Monday, March 21, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Freddy - Linda's experience in San Antonio Palopo.

Hola everyone,  I am home now from my trip to Guatemala and want to share some of my experiences while they are fresh. 
San Antonio Palapo is such a different world. The village is built on a steep slope, rising up from the lakeshore. A narrow road brings you to the centre of town, near the small white Church, and the Mercado. The rest of the "streets" are steep paths and steps between the jumble of adobe and cement block buildings which seems to defy any building codes or town planning.  The air feels thin up at 5000 feet, as you hike up and down the paths, visiting families. The poverty is shocking- in your face - overwhelming. Many homes have dirt floors, no bathrooms, no furniture, and open hearth fires which blacken the walls and the lungs of those cooking over the thick smoke.   Yet every house seems to have a million dollar view of the shimmering lake with three volcanoes standing guard.  I love watching these mountains form little cloud sombreros, as the heat rises in the morning light. 
The Social Centre is a hub of activity in the village with programs for all ages.  I played games with the kids; laughed and ate hot soup with a group of tiny elderly women; watched a group of brave women learning to read and write for the first time.  We started this centre a year ago and over 200 participants are attending programs. There is so much potential here to make a positive impact on this community, which faces multiple challenges with so few resources.   
There are some families that I have come to know over the past 3 years and I enjoy visiting with them.  I am humbled by their endurance and by their grace.  They continue to be very poor. But their warmth and friendliness is so genuine.   When I arrive, someone always brings a plastic stool for me to sit on, while everyone else sits on the dirt floor or stands.   Now, it is time to say goodbye. As I walk away, Freddy calls  "Buen viaje" . I turn and see this young boy looking at me wistfully, with the seat of his jeans hanging together by a thread.  "Gracias Freddy, Adios".                  
Linda Woodward Stanton

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