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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What we didn't say.

We are on our last day of "vacation" in El Remate and have loved our relaxing time here. It has given us time to talk and really reflect about our experience so far. We have thought about our blog and what we have shared with you all to date. We have blogged about our weekends (and don't get me wrong, they have all been great), we have blogged about food (and don't get me wrong it has all been great), and about the fun times we have had with the people we have met (and don't get me wrong they have all been great). You see, words come easy to describe these types of experiences.
On the other hand, we have found it difficult to describe and express our day to day surroundings in the small community we came to know, the experiences we shared by being a part of it, and the impact it had on us without somehow sounding inappropriately shocked or disrespectful toward the way of life we would describe. It is difficult to strike the balance between wanting to share our experiences with the world and wanting to respect the privacy and dignity of those we cross paths with. I find the people here amazing, well weathered by their way of like and am often tempted to try and capture in pictures what I see as simple and beautiful. And while taking photographs would speak volumes, we have hesitated to do so outside the school as I can only imagine my reaction if someone felt it a novelty to come to my hometown and photograph my life. However, in trying not to cross boundaries, I believe that it is in not expressing these things that we have erred on the side of conservative., highlighting our weekend adventures and not quite sure how to put into words the rest.

What we have not blogged about is the conditions we have seen here, the personal stories that have pulled our heartstrings, and the simple lives and displays of strength that we have witnessed, specifically in the people and the children of Itzapa.

Though we only scratched the surface of getting to know the kids, getting a glimpse of what it means to grow up in rural Guatemala has been eye opening to say the least. Funny how what is initially shocking becomes accepted as the norm once a significant amount of time is spent getting to know a place. We have not written about the houses that the children live in, often a few sheets of plywood or concrete block walls built up around a dirt floor and tin roof shared with extended family and livestock alike, or about the distances some of the rural children walk to school each day. We have not written about the racism experienced by indigenous people which, in some cases, results in refused entry to public school. We have not written of the family situations we have been made aware of, only to say that these kids are tough. Nor have we written of the malnutrition we have witnessed and what that does to the children’s skin and faces, only to say that they are light and easy to throw into the air. We have not written about the way that some of the children don’t eat their snack so that they can take it home for their moms, only to say that for some it could be their most substantial meal of the day. We have not written of the young kids we passed each day, machetes in hands, following behind their livestock on the way out to the fields, set to put in a days work. Nor have we spoken about the sanitation, or lack thereof, the streets ripe with the smell of refuse and supporting the stray dog population.
And yet, in the face of all these obstacles, I think the kids we met here continue to show up for GVI school incredibly early each day, because they get to be kids and the people there make them smile. Simple enough. Sure, there are the incentives that encourage the parents to send the kids to this ’extra’ school over and above national school, like the food and fertilizer programs in place, but I like to think that it is the opportunity to check their responsibilities at the door and be a kid that keeps them showing up early and eager.
Helping increase the odds of academic success, giving these kids a chance to laugh and smile and letting kids be kids. For that we count our time in Itzapa as time well spent and are proud to have been a part (no matter how small) of positive change.
We have not written about these things as it is these realities that are difficult to put into words. It is difficult to do justice to and pay adequate tribute to those who, without even knowing it, inspire us to truly appreciate the things with which we have been blessed.

We will keep this letter received by one of our students as a reminder that even the seemingly small things just might matter to someone:

"Profe Troy and Seno Nicole,
Thank you for coming here and teaching me, you have tought me a lot. It has been fun to be in your class and I enjoyed when you would sing and dance in class. I am sorry for the times that I didn't pay attention to you. I hope that you and Nicole return soon and when you do, my families home and my arms will be open for the both of you. Safe travels and may god light the way on your remaining journey."


  1. pretty powerful stuff and very well expressed.

  2. Wow, you didn't even need a camera to capture all of that. I could see everything you described! Here's to the journey!