Guatemala, Day 3 – The Worksite

A recap of my experience traveling to Guatemala on a philanthropic expedition with CHOICE Humanitarian. Click Here for Day 1 and here for Day 2. The following is my journal entry from Day 3.

19 August 2013 – Morning notes

I woke to the most fantastic sounds this morning–a dozen different chirping birds, crickets in the trees, a gobbling turkey wandering across the field outside the school where we slept, a rooster doodling outside our “room” (although truth be told, I’d like to simultaneously strangle and kiss that rooster).

My back was killing me, but I got up anyway (that cement floor is HARD! even with a mat!). And again, I was amazed that I am here. I have a feeling I’m going to be saying that every day.

The grass in the field was dewy and lightly lit by the rising sun coming up between the trees and the mountains. I took a few pictures, then sat down to read my scriptures with Emilia. Emilia is Marta’s mother, and Marta is the wife of Jorge, the in-country director for CHOICE. She’s got to be in her 70s or 80s and is an absolute doll. She has the best laugh.

Emilia

By the time we had finished reading, John, Becca, and Jorge Jr. had joined us. It’s kind of fun to be on this expedition coincidentally with so many members of my faith as CHOICE isn’t an LDS-specific organization. But there’s a special bond, an immediate connection, when you meet/find another Latter-day Saint. Your hearts are immediately drawn close by an understanding of, and a love for, our mutual faith.

19 August 2013 – Evening notes

What a day today has been. After breakfast (tortillas, beans, eggs), we went to the worksite. We all had shovels and pics to begin digging the foundation for the water tank. The men in our group really went at it. I was tired before we even started. The hike to the worksite was pretty strenuous–uphill and really muddy/slick–albeit incredibly beautiful through the jungle.

We passed some of the villagers’ homes on the way. They’re humble and clean, despite the dirt floors. They all had open doorways and clothes hanging from lines in the “yard.” A number of homes had incredibly beautiful gardens.

We had worked all morning, 8:00 to noon, digging out the foundation, when the inspector came (who knew they had inspectors out here?). Aaaand, he told us we’d been digging in the wrong spot. The villagers had selected the location and had cleared the brush before we came, but apparently it was too close to the old water tank (which had been contaminated, hence the need for a new one) and needed to be higher up. This was really disheartening, to say the least. We were all exhausted and drenched in sweat.

Jorge felt really bad–nothing like this had ever happened on an expedition before–and the villagers worried we would just adios the whole thing. But we just shrugged our shoulders and went to find a new suitable site. What can you do? Get back to work, that’s what. Once we found a good place, the men pulled out their machetes and began clearing the land as we were now really starting from scratch.

It was at this point, however, that I began to feel really sick. My head was pounding and I was shaky and feeling nauseated. I’d been guzzling water all day, but apparently not enough. I knew I was dehydrated. We went back to the school for lunch (tortillas, vegetables, noodles and meat–I really could’ve gone for a salad), and then everyone went back to the site.

I was getting worse so I stayed behind and rested. I was in and out of sleep, head pounding, super lethargic, and not getting better, despite the glasses and glasses and bottles and bottles of water. Within a few hours I began to cry. I was feeling horrible and could not see myself getting better so I found Mitch (our group leader and another member of my Church), and he and John gave me a blessing of healing, which gave me a lot of peace mentally and spiritually, but physically I was still feeling awful.

Around dinnertime, I got even worse and eventually, I began to vomit. It was awful and violent. There I was, bent over in the dirt behind the aqua school house, trying to keep my spewing away from the dogs and the chickens (and the people), when sweet Emilia ran to me and gathered my head in her hands–one hand on my forehead, one hand on the back of my neck–as I heaved on my knees. The love and healing and tenderness poured out of her hands and into me. She is an angel.

I began to feel a little better after that. Marta made me some root/herb tea. I’d never tasted anything like it before, but it calmed my stomach and I was able to rest. Amy, another expeditioner, had some electrolytes which also helped a ton and by bedtime, I was feeling much better. I’m still a bit woozy in my head, even as I lay here and try to write, but I know the Lord has blessed me. I will be okay.

Things I don’t want to forget about today:

  1. holding hands with the children–Rigoberto y Moises–on the way back to camp
  2. having the kids learn my name and yelling it every time I walked past: “Kreeesta!”
  3. the fireflies in the mountains at night
  4. the sound of the rain on our tin roof as the generator and lights are turned off
  5. little Melvin (age 6) climbing barefoot up the hill with a log on his head, followed by his padre, and then his abuelo. It broke my heart, but that’s how they get the firewood to the top.
  6. French-braiding Karmen and Norma’s hair
  7. tiny little Walter sitting beside me to look at the pictures on my camera, stroking his hand back and forth along my leg. And Norma resting her head on my shoulder. And Karmen wrapping her arms around my neck. As we just sat.

It’s been a really difficult, uncomfortable day. Yet, I still feel so happy. It’s surreal to be experiencing this place, in this extraordinary way.

Please Father, help me heal so I can help more tomorrow. I love these kids and their families and am so grateful to be here. And thank you for the healing hands of Emilia, Mitch, and John. Please bless them.

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