Early in the week, the "main drag" in Antigua was taken over by a Guatemalan television station celebrating a major anniversary. They would be filming their news programs (6 PM and 10 PM) from the main street in Antigua. And so a huge tent and stage were constructed on the spot, electricity mains were piped in, and that evening there was lots of noise from the street. I didn't go out to check it out, but I certainly heard it all in my bedroom in the house, especially their midnight fireworks. It's one of things that goes with living so closely to the center of town. This is true generally on the weekends. Right now, for example, various parties in the area, groups in the street, and musical events in houses nearby are creating a cacophony that I'm sure I'll hear in my room until at least midnight. I'd put on earplugs, except that I wouldn't hear the 3 AM alarm for our 4 AM departure for Tikal.
Last Monday, I was surprised to learn that I would have a new teacher at San Jose el Viejo. Apparently, the school shuffles teachers around week by week, according to a variety of factors, including preferences expressed by returning students and the like. At first, I was a bit upset, but I soon warmed up to my new teacher, Silvia, and within two days found her to be just the right person to take my lessons to the next level. All through the week we have been proceeding via conversations in Spanish - halting on my part, clearly and slowly on hers - along with exercises, new material, quizzes, and the organization of the information that I've absorbed so far. One of her talents is the ability to connect various pieces of learning from the last two weeks and to highlight patterns in the language. I hope to be able to continue with her for another week and then perhaps move to yet another teacher for the last two weeks.
The days have passed quickly, and there are just a few things to highlight outside of class time. Each day, John and I spend the 30-minute break in the morning walking around the neighborhood, trying new streets every day. At noon, when his class ends, I take a 15-minute break inside the property and then return to the cubicle I've been in all morning (since 8 AM) for another session. I finish at 1:30 and make my way home for almuerzo with the Brothers.
On Tuesday, on my way home, the road was blocked by a long procession or parade that made its way through the central plaza area and consisted entirely of young students from, as far as I could tell, schools dedicated to indigenous populations. Kids were dressed in all sorts of costumes or uniforms, carried statues or other processional items, were led by a band, and generally seemed quite at ease walking down the middle of the street in organized groups. The procession was related to the fact that on July 25th, Antigua celebrates its patronal feast, Santiago (St. James), and the whole town takes a holiday. The parade was one of the events leading up the headliner next Monday. It was fun to watch the groups walks by and to take photos as they happened, By my estimate, the procession was about two football fields in length. I was late for lunch.
On Wednesday, John and I took an afternoon excursion to Santa Domingo, where we had been before when we took Elizabeth Bell's tour. On the way, we stopped by her travel agency to confirm our plans for this weekend. At Santa Domingo, we took our time walking around the various ruins, and although we didn't pay to enter the museums there, we did see lots of interesting parts of that old Dominican monastery, now a slick hotel and conference center.
It's a bit amazing to notice the variety of contrasts here in Antigua, as I'm sure is the case for the rest of Latin America. On the way back, we stopped by the Dona Luisa Cafe for an afternoon refreshment and I tried a "licuado" (papaya, if you must know) for the first time. Quite nice.
On Friday afternoon, the students from the school put on a musical performance in the main square. It was the history of Antigua and included singing, dancing, drama, and audience participation. Brother Francisco was in his element, running around taking pictures, talking with students, teachers, and parents, and generally enjoying himself and others. The performance lasted about an hour. At the end, the students came into the crowd, handing out flowers to the women and little flags to whomever would take them. Then the girls coaxed guys out onto the pavement for impromptu dancing to the music that was provided. Everyone seemed to have a terrific time. The students were all sophomores and had been preparing for this event for many weeks. If you'd like to see a short video I took of the event, click here.
Some of the symbolism in the drama has been lost on me, unfortunately, but I got the general idea. There are mythical figures, historical figures, and generally "fun" figures. At one point, a student with some sort of figure on his head (I think he's supposed to be a bull) is set alight, and fire crackers go off right above his head for quite some time while other students jump around him or symbolically hit his feet with pieces of fabric. I don't quite know what it all means, and parts of it seem to be a bit unsafe, but there you have it. When in Rome ...
Tonight (Friday), we also celebrated Br. Carlos' 62nd birthday in the community. Other festivities will occur on the weekend, apparently, and we should catch the tail end of the big party planned for Sunday afternoon. We had a very enjoyable dinner this evening and a terrific cake (with cafe and flan and other things in it). The interesting thing for me is that I'm beginning to figure out more and more of what others are saying in Spanish. It's not 100 percent by any means, but my ability to comprehend is gradually expanding. It's like that great quotation from Herbert McCabe: "As we understand a mystery, it enlarges our capacity for understanding." That's as true of language study as it is of anything else initially, or perhaps essentially, mysterious.
Totally unrelated tidbit: Earlier in the week I was surfing the internet and found a wonderful little video on Youtube from a Michael Buble concert in England. If you're interested in music and people's potential, you might enjoy it too - Here.
I'm sure that I'll have a lot of pictures and the like after our Tikal adventure. Stay tuned.
More pictures than you might want below (click on any of them to go to the photo album itself and see the captions for each of pictures).