Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Language & the rainy season

One of the interesting parts of this job is assigning subjects to books – in Spanish. Some books have these little info cards in them that say exactly what the book is about. I love those books! But sometimes there is no information and I have to skim through the book and try to figure out what it is about. This has actually gone well for me and I´m picking up all sorts of words that are totally unhelpful for every day conversation. Words like desarrollo (development), siglo (century), aprendizaje (learning), enseñanza (teaching), and idioma (language).

Speaking of language, other than Spanish there are somewhere between 20 and 30 indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala. Some are spoken by as few as 1800 people and others are spoken by nearly 2 million people. Since education has been improving (or the attempt is being made) there is more focus on bilingual (bilingüe) education so I´ve found several books in these Mayan languages. I can barely read Spanish to figure out subjects, let alone Kaqchikel or some other language! But usually the books are also Spanish.

Some of the languages spoken are:

Popti´ (Jakalteko)

And here are a few examples – just bits of titles from some books :

A´ sa k´uchax u jikla chusu´m ech sa ch´expu u qatine´
Chuck´al yol tuk´ vatzib´al u ixil/kaxhlan

Riqow etamanik kuk´ ri qa nan qa tat
Ch´iysel toj xnaq ´tzb´il ex xnaq ´tzb´il toj ch´iysel

Rujotay Kaqchikel ch´ab´äl
K´ak´a´ taq tzij richin retamab´alil kajulew

I don´t have the first clue how you pronounce any of that. There are some students here at Pedro Molina who speak some of these languages. A girl spoke Kaqchikel to me a couple weeks ago. I can´t wait to hear some more.

Now, about the rainy season. A couple weeks ago we (estudiantes) were all surprised when it didn´t rain for three days in a row. I thought this was the rainy season! Tomás explained that in the dry season they had rain too, but it might go 10 or more days without rain. In the rainy season it doesn´t usually go more than three days without raining.

And it rains hard here. It´s the most amazing, fuerte (strong) rain I´ve seen. I think it has now rained every day for the past week and a half. The day usually starts out sunny and warm and beautiful, then the clouds roll in and it starts pouring sometime between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. It´s amazing how predictable it is. (In fact, it´s raining right now, so hard that I can´t even hear the clicking of the keyboard as I´m typing, or the music the guys in the computer lab are playing!)

Sometimes it will also rain during the night. The rain is almost always accompanied by lots of lighting (I watch bolts of it streak across the sky as I´m walking through the streets of Antigua) and the most incredible thunder that often sounds like explosions and keeps on going and going.

We had a really hard rain on Sunday night. Monday as I was going to work and passing the cornfields, I noticed that quite a bit of the corn had been flattened. I guess this is a common thing – que triste! Then I noticed trees that had come down and lots of branches. In a couple towns there were mudslides with a couple inches of mud over the roads. Traffic continues on as normal of course. This morning they finally had a couple guys digging the road out with shovels.

Out in the mountains boulders fall on the road when there is a lot of rain. They don´t close the road – and who knows how long it will take for the boulder to be removed. People just honk and speed around, and hopefully don´t hit oncoming traffic!

No comments: