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Today was the day we had all been anticipating and preparing to embark on for months. We were finally headed to the village of Sehaquiba to meet the people and install wood burning stoves. We were all excited yet I know I was somewhat apprehensive of the adventure ahead.
We start our day with three deep breaths; one to ground ourselves, one for our team and one for the people we will serve. It is calming and centering. Off we went, leaving Coban behind for a bumpy dirt road with lots of cliffs. All the local people are laughing and having a great time so I feel there is not a need to worry. The hillsides are lush with terraced gardens, difficult trails to navigate, fields of corn and hard working people in colorful dress. We also see run down shacks, basically, that reminds us of the poverty that is everywhere around us.
When we arrive to the village, we see people all around excited to see us and music is playing up the hillside. The people, especially the children, are anxious and curious to see us yet they are shy and bashful at first. I notice they easily make eye contact and are quick to smile. We climbed up to the village on a short rugged and felt immediately welcomed. They had prepared a welcoming ceremony for us in what must have been the playground and village meeting place outside the one room schoolhouse. The ground was covered in pine needles, which in Guatemala signifies an important event. The men were playing homemade instruments and all of the village were dressed beautifully in what must be their only one best outfit. There were many children who all wanted to engage with us. The communication barrier was frustrating as we wished we could ask them more questions and understood what they said. They were very patient with us. They liked to touch us and their smiles came easily. It was so simple and genuine. The adults were extremely welcoming and their attempts to communicate lovely.
It is hard not to notice the poverty, poor dental health, ragged clothes and shoes, dirty feet and lack of most all material things we enjoy but their gentle souls were able to distract you at times. They spoke and welcomed us, danced and played music. We took pictures which they loved to see themselves, we danced with them, laughed and celebrated what was about to happen. The served us lunch with food they could not afford to offer, then we were finally ready to visit their homes to build a stove.
There will be many stories of the stove building throughout this week so I will not share those here but a few thoughts of our first day. We were all very touched in different ways by all of the events and people. Some of us recall, Miguel, who lost his wife two years ago and still deeply grieves as he tries to raise eight children ages 24 to four. His daughter, little Flora, wears a shirt I love my mommy. Pablo, most likely the oldest man in the community, mustered up enough energy to ask Sister Kitsy to dance, then immediately took a nap, Edgar wanted to practice Spanish as his second language and was proud to translate to his native QueQchi.
We installed nine stoves today and will complete 40 by the end of the week. As we reflected on our day at dinner we already feel a strong connection with the villagers, an ease to have them touch us, a joy in their smiles and we are all looking forward to returning.
As I showered before bed, I had a fleeting moment of not wanting to wash away all the dirt so I could keep the day with me a little longer.
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