July 2012- Guatemala Day 5

I woke up from either Denise or Melissa tapping my shoulder. I had been in the middle of a dream that consisted of stoves, fire, the FBI, and a Nikita’s Division sort of operation. We started off the day with a hike up one of the neighboring mountains. Naturally, the group set off at different paces up the hill. I tried to stick with Evan and Grey however the altitude was hard to adjust to. The three of us made it to the top with a less-than-triumphant feeling because of the lack of a great summit. The best view had actually been farther down the mountain. We soon heard Melissa calling out our names. She was afraid that we were lost and went looking for us. In her McGiver-like thinking she placed her water bottle on the ground in order to mark her path. She eventually caught up with us and we began out way back down the mountain in a completely different way than we had gone up it. Because of this, she lost her water bottle, but we didn’t feel all that bad about it. After arriving back in the kitchen at 7:08am we ate a breakfast of eggs, fried plantains, beans, and tortillas. People always complain about the tortillas, but I never thought they were too bad. We made the hike over to Chikix and began working on a new stove. Our family consisted of 9 kids, wow. The man of the house had gold teeth, some of which had stars on them. He was very talkative, asking us about our sports we played and such. I understood most of what he was asking kayla. After she explained what she was studying in school he began to ask about President Barack Obama. With the help of Denise and Glen we finished our stove around 1:00. I remember being thankful they had stopped by because Kayla was extra spacey that day. When we went back to the village we had quiet time– it wasn’t designated or anything, people were just quiet. Naturally, I was bored. I went around and took a roll of film. Later that evening “Ama” came to the village with merchandise for us to purchase.

“AMA is an organization of Maya women developing new strategies of survival in the face of rapid social, economic and cultural change. We organize ourselves in mutual support networks, which provide opportunities to create a brighter future for ourselves, our families and our communities.”

I bought a bag, and kayla bought a shirt. While we were waiting for others to finish purchasing Evan, Grey, Kayla and I began playing soccer with the kids. They were much better than us. A time sensitive “next goal wins” ultimatum inspired them to show off and slam a goal right passed us across the goal line. We left and made our way back to Chikix for the ceremony put on by the villagers. All of the families we had helped walked us into a well built house with a floor covered in pine needles. The smell was somewhat overwhelming but also refreshing. There were balloons along the ceiling with tables and chairs set up along the walls. We sat down at the tables while the villagers piled in and sat on the floor. A select few women stood up and shared their gratitude. Caty translated from Chichex into Spanish while Lupe then relayed it into English. This was the moment when I was sure that we had made a difference in these people’s lives. I will never forget some of the things that the women said–

“Now I will not be having to cry while I cook.”

“I will now be able to see while I cook.”

“My baby will no longer have red eyes and a bad cough.”

Along with the elaborate set-up, their finest outfits, and the great food we could tell how much we meant to them because of the genuineness in their eyes. The thank-yous were followed by dances. A few ladies began their traditional dance which seemed to consist of alternating raising each knee, nothing more. All of a sudden one of the ladies came up and grabbed Kayla– she wanted her to dance with her. Then they picked Grey, followed by me. The Guatemalans were just cracking up at our dancing skills, not to mention the height differences. To make it even better the shortest (and probably oldest) lady came to get Evan up and dancing. He had to have been at least twice as tall as this lady. We were all laughing and I began to fell an intense connection with these people. There were not any other thoughts or worries spinning throughout my mind– I was truly in the moment. This blissful feeling soon parted because the song seemed to have lasted for about 8 minutes. Despite the non-strenuousness of the dance, we all started looking around at each other wondering when it would end. After we all filed back into our chairs there were a few more performances– my favorite of which was by the two girls we had played catch with. They dressed up in jeans and t-shirts and wore backwards baseball caps (most obviously impersonating Kayla and I.) The best part was they danced to a hip-hop song. Not only was it hilarious, it was impressively choreographed with lots of booty-shaking. As the night went on the families then presented us with gifts. Some were cooler and more substantial than others however that was irrelevant to the meaning of the gifts. Kayla and I each received a bag and a tapestry/wrap. It was a very emotional event that consisted of a lot of thanking and hugging. After we ate we took pictures with the family. Most of the families wanted pictures with Kayla and I, mostly because of the connection they were able to make with her due to her Spanish. Our busy day left us with little energy after arriving back in Chuicatama. The church was going strong with loud music and talking. We all fell asleep within minutes.

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