I woke up yesterday in Antigua, not fully able to comprehend that, that day in fact, was my last day in Guatemala. It was not unlike many mornings spent there, scrambling to gather what I needed for visiting families in remote corners of the country. Raingear, camera, pen, paper, water, snacks and small bills for various bus rides. It was different, in that, I had a friend with me, Brittn, and we were going to help with the construction of a home I had found funding to build. I knew the materials had arrived and the construction had begun a day or two prior. To make it real, I had to go and see the family smile one last time and touch the block that would become their home. It just seemed a bit surreal to think that a home was actually being built by the effort I had made to see a project through.
We stepped outside our hotel at a quarter to seven and were greeted by the most awe inspiring rainbow cradling the town of Antigua in the early morning light. I flashed back to hearing the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” a couple of weeks prior and was immediately reminded how important it is to always keep searching and seeking, no matter where you are. The rainbow stayed with us as we walked to the bus stop and then just vanished. I knew it was going to be a wonderful day.
The first bus deposited us in Chimaltenango, a bustling transport hub that is gritty, chaotic, and 100% Guatemalan. I had it in my mind to have one last good, cheap, typical Guatemalan breakfast before my departure and we found just the right eatery. After checking that off the list, we boarded bus number two and let our food digest as our eyes feasted on the impressive spectrum of green that those hills and mountains produce in the form of corn, beans, cabbage, and other crops. Interrupted by swaths of dense pine forest and deep ravines, each curve left me buzzing with anticipation of what was to come. On a visual level, the mountains and farms surrounding Tecpan and Chimal are my favorite area in all of Guatemala. I spent hours and hours traversing this area making house visits and fell in love with the beauty from the back of the motorbike. It only made sense that somehow, serendipity had led me to this area I now loved, to make a deposit of kindness to a wonderful family, almost lost in one of its many pockets.
We arrived to Patzun to take bus number three, which runs twice a week, on market days. As we sat on the corner in Patzun, waiting for the bus, people stared (as they often do and why can be summed up in one word: BLONDE) and some stopped to talk. The bus grunted up to us and the driver seemed pretty certain we didn’t want on his bus but let us on after we muttered the name of a community on his route. It was the first time I had gotten on a chicken bus in Guatemala with only women (except the driver). Their clothing was beautiful and glancing from one person to the next was like looking into a kaleidoscope. The women chatted in their native language after a morning at the market. The moment was special and half an hour later, we found ourselves at the church close to the family’s home.
We walked a few minutes and were greeted by huge stacks of concrete blocks. By the grin on my face, you would have thought we were old friends. I don’t think a person could be happier to see some blocks. The supplies were at the top of the hill so we wandered down to the site of the new house and found Josue (the owner of the home) and the mason hard at work, surrounded by more blocks, cement piles and other supplies. In that moment, it was real. The house was being built.
Over the course of the day, Brittn and I moved over 100 blocks (yep, I counted) down a slippery, slightly treacherous, newly made path in the hillside. On our breaks, we ate freshly prepared chicken soup and tortillas, played with the kids, and learned of the struggles and perseverance of this family. I talked to Josue about the education of his children and what he saw in their future. He barely reads but clearly sees the benefit of education and spoke very intelligently about wanting his children to have opportunities he or his wife never had. His eldest child is eleven and has two more years in the local school. After that (if not before) most children in the countryside stop attending because of cost and the fact that they need to work to supplement the family income. My hope is to maintain a friendship with this family and contribute to making continued education for the children a reality that will improve their quality of life.
|block moving=good workout|
These kids are sharp, talkative, creative, and funny. They have a mother and father who love them, show them affection, and are accepting of their children having more education than they do. In the countryside of Guatemala, rarely have I see the combination of those things in one family. There is something really special about this family and we are all certain that our paths crossed for all the right reasons.
In the final fifteen minutes that I sat with the whole family in their old house, Josue and his wife, Hilda, showered me their blessing and thanks. Blessings for my family and friends. Blessings on my upcoming journey. Blessings that I will easily find work. Blessings that I will return to see them. Thanks for giving them hope. Thanks for being someone that cared. Thanks for making a positive change in their life. In all their blessings and thanks, they spoke of God. For me that is just fine because after my time in Guatemala, I know that God is hope, no matter who your God is. As I gathered my things to leave, Josue told me that I have a home in Guatemala and the door will always be open. I can’t imagine anything better than one day walking through the door to their new home. It will happen. I just don’t know when.
|Josue, building his home|
The first two rows of block have been laid for the foundation and the house should be completed in two weeks. Brittn will be returning in a month or so to see the family in their new home and give an update with photos. I appreciate her willingness to get involved and am grateful to have been able to share something so special with someone I find to be such buena onda.
|Brittn and I (taken by Dani)|
|some of the blocks we moved and the view from the new house|
|Dani "the champion of the world"|