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ruthless compassion
07 May 2004 @ 03:17 pm
Daily Mango Average (since Wednesday): 3.25

Graduation last night was great fun. A couple of my teacher-friends insisted that I dress up and play an instrument along with them (the graduation ceremony always starts with some of the teachers and other staff playing instruments and singing), which I enjoyed -- I definitely have had a warm welcome back into the community of the school, and even though a few key players are missing, it's good to be back. I got a couple of suspicious looks from students who don't know me and wondered why I was up there, and one question of whether I'm a teacher, or what.

In serendipitous news, Mike and Judy, a couple who I met last October and with whom I became fairly friendly, are still here! When I left, they didn't really know what their plans were, so I hadn't thought that I would get to see them, but I dropped them email last night, and lo-and-behold, they showed up at graduation last night! And I'm going to their house for dinner before they head off to Nicaragua next week. What luck!

Today, the school had a project day for people to volunteer to do some cleanup in a rural part of the municipality. (I don't fully understand the political definition of the city. We were in a fairly rural area, a good 15 minute ride from what I would call "city" but I think it was still part of Quetzaltenango.) About 10 of us packed into a microbus (pronounced: MEEcroboos) and headed out to a volunteer-aided daycare (much like the one where I volunteered last fall, and in roughly the same area, even) where they were doing a clothing drive and cleanup day. Each of us took a bag and a group of kids and walked around picking up trash from the side of the road. We ended up with something like 40 big bags of trash for the city to pick up.

Why don't people deal with their own trash? First off, the city does have a regular trash pick-up, but it doesn't go everywhere. I think this is where being in the city part of the city is a benefit. Out where we were, the city just doesn't do it. Second, there aren't trash barrels, since, well, what's the point if the city doesn't pick it up? So people driving by just toss stuff out the window. Third, even when the city DOES pick up the trash, it's a little unclear that anything useful happens with it. And finally, the culture is not one of taking care with trash. People buy cut-up fruit in plastic bags, and when they're done, drop the bag in the street. Same with bags of chips, bags of soda, envelopes, styrofoam dishes, or what have you. This is a place where it's easy for me to get into a space of saying, "Gosh, why don't these people take better care of their trash?" but it's really a whole lot more complicated than that.

My favorite part of the day was after doing all the picking up of trash with the kids, we passed out little juice boxes for them. And when they finished their juice, what did they do but throw the boxes in the street?

It was nice to spiff up a neighborhood a bit, but in the end, part of me feels like there wasn't really a whole lot of point since we're not talking about any kind of systemic change. But this is only the second month of the Xela Limpia (Clean Xela!) project, so... who knows where it might go.

My avocado woman at the market remembers me from last fall and gave me a local's discount yesterday. And (family take note) I found a place to buy chili Cobán (spicy powder!).

Tonight, I go to Mike and Judy's going-away party, where I'll meet Claudia's sister (whee! community), and tomorrow is a nice, low-key day before diving into next week of classes.