Of being comfortable at home.
Happy Easter, everybody!
May you keep young and curious at all times 🙂
I love that there are still some people in this world that manage to change their bits of universe for the better. One of these determined people is Don Rigoberto Zamora Charuc, director and founder of Probigua. I’ve told you about Probigua before and my experience in Antigua working for them. Besides being an Academy of Spanish Studies in Antigua, Probigua is a non profit organisation that does more for guatemaltecos than their own government, some say. This year they are celebrating 25 years of existence and work in the field of education in Guatemala.
The results are impressive:
-12 schools built
-16 libraries added to schools that had no such facilities
-2 bibliobuses or library buses that travel on a specific schedule in many of the villages and communities so that the children have access to books at least for some hours every 2 weeks.
Taking advantage of a talented student’s presence in the school, Zach Martinez, Don Rigoberto suggested we do a video presentation of Probigua’s efforts. It was lovely visiting many of the communities they have been working in, taking interviews, interacting with the children, teachers, librarians and volunteers from all over the country. I can’t wait to see Zach’s hard work in putting together all the bits and parts of these colourful lives we’ve witnessed.
In Nahuala, the children had no desks or seats, they were sitting on concrete blocks from construction sites, on pieces of wood or simply on the floor. We broght 350 desks to their school and they were so happy and grateful! They had a ceremony prepared so that we can see a bit of their traditions they follow during La cuaresma (the 40 days before Easter time). Also, we heard live marimba thanks to a band that came to greet us.
San Pedro Yepocapa. This is where it all started back in the year 1989. With his brother, Luis Pedro Zamora Charuc, Don Rigoberto opened the first library in the entire rural area of Chimaltenango. Where? In their own house. The people were so surprised. Many wanted to buy the books, not knowing how a library actually works.
We went visiting this community and found out Probigua has built a wonderful school for the children here. So colourful and happy! We interrupted their schedule to tell them about Probigua and its celebration. Don Rigoberto took the lead. He presented us, students: Lori viene de Rumania, Zach de los Estados Unidos. Thanks to these past weeks of studying Spanish with Gladys, I was able to hold a 10 minute motivational speech about the importance of education and the great opportunity the students have when such a blessing comes upon them. Let me make it clear, I was on a stage, with a microphone, in front of all the students of the school. I said mint instead of mind once, but otherwise, not many funny errors (menta y mente). Multi-talented Zach also prepared some songs for his audience and the kids loved him! At the end they came running towards us only to ask us more about our origins, our countries or other cultural differences.
I love this country. If you guys want to help Probigua continue its fantastic work in Guatemala, you can do it here.
You might think I’m really late with this wish, but believe me I am not! In Romania we celebrate Valentine’s Day as an imported event from overseas, but we also have a traditional holiday for love on the 24th of February called DRAGOBETE. Well, I use this special occasion to show you some moments of a Guatemalan wedding witnessed here in Antigua. The bride and groom seemed genuinely nervous for the day.
My favourite part was when the bridesmaides gathered around the couple to take a picture together. All of them wore the Mayan traditional clothes.
Let me explain, the Mayan people still make up a majority of the population in Guatemala and their fabulously coloured traditional clothing can be seen throughout the country. Guatemala might be small, but it hosts a huge diversity of textiles within the Mayan community. Each region and its people have their own stories and put them into differently coloured patterns and styles in their blouses and skirts. The blouses are usually called a huipil or güipil. They are woven by hand and sometimes it takes up to 6 months of work to accomplish these beauties. The corte is a wrap-around skirt that consists of a piece of cloth that makes a tube into which the woman steps. Excess material is wrapped around the body, folded at the waist and then tied with a faja (belt).
I particularly like the hair wraps or cinta. It is said that it is the best revealer of the town origin of a Mayan woman. In some villages, the style of how a woman wraps her hair in the cinta can indicate her marital status or whether she has children or is a matriarch. The cinta is the crowning jewel of a woman’s traje or traditional outfit and most often the most precious piece or her wardrobe.
And they lived happily ever after.
Chickenbuses never cease to amaze me. There’s so much life in them, it seems unbelievable. Lovers express love, kids laugh and cry in the same tonality, some eat, others play, drunkers sleep, backpackers are curious, mothers breastfeed, fathers make up stories, grannies keep an eye out for anything suspicious, the seats are uncomfortable for eveyone so you can see a bit of that back and leg pain in all the passengers’ eyes.
It’s gorgeous, I tell you.
What I enjoy very much is that every bus is unique with customized design, different driving styles and various weirdness of each money-collecting guys. Ah, what else? Yes! People with different kind of merchandise just pop in and out of a chicken bus during a trip so you can eat, drink and buy anything you might think of while going to the beach or the mountains of Guatemala.
