On Monday morning we had toast with jelly and coffee for breakfast at 9 a.m. Then we went with Paulina, Humberto, Eddy, and Aracely to Atitlan Multicultural Academy, Aracely and Eddy's English-immersion school. The school is in the process of moving locations, and until this morning it was still yet to be announced which of two potential properties they would choose.
We went to the building they had been using up to this point, and met Alyssa, the new director of the school. She said they had literally just decided on a new property, and she took us to see it. It was only a short walk from the previous location, so it was still within fairly easy walking distance to the house.
We arrived a the property, and entered the grounds through an arched wooden door in a stucco wall. There was an identical child-sized door to the right of it, and it reminded us of a Hobbit hole. Little kids would absolutely love this!
Here they would be renting a building which had formerly been used as a gallery and art space. It was a gorgeous colonial building with high ceilings and wood beam construction (a rarity in this area). There were attractive tile floors, brick fireplaces, and wrought-iron hinging light fixtures. We explored the rooms that would be used as an auditorium, classrooms, and a library.The building had a lot of character. The auditorium space had a nice stage where the kids could perform. Aracely enjoyed looking through the various piles of supplies, the first arrivals from the former location. This property also had a beautiful private yard where the kids could play in the shade of many trees and plants.
We went back out to the street and then went to the next door property, which has been used as a residence up until now. They would be renting this property as well, and planned to adjoin the two yards into a single campus. This house would be used as school space for the younger grades, including Aracely and Eddy's classes.
Alyssa sat with us outside. As hummingbirds passed by and fiesty Scottish terriers played with Aracely and Eddy, Alyssa outlined her vision for the school. She has her Master's degree in economic development in Latin American countries, and previously worked at Kiva. For the past few years she has been the director of Hiptipico, a company which fairly trades with local artisans. She works with the community and the artisans provide higher quality wares than the cheap stuff usually sold in tourist markets, so they are able to be sold at high-end retailers abroad.
She is starting a nonprofit which will benefit the school, and she also wants to use it to provide scholarships so that the children of her artisans can attend the school as well. She wants to encourage microgiving, where people can give $5 or $10 via the website, and they will receive a small handmade gift and know that they are helping an indigenous child to get a world-class education. Alyssa's enthusiasm is infectious, and we wish her nothing but the best. We are looking forward to the launch of the school's new website which will encourage online donations.
Alyssa was very generous with her time and we were happy to get the inside scoop on some of the changes within the school. We are thrilled by the progress that Aracely and Eddy have made at school, and we know they are excited to be the first kids to have seen the new space!
We went back to the house and had a nice lengthy chat with Humberto. Paulina made us nice spaghetti and meat sauce for lunch, which we ate outside. We gave Eddy a Tonka "Chuck" toy truck. We gave the kids a game called Suspend where you need to hang and balance metal pieces based on rolls of dice. It was fun and challenging, and we enjoyed playing all afternoon.
Josue and his toddler niece Brittany came over. When Josue was little, his big brother Luis used to bring him over to visit. Luis was very patient with the painfully shy Josue, and tried to make him feel comfortable around us. Now he was assuming that role with Brittany. He had matured so much at the ripe old age of 8. He was very patient with her and helped her to place pieces during the game. Things had really come full circle! Neli also arrived and joined in the games.
It started to rain, so we moved the game inside. Paulina and Humberto showed us Aracely and Eddy's report cards from school. They were excellent. We were so proud of the progress that they have been making. The school has been a wonderful opportunity for them.
We had realized that we would leave tomorrow, and we had not gotten a chance to visit with Paulina's side of the family. So Yoselin, Aracely, and Eddy went with Humberto, Paulina, Craig, and I around the corner and up an alley to Paulina's family's land. The kids' young cousin Alison Margarita greeted us with a hug as soon as we entered the property. Loren was with her, and had grown quite tall in the past year.
We sat in the courtyard with Paulina's sister Olga and chatted. Paulina's other sister Estela emerged from the house with baby Michele in her arms. She handed her to me and Michele was quite content. She had been so tiny a year ago, and now she was walking. Estela's older girls, Laisa and Yesmy, were in and out of the house. Olga's older daughters Odilia and Pamela were around, and young Juan Isidro now goes by the nickname "Chilo." Paulina's brother Carlos also came out to say hello.
The cousins enjoyed playing with one another. Alison Margarita came over to sit on Craig's lap. Just like prior times we had visited, she paid very close attention to everything he said, nodding seriously, but also at times giving him big smiles. Loren brought us each a plastic baggie filled with peach juice. It was very tasty.
Olga has taken over her late father's business: she sells fresh juice on Santander Street from a cart. Eddy went over to the juice cart and tried to push it. As the adults told him to stop, the cart seemed to fall over in slow motion. Luckily, no kids were hurt, and none of the glasses broke. The only casualties were five eggs which were now cracked. This prompted Olga to invite us to stay for an impromptu dinner. She and Paulina prepared huevos rancheros with black beans with tea.
We walked back to the house, passing Rocio on the street. We realized that she was wearing one of the new blouses we had given her; it was nice to know that she liked them. We arrived at the house where the older three girls were watching TV and playing on the computer. We gave our last gifts to the kids: a dress for Aracely, shirts for the older girls, and matching shirt and shorts for Eddy. Eddy and Aracely modeled their new clothing.
We said our goodnights, and the girls promised that they would see us in the morning before they left for school to say goodbye. We went to our room at 10:45, and I wrote in the journal until 11:45.
Alyssa, Eddy, Aracely, Paulina, and Humbrto in front of the new location of the Atitlan Multicultural Academy
Yoselin, Yasmin, and Aracely play Suspend
Brittany and Josue
Alison Margarita and Loren
Yoselin, Steph, Eddy, and Aracely