Buenos Dias from Guatemala!
The other day we piled into the back of two trucks and headed up a twisty, rough, crazy road to Palacal. We passed through a few towns during the hour long drive—this has probably been the most eye-opening experience of the trip for me so far. All of the people, both adults and children, greeted us as we drove by. We waved and shouted “hola!” and tried to take pictures of the smiling children. I have never felt so welcomed in my life.
A couple of days ago we had the opportunity to see the Clinica Maxena. The differences between healthcare in the U.S. and Guatemala are staggering. At the clinic, we met a woman in her 80’s who had compound fractured her femur two months ago. She had no family to help her so she had been staying at the clinic. This week she was able to try walking again—for the first time in two months! Despite all of this, the woman was smiling and waving at us from her bed—this ultra enthusiastic wave involved her entire arm, not just her hand and wrist!!! However, only a few minutes later we saw a woman who was at the clinic with her malnourished baby. She didn’t smile and didn’t make eye contact. It broke my heart to finally witness the pain and sadness so many Guatemalans are experiencing.
Yesterday we spent the day at La Asuncion, the Catholic school started by Father Hazelton. As soon as we jumped out of the trucks we were greeted with smiles and hugs from the students. We spent the day touring the school and attempting to interact with the students and teachers in Spanish. Of course while we were trying to improve our Spanish, the students were trying to practice their English (I found myself answering their questions in Spanish, even though they had asked me in English!) Although the entire day was filled with special moments to remember, my favorite was playing basketball with the students. At first we played a U.S. versus Guatemala game, but then we decided to mix up both teams. Since we really had no easy way of distinguishing our own team from the other, we were forced to really learn each other’s names and faces. My Guatemalan teammates were Feliciano, Frederico, Maria, and Gloria. It was incredible to feel the connection with the Asuncion students, despite the very obvious language barrier. We passed to one another, cheered, and congratulated.
To end on a funny note, I gotta tell a story about my sad attempt to communicate in Spanish. Before mass, a 15 year-old boy started talking to me. It had started to rain and we were talking about how beautiful it is in Guatemala when it rains. I was trying to say it is more beautiful than the U.S. I used the word “meyor,” which means older instead of the word “mejor” which means better. Oops. After realizing that this made absolutely no sense, I tried to tell the boy that I was trying my best to speak in Spanish. I said, “Estoy tragando!!” (I’m trying). The boy kindly informed me that the correct verb is “tratar” and not “tragar” because tragar means swallow. So I basically said “I’m swallowing” instead of “I’m trying.” Oops again!!! I will never forget the boy’s confused face. We got a pretty good laugh out of this and continued teaching each other Spanish and English.
By the way, banana spiders are huge.