We said goodbye today after Spanish class. Some flew out this morning, so we did not see them, but most will leave Saturday. A few will stay a couple days more.
I ran back to CANICA this afternoon and all the staff was wearing surgical masks because there has been a blockade to the major garbage dump the whole month we have been here. The garbage has been piling up across the way from them, and the smell was so bad, it was toxic. I felt almost guilty that I have the option of going home to the cleanest air in the USA.
I learned that I can plan and run an international trip. I learned that to do it well takes an incredible amount of time, and that in turn takes its toll on other areas of one's life. I learned that in Mexico, relationships are first and foremost in having a successful project, whereas in the USA, the project is the most important thing.
I highly recommend our guide, Ivan Zafra, and have included his business card here. Thank you to Joshua Sage, last year's coordinator, that selflessly shared his contacts in Oaxaca and opened the door to our voyage to Tlapazola. Thanks also to Jennifer Case Nevarez back in Santa Fe, who managed the bookkeeping for this trip. Thank you to The Master's Program and to Monte del Sol Charter School, who both gave full scholarships to one teacher from each school. Thank you to last year's LISTO couple of Jim and Grace Ronhovde, who enjoyed this experience so much, they gave a generous donation to make it possible for a teacher to attend this year. Thank you to Dawn Wink, who managed the SFCC end of things 100%. Thanks to all the educators who gave up their summer vacations, sacrificed their time with their families, and were willing to leave home to come to Oaxaca. And, thank you to my wife Patricia, and son, Noah, who most felt the impact of all the time I put into this project, and not into them.
So, we are off to Mexico City early in the morning before continuing on to Santa Fe, and it is time to close down this blog for awhile, recapture my personal life, and maybe run a few miles in my spare time. Or, maybe take my ever patient wife to someplace quiet, soon!
For those of you following along, please spread the word. I imagine sometime in September we will be promoting LISTO 2018, and based on the exit interviews of this trip, we are going to fill up fast!
Good night, Ollín. Good night, CANICA. Good night, Guelaguetza. Good night, busses rumbling by all night. Good night, Tlayudas. Good night, very loud fireworks. Good night, parades. Good night, LISTO 2017. Good night, Oaxaca.
In our last TESOL class, Omar Núñez Méndez gave a talk on the research he has been doing with Transnational Children. Omar is the head of the language school we have been using, Ollin Tlahtoalli, and he has conducted a longitudinal research project on the effects of migration on one's identity. It was fascinating stuff, and really is what we teachers are seeing in Santa Fe, but in reverse. He has followed two children born in the USA, who returned with their families to the mountains outside Oaxaca at a very young age. The children are now in their upper teens, and have moved back and forth from Cuajimoloyas to Los Angeles multiple times.
After Omar's talk, we moved onto Sabor Antigüo for our despedida lunch. There is still one more Spanish class tomorrow, but since some people have early flights, today was the last time we will all be together. To honor that, today I am posting pictures from other group members that most exemplify what this experience has been for them. Here goes.
Today our TESOL class focused on vocabulary development. We began with a 'chalk talk,' ten minutes of silent writing on the whiteboard under the heading of "Words, Emotions, Sights, Sounds, Memories of Oaxaca." From that vocabulary list, different groups developed vocabulary charts from a selection of Vocabulary Strategies that I received at the Teacher's Training Center in London while I was working in an American School. This was an excellent example of using the same words in many different areas to deepen learning.
From there, some of us went to our final day at CANICA. The group that had been working with the elementary school students continued their corn husk dolls, giving them different faces for different emotions, and teaching the English word for each emotion. Here, you can see one of our teachers signing dedicating a bilingual book that she left for the class.
Upstairs, two of our teachers gave a parent meeting to over fifty parents, principally mothers. The theme was proper treatment of children. From the parents, themes like domestic violence came up, bullying, and the need for parents to listen to their children.
Then, we moved outside to leave our print on the tree and say goodbye. Each pink hand represents a person that has done a one time service project, like ours. The purple hands are the teachers and staff at CANICA, and the blue hands represent the sponsors. There is still room for the first yellow hand, those who conduct research at CANICA.
Adiós Canica! What a valuable experience to be able to work with these children, parents, and staff!
It feels almost wrong knowing that I have not posted anything since Friday night. It's not for lack of things going on; quite the contrary. I had planned into the calendar a three day weekend so people could catch their breath, explore on their own, and perhaps go to Guelaguetza on Monday. So, some went to Puebla, others went to host stay birthday parties, and others toured towns where Alebrijes are made and Hierve el Agua, the gigantic soda springs a few hours out of town.
This is my sixth time in Oaxaca in just over twenty years, and for the last ten years, I have dreamed about going into the elusive mountains on the edge of town. Public transport is not great, and it is rumored to be cold, so I have never had the means or the clothes to go. But, in planning for this trip, I found a receipt from years ago where a student group had visited the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca. So, in the name of a scouting mission for future years, and to satisfy my own curiosity, I rented a car and Paty, Noah and I made the very windy trip up in to the mountains.
We spent our first night in some cabins near the Magic Town of Capulálpam de Méndez, and quite by chance watched the Guelaguetza de la Sierra - where other mountain towns sent their participants to dance the night away. The plaza was in front of the church, hanging on the side of a mountain and the views went on forever.
The next day, we drove on a dirt road to Santa Catarina Lachatao. Citing Wikipedia, there are roughly 1300 inhabitants in the mountain village at over 6000' elevation. Almost no-one has an automobile and people walk up and down the steep roads easily. The people in Lachatao are friendly, their time is not our time, and no-one is asking for a hand out or for tips. You are asked to hire a guide if you explore the mountains, so we hired José to take us to a nearby mine that had originally been explored by the Spanish.
