“To truly know the world, look deeply within your own being; to truly know yourself, take real interest in the world.”
Moving between towns around the lake has turned out to be a very difficult task since the measures to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in the region began. Even though the official command only reached the prohibition to mobilize between departments, the municipal governments have taken more drastic measures with the sole intention of protecting local populations.
Escuela Caracol students come from different towns in the western region of Lake Atitlán and have very limited access to the technologies proposed to be the communication channels to continue with the pedagogical processes of learning-teaching. These conditions have made the communication between teachers and students a difficult task, however, after analyzing the situation and investing lots of effort, our teachers found the channels and ways to continue with this labor.
The way adopted to execute this plan was to continue using the materials traditionally materials found in the classroom; notebooks, crayons, pencils, among others, sending them to our students through some kind of mail were the teachers would act as messengers, designating a region or destination for each one in which they would be in charge of distributing the “pedagogical packages” for boys and girls, as well as visiting the homes of our little Caracolitos to learn at first-hand about the current situation of our families*, and to resolve possible doubts regarding the content or the assignments; always following each of the measures of distancing and care recommended so as not to endanger our communities or ourselves.
* If visiting is not possible, the teachers are in constant communication with the families through other channels (telephone, WhatsApp, email, among others).
Here we share the story of Ignacio “Nacho” Porón, from San Pablo la Laguna and currently our fifth-grade teacher, in which he describes the adventurous journey as well as the reaction of the students and families to his visit.
Pedagogical messengers; Being a teacher is an adventure.
It was a day full of conflicting feelings; in one hand, the joy and satisfaction of seeing my students and bringing them what I know they eagerly expect; on the other hand, sadness and nostalgia for knowing that we will not be able to meet in the classroom for an indefinite time.
The first delivery of material occurred in a moment full of tension, fear, and doubt. I prepared the homework materials as fast as I could and sent messages to the families announcing that I would be visiting; Most of them shared a feeling of uncertainty similar to mine. I did not stay long with each student, only the necessary time to explain the assigned activities.
One by one, I went through all the scheduled houses, I kept the mask on during the whole journey, I kept an asphyxiating feeling along the day. The last student I visited that day, lives far from town, I started that long walk with concern for the time, currently we have a general curfew that only allows us to be outside our houses from 4 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon, it was 7:30 pm and I was still walking in the darkness of the mountain; I finally arrived and delivered the last package of the day. On my way back to town my cell phone died and I didn’t have any other ways to light the way down the mountain, so I had to use my “owl eyes”, as I like calling this kind of walk when I describe it to my students and my children.
Despite all the effort made, I still had another package left to be delivered next day, I would have to travel to Santa Cruz to visit the last of my students; Santa Cruz is a place that can only be reached by boat, and, during these days, the entrance to this town was prohibited. The next morning I embarked on an unexpected adventure.
On the way, everything was easy and very clear. I left for Santa Cruz at 6:30 in the morning, just after sunrise, that could be seen shining behind the mountains. Following the current regulations, the captain of the boat wrote down my name and Id number, he also wrote the reason for my trip, when he was doing this, I ask him about the hours in which a boat could be taken for the return trip. His answer sounded very clear and simple, but in practice, it was not.
These days, the boats only had permission to circulate from 6 to 8 in the morning and between 12 and two in the afternoon. To be sure, I was at the dock at 11:00 am. I saw many boats passing by coming from Panajachel to the other towns of the region, but none stopped at the Santa Cruz dock. Apparently, they all already carried 10 passengers, and due to regulations and restrictions, they couldn’t allow anyone else to board. The two o’clock arrived, and there were no more boats left. At that time, the option was to walk on the trail through the mountains that connects Santa Cruz with the other towns from the region or stay overnight with one of the families from our school that live there.
Finally, a local person told me about the last boat that I could possibly board, apparently this was used by the workers of the municipality and the health post, but I would have to wait until four in the afternoon just to see if could board it. To my delight, among these people was a good friend of mine. And so, I was able to return home.
My loyal companion during the day was the sun, with whom I started my journey and who would accompany me until my return home. right after getting home, I saw it disappear behind the western mountains.
I came back full of priceless gifts; a delicious cream prepared by my student and his mother; many lemongrasses leaves as a gift from the father; a lot of bread and cakes cooked by my student and his little brothers, all of them also students of our school; the joy of the boys and their family when they saw me; and what would perhaps be the most special gift of all, the love of my family when they saw me after finally having managed to return home.