Dec 2, 2010
Today was incredible.
The morning started at 5 AM for me; I woke up, forced myself to get out of bed, showered and packed my things rather than laze around with the extra time I had given myself. I wandered around the hotel in the crisp morning air, taking in the decaying walls of the monastery, perusing the artifacts and just generally feeling a bit awe-inspired by where I was.
We met up with the entire group out front, climbed into the three separate vehicles we had for traveling around, and began our long, long journey. We drove for about an hour and a half before stopping at a cute little restaurant for breakfast. This place was so fun; they had individual fire pits they'd bring you at your table to keep warm, and I got to try this black bean stuff that looked like a scoop of black mud ice cream but was actually really delicious. The oatmeal was a bit soggy but I just picked all the bananas out (because bananas are awesome). I also tried "eggs on corn" which was essentially two eggs on some corn patties. Not bad.
There was a little market out front where a bunch of vendors kept telling me I was "muy bonita" (probably just to sucker me into buying their stuff) (it worked). I bought myself a pink scarf and a knitted maroon cap and then I bought a bunch of souvenirs for friends and for my mom which I wont spoil here in case they're reading my blog.
Then it was back into the car, where we drove for another good two-three hours before stopping into a small Save the Children office in some town whose name I can't remember. This began the part of the day where I started sleeping in the car (or attempting to sleep) and why I now have a rather large bruise on my head where I kept knocking it against the window accidentally (the only guy on the trip, Andrew, was in the same car as me told me he could hear my head hitting the window repeatedly all day and couldn't believe I wasn't waking up. I guess two months of touring makes you a pretty fierce car sleeper, even on these ridiculously unpaved and bumpy roads).
More driving, then another food stop. We ate at another cute restaurant where I got to try some of the local soda (I got orange, because I gave up pop altogether awhile back but I can't resist orange soda at times) and had some amazing chicken soup and mashed potatoes with green flecks in it. I don't know what the green flecks were, but I am fairly certain they were supposed to be there.
Then we drove some MORE, and finally, finally got to our first village stop around 2:30. We were in a small community right in time for the baby-weighing. All the mothers in the community bring their small children to this big room and line up to have their children's arms measured and then they have to put the babies in these harness things to weigh them (kind of like the things you use to weigh fruit at the grocery store). We got to talk to the women, and they introduced us to everyone, and I got to give a hat to a mother and put it on her baby's head. Then she let me hold the baby. It was a pretty amazing moment, made even more special because the baby's middle name was Christina.
Then we had to go, so we drove more until we got to the home of this agricultural leader for Save the Children. He showed all of us around his yard, showing off his plants and his pigs and his method of raising and breeding goats (which included keeping them in these tree-house like pens up in the air and having a drainage system to catch their urine to use for fertilizer). It was really crazy to see such a different style of living, so up close and personal. They had all these kids running around and the kids were just absolutely adorable. They kept asking me to take pictures and video of them (in spanish xD) and then immediately asking to see it, then completely cracking up when they saw themselves on the little screen. I don't think they have their pictures taken very often, so I was more than happy to take as many pictures as they wanted. I managed to get in a few shots with them, and so far those pictures are my favorite souvenir.
One thing that's been a little difficult for me is the language barrier. Most of the people on the trip with me are at least semi-fluent in Spanish, but I don't speak a word. I adore getting to know children, playing with them, talking to them - but with these kids I've been meeting in Guatemala, I can't really do that at all. I attempted a few hand motions with some of them, but I've been finding the best way to communicate with most of the people I meet in these villages is just by smiling. I did a whole lot of smiling today. It seems to get the message across.
One girl (who was probably about fifteen) at the home we were visiting saw my bracelet that says "Monday" on it and asked me if it was my "nombre" - I had a pretty hard time explaining that not only did it say "Lunes" (Monday), but that "Lunes" was not in fact my name, and why the heck I had a day of the week around my wrist - I finally just sort of dropped my wrist and told her my name was Kristina. I love how people down here say my name. It sounds so pretty.
This was our final stop of the day, so we piled into the cars one last time and began the craziest car ride of my life. First we were all concerned about this apparent mudslide that may or may not be blocking our path to our hotel. We drove through all these insanely windy roads getting higher and higher in elevation until we started seeing all this heavy fog everywhere; I felt like I was in Jurrassic Park or something, it was so scary. I have never legitimately felt like I was going to get attacked by a dinosaur until that car ride. When we finally got to the site of the mudslide, all of us were in shock. It was so wet and slick and goopy and terrifying, and to be honest I'd only ever seen mudslides on TV before. We drove very slowly through it, and then we were back on our way.
We went right through this little town, down a narrow street where we saw loads of dark, tiny homes and children running around and playing and women carrying baskets on their heads and bushels of sticks on their backs. Chickens and cows were just wandering free all over the place, and everyone looked busy. There were no people just hanging out or sitting around, at least not out in public.
It took us about 40 minutes to drive through the town, and that led us to an even smaller road the wound through the hills and parallel to a beautiful stream that followed us for the next forty minutes or so as we made our way to the place that we're now staying tonight. We drove so far, and for so long, that I began to doubt we were really going anywhere. The sheer knowledge that some people live and work so far down a single road, so far away from anything but trees, dirt and their own company is completely mind-blowing to me.
Tonight we ate dinner at the little cheese farm we're staying at; the people who own this place cooked this homemade spaghetti for us, along with tortilla quesadillas. I think we've had tortillas with every meal. I think I'm okay with having tortillas that much. We visited with each other and had a fun little evening and got Rebecca Romijn to sing us the Jewish song she's been telling us about the whole trip. She made us sing the bass part underneath her part though, haha, the "yabba-bim-bams". She told us she once taught Josh Groban that song and had him sing the "yabba-bim-bams" as well. Again I ask, what if my life?
This farm we're staying at has no heat, so I'll be sleeping in my clothes. There is also no way to charge my laptop so I need to cut this short, as it's still just running on the charge from last night. This is so far away from anything even remotely commercial that if I were to go outside right now, that may be the closest I will have ever come to hearing real silence. It's so crazy.
We're not here for long, and we're only making a tiny dent in seeing all the work Save the Children does in this country, but so far it's been just awesome, being here. Now I am going to get under my covers and think about warm things.
Edit: Forgot what I said about silence. Roosters? Really? 3 AM is when they start crowing?
19 hours ago