La Escuela De La Montaña Part 2

My first evening at the mountain school, Lynn, the coordinator (who is a North American, from Wisconsin…and she has been here since before the founding of the mountain school, she seems to be kind of a force around here, well known by the locals, and I believe well-respected), took us down the hill on the side of the school’s property, down some concrete steps, to the dirt streets of the neighboring village, Fatima…she then led us down the street, and dropped some of us off at the houses of our families for dinner.

My house was three houses down on the right, and it had a little fence with a little gate, and the house itself was of cinderblocks and lamina (which is the rusted corrugated metal roof that is almost standard here). I was welcomed in by the mother, and she sat me down in their front room, which had a bare concrete floor, two beds, some faded looney tunes posters, and a homemade bulletin board with family pictures on it…and a table with a red checkerboard tablecloth, like an Italian restaurant.

The father sat with me while the mother cooked dinner somewhere in the back, and I talked with him about the history of Fatima, his family, and his work (he commutes every day by bus to another town to do construction work…and he’s lucky because the majority of men there don’t have work, and take buses every day just to find work, or do day labor)…and then my dinner, which was fried tortillas (tostadas) with homemade guacamole on them (really, really good!!!)…and then I met the kids…all six of them (and they have another one, who lives in Guatemala City and works in factory making mosquito nets for beds)…and then about 10 minutes of awkward silence, and I headed back to the school…

That night, at orientation, I learned a little bit about the history of the school and of its relationship to the nearby villages: that the school partially chose its location in 1997 because of Nuevo San Jose and its story of struggle…and Lynn spent many months before the school was open developing relationships with the families to make sure it was okay with them, and they set it up so that students would be a source of income for the families…and there was already a woman’s group organized in Nuevo San Jose, so Lynn worked with the woman on things like cooking hygenically and such, and established payment that was signicantly above that of working in a finca for a week…and they set up a rotation system so that the families (really, it’s the women…) would share students and thus the income…and at first there was a big problem because the women thought that it would be rude of them to actually have guests eat with the family in the kitchen (which is behind the house, with dirt floors, open walls or lamina walls, and a wood-burning cement stove), and so they would serve students in the front like in a restaurant (which actually was my experience with the first family…I was never invited into their second room or kitchen, which I respected but felt weird about)…but actually, even before that…right before the school opened, the women had a big meeting and decided not to work with the school after all…because they didn’t want to have to cook pizza and hamburgers, and because they were embarrassed about their poverty (so says Lynn)…and so Lynn worked with them and made it clear that this was about sharing their lifestyles, not adopting North American lifestyles…that it was okay to serve tortillas and beans, that it was okay to eat with their hands…etc…and now everyone I’ve talked with says that they love the school, and they love what it’s offered, economically and culturally, to their communities…but more about that later.

In fact…once again…I have to go study…so this is just have to be extended again. Lo siento. I’m sorry.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi