August 19, 2009

Another Day in Guatemala City: Meetings, Books, Walking and Gymnastics.

This morning, my research assistant, Oliver, came to pick me up at 8:30am. We had a morning meeting with Professor Miguel Ugalde. We had planned to take the bus, but Oliver unexpectedly had a car, which made the trip there quite a bit easier.

Oliver had originally suggested we walk to a bus stop about a twenty minute walk from my house. When we drove past the bus stop, I thought to myself that Oliver likely walks very fast, as it did not look like a twenty-minute walk.

Our meeting with Miguel was very productive. He gave us a list of at least ten people who work on issues related to migration that I should contact. I likely will not need to talk to all of the people he suggested. However, it is great to have so many leads, as that means I should be able to pick and choose the nice folks.

There are a lot of people, institutes, and agencies who work on migration in Guatemala. Eleven percent of the Guatemalan population resides abroad, and remittances (the money migrants send home) is the largest source of foreign currency in Guatemala. It tops tourism, coffee, and international aid. No wonder migration is such a big deal here.

After our two hour meeting with Miguel, Oliver dropped me off at a bookstore not too far from my apartment. I picked up one book for myself – a book on the Postville Raid by Eric Camayd-Freixas – in addition to several books for the kids. We may or may not home school, but, in the meantime, it seems we should be teaching them something.

When I got home, I spent about an hour with the kids, first doing a math assignment, and then moving on to some Spanish reading instruction. The book we have starts out by pointing out that Spanish is the easiest language to learn to read in the world. That is encouraging.

Once our lesson for the day was over, it was time to go out again. I had an appointment for a trial class for the girls at a gymnastics academy in the wealthy zona 14. Oliver told me it was about a 25 minute walk from our house. I figured that it might be a bit farther, but that we could try walking anyway. We set out from the house, made a left on Calle 12, and then a right on Avenida 6. After about four blocks on Avenida 6, I noticed the numbers were going down instead of up. I asked Nando about that, and he told me we were walking towards the city center. Oops. That was the wrong way. We asked another pedestrian where the Plaza Futeca was, and he told us we needed to get bus #101 on Avenida la Reforma, two blocks over, and in the opposite direction.

We made our way to Avenida la Reforma, and found bus #101. The driver confirmed it did go to Plaza Futeca. After a rather convoluted journey, the driver let us know it was time to get off, and let us off the bus at the intersection of Calle 20 and Avenida 10 in the zona 14. Just ten blocks from the Plaza Futeca. With no buses or taxis in sight, Nando, Tatiana, Soraya, Raymi, and I set out walking towards the Plaza Futeca.

Luckily it was a nice day. And, they were ten short blocks. About 20 minutes later, we were there. BabyGym is a nicely equipped gymnastics center, with all sorts of things for the kids to do. I wasn’t sure exactly what our trial class would consist of. I was hoping it would be that they would get to participate in a class with other students. Turns out it was a private one-hour gymnastics class with Tatiana, Soraya, and Raymi as the only students. The kids had fun and got a good workout. At the end of the class, I asked them if they wanted to come back. Tatiana and Raymi were displeased with the idea of being in the same class with their younger sister, Raymi. And, Raymi thought she needed to be in a class with at least one other five-year old girl. Other than that, they said they had fun.

I asked the receptionist about the other students, and she told me that they don’t have many students at the moment. There is one other eight-year old girl that Tatiana and Soraya can take a class with. There also is a four-year old boy Raymi can have a class with. That makes it a bit better, but doesn’t really solve our issue with the lack of socialization of the kids if we end up not being able to send them to school. It is funny – a private gymnastics class sounds fabulous in principle. But, when you are looking for friends for the girls, it is less attractive. Let’s hope they like the one other person in their class, if we decide to enroll them.

In the same plaza where BabyGym is, there is a great gym for me. I definitely need to get back to going to the gym. It wasn’t convenient in Kingston, and I am feeling a bit out of shape. That is one more reason to enroll the kids in BabyGym, as I can go to the gym while they are in their gymnastics class. Plus, if we walk there, I could get a decent walk in addition to the workout.

We told the receptionist we’d think about it. I suppose I will wait to see whether or not the kids ask to go back to the gym. Plus, we might check out other gymnastics centers, if we can find any. As we were leaving, we asked how to get back to our house.

The receptionist told us to walk a few blocks over to a Taco Bell, where we could get a bus going back our way. This was a bit of a shorter walk. When we got to the main street, however, we saw the bus going by. It was very full. People hanging out the front and back door full. I suggested to Nando that we walk. He wasn’t sure how far it was. We asked a young man, and he said it was about eleven blocks down. So, off we set, this time in the right direction.

On the way back, there was a nice playground in the Parque del Obelisco. The kids played there while Nando and I sat down and figured out our budget. I wanted to make sure we could afford to send the kids to this gym, and, if we did, how much we could afford for their schooling. Turns out we have enough, at least on paper.

The walk back was very nice. It was on a big avenue, but the avenue has a hug divider, which is like a little park in the middle of the street. So, the kids ran around, played on the statues and in the grass. Eventually, we made it home.

As you can imagine, the kids fell asleep almost immediately after dinner. I would have to, but I procrastinated too long on writing this blog post.

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