My day got brighter when I actually followed the marketing discourse of a well dressed man about the cream. Just wanted to practice my Spanish active listening while I was stuck inbetween sleepyheads, Manouela and Izabel, but it really got to me. He was very pedant and started in a soft, but strong voice. He actually seemed to be taking after Julio Iglesias. A bit. Well, this charm actually worked while describing the properties of this noni cream that seems to help with everything. You name it: fungus, burns, irritation, scratches, hair loss, nail cuticles, acne. You just choose your skin problem and it actually solves it!
Now my description after I actually bought it: it’s yellow, gooey, it smells good, it’s made of 100% natural ingredients and it costs very little. What a bargain! 😀
WARNING!While traveling in a chicken bus, some of your reasoning abilities may be affected. That is the only explanation I can give for actually buying cream on the bus on my way to San Jose. Later at the beach I discovered probably the only downside of this creama milagrosa: it does not have a protection factor. You can still use it after you get sun burnt, though. WIN! 🙂
PS. For non-Romanian friends, we have something similar in our country called galbenele. It is a cream made of yellow flowers that is used for burns, scratches, irritation. All our grannies use it and recommend it for any injury of the skin. The only difference is that you can’t buy it in a bus. Oh, Guatemala, we have so much in common!
Con permiso, let me just tell you about my work here in Antigua, Guatemala. I signed up for AIESEC last year to be able to travel somewhere to Latin America. I didn’t have much trouble deciding which project to pick, the team from AIESEC Guatemala are very professional and did a great job in the invitations and decription emails. It is called “Ambassadors of Guatemala”. Who wouldn’t want to feel that kind of recognition for their experiences in another country? I was hooked. Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries in Central America and I couldn’t wait to see what it has to offer. AIESEC together with the Govermental Insititution of Tourism and reputed Spanish schools are showing Guatemala’s beauty through all the participants’ eyes. Besides working in a volunteer project in my school, they are also offering me 2 hours of Spanish classes every day! How wonderful is that? 🙂
Academia de Español Probigua – Proyectos Bibliotecas Guatemala is where I work, learn Spanish and teach English to my Spanish teachers. Probigua is a non profit organisation that has two main goals: teaching Spanish and helping education reach poor communities in Guatemala. I find this so incredibly interesting and such an unique experience because I have also worked on a similar situation in Romania through OvidiuRO. The Spanish taught to the students of Probigua comes with an intensive, total-immersion experience, featuring 3 to 7 hours of one-on-one classes daily plus the opportunity of living with a Guatemalan family to learn about the culture and broaden language skills! I am so lucky to be one of these students and to be integrated into such a nice family. Not only is Sonia a great cook, but she also has a lot of patience and helps us, chicos, with the language during meals. My room is great and I have a perfect view from my terrace.
Probigua aims high and thinks big. They are helping the children of Guatemala by donating the school’s profits to maintain the Library Bus. Additionally, they establish and preserve libraries in the many rural places whereby there is no access to books. I was heartbroken while travelling with el Bibliobus to two of the poor communities close to Antigua: Magdalena Milpas Altas – a village on Volcan de Agua and Alotenango – a village at the bottom of the active Volcan de Fuego, which actually errupted on Saturday covering Antigua with ashes for many days.
Magdalena Milpas Altas
The kids had an earthquake evacuation drill and the lucky ones got to ride with the ambulance/firemen, los bomberos. It was also the school’s anniversary so the all the kids had activities in the yard and participated in a football competition.
It is incredible to be here and see children that RUN for the bus.They are super excited to see books and try to keep calm although you can see their sparkles of joy in their eyes while waiting for their teacher’s instructions and the librarian’s offerings ♥
I sit down with them and tell them about my country. Most of them haven’t heard of it and ask me if I am a gringo. I then switch to fairytales like Count Dracula and Transylvania as the heart of Romania and they listen carefully. 🙂 One of them, Carlos, the kid with sad eyes but a kind smile actually knows where Romania is on the map. I’m very much impressed. He pays much attention to my stories and corrects my Spanish. He then buys some sweets with his 1 Quetzal only so I can try it. He is first on the left.
At the bottom of Volcan de Fuego lies the village Alotenango. The volcano shows a bit of anxiety as we approach, it exhales fumes every now and then and some of the forests lower from the crater are burning. The people of Alotenango live in harsh conditions of poverty and lack of water. The women usually gather in the main square to wash their clothes at the local lavatorium. Their kids wander around playing with boxes in the dust. They are happy, but shy at the sight of foreigners.
Life is calm out here. Very tranquila. The time is not rushing anywhere and the people seem to know that very well. We park the 3000 book carrying bus by the main park and wait for new students to come in and ask to read something interesting.
This cutie saw me climbing el Bibliobus and decided to join. He goes in to do some basic maths practice afterwards. He is 8 and didn’t go to school that day because he hadn’t done his homework, he says. He can’t read that well, but he is good with numbers.
Out of curiosity we also visit some classes in the nearby school and find the children practicing their sewing on patterned tablecloths. They are happy to tell us the few words they know in English and then show us their masterpieces. When the picture time comes, they goof around. Kids will be kids. 🙂
Most of the children around the lavatorium are curious about us ‘gringos’ but too shy to interact. I sit down since I’m actually quite tall here and start presenting myself and shaking hands to make them feel more at ease.
