An unintentional delay in writing these blogs, but, every cloud has it’s silver lining. In recent months I’ve fallen “victim” of what Coach Mau spoke of during our trip – a certain [unintentional] engulfment in the trivial day-to-day trials and tribulations of life in a complex, but not necessarily fruitful, society. Since returning from Guatemala a lot has happened, I graduated, taken on a couple of jobs, been to and from UK (home), and began my Master’s degree – with everything else that comes in between. I haven’t given myself the time I should have to sit down and reflect. I’ve tried, but with no real consistency, nor commitment. Sitting down this evening with my cup of tea and peanut M&M’s, I hope to find that safe space; that space where nothing else is taking priority or playing on my mind – naturally, just writing that makes things pop into my mind, assignment here, meeting there. I look to challenge myself in the coming weeks to get back into a routine of reflection and find that “shut off” time, as it is here that we recollect the importance of reflection and gratitude.
Day four was yet another productive day in the hills. Early mornings have been accustom, so don’t begin to think anything is about to change on the penultimate day in Buena Vista. (Although, I think the whole group could’ve agreed on pressing the snooze button, for an extra half hour, at least!) The previous days’ endeavors were catching up with us, big time.
After breaky we ventured down the steep slopes of Buena Vista to visit a dear friend of the Academy, the Leiva’s, and the Johnson’s, Señora Carmen. Señora Carmen had just recently lost her husband, Lazaro. The couple were extremely close with Brock & Mynor, and supportive of their mission within the village; this was a rare occurrence.
Before entering Señora Carmen’s house, Brock briefed us on the situation: Señor Lazaro had been complaining of intense pain for a couple of weeks, however, as is the culture in Guatemala, pain is just something to be pushed through and left without real medical examination – due to monetary costs, [lack of] accessibility, but also a little pride. Lazaro continued to work on the farm, through his pain. Until, one day, Señora Carmen came home and found Lazaro collapsed dead on the floor. A middle-aged, active, strong man, the cause wasn’t known. As Brock continued to articulate, this is an all too common occurrence in Buena Vista for all of the reasons listed above.
As we entered Señora Carmen’s house we were greeted with the most beautiful view and warm welcome you ever could have anticipated, granted the situation at hand. After introductions we all were ushered into a room where Brock, Brock’s daughter Brooke, and Mynor, had set up a TV and proceeded to play a video dedicated to celebrating the life of Lazaro. I vividly remember his [Lazaro’s] infamous cowboy hat, which Brock assured us Lazaro never took off. The video was beautiful and extremely touching; to be present at such a delicate moment in a family’s time of grievance had a profound impact on me, and brought back memories of my late Nana & Papa, who Señora Carmen & Lazaro had reminded me of. It was a time where you felt something in the room, a distinct connectedness between souls.
Following a few brief words from Brock, Mynor, and Señora Carmen, we got to work – and by work I mean painting! After hearing the news earlier in the week, Allan had came up with the idea to paint Señora Carmen’s house in a bright color to lift her mood. Made from grey cinder breeze blocks, it had previously been dark and dingy, with little light. The color Allan chose… PURPLE! I gotta admit, I thought twice once Hayden busted open the lid. “Purple, really, Allan?” However my deliberation between mauve and magenta were quickly defused as we got to work. All hands on deck; our group, along with Brooke, the seis Rhino’s, and a couple rugrats from the neighboring house to keep us entertained too!
Although we weren’t the most delicate of painters at times, we may have been onto a winner for a little start-up company. We attracted an audience during our exhibition of “art” too. Most notably two miniature sized guests by the name of Jospin and Francisco – two of the children from next door who came to join us (Below). They took a keen interest in Coach Mau, Waldy, and I (although I don’t think it was so much for my Spanglish, but my GoPro instead!).
The day was a huge success! The place was transformed, and the energy generated was, again, something I’d rarely experienced. The interactions, connections, and friendships built through serving others was immeasurable. Señora Carmen addressed us once we had finished to express her gratitude for our efforts to help bring brighter spirits to help her during her family’s time of sorrow.
As we ventured back, we realized we were a little late for lunch; a quick change of clothes, a quick snack and cup of Leiva Café and we were already on our way to Junior Varsity practice.
It didn’t take us long to realize Waldy may have had an extra-large cup of coffee… His energy was out of this world… As soon as we got the balls out he was in his element! It was quite inspiring to see. His enthusiasm working with the young boys, his passion, his seriousness – it was quite remarkable. I was in awe – and I didn’t even know what he was saying! I unequivocally remember thinking at this time, “so this is what they mean by soccer being a universal language!” Waldy had a unique quality to deliver energy, empathy, and fun, as well as discipline. And the kids loved it!
As usual we finished up with La Cancha! This is what the boys lived for, the game at the end of practice. We all mixed in and were in teams of 7’s. Playing inside fifteen foot concrete walls was like being a little kid again, I couldn’t help but try a few tricks and flicks (though few came off) and had that same enjoyment I’d experienced yesterday.
The boys were of a quality that was rare, though their ability was often spoke of for being limited, they showed glimpses of brilliance, creativity and awareness that many could only dream of.
To commence practice Q & Waldy took over. We all huddled up, Q & Waldy lead the way, “we say the first line, you guys repeat after us…”:
OOH A LAY LA … OOH A LAY LA…
A LAY LA TIKI TONGA … A LAY LA TIKI TONGA..
A WASA WASA WASA … A WASA WASA WASA…
OOH A LAY WAY A LU WAY A LU WAH … OOH A LAY WAY A LU WAY A LU WAH…
OO! A LAY LA! … OO! A LAY LA!
A LAY LA TIKI TONGA! … A LAY LA TIKI TONGA!
A WASA WASA WASA! … A WASA WASA WASA!
OOH A LAY WAY A LU WAY A LU WAH! … OOH A LAY WAY A LU WAY A LU WAH!
UNO, DOS, TRES, RHINOS!
The penultimate day finished off with the music concert we had prepared the stage for. A locally famous Christian band based out of Guatemala City headlined; with the whole village invited, the audience was mainly made up of young children, teenagers, and some Mothers from the village, along with a dozen or so American missionaries who were visiting Señor Mark’s ministry down the mountain. The Rhino boys were their usual mischievous selves, running around causing havoc – all in good spirits.
It was quite a surreal moment, for me anyway, it was a mixture of feelings; it was as if we were celebrating a great time spent in Buena Vista, and we were, however, I kept catching myself thinking “yeah, but what happens when we leave? The “job” isn’t done – there’s still so much more!” And then I’d slip back into the moment and carry on bobbing to the music.
We returned to the cabin after the concert, and continued to reflect upon our short time in Buena Vista and how it relates to our lives back home; each perspective insightful, each story with their own intricacies and quirks – I think we all knew for sure that some lifelong friendships had been forged on this trip. Friendships and memories that we’ll never forget.
To be continued…