Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010: Casa Maria and Spanish

When we arrived at Casa Maria today, we found out that 2 people had passed away over the weekend. One of them was a man who was overly friendly with the ladies and I feel a little guilty that I have spent most of my time trying to keep an arm’s length or more away from him. I don’t recognize the name of the other man, but it’s very sad nevertheless. I’m curious as to what people were told about their passing, and since most are unable to leave the facility, I wonder if they got a chance to say their goodbyes.

The atmosphere was livelier today, and I watched several interesting interactions in the back room. One man was playing ball with the OT practice group and it’s the most I’ve seen him interact with anyone. Other residents were painting crosses and a group of men were talking while sanding some wood. This was so different from the regular arrangement around the perimeter of the courtyard, and the residents seemed to enjoy themselves, smiling and happy, showing off their artwork. It was a dramatic shift from the norm, in a great way.

Afterward, we interviewed a man more in depth and started listening to his story about how he came to live in Casa Maria. It was really sad, like a soap opera, with so many twists and turns to it. I’ve been reading the book by Rigoberta Menchu, a Mayan woman who learned Spanish so she could tell her story and then she won the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m halfway through the book, and I wish I would have read it sooner because it tells a lot about what people go through here. It’s not really Rigoberta’s story, but a narrative about her people.

Anyway, the man I interviewed today, his story was a striking parallel to her story told in the book. It went from words in a book to suddenly becoming real, and it’s terrifying that anyone could live a life like that. An example I can give is about working on the coffee farms (or fincas) here, or at least in the past. Hundreds of people live on the finca, sleeping on the floor of a covered patio with no walls, with animals and children, no bathrooms, and very little food. They stay here for months, work incredibly hard for fractions of a dollar for a long day of exhausting work. Their kids die on these fincas from malnutrition or illnesses, and then the people are docked pay for the burial expense, then may be asked to leave if they miss work to mourn their dead child. This is what is said in the Rigoberta Menchu book, and it’s not the far off from this man’s story. It’s sad to hear, but I’m glad he shared it with us.

On a lighter note- I returned to Spanish class with my teacher Jessica, and we went over something else in Spanish. She’s teaching me parts of grammar and told me that I say things that long way, which is sort of correct, but that I sound funny. So we went over pronouns or something of the sort. I never really know what to call them, but it helps shorten my sentences and I can understand more of what people say to me so I guess that’s a good thing.