I swear...on everything holy...that I will NEVER complain about rush hour in Kansas City again. Ever. Nada. Nunca. Period.
I think everyone should have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a rush hour in Guatemala City...and I pray, for your sanity, that it truly IS just once. In your lifetime. Trust me.
I have had the unmitigated joy of experiencing rush hour in Guatemala City every day this week, and frankly? It sucks.
My friend, Ely, only lives 12 miles from our mission headquarters...and it takes one hour to get there...I kid you not. One hour to travel 12 miles. That hour is certainly not boring, however. Oh, no...quite the contrary.
It is an hour of white knuckled, heart-pounding, terror...punctuated by black, billowing smoke of the "chicken buses"...as 3 million people all hit the highway at the exact same time to commute to wherever they are going. Not to mention, the death-defying lane changes which leave you just a little bit older, a little more grayer, and a little more appreciative of the United States, by the end of the trip.
Anywho, yesterday, we left the house at 6 a.m. so we could arrive at headquarters by 7 a.m. Another bleh.
We then drove about 90 minutes up a twisting, turning, mountain road to an area called San Pedro Ayampuc, which is north of Guatemala City.
Our bus parked at the bottom of a very steep, rocky slope...and the driver then announced that we had to hike the rest of the way up. Seriously? Yes...he was serious. Joy. This slope looked like a home for mountain goats....
We gathered up our suitcases of supplies and hauled them up a very treacherous mountainside...where is a Sherpa when you need one???!!!
We visited a woman's home where there were approximately 50 neighborhood children inside a tiny living room....and I have to say, these children were probably the best-behaved, most wonderfully-mannered children we have yet to encounter on this trip.
We spent 90 minutes reading stories, making bracelets, playing bean bag toss and ring toss, and blowing bubbles, before we served up the tostados with refried beans and vitamin-fortified milk.
When it was time to leave, it became very clear to me that hiking UP the mountain was a heck of a lot easier than hiking DOWN the mountain...as my shoes insisted on SLIDING down the mountain, instead. They had a mind of their own. No bueno.
The Guatemalan bus driver, Geraldo, became my knight in shining armour, when he gallantly took my arm and assisted me all the way down. It's a good thing, too, because he let go just once, and I immediately about fell on my butt.
Once safely back on the bus, we took a quick lunch break and then went back to the same general area, but not one where we had to climb Mount Everest. Thank God for small favors.
As our bus approached the new village, a hush fell over us, as we looked out our windows with a bit of trepidation and a bit of horror. We had been told to expect about 150 children...and what we saw was overwhelming. There were hundreds and hundreds of children...with moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins....
We found out later that the village pastor apparently ADVERTISED our arrival with posters plastered through the mountainside, several days before we came, and so we didn't just have the neighborhood children...we had children from surrounding villages. Heck, we probably had children from Mexico and Belize. We were facing the multitudes.
Were we prepared? Not really.
Mission trips teach flexibility, though, if nothing else. We moved the feeding site and game area from the local church to the neighborhood park...and we quickly huddled together and revised our game plan.
We had enough boxes of sidewalk chalk, that if we broke them in half, we could probably give each child a piece.
When the children realized they were getting a gift, a riot almost erupted. We had to yell and scream for order and to demand that the children line up, so we didn't get swarmed and possibly hurt in the stampede for the chalk.
With hundreds of children, we decided to spend our time playing with bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and soccer....as well as taking photos of the children and just having fun, running and chasing and laughing.
Two 11-year old boys decided I looked like a good Tag player, and so I spent most of the afternoon in a very spirited, and animated, game of Tag. I think I lost, but it was hard to tell in the chaos. I do know that I am probably a bit too old to be running around on a giant concrete playground, chasing small children, but it was FUN!
As far as the food, we left what we had with the local pastor...he would know, better than anyone, which children would need it.
By the time we had dinner, and drove home, it was very late...hence, no entry yesterday....And I was muy cansada. (very tired.)
All in all, a good day.
And next time? I am so wearing hiking boots. Or hiring me a Sherpa.