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Guatemala, Day 4 – Teaching in the Schoolhouse & A Discothèque

A recap of my experience traveling to Guatemala on a philanthropic expedition with CHOICE Humanitarian. Click Here for Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. The following is my journal entry from Day 4.

20 August 2013 – Morning notes

I’m feeling better! Although I wanted to kill that damn rooster this morning. He started crowing around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. when it was still dark. Aren’t roosters supposed to wait till the sun comes up? I think we have a defective rooster in this village. And that was only a few hours after I’d finally fallen back to sleep after having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I wasn’t scared to go by myself, even in the dark jungle, so I grabbed my headlamp, slid on my sandals, and trudged across the field to the latrine (thank the Lord in heaven above that we have a latrine, albeit a smelly one filled with roaches and spiders and other crawly things. While I’m seriously over the outdoor “plumbing” here, I’m really grateful it’s not just a hole in the ground.).

After I finished, I started to make my way back across the field when two eyes caught the light from my headlamp. A dog (oh crap). He started barking like he was going to devour me. I tried to stay calm and walk quietly back to the school, but man, he was wailing. I began to have visions of being torn to pieces by wild dogs. They’d even eat my bones, I was certain of it. No one would find me. No one would even know what had happened to me. This was it. The end.

I flashed my light back his direction to see if he was getting closer and saw another set of eyes. Awesome. Now there were two ravenous dogs barking, ready to pounce and me, alone, in the pitch black. That’s when I started running.

Thankfully, I made it back to the school without being torn limb from limb, but I’d accidentally left the gate open and another dog (a scrawny one) had come in and wouldn’t leave. So here I was, chasing this dog out from under chairs and tables, trying to keep him away from people sleeping in the classrooms (we have no doors on our sleeping quarters), all while under the influence of two Ambien (Yes. Two. What? I wanted a good night’s sleep.). I was running into walls, tripping over my feet, trying not to wake anyone up and get that stupid dog out. It was hilarious sight, I’m sure.

Eventually, I got him cornered and out, shut the gate and walked (wobbly/crookedly) back to my deflated air mattress. This place sure is a world turned upside-down. But I’m excited to see what the day brings.

20 August 2013 – Evening notes

I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime today.

After breakfast (eggs, toast, papaya, y fried bananas) everyone went to the worksite. Though I felt inordinately better, I still had a headache waiting on the edge of consciousness so I stayed behind. I didn’t want to just sit around though, so I went to the school. El maestro invited me in and asked if I would teach some English.

I didn’t even need to think twice. I went straight to the board and dove in with “My name is…” and “How are you?” We also learned the days of the week, months, rooms in a house, and animals.

That’s me being a mono (monkey). haha I’m an idiot.

I wish I could explain how incredible this was. I was speaking in English and Spanish and teaching in both. And in fact, my Spanish is much better than I thought. I felt excited, enthusiastic, alive. And they were on the edge of their seats, writing every word, repeating after me, answering questions–so eager to learn. It felt like I was exactly where I needed to be, doing exactly what I needed to be doing right then. And honestly, I feel like could do that for the rest of my life. Like maybe someday, I’ll just leave everything and travel the world, teaching. Maybe. I just felt so happy, more happy than I’ve felt in a while. I needed that. My heart needed that.

After teaching, we had lunch (fish, boiled potatoes, vegetables, y tortillas) and then it began to rain so we were stuck at the school for a bit. When it finally let up, I went to the clinic, by way of Raul and Maria’s house. Maria had a baby seven days ago. They were so gracious to let us in and see the baby. He was precious. Maria had had him in their home with the help of a midwife after five hours of labor. We learned that she and the baby stay in the house for 40 days after the birth, at which time, they will then bring the baby out and name him.

Raul and Maria have the nicest house in the village. Raul worked for five years in Guatemala City to earn $3,000 to pay for the home. When he was going to school, he would get up at 5:00 a.m. and walk four hours to school, stay at school until 1:00 and then walk the four hours back home. He said it’s different now though–students only have to walk 45 minutes to catch a bus.

After visiting with Raul and Maria, I went up to see the progress on the worksite. The team has really worked so hard. It’s amazing what they can do, especially when using the makeshift tools provided by the village. That’s one criteria for CHOICE projects–it’s the village that comes up with the need, the plan, the tools, etc. We are there only to assist. It’s about creating a culture of self-reliance, not charity. (But my goodness it would be so much easier if we could just get a backhoe in there.)

After a bit, I went to the clinic, where the dentist (who services all the villages in the area) had come to pull a tooth and Dr. Ambrose was visiting with patients. I got to accompany him on one visit. A young mother with three children has had pain, discharge, and occasional blood when urinating for the last three years. Dr. Ambrose examined her and all she had was a yeast infection. For three years! I can’t even imagine having a yeast infection for three years. My heart broke for her. He gave her a box of medicine (a box of medicine we can buy over the counter and with which we can heal ourselves in seven days) and she was on her way. The things we take for granted.

After the clinic, we went back to camp and had dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, rolls, y peach empanadas). We were all just hanging out, talking. This is usually when the villagers come to watch us. Well tonight, John hooked up some music to the generator and we had a bit of a discothèque in the muddy field. SO. MUCH. FUN!–all of us Americans dancing (looking like idiots really), trying to get the villagers to dance with us.

The kids loved it, though many of them were too shy. They copied everything we did. Allison even got one of the village elders to join her; I’m pretty sure he’s also the oldest man in the village. It was hilarious and everyone in the village cheered wildly as he danced to “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” The leaders of the village even decided to leave the generator running an extra hour because everyone was having so much fun.

At one point, I looked up and, no lie, the clouds parted to show a full moon. I looked around me–all of us dancing Americans and Guatemalans and I really needed to pinch myself. Am I really here? Am I really doing this? It’s amazing.


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