You can’t go home again… or can you?
So… here we are again… I’m back in Guatemala and still trying to figure out how my life has changed so much so that I am back here for the second time in just over a month….
This time it’s different. Because I was here at the beginning to experience all the hopes, dreams, excitement & enthusiasm of everyone it was different. The camp vibe was different. The people were different. Now Im here again very much toward the end of the season and much of those feelings are… well, not gone… just different. Combine that with the fact that Ted, Miriam and the students have gone on a week long road trip and we are pretty much here on our own and you have … well … different. Its so quiet here its almost spooky hahaha. Different because the rains have come early and everything we do here we are racing against the clock, against the mud, against the rain. Different because within a few days of arriving I got stung by a scorpion that had wandered into my towel while I was showering. Ok, so its poisonous, but not deadly, but man is it painful. As I write this days later my hand is still numb, tingly and burning… and Im told that this feeling will last for months… fun times….I guess its also different because the ‘shock’ of what I’m seeing and experiencing here isnt there anymore. Ive seen it, I know what to expect and that makes things different. Not less gut wrenching, just different.
I was struggling the first few days here with everything… with all the ‘different’. I didnt know how to process that any more than I knew how to process all that I saw the first time here. The gang left on their road trip and Ted left us with a list of tasks which included things like returning to all the job sites we worked on when we were here last time to build doors and chimneys plus some other sites both new and old to perform various tasks. This was so exciting to me. I could not wait to return to see Antionette and the finished home we built. The thought of seeing Pavlo and Cantidad made my heart soar. If you recall that is the elderly couple that had the spider infested corn stalk home…. the one that it took them 15 minutes to move everything they own out so we could begin. That elderly couple touched my heart and I couldnt wait to see them again. So bright and early Monday morning off we went to visit various sites. Our first stop was Pavlo’s… Cantidad ran out to greet us with hugs and kisses on the cheek. She brought us fruit called grenadina and talked away like we could understand her hahaha… I have to say that Zack and I are beginning to catch words here and there. It is now our goal to work together to learn Spanish and eventually speak it at home between the two of us. Semi-Flutent by next year is the goal. It was an amazing visit and we were humbled that they remembered us so vividly. We left there with promises to return before we head home again. We did manage to visit them again to finish up the door we built for them. Geoffs mom made a large beautiful blanket for us to give away last time. For various reasons we never ended up giving away the blanket and left it here at camp in a suitcase with leftover toys we never had time to give away. I gave the blanket to Cantidad. Her eyes teared up when I gave it to her and she held me tight in a hug full of warmth and gratitude. She held my hands and thanked God for sending us to her. I cannot explain how much this old woman means to me… suffice it to say that I thank God every day for sending her to me….
From there we went to Yolanda’s. The only thing I can tell you about Yolanda’s is the Wells of Hope built a home for her previously and there are so many kids there its unbelievable. The tiny village has only a few homes and you will see 10 children… then 20…. then 30… Its hilarious to visit there with the kids coming literally out of the wordwork. And the kids are so happy and playful. A day there is an experience like no other. At one point Zack had 9+ kids hanging off him and Luke and Gabe just run and laugh with them. It amazes me how we are unable to communicate much more than the basics and yet there is no need for words… none at all. Again they have nothing more than a mud hut and a few belongings… not much food… they work harder than any of us could ever imagine and yet they have so much more than any of us do. We handed out the rest of the toys Luke and Gabe’s school St Mark donated at Yolanda’s village. The children literally swarmed us. Their smiles and laughter and sheer pleasure at getting a small toy made us all happier than we had been in a very long time. For the women Geoff’s mom had made aprons and all the women put them on immediately and wore them with wide smiles. We all left there full hearted and jovial. There is no way in the world anyone could visit Yolanda’s village and not leave happier than they have ever felt before.
