Friday, April 2, 2010

Just Ordered

After drooling over the Motobecane Fantom Pro SL 29 for more than a year I finally put my order in for two a 15" for my wife and a 21" for me. My wife is 5'7" and I'm 6'4".

Pre-Initial changes:
I am putting 400 mm Kalloy seatposts on because I know that the included seatpost is only 350mm which won't be long enough for my wife, and I love the two bolt clamp on this post.

I am also going to switch out the tires as soon as I pull the wheels out of the box, my wife has the Nevegals that came on her OutCast 29 and I ordered a pair of Continental Mountain King 2.4's.

I'll put my favorite Oury grips on mine and I am looking at the Ergon grips, or something similar but cheaper.

Any suggestions? Or questions? I'll try to keep this updated with my impressions and the changes I make on our bikes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

El fin

My students are learning! I was greatly intimidated at first to try to teach people so different from me a language as crazy as English in a language not my own. However, I am finding it gratifying to realize at this point that the students who have proven to be most dedicated and who have developed a relationship with me through patience and good attitude have learned something! I am now able to note baby steps of progress in adult students and schoolchildren and in myself.

While it is important to me to note progress, I keep in mind that easily they could learn without me in their lives, easily it could be someone else in their paths teaching them, easily they could improve their lives without my presence. The resources are here. The keys to their learning remain in their own hands.

These keys include the willingness to seek knowledge despite feelings of ineptitude and awkwardness and to listen to and involve others, the initiative to take responsibility for and engage themselves in their own learning, and the commitment to practice putting it into practice on a regular basis so that it is cemented into their minds and ingrained in their habits.

I understand that what they are learning is at best minimally important within the greater context of their entire lives, but I am glad to have been present at this stage and to have been a part of their lives and learning nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Estan aprendiendo

Evelyn and Ingrid are two of three sisters of one family in Club Glow. We took an adventurous bike ride the last week of school. Ingrid especially is a gifted child with leadership abilities and communication skills. She always has a spark in her eye. She is the leader of the girls' tenacious and dogged knocking on our door at any hour to visit us. I'm grateful one person likes us enough to visit!

Ruth, my former host mom, and Silas, my prized pupil. He has made phenomenal strides in his language learning; he has also been one of the primary students responsible for my understanding of the best methods of teaching Spanish speakers who lack formal education.
The promised Internet Cafe has become a reality this spring. The youth group continues to manage its use on their own.

Late in the school year the girls club has enjoyed a wealth of enriching activities outside of school, visiting my house, painting, learning about HIV/AIDS, playing boardgames, and discussing stereotypes and gender. I was very proud the day the girls began to ask questions of the larger world and were interested in learning about places on the map I have of Central America. Regrettably, the girls who were selected to participate in camp this summer never gained the permission of their parents, mostly due to the notion that a trip to Belmopan (in tiny Belize) is too far from home. Que lastima!

Our friend Yin from China began to visit the house for regular English lessons as well. He helped me learn the appropriate way to show Chinese speakers how to form the sounds of the English letters and how to remember them in relation to the sounds which are familiar to their mouths. We spent hours seemingly yelling in each other's faces and peering at the settings of each other's mouths in order to learn.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Escalar en Xela

We arrived in Quetzeltenango (also known as Xelaju, or Xela pronounced Shayla) Guatemala late friday, found a cheap and clean enough hostel and crashed. On Saturday we toured the city, second largest in Guatemala, and checked into the apartment we rented for the week. Sunday we woke around 5 caught a bus to the base of the mountain around 7 and started walking the 1st gear road up to the climbing area near La Muela. We started climbing the first route we came too, I thought it was a 5.10 and was very frustrated at how poorly I was climbing, or actually hanging at each draw. Around half-way up the route I noticed two more climbers on the neighboring crag, one local and one obviously not. It turned out that the local was Miguel Arango, the first rock climber in all of Guatemala.

