15 marzo 2012 jueves
7:20am – Groping for that small black nuisance, I punched a key on the cell phone to stop its insistent bleeping. Sinking back under my wool blanket, Yes! A few more minutes rest until the next snooze alarm. A light pattering on my tile roof. Rain! Drats! This is “verano” or summer until April, so the wet stuff is supposed to wait its turn in May! Well, the rain will at least pound the dust into submission. I am still adapting to the seasons of 6 mos dry followed by 6 mos of rain. A quick breakfast of powdered milk mixed into my purified water, with chocolate and regular corn flakes. Sounds desperate but I do splurge other days with omelettes, French toast, or pancakes…corn flakes are the fallback.
8:00am– Pulling the metal door shut, I head off from my adobe house on the paved street to the muni (City Hall). Two schoolchildren in uniforms trot by huddled under a large plastic bag to stay dry. “Adios” I call to them…the typical greeting to children. Inside the muni I shake hands and kiss cheeks of fellow workers, because no matter how hurried is someone, it is considered extremely bad manners to forego the greetings. After greeting Sonia, the coordinator for the Municipal Women’s Office I ask, “tenemos transporte hasta Paxboch? ¿A qué hora vamos a salir?” Yes, we’ve got transportation and she proudly states that she has prepared the charla (talk) for our women’s group…topic today: The rights of indigenous women. My task will be to encourage interaction and dialogue, still a difficult process for Sonia.
8:40am– We climb into the rickety muni pickup, and the city councilman reassures us that it has been repaired. Weeks ago was our last trip in this vehicle when the brakes were failing, and the driver could only use the emergency brake. A few days later the brakes entirely failed and the driver ended up plowing into a field, thankfully unhurt. As I prayed silently our scary day, I stated “Vine aquí para servir pero no para morir.” I came here to serve, not to die. Don Guzman is correct…the pickup seems fine (for now). Thumping along on the dirt road, up and down hills, we pull into the village of Paxboch. Women in colorful Mayan traje are milling about, and the greetings and kissing begin.
9:30am– Enough waiting for the late-comers. Doña Marta, petite with a contagious smile, delivers the bienvenida in K’iche’…I understand some. Stepping forward, I lead a dinamica (activity) asking the women to complete the sentence, “Las mujeres indigenas son…” (Indigenous women are…) Shyly they volunteer: “responsables”, “trabajadoras”, “madrugadoras” (get up at dawn), bonitas. I add “lideresas” (leaders). Sadly their COCODE (Consejo Comunitario de Desarollo) or community council is not meeting monthly as it should….most likely due to lack of knowledge by the new members. However, the women are losing out on the main avenue to propose projects to be funded by the municipality…in our last meeting they boldly spoke up for improvements to their modest adobe homes…wanting cement floors (currently dirt) and planchas (firewood stoves with a metal cooking surface). Sigh. Along with every other needy family in our villages. Yet, I am pleased that they are emboldened to speak up. It’s up to Sonia and myself to encourage their initiative!
11:00am– Wrapping up our charla…I raffle off 2 baking pans that I purchased in Antigua last weekend. Baking pans are not sold in our town however baking interest has soared. Sweet treats of carrot cake have been springing up in village kitchens as we have taught women how to bake on the stovetop. Vapor cooking with the baking pan inside a large pot is slow but effective. Time to head back to the centro. Several women clamber into the pickup, and a dust cloud erupts behind us.
11:40am– Don Guzman carefully wedges the pickup into a space in front of the municipal teatro….a bright orange stuccoed building with storefronts on the ground floor and a large meeting room/theatre on the 2nd floor. Hmmm…people are milling about and chatting in the muni. I hear muttered, “No hay luz”. There’s no electricity. Seems to be happening more lately. Fredy, the planning director, notices me firing up my laptop and seeks a few minutes to check his email…fine. Heading home for lunch, I am thankful to have a gas stove in addition to my electric burner, so I reheat my omelette and hash browns.
2:15pm– Electricity! The hum of computers returns. Sonia and I fill in the dates in our planners…she implores me to come with her to some villages, but I am standing firm to work with only 4-5 groups. A girls’ group and library improvement project also claim my time. April is fast filling up…with a smile, I request a piñata for my April 16th birthday.
4:30pm-Telma, the library committee secretary, and I enter BanRural to deposit funds. THANK YOU to my generous friends for those 5,200 quetzales (approx $700) to purchase 8 refurbished computers for our municipal library!! Oh happy day!!…and later in the evening I excitedly email the request to the NGO, Computadoras para Guatemala. Pausing at my home, Telma pleas for my support to the elementary school in Patulup where she teaches, asking me for weekly English classes for the 40 students in grades 4-6. Gulp. I appreciate her earnest promise that the staff are committed, yet I beg for time to consider her request. Organizing and giving workshops to women’s groups has captured my time, so I tell her that I cannot commit to weekly classes…it is rewarding to have others requesting my help, but I must be realistic in my commitments.
5:30pm– Bathing clothes packed, I head to our hotsprings 2km from my home, yes, a relaxing bath is what I need… “goodbye” hovers in the air from kids who are practicing their few words of English. “Bye bye” I reply as I head up the hill. Plopping down 1 quetzal ($0.15) I am reminded how spoiled I am by this cheap luxury, and head to change into my shorts and T-shirt. Normally I just bathe, but the swimming pool calls me to test the water…Yay! It is warm, recently filled up with the thermal water, and it tempts me to slip into it depths. Some visitors from Momostenango, the neighboring town, are very curious…Do I swim? Where is home in the USA? What can I say in K’iche’? I respond and then paddle off for exercise. Some young boys dive in and resurface like seals. Curious, they ask me how I can swim on my back…and after giving a brief demonstration they successfully copy me. I hurry over to the public bath and sit on the low concrete wall to scrub up. Dipping my plastic bowl into the shallow concrete bath, I splash the warm water over my soapy body…everyone is lost in thought tonight. No conversation, just bathing. Dip and pour, dip and pour…this ritual becomes hypnotic, and only the darkening sky indicates that it’s time to stop. Happiness is the feeling of relaxation after the baños and a baggie filled with hot French fries!!,
7:00pm– Leftover Tortilla soup warms on my electric burner and I run down the street to purchase ½ lb of “queso de campo” or a soft cheese wrapped in corn husks (Q7 or $1). My basic needs are met within 2-4 blocks from my home. Driving? I really don’t miss that time and energy expenditure…I am happy with my low carbon footprint life here in Guatemala. Hmm. Dirty dishes shame me into carrying them to my outside pila for washing. The stars have hidden behind clouds, but I can look across the valley to the flickering yellow street lights of Chotzague, a neighboring village to the centro, a magical sight. Last night I was also treated to a dance of fireflies.
8:30-11pm-Connecting with the world through the internet…the umbilical cord with fellow volunteers and friends back home. Priceless. Now time to set the alarm again on my celular and ease into dreamland. Thanks for journeying along with me today….although miles separate us, be assured that people here in Guatemala may outwardly appear different but in the end, we all seek happiness, love from family and friends, and fulfillment with each waking day. I am so very fortunate to work with these proud and brave women living in adobe houses!!