18 octubre 2013 viernes
About two months ago I was seized with the desire for a completely different activity as my PC service comes to a close. Oddly enough, a blank wall was the answer. Not just any wall, but two blank spaces on the exterior concrete wall at Chotzague Elementary. It made sense. After all, for the past two years I have worked with these elementary students to construct a school garden wall from trash-filled bottles as well as, offer English, baking, and environmental classes. So why not paint a MAP?
I approached Byron, the school principal, with my brilliant ah-hah idea of painting a map of Guatemala…and he surprised me in turn. “¿Porque no pinta tambien un mapa mundial?” (Why don’t you paint a world map as well?) which he had seen in the elementary school in downtown San Bartolo. Gulp. Well okay I told him, knowing that the project had just expanded. Since the wall actually belongs to the local community center as part of their meeting hall, he needed their approval part of the community center he needed to solicit approval from the local community in order to proceed. A few weeks later I received the green light from the local heads of state. Next up, who pays for materials? I told the principal that I could donate some funds, up to Q200 or $25 (yes, your donations are still being useful) and that I would like the school to donate an equal amount. Interesting note, apparently since public school in Guatemala is technically free (not entirely true because children often have to purchase uniforms, etc.) the principal is not allowed to solicit funds, but can suggest a donation. Fine, suggest away then.
I attended the next parent meeting to pitch the idea. The principal did the hard sell with suggesting Q3 or $0.45 per parent which seemed reasonable to the parents; the vote was an overwhelming yes.
Practice makes perfect…so the Guatemala map got elected to be the guinea pig since it is the simpler map. Children were enlisted to clean both walls and prep them with a painted white background. Consulting a small map of Guatemala blocked off in squares; we drew a grid on the wall and expanded to the allotted space.
I made sure to involve a lot of girls in the project because they are often marginalized and are excluded from technical or leadership activities. With just a little quality control and erasing, the outline took shape within a day. Painting was rapid and fun, and even the PE teacher joined us, telling me, “Me gusta pintar!” (I like to paint!) so he got to paint Peten, the tropical department far to the north and harder to reach for the shorter students. Of course, we needed get our town on the map, so a small dot and label shows the location of San Bartolo.
Umm..now the challenging World Map. I brought my laptop to the school the following week, hoping to project an image of the world map to trace on the wall. Surprise, surprise! No electricity that day. Truly back to the drawing board as I embarked on the grid method (or better known as grit-my-teeth method). Three full days later I had the world drawn and quartered.
Paintbrushes at the ready; we started with the shorelines outlined in blue.I loved the various comments and conversations regarding the world map…
Young boy pointing to a small island in the middle of the ocean, “Do people actually LIVE there?” he asked incredulously. I answered that probably so since people are just about everywhere. He was amazed.
Four-year-old asked if I was painting a map of Chotzague, the village where the school is located. I replied, “No, I am painting the WHOLE world,” and then I chuckled to myself as I understood his perspective. Chotzague actually IS his whole world.
Students and parents glanced from the large adjacent painted map of Guatemala to their size and location in the world map. They received quite a shock when they saw how small their country is relative to the others. As they glanced to the large northern areas of the globe they commented in wonder, “Wow! Canada is big! Russia is big!” This time the USA got beat out by its northern neighbors.
Sometimes kids and adults would be looking at Africa as they searched for Guatemala, “First, find Mexico,” I would hint.
A teacher at the school remarked, “So that is the shape of the world”, and it took me a moment to realize that she thought the world is oblong-shaped as is the map. I gently corrected her, “No, the world is round but we show it this way,” so badly wanting an orange and its peel to demonstrate the reason for the oblong shape.
Lastly, the kids wondered about Antarctica; what was that big white space at the bottom of the globe? “Puro hielo”…pure ice I replied, and that it was home to the penguins but adding that they just lived there and didn’t really dance as shown in the movies.
The tricky part was juggling a desire to involve a variety of students and maintaining some quality control…for instance, Silvia, a 6th grade girl was a conscientious painter, but a bit shaky on painting outlines, so I diplomatically tapped another girl for painting boundaries, and Silvia to paint the interior. Throughout the week, students left at 1pm and I stayed on until 4-6pm to finish drawing, painting the more difficult areas, and general tidying up. I would load up on snacks at recess hour, knowing that my next meal and break to sit down would be a good 6hrs later.
So poco a poco, we got there…and yes, the PE teacher jumped into the act again and got to paint the Scandinavian countries and Russia. Oh yes, I can’t forget that I played loosely with geopolitical boundaries. The materials from Peace Corps had not updated the breakup of Yugoslavia…oops! so I did a bit of guesstimating because I never had time to confirm the real countries.
During the final days of painting I had to abide by the “good enough” principle because I desperately needed to finish the project on October 4th, only two days before an emergency visit back to the USA. Thankfully, Oct 4th saw me brushing a coat of varnish on both maps; they now glisten for all to admire and utilize. Mission accomplished!!!