Monday, February 16, 2009

Dia Dos- La Limonada

On the drive from Tita's house this morning into the ghetto of La Limonada, city streets gave way to barely paved pathways. Billboards were left behind and trash and decimated houses filled the landscape. La Limonada is located in the center of the city, in what is essentially a ravine. Tita dropped us off on the outskirts of the ghetto, since there were only walkways between the buildings. Stray dogs came close, some following, looking for any morsel of food they could snag. As we moved further into the barrios, the streets narrowed even more, people mingling on the sides of the walkway, stepping around trash and dog feces.

When we arrived at the La Escuelita, some of the children were already there, waiting to get in. Several of them nearly bowled Leah over as they rushed to greet her "buenos dias" and give her a hug. Even though they had never met me, I was next in line, bombarded on every side with small arms, heads lain on my chest and back, greeted by the small voices of La Limonada. A few of them started rattling on in their native tongue, and I quickly explained (as I did many times today) that "hablo solo un poco espanol." They smiled and nodded, while touching my face and the cartilage piercing in my ear.

Probably my favorite question of the day was, "que color es sus ojos?" What color are your eyes. My blue green eyes stand out like a sore thumb in a sea of brown eyed children. I was informed that mis ojos es "verde", green. My eyes were the center of attention for at least 5 minutes.

Shortly after we arrived at the school, a woman came up to me, and practically threw her arms around me. I couldn't understand what she was saying to me. Leah stepped in and found out that it was Dulce's mom, the little girl I sponsor. She kept hugging, thanking and telling me that I was a blessing. I cannot even begin to describe the emotions that flooded me. After seeing the small part of the ghetto that I had, seeing a tiny glimpse of how these people live, then knowing that I am able to help ease life just a little bit for them... Completely indescribable. I was nearly overcome, and had to struggle to keep my emotions in check.

Leah and I settled into the classroom with the 4 and 5 year olds, since that is where Dulce was. Leah caught her eye and pointed at me. Dulce got the most adorable look on her face and quickly hid her eyes behind her hands. She barely moved for the next 10 minutes.

The kids are fed a breakfast every morning. Today it was eggs, beans and bread, along with a cup of milk. For some of these children, it will be the only meal of the day they that they receive (the school has 2 sessions every day, morning and afternoon, to allow the children to attend public school as well. Because of this, each session is fed one meal). Looking at their tiny faces, knowing that their bellies will go hungry for the rest of the day... it was simply heartbreaking.

I went over and sat next to Dulce after a while, and she shyly asked me if I was her "madrina" (they call sponsors "godparents". Madrina means godmother). We sat and put together puzzles, she educated me on the Spanish names of all the animals in the puzzles.

We eventually walked over to the "new school" on the other side of the ghetto. It has only been open for about 6 months and the building is mostly gutted. The rain was leaking into some of the rooms. The back of the building is barely finished, showing the mountains of trash and raw sewage rushing past. Typically, the sewage is stagnant, but heavy rains caused to flow past rather quickly. Looking at the scene, knowing that people are living in these conditions... it just ripped my heart out of my chest. Its hard to imagine anyone living in this squalor, let alone the children.

On the way back to the car early this afternoon, we came across a woman that Leah and Tita know. I discovered on the ride home that her husband had been shot and killed 3 days prior. There were no leads as to who the murderer was. Tita told me that this was the third murder of someone that was connected to in the past week.

Tomorrow, I will be visiting Dulce's home at the invitation of her mother. I'm sure that it will be another eye opening experience, getting to see the inside of one of the homes in the ghetto.

I have yet to be here for 48 hours, and I can already tell that my heart is being changed, filled with a different breed of compassion for the poverty of Guatemala. I can only hope and pray that this change continues and spreads into other areas of my life.


Kinz said...

What a wonderful opportunity you have that few will ever see! Ahhh, to be able to pick up and go to a foreign country where the need is great and the workers are few... Sometimes I wish I could hang my responsibilities on a peg, but alas, with a toddler and one on the way, feels like I'm tethered. Enjoy every moment! I'm sure you will have a once in a lifetime experience!

R22B said...

Beth, this is awesome that you're doing something like this! I can only imagine how rewarding it is spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.

- James