Grade 10 Guatemala Trip Update – Day 3

Day 3: March 6, 2018
Once again I slept very well – this exhaustion thing really has its benefits.  The kids did not all sleep as well… I will get to why momentarily.  As I am now awake and at the peak of my energy (it is 11:40 a.m. as I start to write), I am going, as promised, back to yesterday.  So after our afternoon arrival and incredible tour by Greg we settled into our rooms for an hour break.  The girls are nine – shared in two connecting rooms with most girls in one room – all in one building. The five boys are together in one room – this is very much bunk house style and us staff are in the same building. Suffice to say noise travels in the still and quiet air far from the city. 

Dinner was in our communal hall – maybe 20 meters from the sleeping buildings – this building also houses the toilets and showers (we are allowed one 5 minute shower per afternoon). We had delicious and fresh frittatas – all made with fresh vegetables and eggs raised at Somos (they have 45 chickens and they like lettuce – who knew?). Then Greg gave us a slide presentation and orientation – it truly is remarkable to see that this land was nothing but 7 years ago and now it is a thriving collection of buildings serving not only the women and their families it was built to serve, but the many locals that work at Somos.  Greg’s talk was very interesting… but… he mentioned and showed a photo of a scorpion (not deadly just painful like a wasp sting), which do live in the area. Suggesting students shake out clothing, bedding and shoes… and apparently there are some venomous snakes in the area.  Once mentioned there were no ‘backsies’ and even though Greg mentioned these were both rare and not to worry… did I mention some of the kids did not sleep well? 
So even with little sleep in some cases, the students again arrived on time for the 7:30 a.m. oatmeal breakfast that included lots of fresh fruit (for those of you who are concerned for my well-being, Rabbi Berger bought a small box of Froot Loops which I am saving in case of desperate times – such as the serving of Israeli Salad). Just after 8 a.m. the kids were organized into work groups and I walked with Esther for a couple of hours checking on their work, then I retreated to my laptop as Esther joined the fray. Rabbi drove with Greg into town to work on getting us some more food supplies and equipment.
So here is how it works.  We (and by that I mean everyone else – my old back is sadly far past is expiration date) will work from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from  1 p.m. to 5 p.m. People will work in different areas as they choose or so as to rotate people to try different things. This morning there were four assignments. One assignment will always include the kitchen and community hall, one was agriculture, one was preparing a new house for a new family as well as working with the local children on English and the last involved making cement and plastering walls for a new washroom building at the playground. In total we expect six shifts – two today, two tomorrow and two on Friday. Thursday is a special day and we will go see some local Mayan ruins, a local market and then work with children as on this day they open up the village to the local area children too as a playground is not something one finds in this region. To keep you in our rhythm the bell has just sounded, it is 12 p.m. and lunch is upon us. Kids are arriving – here are some quotes: "so fun plastering…it was good and hard", "fantastic, can’t wait to do it the afternoon", "kids were fun to play with", "really good, a lot of work and very rewarding – inspiring to work with the local Mayans – they work so hard". 

Working to keep the community hall clean..

Entertaining the children and learning a little Spanish!

Gardening is hard work!

After a wonderful lunch of carrot soup with lots of other salad things – including a very popular quinoa salad (remember everything is made and grown here) the exhausted students just talked with themselves and the six young children who ate with us. It is quite interesting as they have one or two kids sit with a group of students and not with their mothers. The kids actually eat better with visitors – it is all part of educating the mothers who, as mentioned yesterday, have been subject to abuse and are often illiterate and from very impoverished conditions. Somos works hard to change this vicious cycle and to provide a way out.

I neglected to mention that I took all the phones this morning so kids could focus on their experience here – not a single complaint was heard and at lunch not a single student asked to use their phone. As I walked around I heard students talking with each other and their Mayan hosts trying to learn Spanish. It has been a simply gorgeous day – very warm and with a gentle breeze. We know that from last night that once the sun disappears it is very cool so it is good we brought sweatshirts and layers (still wondering about rain coats…).

After work today there was joy through 5-minute shower times. Snacks and games were also in order prior to our wonderful dinner of hot tortillas with black beans and a variety of salads with fresh guacamole – and my favourite – extra jalapenos – followed up by the traditional Guatemalan desert, chocolate babka. After dinner we watched the second part of a documentary called Granito, which was made by film-maker Pamela Yates about the genocide that occurred in the early 1980s against the indigenous Mayan people which resulted in the deaths of 200,000 people. The film was very well done and gave some context to our visit and to the history of the people here with whom we are visiting. Perhaps a difficult film, especially after a very long day of work, but once again the students did themselves proud.

Movie aside, there has been a very nice but rather fatigued and gentle quality to the evening. I think some very hard work was done by many today – more than half the students made cement and plastered walls while another few worked hard in the gardens – or in sorting beans (not as easy as it looks), making tortillas, playing with kids and keeping the kitchen clean. 

Mixing cement …

then Plastering walls

Sorting beans

When they get home remind them that they know how to make tortilla!

I would say it has been a wonderful day – I hope to see the same positive energy tomorrow morning…just hoping it doesn’t rain.

Buenas Noches.
King David High School, 5718 Willow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4S9 Canada

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