Guatemala So Far…



From guatemala.myadventures.org

     Training camp was two and a half days in Atlanta, Georgia (I saw fireflies for the first time) which we spent learning people’s names, trying to be kind when tired, and growing in our gratitude for foods on our top 10 list. The Guatemala group quickly developed an awkward cohesion of newly made friends while working through the “team builders” that required the climbing of “Mt. Everest,” the avoidance of “lunar lava,” and the presence of trust and hand holding.

     After the preliminary name games and ice breakers we woke at seven, washed in the wooden shanty shower house, and then went through a daily routine of worship, bible study, team time, evangelism talks, and growth as friends and teammates.

     Although necessary, training camp seemed like only days to wait before we launched to our ultimate location of Guatemala.



     Travel: 3 hour flight (the first for some of us), yoga in the terminal, bus ride from Guatemala City to Antigua, and Wendy’s frostys.

     The city is short and crouching (safety from the frequent earthquakes) and smells different then America.



     Was the first day in Antigua, Guatemala and we spent the morning taking pictures at a McDonalds that I heard my team mates describe as “exotic” “astounding” and  “I could get married here!” The other half of the day included mistaking our street name for “una via” (one way – ‘so wait our hostel is at the confluence of una via and doble via, right?’) cooking spaghetti, and miming Spanish words to clearly amused grocery store workers and waiters (holding a curled hand to ones tipped back head translates directly to ‘can I have some chocolate milk please’).

     Midday and we and we hike up a hill to a 30 ft. stone cross and a wall built in the colonial era (during the Conquest).  

From guatemala.myadventures.org

     Our hostel is a romanticized building bedecked with potted plants and creepers and ornamented with stone lion heads and blue tiles.



     Our first day of missions work. After hurried fruit loops (‘hey they totally taste different, like tropical, don’t you think?) and free coffee we followed our team leaders Chantell and Jordan Rice like a line of waddling  ducklings  down the cobbled streets and past the low, thickly walled stucco buildings (painted peach, turquoise, and sienna). We divided into two teams (morning shift: 9:00-12:30, afternoon shift: 2:00-3:30) and filled into separate buildings: a hospital for Cerebral Palsy patients and a senior center. A brief description of each:

     Cerebral Palsy– A type of paralysis that left its victims (children and adults alike) contorted in wheel chairs and disfigured faces. The scene produced the type of horror that can only be felt by the innocent and sheltered who see for the first time a discomfort and pain that runs deeper than anything felt through the cleanliness and safety of an American childhood. Most of the patients couldn’t speak, but they could all moan and make strange (to us) clicks and sounds. Some are active and independent but we are sadly put upon by what we see.

     Our team, biting back a mix of pity, disgust, sympathy, and terror proceeded to walk amongst them, talking in sanguine voices and wheeling the patients around the facility in endless circles under a sun let through by an open ceiling.

     We were all drained afterward but many reported the smiles and open faces of the children (who were taken to eat frosted birthday cake in the park) and the momentary senses of lucidity conveyed by the patients.

     Senior Home: Today was Argentina vs. Holland and our ‘mission’ became watching the game (and nurturing contempt for the diving of the Netherlands’ players) with the old men and women in their lunch room. The rest of us were taught how to fold dresses and sheets by a quiet Mayan woman (who looked down on our creases and mumbled Spanish).

From guatemala.myadventures.org

     The day ended with thunderless heat lighting (viewed from our kitchen which is open to the air) and green tea made on a propane stove.



     Today we got up for oatmeal and inhaled coffee then bumbled around till we were clean and wearing clothes on the right parts of our bodies. We were met at 8:30 by our indigenous contact (a translator and missionary named Luis) and packed into the back of a bus colored as brightly as the costumes at an Olympic marathon. The bus speakers played Spanish songs (lyrics: Se que me quieres ) as we experienced Central American Public Transportation (I would pay for it even if it didn’t take me somewhere because it became a roller coaster). It was suggested that the only reason why there weren’t more automobile accidents was that ‘no one wants to become a murderer this early in the morning.’

     We got off the bus at Loving Arms cooperative where we toured the blue-and-white-dark-wood-building and saw the kitchens and sewing rooms where native women and men learn a skill that will enable them to start a business and provide for themselves. Again we split up, half stayed inside and scrubbed the windows and white washed walls and the other half headed out to the fields to hoe the weeds from a tomato field (the effort level and task reminiscent of Levin’s threshing scene from Anna Karenina).

From guatemala.myadventures.org

     At the end walls were whiter and a field that had been green with weeds was the deep brown of equatorial soil and dry earth. On the bus back home at 3:00 (blisters, calluses, sunburn and all) we got ice cream (helado) at a dusty corner store and trumpeted victory.

From guatemala.myadventures.org



     5:00 and we were waking up to climb a volcano. Morning bus ride through fields and corn (at 45 degree angles to the ground) that recall Keatsean poems about verdure and bird song. Sun hurts our eyes as we get higher and higher and light beams get closer and larger. We get out at horse stables and ‘water bottles? All here? 14? Let’s go.’

     The volcano (Pacaya) has been the subject of jokes and sarcastic comments about imminent decease and lack of muscular tone for the past few hours but now that we are here we go about our business in a remarkable example of efficiency and altruism. The athletic of us take the bags of the others and hold hands, hoisting them up over rocks and roots. Men in sombreros dig wells along the side of the road, re-sparking the sepulchral humor.

From guatemala.myadventures.org

     At the summit the view is expansive. The city we have been in for the past days is only an infant in a cradle of volcanoes and hillocks. Verdure, verdant, vernal…  Then as we turn down another path we reach a field of smoldering metamorphic rock (for J.R.R. Tolkien readers think of Mordor, “all ashes. Ashes and pits”). Our guides warned us not to stray from the path we were to follow for fear that our shoe soles would melt (liquid magma was reportedly 4 ft. from the surface). We roasted pink and blue marshmallows over a crevice in one of the black and glittering rocks (cobalt, iron, quartz, and basalt).

     After that we went to an outdoor market: riot of colors, tent flaps, textiles, 20 ft. high stacks of huipil fabric, embroidery, wood work, soccer jerseys, street hawkers, knife blades, dust, blue sky, mango and noise. We learn bartering and struggle with conversion factors, trying to decipher market-seller-English (Mano o machina? Mano o machina?). Finally we are done, lugging our ridiculous number of souvenirs with us.

     Looking forward to the remainder of our trip and what God has in store for us..


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