Yesterday we were out driving along the east coast when Miguel suddenly turned off and bounced us down a sand and rock filled road. Miguel had spotted the guy who walks around the colonias selling his wife's delicious pineapple pie and cornbread.
The man walked over to us and told us what he had in his basket. For some reason Miguel asked him if he spoke Maya (yes, he did). Then Miguel asked if he spoke English. No, he didn't speak English; he said he wanted to learn but he couldn't.
I mentioned the English school and that they accept adults. Then the man told us that he had only gone to first grade and that he couldn't write. I told him that probably didn't matter as he could still learn to speak. He shook his head...maybe he can't read either.
Miguel asked him if he knew his numbers in English, and yes - he did...that would ensure he would be able to tell people, in English, the cost of his baked goods.
This man is not old, he is middle-aged.
There is small grocery store on the island where one of the owners who tends the store cannot do math. She knows the numbers but cannot add, so if the purchases are more than a couple of items, someone else in the family has to come out and calculate the cost for her. She has tried to learn the calculator but I've noticed she has given up. She's a sweet person and is ashamed that she can't add.
Miguel's grandmother couldn't read, write, or do math. Miguel says that his grandmother would charge people by the number of certain denominations of bills that she wanted. A turkey would be 3 100 peso notes ("Abuela, that's too much!), a chicken would be 2 50 peso notes, and so on. So even though she couldn't add, she learned a different way to charge the amount she wanted in the final tally.
Can you imagine a life here on Isla without being able to read or write in any language? I can't. I took my education for granted and there were times I didn't want to go to school. But here, right in front of me is an eye-opener; not everyone is so lucky to have the opportunity of education. So thank you, Canada, for giving me the tools I need to enjoy life - I'm able to read a book, to write my thoughts, and calculate my taxes. And even though I moan about the amount of tax I pay, if that means that everyone in Canada is educated on the three R's, then it's worth it.