From the Field: Ten Gringos in Guatemala [Day 2]

Down a dirt road, across from the soccer field, and just beyond the riverbed, ten gringos were dropped in rural Guatemala.

That’s how the day started.

Today was the second day of the Learning Journey and it was packed full with cultural experiences and heart warming exchanges. You know that feeling you have when you’re completely exhausted, but you go back for more? Today was something like that.  We started with the children, got a lesson in traditional weaving, shared tamales, were read a Mayan calendar, and still found time to forge some new friendships. We were strangers, family, artists, adventures, readers, and onlookers all at once. It’s no small feat wearing so many hats. Here’s to us for having done so and on behalf of the group I’d like to thank Guatemala for giving us the challenge.

In the earliest moments of mornings, after bountiful cups of coffee and delicious croissants we wound our way up the mountain only to find ourselves arm in arm and side by side with some of this country’s most adorable children. Their hair was parted and their braids fresh for the occasion.  After song and dance we did what we Reading Village does best – we cracked open some books and turned a few pages. And, wow. It is always inspiring to hear the shy voice of young child who can’t barely afford shoes read fluently in Spanish – not even his first language. Watching from behind the lens, I think I saw hearts swell in that moment.

Next stop was the weaver. The mother of one of our scholars runs a very successful weaving cooperative of women whose families have been unjustly transformed by the all to recent civil war. In an intimate and rare opportunity, she opened her home, introduced her family, and shared her work. And as she did, I could see jaws hit the floor. The colors of threads, the attention to detail, the back-breaking labor, and inspired designs were amazing. The intricacy of this art form that literally paints this country in colors was humbling to see first hand. Days, weeks, and months go into the products that we buy for mere pennies. Heirloom pieces are passed on through generations and the skill moves from mother to daughter. No matter how many power lines go up or how many cell phones start to ring, knees to the floor and hands on the thread these women keep on weaving.

After a lunch of incredible homemade tamales, our last stop of the day was at the home of a scholar’s uncle who so happened to be the local spiritual guide. Healing, foreseeing, and protecting he offered an intimate glimpse inside the work of a Mayan leader. Inside a smoky room and in front of a cluttered altar, he walked the line of uncle and guide as we tiptoed from one language to the next. In a matter of minutes the room became aware of just how deep our work is felt by these people, “Your organization,” he shared, “was born on a very good day.” Simple words that fell softly over the space.

And then as quickly as the day had begun, we shared hugs with the scholars and walked away. We wished each other well, and held in our hearts the hope that we would cross paths again as stronger, better versions of ourselves for having known each other at all. I have to believe that when homes are opened and heartfelt words shared, worlds change.

Until later,

Kassia (Your camera-slinging, friendship forging Director of Communications)

Category: From the Field