Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Very Complicated!

More than once I have said "I am doing it for the kids" and the kids are great.  Actually even greater now that I have gotten to meet two other, previously only rumored, children that belong to Alexander.  Unlike politicians in the US there was never any denial involved but it does sort of explain the decline in the relationship between Estela and Alexander.  Or was it the other way around?  It is definitely complicated but who are we to judge the poor with limited education, limited resources and not too many other ways to have a good time?  Certainly none of these excuses would apply to one time presidential hopefuls in the USA.

The reality is that "it is what it is," the children are here and Tia Joan has two more to help educate.  Gladly, a couple of years ago I made one of my all time best investments and thanks to counseling from WINGS ( and my $40 Alexander had a vasectomy.   Santa Estela (mother of the first three) has been one of the first to say that the children are innocent.  Christopher, 3, has his Dad's charisma and Michelle, 2, her Dad's dimples.  Both appear to be clean, well-nourished and well cared for.  They both know what books are for as Mom reads to them which is a rarity in Guatemala.  So, I guess we can give Alex credit for picking good mothers and for taking some responsibility for all five children.  Now we all know the answer to the question of where all his money goes. And go it does.

As for those who don't belong to Alexander there are five in the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes in school this year thanks to a donation from a womens' club in Southern California.  School is technically free and technically compulsory.  Neither are close to the truth.  Uniforms are often required along with gym clothing and school supplies as in the US.  Many families simply do not have the funds for school supplies or uniforms thus their kids just don't go to school.  Interestingly, two of the sponsored children, Veronica and Elmer, are siblings of "Charlie" who received a Rotary scholarship last year and apparently couldn't cope with being the oldest and the tallest at age 13 in the third grade. He dropped out and is, probably, up to no good.  His sister, Veronica, is 12 and very happy to be in the second grade and their brother, Elmer, 6, is also in the second grade though in a different class.  I explained to the two of them that there were able to go to school because some ladies in the United States were making it possible.  Elmer assured me that he could read.  The school year ends in October in Guatemala so if their grades are good they will be able to continue with financial assistance.

Speaking of books I was recently able to visit the Riecken Foundation library in Xolsacmalja, Totonicapan to which many of you have contributed.  The 100% indigenous village is about a 20-minute 4-wheel drive ride off of the paved, main road (3-4 hours west of Antigua) yet the progress in this library in scarcely a year was quite remarkable.  We were there to discuss an internet connection that is being partially funded by The Rotary Club of Woodside/Portola Valley (CA) and also to deliver two boxes of Spanish language childrens' books donated by a young girl named Quincy from Napa, California.  Quincy asked her friends to bring the books as gifts for her birthday party.  In the photo above Juana, who is the president of the library board, looks over the new books with her 3-year old niece, Elena.  Elena now has the very new prospect of growing up with books and computers in her life.  Despite, currently, having to travel by bus to another community for internet access the library staff managed to send Quincy a digital "thank you" for her book donation.

While at the library three young boys cornered me as "gringas" are a rarity in their community.  First, they eagerly posed for a photo so that they could see themselves on the back of the camera.  Then, they plied me with questions.  "Why are gringos tall?" was one of their first.  Since I wasn't sure of the answer I mentioned that gringos eat different food.  Then they wanted to know what gringos ate, what I ate when I was in Guatemala, how did I get there, how long did it take, what did it cost and why was my hair short.  I finally escaped the questions by asking them to get books and read so that I could take some photos.  All three read aloud in unison endlessly.  It was quite clear that they all were good readers and they were happy to show off their skills.  Bingo! Library

If you would like to read a bit more about the Riecken Guatemala libraries and see more photos just follow this link: