By Anna Glasgow
For the Salisbury Post
Im back from Guatemala! I must admit, when I woke up this morning, it was strange to no longer hear the roosters cockadoodling or to smell the many layers of Deet bug spray caked on my skin.
I was ready to run down to Dinas house with my mission team members in the dusty heat in order to get a traditional Guatemalan breakfast before school started.
But here I am, grateful to be back at home with my many blessings. Yet at the same time, I am envious of many aspects of Guatemalan life.
This mission trip was an eye-opening experience and very different from any mission work I have done before. The emphasis was not on manual labor and direct donations. It was about learning, listening and beginning a relationship with the people and with the country. It was about two cultures interacting, teaching each other and realizing that we are all one family.
Although, we did do some painting at a school under construction in Santo Domingo, our main project and biggest challenge was taking over all grades and actually teaching the students.
Talk about a language immersion. With our best Spanish, which really wasnt all that bad, we performed skits about David and Goliath, the lost sheep and the woman that lost a coin.
Of course the kids loved it when we had our biggest guy wear a skirt as the woman who had to search for the coin amongst the kids. They giggled and chanted for us to do the skit over and over again.
In the classrooms, we got to know the children, discussed the skits, practiced spelling, sang songs and even taught some English.
I have never felt so accepted. Before I even spoke a word of Spanish and even before they knew my name, these second- and third-grade kids were racing to be able to hold my hand.
At the end of the day, it was customary to give each teacher a kiss on the cheek, hence, tons of little girls pulling me down to say goodbye.
During our Santo Domingo stay, a grandmother named Dina who lived in a house down the street with her daughters and grandchildren (three generations together) hosted us.
Dina is the strongest woman I have ever met. Her strength shows in the way she has overcome great odds to study and educate herself despite male opposition.
We spent several nights with Dina and her family, eating dinner around a big table, swinging in the hammocks with the kids and having church with them in Spanish/English. I remember looking around at all the food, seeing all the kids run around, hearing laughter and talk in Spanish and English, and I thought to myself: This really does feel like a family reunion.
At the mention of futbol en el campo (or soccer on the field), it felt like a bunch of my little cousins were pulling at my arms to go play. That night I thought about how amazing it was that these people felt like family and this place felt like home despite the culture and language difference.
I think it shows something incredibly beautiful about the power of a common faith, a common hope, and love.
Outside of our school and family experience in Santo Domingo, we also got to hear incredible stories and see incredible things.
One was our meeting with Lucia, who is a woman of CEDEPCA in Guatemala City. She told us about the corruption of the government and how this organization of women was to unite them after the war and combat their mistreatment, as well as fight for their rights. A large project of this group was/is recovering the bodies of their loved ones who were mass-murdered by the military government during the war that ended in 1996 and lasted 36 years.
We also looked out over the enormous Guatemala city dump, where thousands of people were sorting through the trash in order to find anything to sell. We were told that they actually consider this their daily job and it has become a normal way of life.
It is likely that these peoples kids and their kids will continue in this endless cycle as the trash eventually kills them.
I will never forget the image of vultures swarming overhead competing with humans over junk that we would throw away. It makes us all ask ourselves: Why should we be the ones looking out over this scene with clean fingernails instead of down there in the trash?
After spending nine days in Guatemala the greatest cultural immersion of my life thus far one of the main things I found is that even in the midst of all the dirt, pollution, corruption and violence, there is an incredible beauty and hope in this country. City walls may look plain and ugly, but just inside are lush plants and beautiful flowers. Homes are walled and fenced off and dogs bark at every corner for protection, but when invited in, you are able to see color, personality, tradition, family and faith. Although many Guatemalans are very poor, all take great pride in bright colors and put great time into their handmade goods. Their faith and their family are of central focus, something many Americans do not make time for.
I was able to learn so much about this culture simply by being there. The truth is, you can never really understand what life is like in Guatemala until you are there living with them and listening to their stories.
Thank you so much for helping make this mission trip to Guatemala possible. We have also left money for several of the organizations we interacted with while there, and we specifically gave money to the school for supplies and scholarships.
However, to me what is most important is the new relationship and commitment that each of us feels towards Guatemala. We may now spread what we discovered to anyone who will listen. Understanding is the beginning of true change. Ask me about it and I will tell.
By Anna Glasgow