This post comes to you from the comforts of my home, where I am, at last, coming around a bit. Seems that my saying, "I can't believe I didn't get sick" at the airport was indeed the jinx I thought it might be... as it happens, Montezuma's Revenge can strike in the days following your return. Oof. But if that's the worst thing that happened, I'm a lucky dude. Here's a recap of how we rounded out the week with the usual smatterings of my impressions about life and junk.
The next stop on the CoEd tour took us to a "middle school" that had a significant number of scholarship students. It was the most raucous greeting we received all week, with a full band coming out into the streets to welcome us with a rendition of "Tequila." The students lined the halls shaking hands with us, and then each one picked out one of us to escort into the central basketball/soccer court. As always, pine straw was laid down on the path so our feet wouldn't have to touch the ground. A sign of respect like this is pretty incredible and I had to get right with feeling undeserving about it. This school was pretty special, and the CoEd co-founder admitted that it was one of his favorites of the 200 plus they work with. Not too long ago only a handful of girls were enrolled. The principal is one truly amazing man and he's done a very unpopular thing by making it his mission to increase female enrollment. He's battled with the local government for 35 years, not making very many friends in the process, but only able to do so much without fearing for his life. The day we visited, the school's female enrollment had risen to 48 percent. 'Nuff said. It was my privilege to meet the man and I did the best I could to let him know that. A "musto, musto gusto" along with a few pats to the heart seemed to get the message across.
We started off with the presentation of the Guatemalan flag and National Anthem. Then, for the first time, they played the United States National Anthem and I noticed the American Flag painted on the wall. It was then that I remembered that the second biggest biggest source of income after agriculture and before tourism is people sending money back from the United States. So while the U.S. hasn't always been Guatemala's friend, they seem to still see it as the land of opportunity. At least that was the impression I got. As with the other schools, there was some symbolic ceremony-like entertainment provided and the kids gave us all gifts and handmade cards of thanks. After this was another demonstration in the computer labs where we paired up with a student and they showed us a slide show they made of their hometown on Windows Moviemaker. Microsoft works with the CoEd's computer program, so big ups to them as well. Then we did a little thing where I was supposed to show him another picture to add and then add a title and he'd show me how to do it. Pretty cool - I chose a picture of some cows and told him to type "I like to eat cows." He thought that was pretty funny.
After this the principal spoke, and when I say that this dude is a great speaker, I mean he's a GREAT SPEAKER. This guy could be the president of Guatemala if he wasn't so committed to his students. Very moving stuff. Some of the aforementioned scholarship kids spoke next with the help of our awesome translator (and so much more) Gabby. Then, for the first time for even CoEd, the mother of one of the students came to the school to speak of her gratitude for helping to provide her daughter with more opportunity. These kids aren't able to afford even the minimal annual book rental fee that's the centerpiece of the CoEd's sustainable revolving fund model. But as always with the CoEd's approach, there are no handouts, and the kids take part in caring for the school and doing other kinds of community service. And as always, each student has earned something, values their education, and has taken part in a cooperative effort. This marked the end of our school tours and we headed out to the tourist destination of Antigua, not too far away - but a million miles apart.
To be continued...