Surf development

surfagain

There have been some exciting, positive, local-led developments in the small surf community here in El Paredón. The local surfers have grouped together to start a SURF CLUB for the younger members. This involves training them, starting a board-rental rota system, holding local surf competitions and making sure they are not skipping school to go surfing. I managed to get some funding to buy a couple of boards from a lovely Canadian couple Meg and Scott who came to El Paredon and wanted to help the local community. At the moment there are 10 young surfers sharing 4 boards so they could do with a few more but it’s a great start. They pay Q1 a session to hire the board (about 12p) which contributes to paying for damages, wax etc.

DSC_1137 DSC_0946

It would be amazing to get some sponsors for these guys – some of whom could become pro surfers if they had the right backing. Not having money prevents them from having the right equipment, being able to travel and stay at competitions. They also lack the learning tools other surfers have – videos, surf magazines etc.

The guys organised a surf competition a few weeks ago which gave lots of energy and motivation to the young surfers. It was also good training for the national competition in Iztapa – although the waves were huge, some of the local guys did really well.

DSC_0937

This is development at its best – young locals working together, motivating themselves to make a  really positive change to the community.

The Coconut House

the outside of my new house
the outside of my new house

I have a new home!

A house in El Paredon, bought with the insurance money I got from my bike accident in London. I wanted to spend it on something special. And I will have it forever. It needs a lot of work – mainly a big palm roof which I need to save up for and there is exposed concrete and wires everywhere but…

It is mine and my dream is to have family and friends come stay and hang out under my 6 healthy coconut trees with me. And slowly but surely it is looking beautiful – white paint does wonders.

And i bought an oven and a fridge / freezer which I haven’t had for 10 months. They have literally transformed my life. It feels very luxurious to have these, as only a few people in the village do and, as I didn’t have them for so long, I know it is possible to live without them. BUT

I have made coconut ice cream and have iced coffees and just made my first bread loaf and it is all damn exciting.

Kids come round most nights seeing what treats I’ve been making. They are very keen to climb coconut trees to transform them into something delicious.

The plan is to start selling food from the hatch in my room in the front. Pizza, fish cakes, licuados…see what happens.

And also paying guests can stay. Camp, stay in a hammock or a double room (eventually) and use the kitchen. Nowhere else in El Paredon offers a kitchen. I’ve already had guests..as my next post will talk about….

There are angels

‘Good morning, I stumbled upon your page while looking for a place to vacation in Guatamala. My questions for you are do you take donations for your school and do you allow visitors. If my wife and I go to El Paredon on vacation we would enjoy stopping by’

Larry found my blog by accident in June. He was researching a holiday to the Carribean island of Antigua and instead he found Antigua, Guatemala and our education project in El Paredon. Three days ago, he and his wonderful wife Wenona said an emotional goodbye to us and the kids from La Choza Chula after a 6 day holiday, leaving us with over $3000 worth of equipment and materials for the school, the workshop and the local community.

Larry’s enthusiasm for our project had rubbed off on his colleagues over the months preceding his trip and slowly they came to him with surprising amounts of money: ‘I didn’t even need to shame them, they just wanted to help!’

And it is incredible what he and the Men’s Church Group of Illinois and lots more anonymous donators have enabled us to buy:

A projector for us to play films and photos to the kids. Here is the moment when we showed them the projector and photos from the project. This is the first time some of the kids have ever seen photos of themselves:

 

<p><a

Books for the school for the teachers to be able to teach their subjects properly. Before they had no books. They are over the moon. And it will have a serious impact on teaching standards.

 

Also for the school: a photocopier and lots of paper (priceless), calculators, marker pens, 2 internet modems (the children currently have no internet access).

For La Choza Chula workshop: a superb digital camera, 2 vices, 2 hammers, safety goggles (the latest fashion accessory in the workshop)

For the community: a football and pump, sunglasses for Daniel (who loved Larry’s glasses so he left them) and a goody bag for Maria from a little girl the same age in Illinois. In response, Maria sent back this traditional dress for her new penpal.

And there is still money left over! Which we will spend on more books for the school, world maps, storage for the workshop and more! We have so many new ideas and this money will enable to us to achieve some of our visions.

Larry and Wenona’s visit was much more than what they physically brought us though. They are warm, affectionate, loving, generous, funny people who were great company for both us and all the kids they met and got to know. Larry and Wenona enjoyed the impromptu screening and performance event put on by the kids on Sunday night and the friendliness of the community towards them.

‘This Sunday was the best day of any day on any holiday we have ever had’ (Larry)

The kids are asking us daily ‘when is Larry coming back?’ and they have decided between themselves that they will be back for Christmas. In a very short time, they became part of the community and will be talked about for years to come. THANK YOU SO MUCH from El Paredon.

Hubi’s art…from my hospital bed

This post is dedicated to the very special and lovely Hubi, who flew back to Austria today after a month in Guatemala. For the last few days he’s been looking after me in Antigua whilst I’ve been struck down with Dengue Fever (thankfully recovering in hospital now and jelly for breakfast + cable TV = luxury!).

Hubi made a whole new range of products for our tienda and inspired us and the kids and the whole community loads with his passion and creativity and humour. And who made me a bed in four hours from old pieces of wood! Here are some of the amazing products he made – all from things he found…and lots of superglue! The seed and sand rings and pumice stone turtles we are definitely going to make more of.

These are light drawings that Hubi made with a long exposure

And a shark illustration…

He is convinced my surfing will improve leaps and bounds if I use a long board instead of a ‘surfer chic’ short board, so I have promised I will do (for at least a week). Safe journey Hubi and hope to see you again soon….

