In the land of Guatemala, luscious green country covers the terrain. Rolling rivers stretch and extend across the olive colored earth. Exotic animals hide in secret. The ancient ruins of Tikal emerge from the thick forest floor. And a people as humble and content as one can know touched my life.
On June 11, 2007 my family and I traveled to Guatemala for a humanitarian trip with Choice Humanitarian. After a long anticipated journey we arrived in the Polochic Valley. The village of our destination was called La Laguna Sajonte. This village was not located in one central place; it was spread out across the magnificent rolling mountains for miles and miles. We were here to build a school so that the children in the area would have a place to gain an education. Little did we know that not only would a school be under construction, but our hearts would be too.
The first day we started digging trenches for the footings of the schoolhouse. The people we worked side by side with are possibly the most determined, dedicated, and hard working people I’ve ever met. They are the descendants of the Mayan civilization that inhabited this area of Guatemala. Today the government pays little attention to the people in the remote mountainous regions of the country. So this was the reason for our trip, to provide a better way of life for these people through the schoolhouse project.
But there is a time to work and a time to play and boy can these kids play! We took a walk to the local soccer field to start a good old fashion soccer game. It was the “Gringos” against the professionals. Did I mention that these professionals are all around nine to thirteen years old? Of course the Gringos got a royal beat down. We were all very impressed with how amazing these kids were. They have so little but are so happy with everything. The kids here in the U.S. are spoiled. We have everything we could possibly want. Such as education, food electronics, clean water, and so much more. Yet everyday we still take these things for granted and find more to complain about.
The following day we continued to work on the schoolhouse by mixing up cement, digging trenches, putting in footings, and much more. The heat and the humidity were excruciating. Even after an improvised shower in an afternoon rainstorm it seemed like I couldn’t get dry. Later in the day, we enjoyed the privilege of visiting several families in their humble homes. Their homes consisted of wooden plank walls with thatched roofs. Some were lucky enough to have tin roofs. Dirt floors were the standard. In one home I had the opportunity to make corn tortillas from scratch. The women in the home laughed at my feeble attempt. It is definitely not as easy as it looks.
I only learned a couple phrases in the local language, Kekchi. One of my favorites was “Ma sal a xchol?” meaning, “Is there happiness in your heart?” You would answer by saying “Sa” or “Yes.” This was a common greeting. Every time I asked this they would always answer yes. These people are so happy and humble it is truly remarkable.
Although we only spent five days in the village, it was still a life changing experience. If anyone needs a reconstruction of the heart and soul and a better appreciation for life, I would highly recommend a humanitarian vacation.
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