Storms, surfboards, mangroves and a miracle

Storms

There have been wild storms and rain the last few days  – 2 trees fell down in our garden, the coconut palms shed their leaves and the waves are too big to surf. There are only two seasons here – summer and winter. Rain means the beginning of winter and although the temperature remains a balmy 30 degrees year round, I had to dig out a jumper for the first time since being here last night!  This was our front and back garden when we woke from the storm:

 

Surfboards

A really nice couple, Mario (Guatemalan) and Donna (English) came to stay at the surf camp last week. We became instant friends and I entrusted Donna to buy me a surfboard when she went to El Salvador. Rafa, the owner of the surf camp, brought it back with him. It was an exciting moment to go out on it for the first time, although I got totally beaten up in the waves as the current was strong.  I like the lucky rhino on it. It is small enough to be able to duckdive (when I finally master that) but wide enough to keep steady when paddling out. The sea here is big, ever changing, with beach breaks, black sand and different creatures which pass through (stingrays, jellyfish, dolphins) to keep things interesting as if just staying on the board wasn’t enough of a challenge. I try and go out every day and it is keeping my body strong and my mind healthy. I have only caught a couple of unbroken waves so far but I am determined, even if it takes me many more months.

Rafa gave me work when he was in El Salvador – to look after the hostal bookings through his email. I enjoyed it – answering queries in English and Spanish.

Mangroves

We organised our first tour for 6 tourists – fishing, collecting mangoes, rowing through the mangroves, visiting a shrimp farm, crab spotting, swimming in the river. We hired 3 of our friends as local guides and paid them properly. We charged 70Q each (about $7) and made enough for 10 meals at the local diner. Carla and I went in a boat each to translate between the guides and the tourists. It was great. We hope to do more.  Come and visit us and come on a tour!

  

And a Miracle

We got our computer stolen from our house for 5 days, lost hope and then got it back. A minor miracle.

Bottletop curtain

Carla has been using her new fishing net mending techniques to create our new room divider – a curtain made from old bottle tops we found on the beach. This has been a labour of love but it makes us really happy to see these bright colours every day, hear the clunky jingle as we pass through rooms and know that we have made something useful with the man made junk that spoils this gorgeous stretch of sand. We are open to commissions – get in touch if you would like one!

 

Mama we love you

This week has been all action in the village preparing for Mother’s Day. It’s a massive event here.

Kids have been selling raffle tickets to raise money for the big event – a meal for all the mothers in the village, performances from local talent and acts from outside – all to take place in ‘la cancha’ – the basketball court outside the school.

Women have been making wooden horse carts out of rolled up newspaper to decorate the tables.

The kids have been learning some universal street dance moves and a strange theatre piece where 2 people die and a big cardboard coffin is placed over them. We have been teaching the kids two songs – Rise by Gabrielle and Stand by Me. This was a final rehearsal in the square.

It’s been really fun – me playing the guitar and Carla singing.  The kids really like it and it’s a great way to learn English. Every day we’ve had different kids so it was a gamble who would perform on the final night. In the end, it went OK – actually a bit nerve wracking as I have only learnt guitar whilst being here and my fingers started shaking and sweating –and we performed to over 300 people so it was a big achievement for us! All the mothers got a home-made flower to wear in their hair, there were enchiladas and grilled meat to buy and the lovely slush puppy ‘granatizados’ with pineapple and coconut on top. Our lovely neighbour Ruth won the grand prize – an old Singer sewing machine. Carla has plans to pop over the fence to use it.

  

The night before, we were invited by Monika the hairdresser to a pre-mothers day celebration in the open air church, decorated especially with hearts and balloons. Everyone was pretty much guaranteed a prize (a Tupperware bowl or plastic mug)

The word ‘feliz’ (happy) in balloons we popped gave us our prize.

One lucky lady won a prize for having the most living children (dead children didn’t count, they made it clear!), another for eating a lollipop the fastest and another for singing the best lullaby whilst rocking a pretend baby.

Our day ended with a bonfire on the beach with some locals, some marshmallows and our repertoire of guitar songs – a  bit of Bob Marley, Jeff Buckley, Cranberries and Britney. Here, instead of at home,  the aim is to get as far away from the fire as possible as the air temperature at night is still about 25 degrees!

News

A lucky surprise

When I had my bike accident in London almost a year ago, it was the last push I needed to get the hell out of London. A friend told me about a solicitor who dealt with bike accident claims. Sceptically, I called them. But now, months later, a meaty cheque is winging its way to my bank account. Maybe enough to buy a little piece of land here…enough to take the pressure off having to come back to the UK anytime soon…enough to continue experimenting with a lifestyle where living is more important than working. This money coming through is one more nod to me that I am doing the right thing being here, that if you let things flow and be brave go with your gut and not worry about the final goal, things will come good.

My friend David, who took the photos of my scars from my accident, has been a superstar and suggested I spend half of his photography fee in the community here in my Guatemalan town. This is such brilliant news – we are thinking to put the money towards a projector so we can show films and clips and photos in our classes (there are currently no books, let alone multimedia) or print photos for an exhibition of photos the kids are taking with my camera which celebrate this incredible community.

Officially employed

As well as this little lump of gold from the sky, Carla and I have officially got jobs!! We presented a proposal (in Spanish – a big breakthrough!) for what we want to do here in the next 6 months to the Mayor – Don Paco Blanco. He is going to pay us each 1500Quetzales/ month to carry on with our teaching in the school and also to teach the tourguides and ‘becados’ who are studying in La Gomera post 16. As well as this, he wants us to help local people develop craft products. Although this is only £140 / a month, this is more than enough to live on since our rent is only 600Q (£50) between us and you can’t buy anything here except fish, second hand clothes which arrive on a van in a big heap and milkshakes. And we are only teaching for 2 hours a day, which leaves us free to develop all the creative stuff we want to do here.

Officially a landlord

More good news on the money front is that I have tenants for my flat in London. This is a big relief as it’s been empty for a month and has drained away my savings. Let’s hope they love being in my flat as much as I did and don’t paint the flat black, smoke cigars and have raves every night.

And a reflection

I was talking to my friend Jill a few days ago and told her how happy I am here. She said ‘wow jules – you are just meant to be that person. everything else felt like a cage’.

That’s exactly how I feel. For so many years, I have not felt right, trying to do what everyone else is doing and fit with what is expected of a woman in the UK who has a good education and is in her 30s and is intelligent enough to have a good job and a lovely home and a nice partner. And all the time I just wanted to light fires and jump into the sea and feel part of a community and make a difference to peoples’ lives and make stuff from nothing and be around other people who want that too. And I have found that here.

This week in pictures

Priscilla killing a chicken for lunch
banner I was asked to make for Juan Carlos for a religious procession
our students – after teaching Bob Marley ‘three little birds’
our neighbours making strawberry pancakes with us
the new design on our wall
our living room with our bottle top curtain in progress
Enok with the little monkey I gave him which he tacked to the wall

 

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