Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday blog by Pat Strong

Our last day in San Lucas Toliman and in our work community of San Jose where we were building the cook stoves was another amazing day. A few of us left the hotel around 6:15am to try to witness the butcher carrying  a side of beef up market street to the local carnecerias (meat shops). The butcher was running late so we did not experience viewing this but we did enjoy the hustle and bustle of the activity as the locals set up their market stalls. Often they would tie strings criss-crossing over other vendors lines in order to hold up plastic sheeting to cover their stalls protecting them from rain or too much sun. I watched as the local "coffee shop"  consisting of a woman who set up tables and a few chairs in the middle of the street served cafe, atole and bread goods to the locals. There were many villages represented in this market demonstrated by the variety of traditional clothing.  We bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers to give to our hotel staff and the cost was under $2 for what would be at least $20 in the U.S.  The elderly man carries a huge basket full of heavy cabbages on his back to his market stall, a young boy sleeps atop a sack of goods at this early hour, women set up their flowers or vegetables, carts are pulled with a variety of goods and the action is palpable. After breakfast we again head to work riding in the back of the pick up truck and enjoy the rolling and winding roads through the Guatemalan countryside. We even know to look for the painted rock that looks like "Snoopy", which is a nice change from the painted rocks and road signs for political parties that we also see. The fields are green with coffee trees, terracing and volcano vistas. We arrive to excited children as we go to our respective kitchens where our group is finishing our cook stove projects. The day flew by as we mixed mortar, set concrete blocks and built the stoves. We all had great fun as many of us had family members helping and the kids wanted photos so they could then see their image when we would display it on our cameras. We finished 11.5 stoves and our masons will complete them to make 12 when they work tomorrow. We then went back to our meeting house and were startled and greeted by firecrackers which even made the neighbors pig come out for a look. All the women were throwing us a party with balloons, streamers, cupcakes and juice to thank us. As each of them spoke to us our hearts were touched as they would thank us, thank God and tell us that even though they would never see us again that we had changed their lives. It was then our turn to speak and we realized that it was not our gift to them, but their gift of unconditional love and acceptance into their households, sharing their family and children with us and allowing us to be part of their communities that was a gift to us! There were very few dry eyes around. It was a wonderful cultural exchange where we accepted each other and opened our gifts to each other. We waved goodbye as our truck pulled away. Our final dinner at our hotel included chicken that was sold to one of our group from the local chicken lady. We were then given a surprise thank you as our innkeeper, Marbila, wore traditional beaded clothing and sang to us. She beautifully shared her love with her music. Tomorrow we leave San Lucas Toliman to go to Antigua. Our mission trip is over but the lives of all involved are changed forever. 

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