Miguel started climbing at age 12 after reading an Italian book about mountaineering. Since then he has hand bolted about 30 quality but very difficult sport routes in the nearby hills, most in the 5.12 range. During the week he works his six days selling wool yarn to manufacturers and every Sunday he is cranking on his latest testpiece or guiding a newbie Gringo for extra cash. Last night we had Miguel over for beers, wine and crepes to chat about climbing, it was fun hearing stories about the many different trips throughout Latin America pursuing his passion.

I was sick all day Monday and Tuesday so our plan to climb on Tuesday was changed to Wednesday, then finally we made it back up on Thursday. This time we were fortunate to catch rides both up and down the mountain, saving my lungs and especially my knees from the steep cobbled road. We wanted to go surfing in Guatemala while here, but there is a huge competition in El Salvador so all the instructors are headed south to compete, plus the waves are supposed to be HUGE this weekend, probably not the best for rookies. Maybe when we move to Portland I can get a board and stash it at my parents???

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hands-On! (Part 2)

“I want to become a principal.” Cindy Perez’s goal was appropriate as we painted our hands and one of the girls’ primary role models, a female principal, painted her hand and dream alongside those of her students. “I hope all of their goals are accomplished,” was principal Ms. Saira Gutierrez’s hand-painted statement on the wall. She chose a bright green color for her hand.

Some of the hands were painted vibrant hues of the rainbow; others, darker natural colors, like Elvira Chol’s self-proclaimed “toad-colored” hand. “Como un sapo,” she kept repeating with glee. All wrote of bright futures for themselves.

Earlier in the week, after I found suitable colors for the school crest in Belmopan, we outlined the symbol of the school which every student at Bella Vista R. C. School wears as a badge on her or his uniform. We were obliged to paint the school crest in deference to the community and at the request of the principals. The crest contains a cross, a palm tree with five leaves representing Bella Vista’s focus points (Community, School, Child, Church, and Minister of Education-important in a political system such as this one), a school building, and at the bottom, the slogan, “Every Child is Worth Caring For.”

The girls again demonstrated excellent teamwork and leadership in taking turns on the ladder and taking charge of a particular color with her paintbrush. They worked diligently and without complaint, except to ask repeatedly to help with more tasks! My task was to maintain a hands-off approach in order to allow them to take ownership of the project and to learn by doing it themselves.

I was again impressed by their skills and care in instructing one another and attempting to paint to the best of their abilities. This is not always the case in a community where many tasks are carried out haphazardly and without a sense of neatness, perhaps due to a lack of materials or a healthy fear of theft. Once I asked Graciela, one of the girls who visited regularly to climb the climbing wall in our backyard, what kind of a house she hoped to live in one day, as she was drawing a picture of a house. Her answer was “a small, ugly one because if it is pretty, people think you are rich and steal from you.”
Many of the boys hung around the wall, standing back and observing from a distance. I encouraged them to make encouraging remarks! One boy said he would say the wall was “bonita” if I gave him two US dollars!

Afterward, they shared red velvet cupcake treats, and everyone was happy!

Here are a few pictures of the girls’ decorated art supply boxes, along with intricately designed small matchboxes in which they can leave compliments for one another. They used tiny beads, stickers, and glitter glue to embellish these, and it has turned out to be an art activity very beneficial to the girls’ self-esteem. Many thanks to fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Cheryl Frances for this art idea!

(Note Natalie's school badge in this photo.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hands-On! (Part 1)

Hands-On! Project made possible by Kids to Kids
Bella Vista Girls Club GLOW (Girls Leading Our World)
Part 1

Club Glow offers female students an opportunity to learn about themselves and each other and participate in empowering, creative projects in a safe, positive environment. It was brought to Belize through Peace Corps Volunteers in local communities and through Camp GLOW, a summer camp for young women leaders of the future all over the world.

The first three pictures feature Zulma, Deiri, and Ruthy, the girls who have been selected to attend camp this summer in the Cayo District of Belize, near the capital Belmopan. Each summer, girls from the six districts of Belize attend camp to learn leadership skills, build self-esteem, discuss health-related topics, play sports, express themselves through arts and crafts, act out skits, dance, and build lasting friendships.

