Monday, March 12, 2012

Mi Madre [Guest Blog]

I was fortunate enough to have my family come to visit in February for a precious 9 days so I could share a quick taste of what my life has been like here in Guatemala before I head out at the end of March. Below are some reflections written by my mother.


Guatemala is a land of contrasts. The landscape and culture is like an ancient and expertly woven fabric, its drapes and design shaped by volcanoes, water, wind, sea, and her Mayan people. Earth tones prevail: terra cotta reds, sage and forest greens, dusty browns, sky blue, leaden gray. The texture of the weave is deeply carved with steep slopes, high ridges, eroded valleys, and sink holes. The threads of water are precious, even though it falls copiously from the skies in season. There are places where newer threads intersect the old... paved highways that are frayed by mudslides; cell phone towers that rise in spires above the coffee and cardamom groves; glistening plastic litter strewn along the highways. It is as if someone took a look at the ancient weaving and decided to repair the worn spots by stitching in sequins, baubles, and twist ties.

This was most apparent to me as we sat in the main room of our host's house, a room of wooden planking which measured about 12 X 12. The room had two sources of light: the open doorway and a bare incandescent bulb flickering yellow with the fluctuations in power. No windows. Overhead the corrugated tin roof protected us and the family's corn supply from threatening rain, and diverted the water into a plastic lined catchment since no running water is available for miles. A duck was brooding her eggs in one corner of the earthen floored room, while a lame chicken pecked beneath my plastic chair. The three children sat coloring on paper my daughter provided or climbed onto our laps for a game of horsey rides. Meanwhile, our hostess used a rectangular grinding stone and cylindrical pestle carved from volcanic rock to mash the prepared corn into the dough for the fresh tortillas she would cook for us on the wood stove. We sat at a bare, plank table, while she worked at another, methodically grinding the masa, scooping it up, shaping it into tortillas, and deftly depositing them directly onto the hot stove surface. We spoke quietly in English punctuated by exchanges in Q'eqchi' between my daughter and the host family. Suddenly a chirping noise broke the pattering rhythm of the tortilla making, and our hostess turned to a makeshift shelf nailed to the wooden wall by her work table and answered her cell phone. A land of contrasts indeed.


  1. Beautifully written, fantastic imagery! You have painted the reason why volunteers are needed in such a place! Much like the home we visited outside Cuenca, only that it was made of stone instead of wood. We Americans take SO MUCH for granted and feel so entitled.