Keep it simple… stu*id….

Its Tuesday… the internet here has been down since last week… its difficult being so out of touch with the outside world… and yet… its been wonderful… No tv.. no internet… very sporatic and rare cellular communication.  Even newspapers and tv hold no help for catching up with the world inside and outside Guatemala because we cannot speak, read or understand the language.  Apparently a 5.0 earthquake hit here at 5am… all we know is that it sounded like every animal in Guatemala was making noise… we heard about it 3days later when someone called home!  Its like the world outside of Campo Esperanza, Jalapa and this mountain have ceased to exist to us.  This is our world now.  Its going to be difficult to integreate back into life I think.  Its all so simple here… wake up early, breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, together time, sleep, repeat.  There are no further distractions.  Its given me so much time to focus my family, others, myself and my faith.  Not just my faith in God… but my faith in humanity… in those around me… and those around the world…  We are just a handful of people here and yet we have managed to achieve so much in just a few short weeks.  2 homes are being built…. one of which (Antionette’s) is drying and will be completed by having the roof added within a week or so…the other (for the elderly couple Pavlo and Candidad)   has begun and will be ready soon…. we dug a trench and installed water lines to the family across the road from camp.  They are in severe poverty and this access to water will enable them to grow crops through the entire year (even the dry season) and provide them potential for a solid living.  All in all we have had a productive few weeks.  Much of it was spent touring the area and setting up things for the teams yet to come.  But we managed to make a difference in some lives.. we provided hope and opportunity for a different, better future.  As I said, simple…

Yesterday we drove Adam and Aaron (2 university students who were here for 10 days) to Guatemala City for their flight home.  We spent the day there as a family (and Dave) and tried to do ‘normal’ things.  Things like eating in a restaurant, going shopping… sightseeing.  Within an hour we were all stressed and annoyed by the normalcy of it all… by the chaos and redundancy of the city.  Camp is like paradise… rooms, beds, fantastic meals, fellowship and community.   Here in the mountains you can be sure that everyone you see says “Buenos Dias”…  The city is cold and makes you feel stressed and isolated, you dont make eye contact anywhere there.  It will be interesting to see how our return home goes.  On one hand we are excited to be going home.  We have much to look forward to there… people we love and miss… our own beds, our dogs, our life…  and on the other hand it would be easy to just sell it all, move here and help people every day… it would be simple….

I had a mental meltdown on Sunday… it had been a stressful weekend.  We decided as a group on Saturday to pile in the trucks, pick up Mario (our interpreter)and his family, grab pizza and go to a big soccer game that was happening in Jalapa.  It was a great night… full of fun and excitement.  But somehow it all felt wrong deep down.  Its hard to enjoy things when the world around you is a total mess.  We all know that guilt is counter-productive but its hard to not feel the wrongness of it all here.  All you have to do is step outside the door of the camp and look out into the mountainsides…  Either way it was still a fun night with all of us.  On Sunday we went to church and wow.. what an experience that was.  Mass was to begin at 10:00am and was outdoor.  It was a huge feast day where the bishop was attending for the blessing of the seeds for the upcoming planting season.   Fireworks and those bomb like things were going off every few minutes throughout the celebration.  It was a sea of people.  There were no more services on the mountain so people for all the surrounding villages made their way to this one outdoor service.  Booths were set up on the perimeter selling drinks and snacks.  The sun was beating down on us and it was very warm.  Mass did not begin until almost 11am and was very, very long.  We were all hot and quite honestly frustrated that we could not understand a word of the service.  Once it was over, we dragged our crispy bodies back to camp had some lunch and then we were off again.

