David shares stories of his 2008 Guatemala adventure.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Week Two Report

After my second week of language classes my head seems so full of words, I can't recall even the English word that I'm looking for. Besides my English classes and trying to find time to explore, I am now engaged in several projects, some technical and other human. Everything progresses here poco a poco, little by little.

La Pedrera Wireless Internet.
Much internet access here is via wireless connections. I have been working for an hour or so each day, trying to resolve the internet connection for the La Pedrera project. The Casa Xelaju language institute has a rooftop antenna where they are attempting to broadcast a wireless signal to the La Pedrera community building about ½ a mile away. (Photo - You can see the antenna on the roof). We met with some success early in the week when we were able to get the wireless equipment working on both ends. Still the signal doesn't quite reach, though we are assured that at one time it did.

La Pedrera Computer Lab.
With help from two other volunteers we have managed to clean up most of the virus laden computers and connect them to a common file server. We still have two printers that do not work. One is so old we cannot find drivers and the other is out of ink and the heads potentially dried out. I may use a small part of the donated funds for a printer so that students can take samples of their work home. Already I decided to invest $30 of your donations for a white-board and markers for the computer lab. A good printer and supplies
would cost us $50-60.

Other projects.
My skills are much in demand here and I've agreed to travel to the nearby village of Canton Vela on a weekend to help set up a community computer center. I was also offered volunteer opportunities at a school near Antigua Guatemala where ex-Peace Corp volunteers are engaged in local development projects. I will probably have to decline that invitation but hope to visit them in January. I was also asked to help update the Casa Xelaju La Pedrera pages. Due to non-profit rules protecting the privacy and security of children, we have to remove information that would identify the children by last name. I've been updating these pages to remove that information. The information about the students in the program is also badly outdated so our long-term goal is to work with the project coordinator to collect new photos and update the pages. Along those lines, I inquired to the project director if donors who take on full sponsorship can correspond with children whom they sponsor. They can, but due to privacy protections any correspondence would have to go through the project director. If you would like to correspond with children in the program, contact the project coordinator, Teresa De Leon at

Teaching at La Pedrera community center.
Though I don't feel ready, I was pressured by other volunteers to start teaching at the project. I asked if we could start working with a small group of 3-5 of the more experienced kids. I hope to enlist them as team leaders so that when we take in a larger group of students we can rely on student team leaders to assist with those less experienced. So on Wednesday, we started working with three students. On the first day I tried to engage them in a discussion about the parts internal to the computer and about input and output devices. It was interesting and I had prepared my vocabulary on the new whiteboard. On Thursday, we passed out digital cameras to the kids and showed them how to put their own photos on their desktops. With a little time remaining, I decided to give them a quick demo on some of the features of Photoshop. They thought it was pretty funny that I could quickly move the face of one student to the head of another. Still the biggest obstacle is the language. We have one volunteer whose skills are only slightly more advanced and another volunteer who is very quick with a Spanish-English dictionary. Next week we hope to take things a bit further. Possibly by the 3rd week, we will be ready to take in a larger group. My hope before I leave is that we'll have the Internet working and they can make their own web pages.

In closing, I thought I would share another little sound-clip. This is a song titled "Bonito" by the group Jarabe De Palo. It's a song my teacher gave me to introduce vocabulary. It's more or less the Spanish version of "Everything is Beautiful". One really beautiful thing is that MATC associates, with a matching donor, now are very close to $1000 in contributions for el Proyecto la Pedrera. I hope to have a ceremony to mark the occasion and pass the contributions to the school.

Hasta Luego, David



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