Friday, December 10, 2010

Stove Distribution

November 25, 2010 – December 12, 2010

Greetings again! This is Saint Catherine’s Day and therefore a big Fiesta and procession in Santa Catarina.  I was invited for a midday meal by Rodolfo who helps with our stove project there and has a very empty house right on the main street which he doesn’t live in (yet).  The traditional soup called Pulique was served, this time with just one piece of chicken and no pieces of vegetable. But very tasty.  I ate this meal with 3 men and we talked about religion and the state of the world but mainly Guatemala.  And the rest of the family ate in their house way up high in the village, where I couldn’t go because of my knee (good excuse, it’s a hell of a climb)!  I have also had an invitation for a good old US Thanksgiving dinner tonight….. or some variation of it.

Two days ago we had the stove recipient’s meeting for women in the afternoon.  We used the main room in the Centro Qa Winak and it was full, the children could play in the outer room with books and puzzles.  It went well and nearly all the women took pamphlets on birth control with them on the way out!  I had a long chat with Juana, a widow whom we helped last year by buying materials to build her and her 5 young children a home.  In return she was weaving small table cloths for us that we could sell in Canada.  It seemed like such a brilliant idea last April……  Her house and all the things she wove, and wove with, were destroyed in the September mudslide…….. She brought me pictures, the whole family compound was wiped out  She wants to start weaving again so I will lend her enough to buy threads and then buy some of her weaving.

In the evening, the men´s meeting was held - the first one of its kind that we have initiated; attendance was low but a good start.  A woman from an organization in Solola called Asociacion Xocomil came to facilitate and she did a marvelous job and got the men interacting, studying pictures depicting family situations (above), writing what they thought and felt about them and then presenting that to the rest of the group.

The following Tuesday we had similar meetings in Santa Catarina but only half the women showed up (even though this time we wrote the schedule down and gave it to them) which meant we had to schedule another day……….  And some women who ‘forgot’ about the meeting in San Antonio were given a second opportunity to come to Santa Catarina (there were 5).  Between the two meetings all the women appeared…… we are fairly strict about the need for them to do this part….. or to send someone in their place.  The men’s attendance was much poorer than in San Antonio…… only 3.  We shall just have to keep working on this.  Many have voiced that they would like it if the Xocomil organization came regularly and worked with young people…. Something our Centro could probably organize.

The 4th of December the normal activity with children in the Centro Qa Winak´ was cancelled because a group of 3 psychology students, Guatemalan women (non indigenous) who have gone back to school and are just finishing up came to the Centro for the fifth time since the Agatha disaster.  They have been teaching a group of people including those working in the Centro, techniques for healing trauma and helping folks to help themselves.  Part of what they are teaching was a rather amazing parallel to what we do at home, using Circle principles, a candle to begin, each person getting to say something, honouring the 4 directions and traditional Mayan ways. As well as a lot that I was taught in Capacitar training. 
That was followed by the women´s group learning how to make empanadas!  They sure worked that dough to death!

In the meantime there has been a lot of organizing. First, for the stove demonstration for the installers from both villages.  We have 3 new members of the 4-member team here in San Antonio.  And 3 people came from Santa Catarina.  Scheduled for 2pm, it started about 3:30 when the last 2 from SCP arrived.  We had to quit by 5:15 because some had other commitments……. So we never got to try cooking tortillas. Something new this year from HELPS International is a one-year guarantee for each stove.

Our scholarship student from Santa Catarina is on that team (as well as her Mum)…….  However she looks suspiciously pregnant.  After the demonstration I decided that I just had to ask and she said no that she had just gained a lot of weight during her first year of high school!  I must  say I am not sure what to think… it poses a bit of a dilemma!

And then next, the stove deliveries. (See photo at top). And the delivery of the concrete blocs.  We changed the location of delivery in SAP to the dust bowl down by the docks as there wasn’t really enough room above in front of the market.  Because we would be right next to the place we buy the concrete blocs I got a little indefinite about the delivery time – thinking we could just say: now, please.  However their truck was otherwise occupied for much of the time and it was touch and go whether or not they would arrive before the stoves…….. Aaahhh, the stoves. They were going to be picked up by the Municipality, scheduled to arrive at 2pm but didn’t arrive until just after 5pm.  So we JUST managed to get the blocs all dispersed before the stoves came.  It was a long 3 hours and everyone was quite patient. I am not sure what happened except that there was a long wait to load them at the factory and then there was construction on the road. 

