Of all the times to be in Guatemala — this is a pretty great time to be here. Elections, Independence Day, Dia de los Muertos, and the start of the sunny spring season.
Yesterday was the Dia de La Independencia for not only Guatemala, but all of Central America. It started on Wednesday night with runners from central park here in Antigua running a lit torch to the pueblos around the city, with boys running ahead blowing on whistles to “ring in” the Independence day. All day on the 15th were parades of students from the many different schools playing more drums than I have ever seen in my life. Marimbas (the national instrument) were abundant in the square as the people celebrated their freedom and showed their patriotism. Blue and white flags graced the city, and everyone had a sense of excitement and alegria.
My roommate and I, however, spent most of this joyous day doing research for our capstone paper which is due very very soon. This stress has been the worst part of this trip, because we want to go out and really See Guatemala and experience the culture; which is difficult to do when we are having to assign every hour to class or homework or writing. But soon it will all be over! This time next week I will be laying out on the Caribbean beach, celebrating being done with University and ready to move onto Spanish language school and my internship. Until then: writing and cramming information into my head faster than it can hold it. Yet I am still having one of the greatest experiences I could have hoped for–I get to be a part of great things going on here. It was a blessing to see one of those things today.
Today was an amazing experience. The Global Development class took a trip into the capital, Guatemala City, in the morning to visit Compassion International and a church that is partnering with them to help the children and families who live in the trash heaps of the city. We visited the city dump and got to see the community of people who live and work there, recycling anything they find for pathetic amounts of money (about 30 Quetzals a day, which is only about 5 dollars a day). With this money they have to buy the “clean” water brought in every once in a while by a truck. Here is a picture of the tubs of water that cost about 6 of their Queztals:
I loved seeing h0w the kids of this community are still being kids, playing (even if it is around garbage and in polluted water) and laughing. The church and the people who do development in the community try to emphasize that the kids are not allowed to work, but sometimes they want to help their parents.
I got to chat a lot with the wife of the pastor, who also serves as the main doctor of the medical team that gives services to this community and the homeless around Guatemala City. Her name is Laylah, and she was so happy to answer all the questions I had. It was such a blessing to be able to translate for my other classmates and to talk about complicated issues with Laylah in Spanish. Thankfully my time translating at Agros International in Seattle has taught me pretty useful vocabulary, like human development, maternal health, and governmental support. The program in the trash community has been running for about two years, and Laylah described to me how much progress and improvement she has seen since they first started. She remembers going to the dump and seeing the people wrapping themselves in nylon fabrics and sleeping in the piles of garbage. Now there are dirt paths, less garbage, shanties of metal, and they are starting to put in concrete floors for many of the families to improve health.
So a good way to sum up my time in Guatemala so far? Learning. Sure it’s a fatiguing experience, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I am so blessed to be able to learn in a place like this, and see what I have been studying for years first-hand. Tomorrow? I am going to hike a volcano. No joke. As part of my earth science class, we decided it would be pretty applicable if we got to see actual lava flows. I’ll be sure to take pictures and post as soon as I find a spare moment! Thanks to all who read this horribly long post, and to all of my new SPU readers out there! Many blessings on you all —