The school is a go… so far, so good!
category: Jims Guatemala


I had a meeting today with the director and executive committee of the Instituto Diversificado Jolom Konob’, the local teachers’ school. I’ve teamed up with Don Livingston of Computers for Guatemala to help them build their own building, so they can move out of the old building they are occupying without a lease.


The meeting went really well. It’s weird to work with Guatemalans that show up on time, get right to business, and finish promptly! Once I got past telling the Director Mario Pedro Pascual that CFG was only going to pay for the materials, not the skilled labor, we got to work looking at the design of the building. Mario was enthusiastic about the idea of selling rooms to specific donors, the same way colleges in the US make money for building projects. About the time I busted out the drawings, several more people showed up (he summoned them telepathically, I think): Raymundo Pascual, the bilingual education coordinator; two members of the committee; and Pascual the Contractor*. They were all very excited about the building design, and had many positive responses. They liked the Mayan symbology and the orientation of the colors to match the Mayan compass, and they suggested using Mayan glyphs as wall decorations and adornments. What fun!

sketch1.gifI feel even better about the contractor Pascual. Besides the fact that he’s amiable and just “feels right” (which I put a lot of stock in), he asked a lot of good technical questions about the building and schedule, hinting that he is thinking ahead of the game, and knows what he’s doing. He pointed out a column in the middle of the lower classrooms, something that Don and I had discussed before. Although a column in the middle of a classroom would be unacceptable in the US, you see that sort of thing all the time in Guatemala. These guys use empirical construction practices, so they shy away from something that looks tricky or might need actual engineering… such as a 9-meter clearspan concrete floor. As I see it, even though we can engineer the floor it to span that distance, it might actually make sense to do it their way. It will “look right” to their eyes, and they will have more confidence in it, both when building it and when using it. I left a copy of the drawings with him, so he can refine his estimate, and I promised to make them more detailed drawings now that the basic concept has been agreed upon.  

The committee asked whether or not I would be available for the entire project. I explained to them that I am required to leave Guatemala in the end of July, but I would work as hard as possible for them until then. They then decided that they want to move the project along as quickly as possible, and get the building done before then. Sounds good to me, but it will be a pretty hard thing to do unless things move amazingly fast. I guess we’ll see; they plan on being ready for the next meeting on Monday or so.


The last request/ suggestion they had was that there be heat in the classrooms. Schools here don’t have it, and it affects the student’s ability to pay attention when they are shivering. I am in agreement. We talked about some options, and a central system is going to be pretty expensive and hard for local labor to maintain. They were interested in a type of giant space heater they have here… you plug it in, it runs off of electrical power. The avantage is that it’s easy to install, affordable, and portable. Pascual and I explained to them that we’d need to make sure that we had special circuits in the classrooms to handle such a thing, with their own breakers and oversized wiring and a dedicated outlet. Lots of people nodded. I asked, and they think these “calentónes” can be had in Xela for about 500Q each. That adds at least 3,000Q to the project, plus the extra wiring and so forth. They have also been warned that it will run their electricity bill way up.

That’s about all I have for now. I am going to work some more. If you want to download your own copy of the drawings the committee is looking at in the picture, they are here.

*Yeah, that’s a lot of Pascuals. I have a hard time remembering names in the US; here, it’s prettymuch impossible to keep everyone straight.

Posted by: jfanjoy