LeAnne remarked today that locals always describe Santa Elena as a relaxed (tranquila) place. It's true! The people are super nice and friendly. The town pretty much shuts down between 2pm - 7pm because it is so darn hot. I finally hit the paleteria when it was open today. I tried coco, galletas con crema, fresas con crema, chocolate, and nancy (a local fruit). The popsicles were tasty, but La Monarca Michocana still has my vote.
We have been busy in the schools all week. I am learning a lot about the culture and attitudes about education and teaching here in the Yucatan. There are many similarities, and a few differences, between the schools, students, and teachers in Sta. Elena and Durham. I learned that in the past 5-6 years teachers/schools have been working to get parents more involved and feel more responsible for their children's education. Kids are only in school for about 5 hours/day and teachers feel the parents need to spend time interacting with their kids. They encourage kids to ask their parents questions.
Some students and many parents only speak Maya, which makes communicating with the teachers (who only speak Spanish) difficult. The language barrier reminds me a lot of schools in Durham, but the problem is manageable in Santa Elena because the schools are so small (180 students in one of the 2 elementary schools - only 4 students who only speak Maya).
Internet access is limited (and slow), but we hope to start working on uploading all of our videos and pictures when we get to Merida on Friday. One more day in Santa Elena.