A couple of days ago we visited our friend Carmen, a twenty-year-old Q’eqchi’ woman who lives in Samac, Cobán, Alta Verapaz. With nervousness and courage, Carmen has begun taking English classes in Cobán, commuting an hour to and fro by bus each morning to do so. (That’s an hour to and another hour fro, with a one hour class in-between, leaving home at 5:30 am for the 15 minute walk to get to the bus stop.) No small effort.
As we were appreciating her workbooks and listening to her struggles, something really basic (to us) became evident: Carmen had trouble with translating time because she did not know how to read a clock. If you don’t know about those hands moving in circles, how would you know that 8:50 is the same as ten to nine? Fortunately Tere and I were both wearing watches, so Tere took the time to teach her. Carmen is smart, so she got it pretty quickly.
I’m happy to say that Tere and I were just as quick learning something equally basic from her. They were introduced to all of the English teachers, who come not only from Guatemala and the US, but also England, Australia, Colombia, and Thailand, and were told to make a chart of rows and columns to record who came from where. Carmen did not have a ruler with her, so she folded the paper in both directions enough times to have all of the straight lines she needed, just folded instead of written. Nice. (Would I have thought of that? I don’t think so.)
Carmen weaves with the “Group of Women, Goddess of the Moon”, along with her sister Amalia Güe, one of the artisans featured in Traditional Weavers of Guatemala – Their Stories, Their Lives. Amalia will be selling their amazing work at the International Folk Art Festival in Santa Fe in July. If you are lucky enough to be able to get there, be sure to look for them. If you can’t get there, you can find the remarkable Pijbil cloth on the Guatemala page of www.clothroads.com.