on tomorrow PM’s activities. Something else to share, we have a local temporary addition to the team, Fernanda, a local girl, will be assisting us with activities as part of her studies. She will do it two weeks per month and we are very happy with the communities’ engagement in the projects, as she is currently our second local volunteer. You will read us soon if you have a look at our Facebook page. In case not, we meet here next week! Have a lovely week ahead, mine promises to be...

We look forward to receiving your comments and questions!

* This post was originall. written the 7th of February yet, due to technical reasons, it couldn't be posted before the 10th of February.

No comments:

Post a Comment