Edwin is a good man.
He has been working the till at a hardware store close to our home in San Juan since he established the shop around two years ago. I got to know him over the last few months as we have been working on renovating our rented home (with permission!) to suit our ever-growing kids' club and family's needs.
Over time, I found myself having lengthier conversations with Edwin every time I was at the hardware store. And now, he and his wife Sofia have found themselves at our table every week to break bread and talk about the kid's club. (Sofia has gotten involved and is very much responsible for the incredible growth we've experienced over the last few weeks!)
A few weeks ago, Edwin proposed taking us out in his family's little mini truck deep into the Guatemalan boonies. He expressed the villagers' needs and how it would be such a great experience for us to see how people live here in the country. Our town is already very rural, so we were very interested. We eagerly agreed and planned the trip out during a birthday supper we all had together for Christina. Two days later, we were on our way!
Over the last couple of weeks, we've had the privilege of having James and Elise from Oregon join us for the club as volunteers. They participated in the cleanups and took photographs and drone footage of the beautiful landscape. I am so grateful to them for coming along on this trip and capturing these photos.
In a recent post about the chicken buses, I wrote about "the switchbacks".
This stretch is about the craziest bit of highway I have ever seen. Having grown up in Peru, that is saying a lot! This highway drops approximately 650 to 700 meters in a mere 10km stretch.
As is customary, we all rode in the back of the pickup on the highway, holding on tight, eating watermelon, and taking in the smells of the green mountainside and frequent garbage piles. Watching our kids' faces light up as we passed pedestrians and waved to them was a delight for us as parents. About 90% up the switchbacks, our ride overheated. Thankful for squeaky, yet functioning breaks, we all had to get off to lighten the load to help the truck up. Our hearts raced with excitement. What a thrill! We cheered when the pickup made it to the top as we escorted it by foot. We piled back in, and each of us took turns expressing the rush and nervousness we had just felt!
At the top of the mountain, we found Santa Clara. A gorgeous town with breathtaking views of Lake Atitlan, 650 meters below. As Santa Clara is Edwin's place of birth, he had much to tell us about the town and was greeted by many old friends as we strolled through the streets. --Hold on. There is no way I'm going to stop telling you all about the switchbacks yet!
Seriously, the switchbacks.
Just look at that first picture! Holy Doodle! Does it make you dizzy just looking at it? It LOOKS like a doodle!
Those corners are so tight that even tiny pickup trucks have difficulty getting around them without crossing into the other lane. Imagine a school bus! The chicken buses that come around said corners stake their claim to the right of way by honking their outrageously loud horns for an outrageously long time. Approaching vehicles must halt and bow in reverence as the monsters perform their 2-3 point turns and plow through. We were fortunate to encounter just one oncoming cement truck during our ascension. (Cement truck drivers seem to be in a little less of a hurry than the chicken bus drivers. Therefore, they are much more polite. The moral of that short story: being in a hurry makes people rude.)
Christina nurses Columbia in the back of the truck to calm the soul of our precious babe.
I am so proud of this woman and am constantly in awe of her nature!
After Santa Clara, we came into the first little village called Palestine. Several towns here have adopted Middle-eastern names for whatever reason.
Edwin stopped the truck often and we were able to visit with the people that wanted to inspect us. From where had we come? Villagers waved from their rooftops, windows, and yards by the dozens. We were a one-car parade. As we looked into this lifestyle so foreign to us, I felt the feeling was mutual. Two worlds crossing. Curiously watching one another with no clear path on how to go about understanding the observed. "A gringo family of 7? How could this be?!"
Edwin and Palestine's baker.
Edwin and Sofia paved the way for new friendships. We were able to tour a baking family's homemade oven along with a weaving family's giant loom where traditional fabrics are handmade. Businesses here are family-run. If you have been born into something that puts bread on the table, master it young and stick with it.
We saw cows and livestock on the road, children carrying piles of wood larger than their height, and living conditions far from what any Canadian I know would deem as safe or acceptable. However, the underlying common denominators we found in each village were kindness, smiles, and decency.
I am so thankful that my kids are living life this way.
I am so thankful that we get to live this way, as a family.
HELP US PUSH FORWARD!
In the previous blog post I mentioned the (insane) growth the club has undergone over the last several weeks. Things are going great! Please consider contributing monthly to our amazing program. Many children are fed a meal that their families would otherwise be unlikely to afford. We teach about sanitation, stewardship, nutrition and art! Hop on in, giving plans start at 5 bucks a month and are literally changing lives for the better.
PHOTO CREDITS: JAMES JARVIS