The delivery itself is hard for me to describe because it gets so chaotic I can barely handle it.  I don’t speak Kaqchikel and because most of the women speak little Spanish they don’t even bother to listen to me as I try to create some order (HA).  I find the women here are only interested in getting the parts of their own particular stove, not in helping with distribution per se.  So this time I disappeared behind the truck for a while and just let it happen – best thing to do, it turned out just right and the stove team handled it really well.  I left them just after it got dark and the women were just in the process of signing for their stoves and carrying them home with the help of family members, picops, whatever it took.  The stove team came to the hotel about 7:30 and I asked Manuela to make empanadas for all.  It was a beautiful day and there is such a feeling of satisfaction when it is over!

The day after that I went into Panajachel to a little hospitalito and had an injection of an anti-inflammatory for my knee and was told to stay off it!  Which I did except for the next afternoon when there was the stove delivery in Santa Catarina in the afternoon! And what a contrast that was; the concrete blocs were distributed in the morning!  And only 40 stoves, for one thing, and they arrived EARLY, before the scheduled 2pm time! There was time to get things going before a lot of folks arrived and when they did it was amazingly orderly. There were enough men to get the heaviest pieces distributed (we make piles of complete stoves) and all the rest – chimneys, fire bricks, tubos, ladrillas, estantes, ganchos, planchas, codos etc – I know their names better in Spanish than in English – were distributed to all by women and children and then the women waited patiently in line to get the ‘arena’ or pumice-like sand that is used inside the stove for insulation.  Each woman signed (most using thumb prints) for her stove and carried it off and suddenly the square was empty.  Our scholarship student and her Mum did not show up and luckily Rodolfo was able to find a couple of others to help out.  Afterwards, one thankful woman brought us each a cold drink so we just sat and talked over how it went, in the cool of the late afternoon, again feeling a great sense of satisfaction.

Afterwards, I went to a rather nice hotel for an early supper since I had had no lunch. I was there a week or so ago for supper and as they are not very busy the waiter, remembering me, just went and got the pillows I needed to rest my leg!!  I had a lovely pasta primavera as the sun was going down and then caught a picop back to San Antonio Palopo. The driver, another Rodolfo, happened to be  a young fellow I wanted to talk to about translating for some of the team coming down in January/February who aren’t awfully fluent in Spanish.  He is one of the very few who speaks English well, and speaks Spanish and Kaqchikel too. The work he does is flexible so he said he would be delighted.  There is a very busy woman named Rosario, an old time friend of our group who also speaks all three languages and will be available some of the time. 

The other day when I took a picop to Panajachel I got talking with Mateo the driver (since my knee injury I tend to sit in front whenever I can).  He makes hackysacks.  A while ago I was actually thinking about hackysacks – I’ve never seen anyone use one here and I think most of them (in the world) are made around this lake (no research done on that!)  And I was thinking it would be a great kid activity and it doesn’t need a ball field.  So I asked him if he knew how to use them, either juggling (hand motions used to describe this) or kicking them (whatever that is called). No, but he has a friend in San Pedro who does, who would probably love to come over to teach kids.  So, perhaps we can get that happening through the Centro.

Today is Sunday the 12th of December. I stayed put all day and was visited by 5 little boys who wanted to draw and colour.  I had just received an electronic Christmas card from a friend (thanks Cheryl) so decided to show it to them and they were enchanted - we watched it at least 20 times and 3 of them decided to draw the scene. And the biggest surprise was just a bit after dark fell (6ish here), while I was eating my dinner. The stove team arrived to leave all the tools for installing the stoves! They had just finished their last one and it only took them 3 days.  Such fine hard workers.  Now I can pass the tools on to the Santa Catarina team tomorrow.

In amongst all the big events there are myriad smaller ones, impossible to keep track of!  Such as December 7th when the devil gets burned – be it an effigy or just some garbage – to clear the way for the Christmas celebrations. (Lots of firecrackers). And yesterday there were 2 great fireworks displays as well as lots of firecrackers and bombas, to celebrate the construction and decoration of the village Christmas tree.  I think that next weekend the Posadas will begin.  The turkey down in the garden is getting fat. The weather is much colder at night and there is lots of wind -- it´s howling as I write!  It was -2C in Quetzaltenango..... frost on the cars.

And I want to wish you all the best for the Season and a warm and wonderful Solstice.  There is still time to give a gift by making that all-important donation to the work being done here – stoves, school supplies, scholarships, urgent relief and our Centro Qa Winak´. Every little bit helps.  You are making a huge difference to these villages. 
With heartfelt thanks,

1 comment:

  1. Wheelchairs are not much use here in San Antonio Palopo. Maybe we can get Kathy some roller skates and ski poles? (poor-man's wheelchair) lol Keep up the good work Kathy.