| Sep 06, 2010
Morning paper headlines that a huge slide covered the highway behind us yesterday - killing one person and injuring eight others. The rains have been huge this year and there have been many slides that have taken lives. Hard to think that the beautiful banks of land that we passed gave way and actually killed people - we did talk about how sandy the soil was right in the center of the country.
Breakfast at 6:30 came pretty fast but we were all excited to get on the road to our village and see where our week was to be spent! The 2 hours drive in a small van was short on comfort but very long on spectacular and breath taking scenery. We climbed up the side of a mountain, and climbed and climbed ... once we left the paved road it was rough going - the van was not made for 9 tall Americans and 5 Guatemalans but it (the van) and we made it. Grateful that the sky remained clear and every corner brought more WOWs!
Amalia and Mike suggested that we appoint one photographer for the first day so that these villagers, who had not seen many, if any, white people might have a chance to get used to us. The end of the road, literally, and we arrived at San Miguel Chamil - population 870 people. These people live spread out all up and down the mountain side - but it was immediately obvious that we were expected and awaited with some great anticipation. Children came running, mothers with babies strapped to their backs approached shyly and a circle was formed so that the village leader could welcome us. This took what seemed a little longer than necessary since each narrative had to be interpreted to us and Mike returned the compliments. Children, villagers and team alike waited anxiously in the hot sun to move from shy side glances to an opportunity to greet each other personally.
This team, I would guess, took the least time to "bridge the get acquainted gap" as might be possible. Sondra and Chris were like child magnets, the smiles and laughing brought the reticent mothers closer and before long we were walking in mass as one big community to the "work site". Our project is to help build a Health Center. A large area had been leveled and there were two huge piles or rocks and boulders alongside the road. We had picked up a contractor in a village along the way - our first job was to move both piles of rocks from point A to point B. At first a few village men and the team were working but one young boy jumped into the fray and that was all it took.... we were a mass of people working together. We taught the kids to say in English "my name is...", this brought more laughter and fun and drew more of the shy ones from the side lines. This team made light work of what looked initially to be a pretty ominous job.
Amalia had arranged for 5 team members to visit a village home today and 5 more tomorrow. Deb, Alix, Mike, Scott and I chose to go today. We assumed this would be a quick walk to one of the homes we could see along the road and near the work site but we were in error. The village leader wanted us to see his home compound so like good little ducks we followed along up and up and up some more. How this stroll home might be accomplished in rain remains a mystery (thank goodness). This family of 7 occupies one large room with a cement floor and 2 wooden platform beds, crude wooden benches along the side and an altar at the end. Dogs, chickens and a skinny cat ran through but the proud "head of the house" was not distracted as he told us again how much it meant to have us there. We all knew this home was not typical as we could see in far smaller and cruder homes on our way up the hill. This leader family definitely had the best views in the village! Alix was once again "chosen" as a young mother walked up to her outside the home and handed her small daughter to her. Amalia shared with us that this huge leap of trust was very rare, Alix stands out as a huge and trusting heart to these people who have seen very few people from other lands.
After returning to the village center we were so happy to be greeted by our team who was gathering for lunch. Amalia had brought loaves of bread with a big jar of peanut butter and big bowls of fruit. Chris shared that this was one of her favorite parts of the day but I know better because I saw her play "Duck, Duck, Goose" with a gang of children and even some young mothers. Stand-up comedy could be her next line of work because she had the small crowd that had gathered around bent over with laughter. This game went on for an hour followed by some songs including "Yes Jesus loves me" in both K'iche' and English. This was the only song we could come up with that both the team and the villagers might know and it was magical. Soon we were singing verse after verse as each of us picked up some additional words of each other’s language.
While the "girls" of the team were working on the socialization aspect of our project the "boys" helped to unload a truck of bags of cement and rebar. Scott said he was amazed when these men who are small of stature were walking off with two bags on their bags. Both he and Mike said that when the one bag was dropped on them they almost went to their knees!
At about 3:30 we could hear big claps of thunder and dark clouds were coming toward the village so we quickly gathered our team for very emotional and vocal goodbyes.
A cloud burst brought rivers flooding down the dirt road, there were rock slides but Carlos guided us down as though this was an everyday experience - and it may be for him!
(The road between Guatemala City and Coban had been closed yesterday afternoon after we had passed due to a massive land slide that covered both lanes.)
A few team members were more than a little car sick and it was decided at our debriefing meeting after we arrived safe and sound back in Coban that Mike Wenrick would recruit another car for transport back to our special village on the mountain.
Dinner at a local restaurant and the team dispersed pretty quickly to their own rooms and a good night's sleep. Tomorrow will be a new adventure in this wondrous land of Guatemala! We are each so blessed to be sharing this experience.