Ted, Miriam, myself, Geoff and Dave H. went to visit the Nutrition Centre in Progresso about an hour away.  I was truly looking forward to this trip because nutrition is something I’ve always been interested in as I explained in an earlier blog.  The centre is run by Sister Mercedes.  She founded it 28yrs ago and a kind family donated the property to her to help children who suffer from malnutrition in the area.   She is looking to get an opportunity to have a 2nd more permanent location in Jalapa but for now she travels the hour long one way commute on twisty dangerous mountain roads 3 days a week.  Upon arriving and meeting her another nun came with drinks for us all.  I admit I was terrified to drink this cloudy looking water.   Miriam took it and drank and that gave us the signal that we were ok to drink.  It tasted terrible but we all drank and were thankful for it.  Its a sugar water sort of thing made from a plant and is cheap to make and provides some sweetness.  I suppose its an aquired taste.  They made it with filtered water so we would not become ill… they inconvenienced themselves for us and we truly were thankful.   After our refreshment we were off for a tour of the facility that houses approx 30children at a time.  Touring the facility we noticed that there was a lot of smoke in the inside air.  Ted was fearful that the smokeless stove they built for them was malfuctioning but once we were in the room where they were cooking we realized that they weren’t using it correctly.  The roof has problems and there are areas where it is asbestos and it is crumbling.  The walls need work, the floors, they need small kitchens built… they have one area in mind that would be great for a kitchen.  They tore out an old bathroom in the school part of the building.  When we entered the area to look at it the stench was horrible.  Apparently when they took out the bathroom they left the pipes open and just covered them with wood… Basically they need an overhaul.  Its an amazing group of buildings but it needs much TLC.  I think Geoff and I may have found the personal project we have been looking for…

At one point during the tour Sister Mercedes took us into a room that was obviously a nursery.  Empty cribs were lined up along the walls and there were pictures of past babies and children who are ‘success stories’ so to speak.   I noticed at the far end of the room was a crib covered in marroon mosquito netting… Once I got closer I saw that the crib was indeed occupied by a boy about the size of Lucas (my smaller than average 9yr old).  Sister Mercedes told us his name was Eduardo and that she brought him to the centre a month ago.  His back was to us so she rolled him over and we gently called out his name and rubbed his head.  He was obviously mentally challenged… apparently he was so severely malnourished because his family simply couldn’t afford food and as a result he did not develop mentally or physically.  He is unable to speak and she isnt sure how much he can comprehend.   I heard Sister telling Miriam that Eduardo was 17… I said wow, 17lbs?…. she corrected me … Eduardo is 17yrs old.   I cannot describe the shock that hit me… you sincerely could have knocked me over with a feather.  I walked back over to him and looked into his big blank brown eyes and began to cry.  He looks like a small child!   Through my tears I managed to take some non-flash pictures of him.  I felt awful doing so but Ted reminded me that Im here for a reason and through my blog, my talking and my photo’s perhaps I can raise awareness and inspire people to help both by donating time and money.  My pictures most likely didnt turn out well because they were shot through totally water filled eyes… I cannot say for sure because I cannot bear to look at them.  This little boy, who should be a young man broke what was left of my heart….

Upon returning to camp I could not even sit with anyone, I went for a walk with Geoff and again I cried.  It was his turn to help cook dinner so I continued to walk by myself.  I ended up sitting alone on a rock outcropping near camp where no one could see me.  Gabriel my youngest saw me and came to me and held me tight.  I explained to him why I was crying and he felt ok leaving me alone.  I couldnt bear making him cry too… Once he was gone, the torrent of tears that I cried was unbelievable.  I cried for over an hour…. and I mean sobbing… I cried for Eduardo… for Nico’s hollow eyed children… for Shelley the epileptic girl who is mentally challenged and sexually abused because of lack of money for meds…. for the children at the school… for those at the dirty puddles gathering water… for the 15yr old girls married and having babies… I cried tears of thankfulness that through Gods grace I was born in a country that I was able to raise healthy children…. I cried tears for them all…for it all… for the young, for the old… for the hungry, for the broken… I was mentally and emotionally broken.  It’s not that it was all too much… it was that it was all too wrong…. too senseless.. too avoidable… fixing these things… to make sure they never happen again would be easy… to see that things here are fixed…. would be…… simple…..

I recovered by morning.  The scars that are on my heart will remain.  They are simply too deep to ever leave.  Perhaps they will fade a bit… but I will never let them go away.  This mountain… Jalapa… Guatemala is in my heart now… its a part of me… a part that is painful… and joyful in the biggest contradiction of feeling I have ever experienced… but it is a part of who I am now… its just that simple….

About ritadoppenberg

I am a wife, mom, missionary.... generally a human being who along with God, my family, friends and Commission to Every Nation (CTEN) Canada, seek to "Be The Change"...

Posted on March 3, 2010, in Guatemala Missionary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Laurie Warkentin

    Thanks for sharing your heart Rita. Beautiful….and so simple. Its way to easy to make life here in North America so complicated….thanks for the inspiration and reminder.

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