Sunday, February 26, 2006

An Interview and A Talk

I had my interview with Reading to Kids on Friday. It went really well. I enjoyed talking to Jessica, the program director, and finding a little about how the program works. At the end of the interview she told me that she would like to have me intern with them this summer and I told her I would love to intern. So I just need to send in a writing sample this week so she knows what kind of writer I am. A lot of running a non-profit group involves fundraising and grant writing, so I will be doing a lot of that. I really think right now that working for non-profit groups would be something I would like doing as a career. I have thought about getting an MSW(Masters of Social Work) or an MPA (Masters of Public Administration). In non-profit work everyone does a lot of everything, so someone who is well rounded is something that they look for. I have hope that my experience interning with Reading to Kids will give me a leg up on the competition for non-profit jobs in Utah, since I will have experience in all aspects of non-profit work.

On Thursday I got a call from one of the counselors in the Bishopric. He started out “I know this is short notice so you can say no if you want to…” You always know what’s coming after that. He asked me to talk about receiving personal revelation in sacrament meeting on Sunday. I had things that I had to get done on Saturday, that didn’t get done, but at least I have given a talk in church now and I won’t have to worry about it for another while. Plus, the three day notice didn’t give me very much time to worry about it.

This morning Robert and I woke up at the same time. I started getting ready for church and Robert got a bowl of cereal and went straight to his computer. At about twenty minutes until church started Robert had still not started getting ready, so I told him “You know, we actually have to be on time for church today.” He started to get ready then, and he had to finish putting on his tie and tying his shoes in the car. He says that he puts getting ready of until the last minute because then he wastes as little time as possible getting ready. If he only has ten minutes to get ready, then he will only take ten minutes. If he starts an hour earlier though, it will take him an hour.

My talk went well. The last time I had to talk in church I couldn’t see the clock, so I went over, and then everyone else had to cut their talks short. So this time I made sure I could see the clock and I finished in about ten minutes. I also tried to talk slowly, because I notice that when I get up and talk to people I usually get nervous and talk really fast. Robert said that it didn’t seem like I talked too fast, but that I did say umm too many times. I know I have to work on that. I need to give my presentation to Robert and have him throw a water balloon at me every time I say umm.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"They are all my Children"

Tojo papi, tojo amor,” Juana playfully beckoned her young grandson from across the kitchen. The child glanced over at her, but instead toddled towards the plancha, the ceramic stove, aiming directly for the fire. Once there he proceeded to play with the ash emerging from the front of the plancha. The family, however, looked on unconcerned and continued their conversation about how many cows to buy in the market the next day. Suddenly Miguel, the grandfather, lunged forward shouting “no, no, no!” as he confiscated a flaming stick from his young grandchild. “Ai hombre!” the child’s exasperated mother exclaimed as she stood and took the mischievous toddler from his grandfather.

My research took me to the small K’iche’ Maya town of Antigua Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan (ASCI) in Guatemala where most families live in family compounds where the normal dinner conversation consists of interactions like this between three generations of family members. Families are constantly together, speaking to one another and building relationships in day-to-day activities. I first arrived in Guatemala expecting to study the bond between grandparents and grandchildren. However, as I studied I realized that the bond between grandparent and grandchild is a cornerstone for the eldercare system. In my research I established the importance of grandparent/grandchild relations among the K’iche’ by examining children as a remembrance of their grandparents and grandparents as parents. Next, I looked at the significance of showing respect in Maya ideology and then examined the factors contributing to loss of respect. I show that the eldercare system among the K’iche’ relies on a strong bond in grandparent/grandchild relations as exhibited by respect towards grandparents. Without this bond the eldercare system, based on kinship care giving, can no longer function effectively

My research was conducted using semi-structured interviews with informants of all ages with the help of a Spanish/K’iche’ translator, as well as participant observation of everyday life in ASCI. Some of my most valuable participant observation actually happened during interviews where I witnessed, for example, family fights and grandmothers breastfeeding grandchildren. The cultural information I learned from observing the family may actually in these instances have been more significant than the information from the actual interview. I also completed a survey of forty households in ASCI in collaboration with all the students in our group conducting research in surrounding villages.

Grandparents are key figures in the lives of their grandchildren because grandparents traditionally act as backup parents for grandchildren when grandchildren are young. This nurturing relationship not only extends from grandparents to their grandchildren, however. After both grandparent and grandchildren have grown and grandparents can no longer take care of themselves then grandchildren have a responsibility to care for their grandparents, just as the grandparents had once cared for their grandchildren.

Grandparents are also distinctively important in K’iche’ culture because respect for ancestors is so prominent in Mayan ideology. Respect towards grandparents may act as an extension of this idea since grandparents can be seen as living ancestors. One of the most visible sign of this in ASCI is the k’ex bond between grandparents and grandchildren, which literally means “substitute” (Mondloch 1980:10). K’iche’ naming practices name children after their grandparents. Consequently, children named after their grandparents become grandparents’ k’ex, their replacement. This continuous cycling of a name ensures that the ancestor is never forgotten. Aspects of k’ex can be found in regions around the Maya world, such as Momostenango, San Andres Semetebaj, and even into Chiapas, Mexico (Mondloch 1980, Carlsen and Pretchel 1991), though few studies have examined k’ex in any detail.

