137-This is my group of seven Tsu- tujil Mayan girls, to whom I taught math for 1 hr each afternoon, for 8 days. The girls were from poor families, and were being sponsored by my second school in San Pedro, Corazon Maya. At first, it was a challenge for me to learn the Spanish versions of the standard math expressions, but the girls helped me and soon we got along fine. I am sure they made allowances for my Spanish mistakes.
Olga 12 (right) was the youngest, and was in Primaria 5 (5th grade). She was one of the quietest, and just sat quietly until I came around to assign her more problems or to help her when she got stuck. She was also one of the brightest. Rosayda, 15 (above and to her right) was in Basico 3 (9th grade). She was struggling to understand quadratic equations and their roots. Next to her is Magdalena (13), in Basico 1 (7th grade), then Lesli (14) in Basico 2, Karina (17) in Basico 3, Doloris (13) and Karen (13), both in Basico 1.
205- I used a white board for explaining problems. One difficulty was that the girls were at 4 different Math levels, so during any given explanation, I would sometimes hear “me aburro” – I am bored – or “me confundo” – I am confused. The latter was more common. They were motivated to learn, and several requested problems to do at home. Karina was working with complex numbers, which is quite advanced. Yet she and others often had trouble with negative number math like -3 +1. Several would continually forget the order of evaluation in a math expression, i.e. items with parentheses first, then multiply/divide, and then add/subtract. Multiplying numbers by adding exponents challenged them but later they got the idea. It was always a busy hour, since each girl needed help most of the time, and there was only one of me. Sometimes I would have half of them yelling out my name at the same time. The girls lacked text books, which were too expensive, so each had to copy down items written out during the class by their teacher. Often, I found that they lacked understanding of the fundamentals.
206-My friends Kathy (Canada) and Miguel (Sweden), from my previous school, came to visit me several times. Here we got a group photo.
238-The afternoon before my departure the school held a party for the mothers of the 23 poor families, their sponsored girls, and the 2 part-time volunteer tutors, Nancy (English) and me (Math). Nancy was then living most of the time in San Pedro, although (like me) she hailed from Seattle! What a small world. Her last job had been the manager of a non-profit in Leavenworth, WA.
239-During the party, Nancy and I got to hand out to each Mom a plastic basket for Christmas, containing a bottle of vegetable oil, some sugar, flour and misc items. This was paid for by the school. We later enjoyed herb tea and bread rolls.
My outfit must have seemed rather strange to the guests. I was wearing my red shorts because my one pair of long pants was drying on the line at my family's house.
240 - The Christmas baskets were received with gratitude.
241-We two tutors got to make a small speech in Spanish. This was quite fun. I told them that this was the first time I had tried teaching Math in Spanish, and that it been quite a challenge. I thanked the girls for their patience and persistence. Afterward, all the Moms and girls lined up to give each of us a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Never before have I been kissed by so many women (40+?) in the space of about 10 minutes. It’s a pretty cool Mayan custom.
The blue cable on the wall to the left of my head is for connecting up one’s laptop to the internet. (No charge). Internet access was iffy – working only some of the time. Nevertheless I was able to use it twice to talk to Rita in Seattle, over Skype.