The next day after Geoff trekked up and down the mountain 4-5 times to gather supplies for various projects that Wells of Hope have going here we were off to El Progresso to the Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro also known as the Mal-Nutrition Centre and a visit to Sister Mercedes. For those of you that followed my last trip you will remember that this place truly broke me. I spent the rest of the day and evening after leaving there in tears. My children watched me cry more than they have ever before. Particularly one boy… Sister Mercedes called him “Eduardo”. He was new to the centre and had only been there one day. She didn’t know much more about him other than he was 17yrs old and was very close to death. This time she knew much more… his name was not Eduardo… but Estuardo. And I am happy to report that he is doing much much better. The bedsores that were of great concern due to infection have cleared up nicely and although his brain has been severely damaged due to lack of nutrition he is coming along very well. There were many more babies and children there this time, including Jennifer who is in almost as bad a shape as Estuardo and Marietta who is 13 and can be no more than 60 pounds…. Babies with no hair… sick and literally dying. Its a tough place to see. This was the first time our kids had been there since they did not go with us the first time. The drive back from this place is approximately 90 minutes and not many words are spoken. It’s very tough to speak when your heart is broken.
One thing that my boys realized quickly was that this place was in desperate need of help. The building is falling apart and Sister Mercedes does amazing work saving the lives of these kids. These precious little kids deserve a chance and Sister Mercedes has been trying to give them this chance for 28years with very little outside help. My boys came out of their quiet broken-ness long enough to tell Geoff and I that the Hospital Infantil was one of the places they want to concentrate their fundraising efforts on. I can’t argue with that… need is need and this place is in need. Their fundraising effort had raised $1000.00 by the time we left and they decided to use some of that money here in the mountains of Jalapa to help a family who’s roof is almost non-existant and they get wet whenever it rains. We visited them early in the week to do a bit of work to get a hydro line to their home. They had no access to lights so a good portion of their lives have been spent in the dark. They sold almost everything they had and most of their land to get an operation for their youngest daughter who was born with a severe cleft palate. Even then, they did not have enough money to afford the whole operation. So the doctor fixed the outside of the young baby’s face but not the inside. So now when she eats the food literally comes out her nose. On top of all this, their living conditions are not good and the roof of their cornstalk home has many leaks. So the boys went with dad and bought some wood and some metal to replace the roof. Next year when we return they want to build a home for this family to replace their cornstalk home and we will just re-use the roof. Its awesome to see my boys and their efforts truly pay off in making a difference in people’s lives! Tomorrow we will go and build that roof for this family and we are all truly excited to do so.
Well its the next day and we just returned from building the roof for Minor and his family. It had rained here all night so the road to their home was impassable. So we all grabbed various tools, wood and metal roofing panels and trekked up the mountain slipping and sliding the whole 1km. It was incredibly brutal. Geoff and Zack took the brunt of it all considering they had to make several trips up and down carrying huge pieces of wood and 12 cumbersome roof panels that were too heavy for the rest of us. However I must say Luke managed to carry one panel and was very proud. It was such a tough day. Brutal… and yet just a mere taste of the labour intensive life these people live. This family walks that road several times a day to get water and other supplies. Everyone works here.. even small children… everyone! Finally many hours later we were all dead tired, filthy, covered with mud and done. The roof was on and the family will remain dry during this coming rainy season. Next year we will return to build them a home if our fundraising efforts continue to go well. While we were there a man came to see us and ask if we could do the same for his home. So we walked a fair distance to see his home. Daylight streamed into the home from the various holes in the roof. Immediately Luke and Gabe said that we need to buy this man metal panels to fix his roof. We explained to them that this will take up more of their fundraising money and they both agreed that they could not walk away and leave this family in need… So looks like these boys managed to really help 2 families in need during this trip from the money that was raised. Our whole family wants to thank everyone who donated… you have no idea how your money has made a difference in peoples lives here… the people here say a heartfelt “Gracias!”
On the way back to camp as we were driving down the mountain past Pavlo’s we saw Cantidad running waving her arms furiously. Geoff slammed on the brakes thinking that there was something wrong. He ran up the hill to greet her. She grabbed him and hugged him so tight then turned to the truck and waved to me and wrapped her arms around herself in a makeshift hug sent across the distance. My heart both leapt and broke. My eyes filled with tears. She flagged us down just to give us that hug. I am unable to communicate with her very much and yet this woman has worked her way into my heart so much. I feel privileged to have even met her… I feel even more privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of the team that built her and her family a home. Its amazing how one very elderly woman I barely know can represent so much…. She is a part of me now… she is Guatemala to me… Guatemala is where I found myself and what I stand for… she is the reason I am here… she is the reason I am home when I am here… and I will come home to her again and again God willing….