The Bella Vista Girls Club GLOW began in the Bella Vista Catholic School when I obtained permission from the principals to meet with Standard V girls (approx. ages 11-14) before school two mornings a week, primarily with health topics in mind. I also focused on self- esteem and enrichment activities according to a curriculum from Costa Rica for youth called “Como planear mi vida,” or “How to Plan My Life.”

The girls work on projects at every meeting that allow them to express themselves and help them think about the future. One of the creative projects we planned was painting a mural on a community building wall. The girls would each paint an outline of her hand and fill it in with representations of goals and dreams she has for herself and her community. This idea was primarily inspired by our friend Denise Coelho, a Humana Volunteer from Brasil who lived in Bella Vista in the fall of 2008. We called this the Hands-On! Project when applying for a grant through Kids to Kids, Massachusetts. From this program, we received funds to buy each participant in club art supplies for all projects and supplies specific to the Hands-On! Mural.
This past Saturday morning female students from both Standard IV and V (approx. ages 9-14) met to begin their art project together. Before Saturday, the two grades had met for club on separate mornings. The first step involved simply painting the chosen wall for their mural one clean color for the background, cream being the preferred color of the vice principal with whom I have been coordinating.

The girls seemed to participate cheerfully and eagerly and developed teamwork and a sense of camaraderie in the task, taking turns with the rollers. After finishing rapidly, I was impressed with the efficient manner in which they helped me clean up, return the materials to my house, and replace the ladder in its usual position.

Here the girls enjoyed eating a snack of different fresh fruit, including grapes, pineapple, apples, and bananas. They were also careful to drink plenty of water! Pictured from the left are Janet, Karla, Cindy, Melbian, Paulina, Cindy, and Dalia.

Mid-week the girls visited my house to decorate inside-out cereal boxes in which to keep their own brand-new art supplies! Some of the girls stayed for hours on Saturday to paint watercolor pictures for me to hang up on the fridge.

I look forward to sharing the results of the next step in our girls club project.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Bella of Bella Vista

I would like you to meet my new friend Bella. She is from Guatemala and is fully committed to learning the English language. In late March, she started coming to our house every afternoon for several hours to study with me. She also wanted to learn new recipes, especially pizza, so one night we kneaded wheat dough and made healthy pizza together, which her husband shared when he came to pick her up on his bike. They are both very young-18-years-old-and don’t have their papers to be here. Bella gets up at 4 o’clock every morning to make her husband breakfast, sometimes biking all the way out to the farm to take him lunch also.

Bella, which means beautiful, is her nickname. She is very light-skinned with bright, light eyes, and everyone here equates those traits with beauty. Her in-laws and friends in Bella Vista joke that I am the mother of her niece because she is white like me.

Bella and I have become good friends. It is wonderful to get to know someone in another culture who actually cares that you exist and wants to know more about you, where you are from, and where you have been, without prejudice or judgment. This kind of friendship is rare. Many women in Bella Vista have mentioned that they have few friends or none at all, partly due to the fact that people are from different countries and situations and have not necessarily lived in BV long. Bella has only lived here for 1 year.

Our friendship is a fun cultural exchange for us. She is teaching me Spanish almost as much as I am teaching her English. She is also helping me improve my methods of teaching Spanish speakers. Now I show my students not only how to spell each English vocabulary word correctly but how to write the pronunciation for a Spanish speaker as well so they can practice at home.

Bella and I have had fun making jewelry with beads my mother-in-law Joyce generously sent me, sharing pictures of family, and talking of our homes. We are each learning about the world of the other. She doesn’t know much about snow, mountains, or sports. When we were going over vocabulary for sports in a book, she said climbing and skiing sound terrifying! She told me all about Carnival in Guatemala. The circus came to Mango Creek last week, and you could enter for free if you donated a live dog to feed the lions! Really!

Bella taught me a saying, one of the hundred or so “piropos” or “flores” boyfriends tell girlfriends she has compiled:

No quiero perlas del mar ni perfume del oriente solo quiero tu amistad y cariƱo para siempre.

I don’t want pearls of the sea nor perfume from the Orient, only your friendship and affection forever.