Escuela Para todos: School for Everybody

Nancy's been laughing at me for weeks now because I've been devouring a little "almanac" I bought in Chichicastenango, which cost me about $1.40. It's a little book maybe a little like the Old Farmer's Almanac, but with more content and, for me, more cultural insight. The "Escuela Para Todos", or "School for Everybody", is published in Costa Rica expressly for the rural people of Central America, and I've learned so much about rural life from it. It's written at a fairly simple vocabulary level and also has pictures, and those of course help me with the language. If you're studying Spanish, this is the best little reader I've ever come across.

But it's the content that has enthralled me. There's the history of Central American independence, and how it was all one country at first, and how some would like it to be that way again. And how mosquitoes do their dirty deeds and how to prevent the spread of Dengue fever. And how to make concrete posts for fencing and improve the grass in your pastures, all things I never thought much about.

But the very best piece was a little mini-novel telling the story of a girl who got married when she was already pregnant by another man. It turned out OK in the end. But the story of her friend walking to see her at her new home, waiting until late in the rainy season because it would be quite difficult before that, and still having to use her machete to make it up the steep path to the family plot - all those things explained a little piece of the life of the people we see as we ride by. They're real people living an amazingly rural life. And often the people we see are the ones closer to the highway, which means they're the cosmopolitan ones.

I remember in Oaxaca, Mexico seeing the rural, seemingly remote life of people, but knowing that every dirt road leading off from the highway led to a little town, and out of that little town led paths up into the mountains to a dozen more villages ever more remote. Life is dramatically altered in these days of globalization and migration, but it's amazing how much of the true rural life still exists.