Sunday, May 27, 2007

Science Shows

Recently, I went with Shelly to the school that the Morales kids go to (Shelly's blog about the kids). Shelly paid a visit to donate playground equipment, teaching equipment and school supplies purchased with money people sent. I took advantage of the visit to go and do some science shows. Actually, I thought I was going to do one show, but there were five classes and I couldn't stand the thought of ignoring the other four classes. Things like science shows don't happen very often in poor neighborhoods (almost never).
Once again, I expected the children to be fairly wild and difficult to deal with. And once again, I could not have been more wrong. Their politeness and good listening was unparalleled outside of monasteries. When I had finished and the kids were leaving, I realized that I want to come again to see these kids again very soon. Making children happy is addictive.

Of course, I had to do the shows in Spanish. These children do not speak English. It was tough, but I pulled it off. I had encouraged Shelly and the teachers to correct me or explain further when necessary, but they did not need to do this very much.

Shelly took the pictures. Of course, I was a little busy.

Something that is different about a school like this is that each classroom has a mix of ages. You are in grade one if it is your first year and you're in grade three if it is your third year. The grade one class had a mix of kids from ages six to twelve. This would result in some very different and possibly, challenging classroom dynamics, I would expect.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Beauty of San Cristobal de Las Casas

Photographically speaking, San Cristobal offers so many photogenic opportunities that I can't resist just walking around with a camera and no goal in mind. It occurred to me that these three days were more like a 'traditional Glenn travel adventure' than my life usually is these days. When I left Tuxtla, I realized I had no plans for the time in San Cristobal at all. I hadn't even thought about what I might do. Does one need a plan to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of an ancient city? Some would think so, but I don't.

However, the question makes me wonder what beauty is and why is San Cristobal endowed with so much of it?

Ancient Colonial Architecture

Setting aside political implications of colonialism, there are some spectacular churches and buildings in San Cristobal. Having said that, one goal this weekend was not to take a single picture of the cathedral. I failed.

This is the interior of the hotel, Casa Vieja, one of the oldest buildings in San Cristobal. I did not stay there.


Even the most carefully arranged produce department in a major supermarket can never be as picturesque as a simple fruit stand on the street. Spotless, stainless steel and photoshopped promotional posters somehow just don't compare to wooden crates and pyramids of mangoes.


I think the old masters were on to something. But who am I to say this?

Vibrant Colours

Chiapas breaks all the rules when it comes to colour. It makes me want to buy a house in the suburbs and paint it really bright colours (well, almost).

A note about the second photo. I spent many hours scouring San Cristobal for amazing doors to shoot in order to make a mosaic of doors using Flickr Tools. Despite finding over thirty interesting doors, I was not satisfied and will make another trip simply to photograph more doors. The best ones always had an ice cream truck parked in front of them.

No, I am not a perfectionist. Yes, I am in denial.


The old section of San Cristobal does not have a lot of nature, certainly not by Canadian standards, but what there is, adds to the impact.

No, I did not stay in this hotel either.

Cultural Beauty

Whenever I am in San Cristobal, there are musicians doing outdoor concerts, street performers dazzling the crowds (mimes underwhelming handfuls of children), dramas and much more.

These Fire Dancers performed to the drumming and playing of a small band of dreadlocked musicians, but their performance was so mesmerizing that I barely noticed the musicians. OK, I was a little wrapped up with the photography as well.

I shot over a hundred photos of the Fire Dancers and developed a following in the first few minutes. I had a cadre of future photographers - four young boys between three and six years old who were so thrilled with seeing the photos appear on the screen after I shot them, that they kept pushing closer and closer to see the photos until I could no longer see the screen. They were nearly as entertaining as the Fire Dancers. I wish now that I had taken their photo.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Today is the Beginning of the Future - OLPC

I would like to do something that I have done once or twice before. That is to depart from the goal of this blog*.
(* to share my experiences in Chiapas, not to bore my mother and three friends as you were thinking).

After reading an article on about the first village to receive laptops from the project called One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), I felt it was more important to share this historic moment than to ramble on about my mini-vacation in San Cristobal (I'll do that later). The first village is called Cardal and it is in Uruquay. I won't write too much as I did not personally experience the moment. Here is a link to the blog where I read the article: The OLPC project is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those who live in poverty by providing laptops to children for free. I have been following this project for years. Here is a link to the OLPC website:

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Osama Bin Laden Spotted in Colonia Teran!

Given the present level of paranoia in the Excited States of America, I can't help but wonder if posting a blog with such a title won't result in me ending up on some CIA watchlist. If the absurdly conical head didn't give it away, this is a comical caricature of the infamous, exiled son of Laden. I found him anxiously awaiting his next opportunity to raise his wannabe AK47 at the crowd and riddle the audience with a harmless spray of water. A few pesos and a good shot is all it takes to bring on Osama's wrath and a whole lot of laughter especially there are unsuspecting people standing near him.

Of course, you can also opt for the miniature Mexican band. A well placed shot can also start up the Tigres and their tinny music.

What more wholesome father and son activity could there be than shooting? The family that shoots together . . .

Even if I am too old to get on the carousel, it always makes me happy to see one. It must be a fun job to work the carousel. To make children happy every day. What more lofty goal could anyone have?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tribute to Swan Lake

For those of the four of you that don't know, I used to volunteer at a nature sanctuary in Victoria. The full name is Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. When I reflect on the many places I have worked over the years, to say that my time at Swan Lake stands out is an understatement. Because I helped teach the kid's programs, the people I worked most closely with were Ann (Scarfe) and Margaret, but everyone else at Swan Lake contributed to the inspiration I felt working there. By the way, if you are interested in knowing more about Swan Lake, here is a link to their website:

One of the things I love about Swan Lake is that when any animal more remarkable than say, a mallard, shows up, everyone drops everything and goes to observe it. Even in the middle of school programs timed carefully to include many concepts and activities, we always managed to find time to check out a great horned owl, a hawk or a cougar*.

*OK, I made up that bit about the cougar, but my dark side is amused by the idea of taking a school group to view a cougar up close.

In case you haven't guessed, the pictures are a variety of nature shots taken here in Chiapas. They are meant to parallel the beauty of Swan Lake. Perhaps Swan Lake does not have waterfalls, but it is probably the biggest jewel in Victoria's crown.

This last one is for Willie who shared his fond memories of San Cristobal de Las Casas. Not that I doubted you at the time, Willie, but WOW, when you're right, you're right. San Cristobal is magnificent.

By the way, I look forward to seeing all of you when I return to Victoria. That will probably be sometime in July. I probably should have sent a postcard, but they seem so old school.