Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don't take things for granted

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.


Anonymous said...

How true that we take for granted something like getting an education, reading and writing. In many countries an education is not even an option due to children having to labor and not having the money to go to school.
I remember that my grandfather who came to the USA in the 1890s could not read or write yet somehow he managed to get his driver's license. When his family arrived in the USA they worked on farms until they earned enough money to buy their own farm. There were 13 or so kids and I do not believe any of them went to school.
I like your new photo.

IslaZina said...

I think a lot of tourists think they are being ripped off here, when in fact, they are victims of a bad educational system. I just has a bizarre incident at the laundry that charges 55 pesos for 5 kilos. I could not convince the girl that the cost of 4.5 kilos could not possibly be 60 pesos. She said it was because I had a half kilo. The owner will decide the price tomorrow.

Islagringo said...

You are so right. We just assume that everybody has the same educational skills that we have. When I first moved here, lacking Spanish skills, I would write notes to hand to people that said what I wanted or needed. I couldn't believe how many people could not read them!

Loving your new header picture!

Sue said...

Jackie - Miguel came from a large family too - 12 kids although 3 died during delivery or early infancy. He went to school when he could, but had to work in the fields too. I should stop now because he really needs to write about his life - it will be great reading if he ever gets around to it.

Zina - how did the laundry thing end up?

Wayne - it is surprising how many people I've encountered here who cannot read either. And maybe some of them couldn't read because they need reading glasses?