These two concepts in Mayan ideology, respect for ancestors and k’ex, reinforce the pattern of nurturing between grandparents and grandchildren. These create a system where all members of the society are taken care of. The cultural system is dynamic, however, and culture change from Ladino (non-indigenous Guatemalans) and Western influences has put the eldercare system in danger of breaking apart. Instead of remaining in the community to take care of the elderly, many young people leave the communities.

Televisions, once a rarity in ASCI, have been bought recently by many people in the village. This has chiefly allowed K’iche’ youth to see beyond their borders and yearn for things they see on these televisions. Furthermore, K’iche’ youth have become familiar with Ladino pop culture and music and often times become overly preoccupied with them. They no longer value Mayan ideals such as respect towards the elderly. Two ways to get the material things are by becoming more educated or by migrating. Both of these require that the youth leave the village. Furthermore, if the youth do stay in the community, many of them are unconcerned with making sure their grandparents are taken care of.

One of the many problems these create is that the system to care for the elderly is left with many holes. Grandchildren would rather spend their time trying to make money or catching up with the latest fashion than taking care of their grandparents. In Guatemala there is no state system in place to take care of the elderly if their family fails them. The spread of western ideals and western products around the globe should also come with an understanding and preservation of native cultures and social systems. Without this, cultures that have methods for things like health care and discipline that have been successfully used for centuries will face major social problems if they cannot adapt quickly enough. Further research should be done into the health care system for the Maya elderly before more elderly are inadvertently abandoned by their kin without other support systems.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Captain of My Soul

William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
(R. J. Cook, comp., One Hundred and One Famous Poems [1923], 95)

Orson F. Whitney

Art thou in truth? Then what of him
Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?

Free will is thine—free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.

Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.

(Improvement Era, May 1926, 611)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Added Stress

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from Dr. Hawkins, my professor over the summer in Guatemala. He gave us some information about upcoming conferences that we could present at, and then told us that we had to apply for the BYU Inquiry Conference. I had thought about applying, but I wasn't really sure if I really wanted to put myself through it. The presenters give a fifteen minute presentation on their research, then have ten minutes for question and answer. I just wasn't if I wanted to stand up in front of people for half an hour as they judge my research. It is a good experience to get feedback on your research and improve it for later publication. Even to just get more out of your research experience. I wasn't sure how much the benefits outweighed the costs of speaking in front of people.

Well, after I read Dr. Hawkin's e-mail I decided to go for it. After all, Dr. Hawkins was very adamant that we did apply and whether or not our papers ever get published depends largely on him. I looked up the information for the Inquiry Conference and found out that that exact day was the deadline for applying. So I submitted my paper for evaluation around 8:00 P.M. on the last day to apply. Two days later I got an e-mail saying that I had been accepted to present.

As I read the e-mail I didn't know how to feel. I had kind of hoped that I wouldn't get accepted, and then I wouldn't have to present. I was also very excited that I did get accepted and that I really was going to get the chance to be in the Inquiry Conference. I have been going to the conference every year since I have been at BYU, so it is pretty cool to me that this year I will actually be a presenter.

The conference is now less than two weeks away. I am nervous about getting up and presenting, but I have done that a lot in classes and know what I need to work on for my presentation. What I am really nervous about is the question and answer part. I can't just present something that I have prepared. I can only try to anticipate what questions will be asked. Someone could ask me a question about my research that should have been really obvious to me. Someone could ask a question that I should know the answer to, but I don't. Hopefully I will be prepared to answer any questions that audience members do have, and hopefully people will have questions so I don't have to stand there for ten minutes.

Another thing that I am nervous about in an upcoming phone interview I have for an internship with a non-profit group called Reading to Kids. I really hope that I will be able to answer the questions that I get well so that I can have this internship. It is an unpaid internship, but I think that the experience I get would be really valuable to me in the future, especially when I look for a full time job. I have never met the person I am interviewing with, so I really have no idea what to expect from the interview.

So these two things have put some additional stress on me that make me feel in a permanent state of nervousness. I will be glad when they are both are over. I think that in the end I will be glad that I tried for both of these things though. Things that are hard for me to do like these always make me glad that I did it afterwards because it only makes me stronger and more expereinced.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Joy of Being Nursery Assistants

The title may sound a little sarcastic, but Robert and I love our calling as Nursery Assistants. Let me tell you why. First of all, we don't have to go to class, we just show up and play with toys during church. Second of all, we not only get to play with toys, but we also get to play with kids all through church. I grew up in a family where there were always little kids running around. When I came to college I missed not being able to play with kids. Now that we are in a married ward there are plenty of little kids around, but we don't get a chance to play with them except in nursery.

Sure, it does have it's downsides. 18 month-olds don't really communicate too well. Their favorite words are mine and no, and by the time they learn any other words they are transferred to the senior nursery (we are only in the junior nursery). Consequently the most popular way of communicating is crying, especially at the beginning of class when their parents have left them with the strange nursery leaders. Times that by 10 kids and you get a very chaotic first few minutes. Luckily, some of the kids actually like nursery, especially the toys (who can blame them?), so not all of them are crying at once.

I didn't know before I came into the nursery that there are actual lessons in nursery. I think it is really sweet to teach them about Heavenly Father and Jesus. It is pretty cool when they actually learn something from the lessons.

Qing Mei Meeting

Robert and I are having a Qing Mei meeting for all our friends who want to know more about Xing. It will be Friday at 6:00 at our aparment.