On the walk back through the countryside, José started picking out herbs and explaining their names and medicinal qualities. Then, he found two mushrooms and then a bunch of mustard greens. Soon, his hands were overflowing with mountain produce which he said would be a great dinner.
We spent a memorable night in a cabin high on the mountain. On Monday morning, it was time to return to reality in Oaxaca, and today, Tuesday, was the first day of our last week of classes. We all were refreshed from our weekends away, and we all are excited to be in the home stretch.
Today was a day that affirms my belief in experiential education. We visited four separate sites outside of Oaxaca and I took away something new from each. First, Tlacochahuaya, which is a town just a few miles south. This little village has an ornately decorated churches in the plaza. It is unique not because of the detail of decoration, but because there is proof that it was built by indigenous hands. The Dominican priests came to Oaxaca in 1527, and this church was the second built in this region. To convert the natives, the priests first watched their customs. Then, they copied them. Because the native people's always had a plaza in front of their temples to perform ceremonies, the front of churches contain a courtyard, to enable the Zapotecs to assemble there. But in the corners, the priests would put statues of Saints to watch over them. After conversion, they could then build. In this church, there are a number of native touches. First, the decoration contains paintings of flowers. All the indigenous people even until today use flowers.
Furthermore, Saint Mark is painted on the ceiling with a lion. However, it was obvious that the painters had never seen a lion, and they painted right out of their imaginations.
We then went on to Mitla, an ancient burying ground. The mountain breeze, rain clouds in the sky, and tunnels made for a magical time. I have been to many ruins in Mexico, and all are special in their own way. Chichén Itzá for its size, Tulum for its beauty, Palenque for the jungle and Bonampak for its isolation. El Tajín for its detail, as well as Uxmal. And of course Teotihuacán and Tenochtitlán for their historical significance. I won't go on, lest you think that I am name dropping, but Mitla was impressive in that we were able to go into tunnels, the detail is intact, and there is a church that was built directly on top of a Zapotec temple.
What I will most remember is the town that is on all sides of the archeological site. Mitla has been continuously inhabited since the 1200s. Scientists believe that there were about 10,000 people in Mitla in the 1200 - 1300s and there are about 10,000 people there today. So, I would imagine that many of the residents of the town of Mitla today are direct descendants of those who lived here long ago.
There was much more. Zapotec weaver at Teotitlán del Valle and another gaze up at the majestic tule tree. But, this is enough for tonight. It was a wonderful day and proof for me that we learn best through experience.
We are very fortunate in the United States that we place importance on integrating arts into our school curriculum. During this month at CANICA, the theme of study is how to express our emotions in a positive manner. Today, two of our elementary school teachers led the children through a project where they created corn husk dolls portraying a positive emotion. The students worked extremely hard. Some put feet, one put a bridal gown and others made shoes to go over the clothes. Students asked for black yarn for the hair and these kids worked for two hours creating something that was uniquely theirs. Other teachers came to watch what these students were doing, and it was apparent that they possess great creativity, but the teachers do not know how to blend art and core learning.
Wednesday is market day in San Agustin, Etla, a village in an agricultural valley about 15 miles north of Oaxaca. We arrived before ten and had a couple hours leisurely strolling the stalls. I sampled smoked fish, was offered rat poison (mataratas) multiple times, and many of us headed to the food section for a mid morning breakfast. I passed up the visceras stand for a barbacoa, slow cooked lamb in broth. It was delicious!
On our way out, I stopped and mentioned to this woman that her dolls were pretty scary. She laughed and said, "Yes, they are the nephews of Chucky!" What a great sense of humor!
From the market, we headed up into the mountains to the Centro de las Artes de San Agustín. C.A.S.A. was founded by the Mexican painter, Francisco Toledo in 2006 in a building that had been an abandoned textile factory. We watched a demonstration on the process of taking plants and making paper, then spent an hour in the calm beauty of the C.A.S.A. It was a great day.
The LANL Foundation has supported LISTO heartily. In the first year that LISTO worked to bring teachers to Oaxaca, the LANL Foundation supported LISTO. Our first cohort took place during July 2016 and we had 9 teachers spend four weeks here in Oaxaca. Last November, the LISTO steering committee got together to plan this summer's trip. We decided to shorten the days in Oaxaca to try and attract teachers with different ties at home, I became the coordinator of the trip, and I quickly learned to ask foundations for monetary aid in helping teachers get to Oaxaca. LANL Foundation was helpful in directing me how to correctly write a grant proposal, and they awarded LISTO with a $1500 Community Grant. Thank you for supporting our teachers!
Today at CANICA, the regular staff had a meeting while we were there. That gave us three classrooms full of kids! Seven teachers came prepared to give a lesson on emotions to the different grade levels: Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary. I was the rover, coming into different classrooms and watching, and then moving on. Two things struck me. First, the teachers that we have brought down are very courageous with their willingness to step into another classroom. There were flutes, visuals, games, and lots of reading. The other lesson from today was from the students. These are kids whose clothes have holes in them, many of them are not bathed, and even one adolescent's socks did not match. Could you imagine going through a day of high school with mismatched socks?
But, these kids had very good spelling. They took care in their work. And, they took care of each other. In a country where most kids so low on the socio-economic scale are left out of school, these kids are in. And they appreciate it. If they don't show that they are grateful, if they don't show respect for their teachers, if they don't do what they are expected to do, they are out. And there are literally thousands waiting to take their place. My heart went out to these children, thinking that the bond they form amongst themselves and with their teacher is the bond that will carry them forward through disappointment, discrimination, and heartache.
When I left, I asked myself, how many names did I carry with me? Not many. And what is more valuable than one's name?