Thursday, June 5, 2014

Day 2: Kab'lajuj Ey

This is probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.  Ixim suggested that we shower in the morning because it usually rains at night, meaning that we actually have running water.  They have a collection unit on the roof.  I want to figure out why we have to be so careful of the water if it is coming from the sky, but that is for another day.  Anyway, I hopped in and wasn’t aware of any way to heat the water, so it was COLD.  I managed and began to think of how nice it would be to be in the US and have a warm shower.  But I would happily suffer than for the opportunity to be here with Wuqu’ Kawoq.  Breakfast was good, basically some beans, eggs, bread, juice, and tea.  I’m telling you, I eat well here.
Usually we will walk to class, but the rain was especially hard today so we took a tuk tuk.  This is the Guatemalan name for a mototaxi, as it is called in Peru.  These are essentially motorcycles with a frame and plastic around them to offer protection from the weather, and they put a small seat on the back for passengers.  Ixim, Luisa and I all crammed in the back of one, but I don’t think it was quite designed for people my size. Still a fun experience.  In a few minutes we got to the school, where we had some trouble finding out how to get in.  The other 2 stayed at one door while I went to another one.  An elderly, indigenous-looking woman who couldn’t be over 4.5 feet tall opened the door and let us in.  We discovered that we were the first people there when we walked into a bare room lined with empty chairs that was lit by 2 incandescent bulbs.  We decided to move the chairs to the room next door to avoid a leak in the roof.  Eventually 4 more Americans walked in (including Daniel) with 3 more teachers.  Small, intimate class.  And so it began.
They mercifully gave us a short introduction in Spanish at the beginning of the day, but almost the entirety of the class from that point forward was exclusively Kaqchikel.  I don’t know how many of you have been in a situation where you have been surrounded by a language you have never heard before, but it is a bit intimidating.  Then all of a sudden the teachers start coming up to you and asking questions or doing greetings.  Talk about being thrown into the fire.  I believe the philosophy of this is something like throwing someone who has never swam before into a pool, watching them drown for a while, and then bringing them back up for air for some lessons on what they should have been doing for their first few moments in the water.  We had several breaks throughout the day to ask questions and write everything down in smaller groups, which were very helpful.  Nonetheless, this is one of the hardest classes I have ever taken.  Amazingly, I can already see improvements.  My pronunciation is better than it was yesterday.  A week ago I couldn’t have told you that I was capable of making all the sounds I did today.  I can do basic greetings.  The most interesting part to me was that at the end I could understand their discussion of the possession of objects only based on the pronouns I had been learning throughout the rest of the day.  In that section, I felt like I had at least learned enough to follow the whole discussion.  As I have told myself before, I am going to stay engaged and give it 100% no matter how difficult or hopeless it feels.  I will learn this language, at least at a basic level, by the end of these 2 weeks. 

Rest of the day..  walk around town in the pouring rain and buy my internet modem with the help of Samantha, who will also be working on the same project as me with Wuqu’ Kawoq this summer.  Daniel also stopped at a bakery and talked to a guy for a while.  He went to school in the US for a while and knew kaqchikel and English.  The people here are so great.  Then back home, where I used my new internet and attempted to review the day. 

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