Now…back to getting better…(and trying not to look too hard at the volcano paintings on the wall when my fever starts up again…..)

Not a surprise

Here it is no surprise

Here it is no surprise

To share a bed with sand, crabs or frogs

Or to wash vegetables

In the shower

***

It is no big deal

To be paid 2 weeks late

Or to buy milk

From the Mayor

***

We have got used to our names being one

Shouted through cracks in fences

From outdoor sinks

Or a pink plastic bike shipped from the women’s guild

in Mississippi

***

Here you can only buy

Second hand clothes

With ‘Love not drugs’ worn by the priest’s wife

Or ‘Best Grandpa in the world’

Worn by a 10 year old

Proudly, not knowing English.

***

Here it is no surprise

When the sun dips red, deep into the ocean

That all you have done all day

Is open the back door

To connect to this one room village

And this has filled your time happily

Welcome to our workshop

our workshop (on the right)

We have opened our workshop/shop! (the building on the right – next to the central hub of the town – el comedor). A quick dust down of the cobwebs, a whiteboard borrowed from the church, a table borrowed from a teacher, plastic stools from home and we are on for business. To begin with, we’re opening between 1-3pm, Mon-Fri, before teaching in the school. This is when the little kids are free (up to age 10) as they go to school in the mornings. We picked up the key from an old man at the end of our street, paid him the £25 for the month’s rent and celebrated with kids and granddads who walked by with 2 big bottles of Mirinda – the local Fanta

inside the space – day one
our custom-made window which lets in as much breeze and light as possible

Day 1

We had invited 8 adults – Janet the hairdresser, William the resourceful maker, Enok’s dad who makes little turtles out of coconut shell, Telma the fierce schoolkeeper, Juan Carlos the grafter, sweet but flakey Pati and a couple of other women who are interested in making artesanias  – to our first meeting where we would explain how our social enterprise would work:

  • We buy the materials (from Guatemala City or Antigua – either way a 5 hour journey)
  • We hold a month of workshops where everyone shares their skills and create a range of products using local and recycled materials
  • Locals buy the materials from us and make the products
  • We sell the products in our shop and in Surf House and Surf Camp to tourists. 75% goes to the maker and 25% goes back into the project.

So we opened for our first day and, true El Paredon style, none of our core adult group showed up and loads of kids did. So we drew birds local to the area – Pelicans and herons. There is some real artistic talent here but they don’t do art in the school. Compared to classrooms in the UK – filled with paintings and displays – the walls are bare with the occasional ‘Jesus loves you’ sign.

In our first hour of our first workshop, we realized we needed to stop kids running in and out with all our precious bits and bobs so sparkly and new. We sent one of our keen helpers to find a piece of wood to lock the door. Another wee boy mopped the floor. Another put up the mask drawings the kids made the day before in an impromptu workshop in the outside eatery. Lots of curious adults wandered by and wandered in, as well as some chickens.

Day 2 in our workshop

our first key rings made by the kids

9 kids came and we made bracelets ‘pulseras’ out of the beads we bought in the city. Everyone were surprisingly calm and orderly, although it was hard to chuck them out at the end of the session. They each made three – 1 to keep and 2 to sell in our shop. It felt like a real success. That night, Telma came round with carved surfboards, triangles and turtles made out of coconut and an enthusiasm we hadn’t yet seen in her. We also met Enok’s dad who is happy to work with us on Sundays when he is not out at sea fishing and show some of the keen kids how to make his beautiful coconut turtles. We need to buy them little saws, files, sandpaper and sanding tools so they can get working. We also need a proper, solid table and lots of chairs (most of the kids are working standing or on drinks crates) as well as a hammer and shelves to put our materials on. We are trying to beg, borrow or steal for these things but may have to tap into our funds and get them from San Jose.

We also made our first sale to some men who were fixing electricity in the village!

our first customers

Hunting, crabbing and tree hugging

We’ve been quite adventurous recently, and making the most of opportunities that fly our way.

Snake

I held a big snake that had been skinned and chopped up and it still moved in my hands. I screamed, dropped it and went to hug a tree for protection. Sandra (in the orange) and her family (who had caught the snake) thought this was pretty funny.

Crabbing

Our friends – Carlos and Tara, Henry, Estiven and Armando – took us crabbing – cangregiando – into the mangroves on little rowing boats. It was funny to see the surfer boys dressed like the Artful Dodger, but long trousers and boots were essential.

We got mucky – lurching in the mangrove roots when we spotted a purple crab, hands grappling down muddy holes, clasping their claws shut, into a big sack. The boys gave us their gloves and went bare handed. That is advanced crabbing. It is not easy, but you get better and Carla and I became fearless towards the end.

 

We went home and put the crabs in our sink, then wrapped them with palms. The whole town is busy doing this. It is a complicated process – on the claw, round the front, back, round and round. Too complicated for my impatient soul, so I cooked the crabs instead. We gave them to friends, neighbours and Henry and Carlos sold the rest.

     

Hunting

Dinah and Sandra had some cousins in town last weekend from Guatemala City – all fancy in their four by four. We showed them how to hold crabs and impressed them no end. In return we were invited on their family adventure to go hunting in the plains of El Naranjo national park. We learnt how to use three types of guns, increasingly bigger.  I hit the target twice with two different guns. A proud moment, to have everyone watching.  It was a morro fruit, blasted onto the floor. We didn’t kill anything, which my ex-vegetarian self was quite happy about. It was a great day out though, ending perfectly with a cold beer, and a surprise present of a catapult, which has to be up there in the ‘best present ever’ category.

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.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