Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Anne Moon volunteers at NUFED

Another volunteer that was here in March was Anne Moon from Vancouver. Rather than advertising for people to come to the Project Ix-canaan Library for English classes, we decided to do something a bit different, and Anne went into the local NUFED School to teach English.

Anne's teaching support at the school was well received and it gave us the occasion to visit the NUFED School. It is a Technical Institute that covers grades 7, 8 and 9 and serves the many small villages in this end of Peten. I was surprised to see that the construction of the school has never been finished.

The school consists of 4 walls with a roof and has no floors, doors, windows, paint, minimal furniture and no books or other teaching aids.

Friends of Ix-canaan (based in Calgary, Alberta) have decided to continue supporting the NUFED School through Project Ix-canaan by finding volunteers to help teach the curriculum, as well as looking for the funding to finish the construction of the school and equip its library with the textbooks the students need for their courses.


A Chichipin Caterpillar

I am always amazed by the ingenuity of Mother Nature. Today we saw the first chichipin caterpillar of the season. This caterpillar lives out its life span on the chichipin bush and its coloring allows it to blend in perfectly. Not only that, but when the caterpillar emerges from its cocoon, it has become a distinctive butterfly that still carries the same chichipin colors. Maybe I can capture that miracle on film when the time arrives.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making Soap

I have been reading about and practicing making soap so that we are ready to bring in a "soap making teacher" from one of Canada's premier "soapers" to teach the Ix-canaan women's group all about making soap. We also need someone who feels creatively able to design packaging, labelling and soap finishing.

So far, I have made soap twice ... the photo above is from the second time. The first time I made a soap without aroma or color (below), but I did pour the second half of it over chunks of loofah to create a few "scrubbing bars". That worked well.

Many of the soaps are of a small size because two local hotels have told us that if we can produce a soap that is up to their standards, they will start to buy from us. These two designs are just to begin ... one is a more or less typical small round soap (I used toilet paper rolls as molds for these) and the other is shaped like a small pyramid (I used egg cartons for these). The larger soaps (and a few of the smaller) are scented with lavender oil and colored with paprika.

This second batch (above) is double because I took the opportunity to teach two women of the women's group, Doña Juana (the president) and Doña Bety (the treasurer) how to make it.

I had been thinking of the possibilities of making a useful yet beautiful soap from local ingredients, so made one type of soap with cinnamon, which has insect repellent qualities. The smell of the cinnamon, however, was not strong enough to last through the process ... we discovered that it is necessary to also use essential oils to give a good aroma.

This past week, Enrique and I took a drive out to Dos Aguadas where a women's group had been set up to make and sell essential oils. They are making essential oils from allspice, and from 2 different types of trees, as well as 2 different jungle flower blends. I bought some of each to try and I think they are going to be perfect for the soap aromas. The allspice has insect repellent qualities like the cinnamon, so I think the two together will make an excellent spicily-aromatic repellent soap. When I discovered the beautiful flower blends, I thought that the second soap should be of Rainforest Flowers. The hotel guest could receive one of each ... the spice soap for the morning shower before hiking in the jungles, and the flower soap to shower off before dinner.
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