04 Jun The best things in life throw themselves at you.
Our ragtag group has become family rather quickly. Within days of knowing each other beds have been pushed together, reunion trips have been planned and there are no boundaries during dinner talk (for better or for worse.) It seems that we all stumbled upon OG by chance, solidifying my theory that the best things in life throw themselves at you.
After a day of trekking through the rain, we found warmth in the home of a stranger in a town called Xitinimit (pronounced “Shit-in-a-mit”. Fact.) We hung our clothes from the rafters to dry and a woman came bringing us blankets. As she handed us her blankets we tried to thank her only to realize she didn’t speak Spanish, but rather Quiche. After asking our trip leader how to thank her in her own language, we all made a sloppy first attempt at speaking Quiche by saying “Mandioch” or thank you.
This family has opened their home to complete strangers. Strangers who get into giant “cuddle puddles” and massage trains… They’ve hung clotheslines above the fire to dry our rain soaked clothes for the next day’s travel. They have cooked us fantastic meals and countless handmade tortillas. How can you thank someone for all this, for such complete generosity and kindness, even when you do speak their language? This has become a sort of reoccurring question during my short stay in Guatemala so far. Every home stay family, every coffee farmer, every teacher… They’ve all shown us such warmth and openness, yet an ugly accented “gracias” and a smile will have to do.
Week two of our Guatemalan adventure is encroaching and it’s already hard to keep track of all that’s went down so We’ve tilled coffee fields along the sides of volcanoes, helped load firewood for farmers and planted 400 trees in rain and mud to reforest a riverbank. We’ve taken Spanish lessons at Escuela La Paz, explored Xela, trekked through far. cloud forests and watched our trip leader herd cows up a mountain pass. We’ve discussed the complexities of fair trade, Guatemalan politics and mining. Our first chicken bus experience involved an impromptu balloon-animal showdown between a clown and one of our trip leaders. We’ve woken up to the sound of a woman slapping tortillas, to dogs howling and to church bells ringing. We’ve learned how to salsa and made no-shower pacts. We’ve met with the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala and learned that traveling by pickup truck is the only way to travel.
There are many projects ahead of us. Many more people to meet and stories to be heard, yet one thing that’s become clear is that we have so much more to learn and so much more to thank the Guatemalans we meet and work with than the other way around.
I find myself asking the same question over and over again… Why are we here? Early on in this trip I would have answered something like “To learn about Guatemala and help the people there.” After only a short while in Guatemala it’s become apparent that whatever help we physically do here in Guatemala isn’t that significant. The people here don’t need our help, they can till a field better than we can. We don’t have the power to change their way of life or the right to decide what’s best for them. To me, the value of this six-week adventure lies in the opportunities to work with the Guatemalan people, to listen and share stories with them and to hold their stories with us after this whirlwind of a trip is over.
Our sleeping bags are heaped in a giant mass in the middle of the floor as we grasp at the last few hours of warmth before heading back into the misty highlands. Over the sound of snores, I can hear a woman who only speaks Quiche cleaning in the kitchen. There are reasons for our language barrier, reasons which can be traced back to economics and social norms, reasons which can be explained in another blog. We need not make assumptions about the woman’s circumstance, but strive to thank her for the kindness and
generosity she’s shown to this group of strangers. Learn from it. She’s hung a clothesline above the stove to dry our clothes and all I can say is Maltiox.
( That’s Thank you, in Mayan Achi)
Blog by Cady, Guatemala Fair Trade
Photos a la Emmy Swisher