Martes, 22 Febrero
This morning we took an early walk with Christina, who goes out to walk or jog most mornings before her classes begin. She gave us a brief tour of the housing areas, some of experimental plots, the finca (intended to be a model farm, in this case) with its fledgling botanical garden. Our visual points of orientation are the surrounding mountains and the radio tower.
Christina (a US State Department Fellow teaching English here) and Doug live on campus, although most professors were forced to move into town in previous years. As the university has grown, it has needed the trim yellow buildings to house more students; most are here on scholarship, including room and board. A few students commute from the surrounding area, but most board.
The new term started only this week, one month late. The delay was occasioned by the need to finish up last term’s exams, and also by the induction of 900 new students, doubling the student population. Wow. And they aren’t ready. New classrooms are under construction still, and some students are bunking at a hotel in town. A new dining room is under construction, and for now the students are eating in shifts. The new students haven’t been issued their regulation blue chambray shirts, so they’re wearing white t-shirts with the omnipresent blue jeans. All this makes sorting schedules and teaching pretty challenging.
While we are out walking, Doug fixes breakfast. He, whom I have never known to cook in the 25+ years I’ve known him, has learned to do a mean soft-boiled egg. Christy goes off to work, and Doug, Hubby and I, after poking a bit on the internet, go for a walk. This time we cross the busy road to the main part of the campus, stopping briefly in the library (antique and only faintly air conditioned); the language lab, where we meet the English teachers; the computer lab; and then out through the fields and into the forest.
The trail through the forest is thick with mosquitos. When we stop to look at a bird or examine a tree, the little beasties swarm. They bite through my shirt -- I have the welts to prove it. Nevertheless, it is cooler in the shade. We tromp down the leaf-strewn trail, dry detritus crunching under our shoes. We emerge on yet another farm road, and head back to the main campus, detouring by the pig farm. You can always count on one thing about pigs -- the smell.
We meet three of the teachers for lunch at one of the two cantinas where food is for sale on campus. Most students eat in the dining hall; only those with money to spare eat here. We meet Hector, the proprietor, and choose from the menu -- enchiladas, for me. We would call these tostadas. They are messy, but good.
We talk about our various experiences learning language. Some are clearly focused on grammar and sentence structure, others on the sounds, some on just trying to communicate (me). I tell my story of the papaya with legs. We also talk about traveling; it’s difficult to get anywhere from Catacamas unless you have a week or more free.
We stay in the shade through the heat of the afternoon, and emerge under cloudy skies to carry two five-gallon empties to the outskirts of town and pick up two full bottles of agua purificada. On our way into town we pass a couple of really swanky houses, set back behind tall wrought iron fences with locked gates. Some families here, the ones that own the land, clearly have money.
We find a taxi for the way back. I help Doug prepare dinner. I snap green beans, and wash some celery, which I fill with peanut butter for an appetizer. I have also appointed myself dishwasher. We wash in cold tap water in a big tub, rinse, then finish with a rinse of boiling water. The tap water here is heavily chlorinated, so while you wouldn’t want to drink it, you probably could.
Christina has had a long day, although her schedule for tomorrow sounds more daunting -- a three-hour beginning English class with first-year students (half the new class of first-years is in chem lab, half in English for those three hours), and then two classes in the evening.
We finish the evening with a round of Scrabble. I lose to Christina, an acknowledged Scrabble expert, only by the amount of the leftover tiles. I may not be so lucky again - I managed a triple-letter score with my 10-point “Z” and a double word with a “CK”, as well as a lovely overlapping construction into a triple-word corner for 35 points.