Monday, July 30, 2012

Arriba y bajo

Arriba y bajo. Arriba y bajo. 

Up and down, up and down, constantly and with too much bouncing for my bad back. From paved road, to cobblestones to rough dirt to a steep path.  It seemed like an hour, but was likely half that.

 Our trip to visit the ajihados – godchildren or sponsored students – of myself and others in the group of volunteers I have tagged along with, required climbing to Monte Mercedes.  When I asked where it was yesterday, everyone just pointed to the top of the highest mountain around Panajachel. 

Finally we stopped, and parked on the side of the road. My "godchild," Irma Yolanda, a very shy young girl who met us on the side of the road in Monte Mercedez, pointed to a path that dropped  into a ravine. I thought the house might not be too far down, but was certainly glad to be wearing my hiking boots since it was alarmingly steep, snaked down into oblivion, and there would be lots of loose stones underfoot. 

We descended. And descended. And stumbled a bit, for what seemed like several hundred yards – and probably was. Talk about arriba y bajo! All of us, it became clear when we chatted later, were thinking "they have to make this trip every day!" With supplies, and food and sometimes babies strapped to their backs. 

 I tried to keep up with Grandma Lorenza, but she was doing much better than me of course.

Finally we arrived. I did not know what to expect and was relieved that the home was neat and clean, though spare and for the most part empty. 

There had not been many updates to Irma Yolanda's bio since I began sponsoring her last December, so I was looking forward to the inspection. I knew from photos on Picasa that they had received a water filter and food baskets, but  we – myself and Bethany, a sponsor of Irma Yolanda's youngest sibling, who was also along on the visit – were wondering what else they needed. 

The property seemed swept clean and the children were all shy and somewhat embarrassed. But Lorenza was very forthcoming, and was frankly being hit with lots of questions from our interpreter as well as Rachel, our Mayan Families guide, and of course Bethany and I. We knew that the children's mother had died last summer, and she explained that their father worked hard, when there was work, and that the children were still adjusting to the loss of their mother.  The tour that followed revealed that they indeed hadn't hidden anything – what we saw was what they had. 

 I know from photos on the Mayan Families Picasa site, that there are many other families much worse off than ours, but we saw no mattresses and as someone who prizes his own fancy bed back in Connecticut – and misses it badly while traveling in Guatemala – I cannot imagine sleeping on flat boards or the concrete floors of Irma Yolanda's house. There was not a mattress in site.

Although Irma Yolanda will move on to the next level of school, and in the process double the cost of my sponsorship, I explained to her that she shouldn't worry about school. I asked her what she wanted to do someday. She didn't seem to understand, I suppose such dreams are beyond the grasp of someone of her family's means, but finally said she would like to be a teacher.

 Sounds fine to me. I didn't begin sponsoring her with the idea that I could always back out some day. If she wants to be a teacher, and works hard to be one, then I will put it within her grasp.

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