Lost in Xela
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 00:00 Tracesea Slater
After I wrote my last blog I attempted to head back to El Nahual, but I couldn’t remember how to get there. Xela is a city of hills and the streets are not very straight, they go this way and that. I tried to pay attention when Noemi walked me to school, but alone I had a hard time. Everything looked the same to me. So, after walking for a while I noticed that the surroundings became increasingly rural and unfamiliar. After retracing my steps I tried another way and eventually found my way there, only about 45 minutes late for my volunteer work.
When I arrived at the school I could´t find the international coordinator, Eva, so I wasn´t sure what to do. There were several students around, but they weren´t especially friendly or helpful, but that subject is for another blog. I waited for a while, but then decided to just go for a walk. On my walk I met Eva as she was showing another volunteer around. She showed us the garden that they are working on as part of their program for local women. The women can work the garden and use the vegetables for their families or to sell. The garden did not seem to have anything in it at the moment.
After the tour of the school, Eva and I got some tools (a pick axe and shovel) and headed over to the construction site where they are going to build a new school. When we arrived the other volunteers and the local coordinator, Juan Pedro, were leaving. I´m pretty sure that they were not happy when Eva told them to keep working for another 1/2 hour so they could show me what to do. However, they headed back to the site with me and we commenced to dig in the dirt. Basically we were using the shovels, pick axes and some other tool that I have never seen before to break the dirt away from the side of a hill. We have to dig into the hill to a certain point and then flatten it all out to put the school there. There were a lot of rocks and tree roots in the side of the hill and it was pretty difficult work. I stabbed at the side of the hill with my tool and for so much effort, little seemed accomplished. Another volunteer, a man much stronger than myself, was making good progress on his portion until the shovel broke. The tools all seem pretty old and not in very good shape. Within 15 minutes I had blisters on my hand and I was covered in dirt. The dirt really didn´t taste very good in my mouth. Today I hope to find a store to buy some gloves so that it will be a bit easier on my hands. Assuming that they are not very expensive I will probably just buy gloves to donate to the school for everyone to use. All the volunteers have blisters on their hands. The only person who didn´t have blisters was Juan Pedro, who probably has been working on this project for a while and has developed calluses.
After that, I went into the city center with the rest of the students and volunteers to a cafe where we were meeting to discuss the volunteer schedule for the next week. The tasks were divided up among us and we learned a little bit more about what was available. I was given 2 art classes to teach and also more construction.
Afterwards, I left with my housemate, Johanna. She was pretty sure she knew how to get back to the house. Also, I thought that I knew how to get back to the school, so in the worse case scenario we could go there and then find our way home. Unfortunately, we were both mistaken. So, at 8:00 at night we wandered the streets of Xela lost. I was really glad that we were together, but it really was not a fun experience. It´s one thing to be lost in the day, but at night it was a little disconcerting. Eventually we found our way back to the cafe to ask directions and lucky for us, some other students happened to be there and they offered to walk us to a more familiar place. So, we all walked together for a while then went our separate ways. Johanna and I were pretty sure that we knew the way home then, but we ended up a little confused again. Luckily, a very nice man on the side of the road saw our confusion and offered to help. We told him the street we were looking for and he directed us there. By the time we got home, it was about 9:30 and we probably were only about 10 minutes from the cafe and it took us an hour an a half to get there!
Now I am pretty sure that I know how to get to the school and back and to the cafe and back and to this internet place and back. Someday when I have more time in the day I hope to learn more of the city.