If anyone is interested in joining the projects of Aiesec Guatemala, you can find more information here 🙂
Until next time, keep on smiling!
My first trip across the ocean and out of Europe: Don’t be nervous, everything will be just fine! I kept saying to myself. And then this became an involuntary soundtrack before my actual flights. Cheers, brain, I know I can always count on you for messing up my sleep and bringing up weird songs before any kind of travelling. 🙂
But now I am here (OMG!) and everything is so great and exciting and new and crazy different, but sometimes also out-of-this-world similar to the Romanian culture. It’s so hard to put in words. Maybe something of a harmonious chaos that we also master in Romania.
One other surprising thing, I understand a lot of the language, it’s incredible! It feels like it was all the time asleep inside of me. This learning process is very exciting for me. I only need to listen carefully and I understand the use of expressions. Love it so much! At times, I even keep up conversations for so long that I forget I am speaking Spanish. Now that’s really something 🙂
The people. Oh my, I don’t even know where to start on this topic. They are very hospitable, kind, patient, welcoming but also curious to know about you and your country. Here in Antigua they get a lot of tourists and they are used to sharing their lives with them. I have been welcomed with open arms into their houses (thank you Charly, Luis, Majo and Elizabeth), I met the extended family with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmas. I’m enjoying small talk during meals at my wonderful home and I have the perfect view on the terrace of my room. Antigua is surrounded by volcanos (Volcan de Agua, Volcan de Fuego and Acatenango)and I am lucky enough to see them all 🙂
What can I say, guys, it was love at first sight with Antigua. Here, el Volcan de Agua, first thing in the morning.
Volcan de Agua is the most beautiful one, standing alone with its blunt peak sometimes wrapped in white clouds. The more cheeky one is called Volcan de Fuego. As his name hints, he is still active and kicking. Sometimes more than once per day. It’s far away so we can’t even hear the explosions many times, but you get such an adrenaline rush to see it by night! Mirna from Probigua Spanish School took a great photo of it the other day. I was overwhelmed at its sight to even move a muscle, but she managed to capture it! Such good timing! The Spanish language schools here in Antigua are renowned all around the world and have become one of the main industries along with tourism.
So enough about how amazing this entire trip is for me, let me walk you around the places so you can get the positive vibes in wonderful Antigua. The city has well preserved Spanish colonial style buildings and many ruins of churches. During the colonial times it also served as the capital of an administrative region that covered most of Central America.
La Merced church.
Antigua is well known for having elaborate religious ceremonies during important Catholic events such as Cuaresma (40 days before Easter Sunday), the Holy Week (Semana Santa), Easter. I will be here just before Easter time so I will document all the flowers, fruits, pine needles and paint artworks made by the artists to celebrate these events. Here you see Cathedral of San José which is located in the Central Park.
The main market. Love the colors of everything here. So many new veggies and fruits I had no idea about. Now wish me luck learning their names in Spanish with no Romanian equivalent. Quiero un camion de nisperos.♥
As for me, I wait for good light and spy on people, I’m really enjoying myself out here. 🙂 This is fast healthy food on the street. If you like how one lady is cooking, you usually stick with her. Guacamoooooleee tortilla wrap, yum! ♥
It’s not often that you get to experience the silence of winter on your own. It’s the combination of frosty air with sunny crisp shines that somehow transform the landscape into something quite magical. Well, since I have had the privilege of experiencing such delights, it seemed a pity not to share a glimpse of that with you. Here are some of my moments captured while on the road through Transylvania.
If you want a light Sunday movie with happy-predictable-unrealistic line of a story, you are reading the wrong review.
This film is an ode to silence. I find that so very rare to encounter nowadays and thus, quite precious. The main character – Eddie Marsan has a striking performance as John May – is an anti-hero, mostly just a simple British bureaucrat with a slight sad expression engraved upon his face. Solemn, organised and meticulous, he works with sealing the end of lonely people’s lives by arranging their funerals. In bringing to surface their memories, he finds comfort and a sense of accomplishment from piecing together bits of their past lives. I couldn’t help but feel that the director was very much hinting at The Beatle’s “Elenor Rigby” when working with this project.
This dynamic world, however, will not have patience with his in-depth slow practices and he will have to face a life-altering situation, losing his job. How he finds life after this turning point is savorously depicted in the art of subtle details: of warm gestures (as warm as they get in an affection restrained Britain), small victories, new acquaintances and kind smiles, if ever.
I have to mention the eye- delight you get while experiencing the film because of the very clean execution of the scenes. The director of photography really worked his magic with slow movements, symmetry, geometrically beautiful British streets, calm cloudy colours, neat patterns, and wide angle shots that add an extra heavy burden to the otherwise plain life of John May.
My recommendation? See it during an eve when the weather will not amplify the bitter drama you will experience from the film.