Santa Clara is a mountain town above San Juan. For me, it takes the most stops and most forms of transport to get there. From Pana, I first get on the boat. The first one of the morning leaves at 6:30 AM. I need to be on that one in order to make it to the 8:00AM meeting time. This boat is a local boat and can take some time to get from Pana to San Marcos (where I get off). In the mornings, there are many people on the boat going to different pueblos on the lake to work. The boat usually stops in Santa Cruz, then Jabolito, Tzununa, and then San Marcos. However, in the mornings, there are often additional stops to small hotels or other businesses along the water.
About 45 minutes later, I arrive in San Marcos. I pay the local price as I step up from the boat onto the dock and then walk up to the town center to grab a tuk tuk to San Pablo. On the way to San Pablo, I usually have a conversation with the drive and usually it comes back to how much he and his family struggle financially. Yet, like in other towns here, it doesn’t change the upbeat and positive spirit of the people that I have met along the way.
The driver stops at a córner about a block away from where I catch a pick up to Santa Clara. We say “mucho gusto” as I pay him, we smile and each go on our way. I step over fruits and textiles to cross the street and get to the pick up stop. The local market on Sundays in San Pablo brings many people to the street. They look at me as I walk, carrying one backpack on my back and one in front. There aren’t many tourists that spend time here in San Pablo. So I stand out each week that I pass through.
At this stop, both camionetas and pick pus pass by. I prefer the pick ups because you stand outside in the fresh mountain air and enjoy the amazing views as we wind up the steep curves that come into Santa Clara. But Sunday transportation is limited so I will take what I get. Today I’m lucky. I see a pick up and off we go.
Some how it always works out and we make it close to the 8:00 meeting time. This morning, before I walk to the house, I visit my favorite chuchito and tamal lady. She’s very happy to see me. You’ve returned? When did you arrive? I tell her I’ve been here for about a week and I wouldn’t dream of missing my favorite breakfast spot while I’m here in Santa Clara. I get one of each item, including atol – arroz con chocolate – para llevar. Those of you who know my distain will say, chocolate? What? Yes, the chocolate here is real cocoa – it is not sweet at all.
I start my walk up to the house where we meet. Benjamin, one of our students, opened his house to us, when Maria’s family could not longer allow us to meet at her home – there were going to be a women’s group meeting at the same time that we meet.
I’m about half way up the road and I feel a tap on my shoulder. It startles me a little because I’m not going thinking that it could possibly be anyone I know. It is Chema. He tells me that there were no buses and he got a ride from the shuttle. It was me and all gringos he tells me. We laugh. You have the best luck Chema. You always seem to find the best ride. Just about a month ago, we were standing and waiting for what seemed like forever, for transportation back down to San Juan. There was nothing and all of the sudden Chema spotted a police truck. His eye widened and he said, I wonder if they are going to San Pablo. They were. He asked them if they could take us and they said yes. We jumped in the back seat of the truck and off we went. Apparently, Chema tells me, police are required to take citizens with them if they ask and they are not allowed to take money for this service. That day we had a free and comfortable ride back home.
We arrive at the house and find the TV on. The world cup is this week and Benjamin is watching. He is the only one there. We wait for a little more time, but no one else shows. Chema and I go off to visit the houses of the missing students. We get to Jesika’s but no one answers. We walk back and there is Marvin, walking toward the house. Will your brother be coming too?, I ask. He didn’t have time to come.
I ask Chema to go ahead and work with Marvin and I’ll go see the others. Edwin 1’s store is closed so I’m not able to find him. Edwin 2, I have no idea where he lives but I know he often goes to church on Sundays. I go to Maria’s house, she is cleaning. I can’t come today because I need to help my family she tells me, and then she assures me that she’ll come next week. She tries to reassure me more telling me that her interviews are translated and she is ready to edit. I give her a hug and tell her I will see her next week. I remind her to please call when she can’t make it. It is kind of a waste to take all of us – Chema, Carmen, and me up to the community when there is only one student.
By the time that I get back, Carmen is coming in. It seems to be getting harder for her to get here on time. It is because of the lack of buses, not because she is late. It is becoming the same problem on her end as it is on mine.
I tell Carmen and Chema to go work with Benjamin. He doesn’t want to continue in the project, they tell me. I take a deep breath. He is in his room talking to Jesika – the two of them seem to be great friends. I ask her to go work with Carmen and tell her I would like to talk to Benjamin. He and I go outside and sit in the street. He starts…. the problems that he sites include: school is far away and he’s back and forth between San Pedro and Santa Clara during the week. He had a place to stay there, but it is not always good so he comes home a lot. (It is a far way). Then he tells me that he has lots of projects and he has to go to church and he really just wants one day free.
I tell him that I can empathize. I work everyday and meet you all here on Sundays because that is the day that works for the group. It’s ok for me, I tell him, because I want to be here working with you. We talk a little more and come to a compromise. I always see a spirit in Benjamin and the wheels are turning when we have discussions and show examples. It was surprising to hear that he wanted to drop it. But I think that I helped him feel more at ease knowing that we could find another time that is more flexible for him and for his schedule. I’m secretly hoping to encourage them to meet in smaller groups during the week so that I too can have a Sunday off – like “normal” people! 🙂
Oh, one thing to remember is that Jesika was doing homework between moments. She had to write the same word on six pages – to improve her handwriting. I remember these kinds of assignments, but so long ago and now more than ever, I question the time used – for what purpose I keep asking. I know what they tell me, but at the same time, I think that there are so many more useful and challenging things that they could be doing! breath. recognize your ibas… for me though, it is yet just another example of the focus of education here and in other communities with similar socio-economic challenges.
The rest of the day is dedicated to working with Marvin and Jeskia. Marvin works through his edits as if he were a pro. Occassionally he would ask a question, but for the most part, he remains focused. Jekia needed a little more attention. She seemed a bit scared to work with the program. I reassrued her that it gets easier and it isn’t has bad as it seems. She enjoys herself after some time, and by the end has a nice introduction going.
By 12:30, Chema, Carmen, and I start packing up. While we do this, Carmen asks the youth to talk about what they learned today and what their goals are for the next weekend. We say our goodbyes and plan a time for the next week. Chema goes waites for his pick up to get him back to San Juan. Carmen and I get on a minibus for 148. She and I split, Carmen returns to Chirijox, and I head to Antigua for the night.
Photo Credits: http://www.fluidr.com/places/Guatemala/Solola/Santa+Clara+la+Laguna/interesting