safe arrival … Goodbyes of uncertainty to a land of even greater confusion

Oh how difficult it is to say goodbye to the love of ones life. I’ve had to do that twice in my lifetime … farewell is so much less permanent, yet still heartbreaking in the moments of uncertainty. The debate of a time being a drop in the bucket versus a lifetime of moments will very much depend on the experience and our abilities to appreciate and enjoy the moments for what they are … small pieces that join a larger puzzle; ‘the big picture’ as one might say.
The flights to Guatemala were uneventful … I chose space and quiet solitude on both legs of the journey, deep in thought and wanting to enjoy my last fragment of possible privacy. Flying into Guatemala City revealed flashbacks of days when I’ve visited other Third World countries. Poverty, disparity and desperation rings true no matter where one goes across this giant globe. I’ve been to India, Africa and now Guatemala, but no matter how often I visit such domains, I think, the culture shock rings deep and rattles my inner cages of security and familiarity. Dirt and filth abound but yet the colour of clashing neighbourhoods stand awry amidst haphazard structures of concrete height and cardboard caverns lined with tin. Timeless portraits of poverty in a crazy world of imbalance between those that have and those that have not.
Christine, a volunteer from NPH, was waving madly at me as I tenderly made my way through a sea of unknown faces. I recognized the sign with NPH’s logo and felt a wave of relief. Surprise! I had my own private pickup truck and driver to whisk me straight to the orphanage. I previously had a taste of death-defying driving in India so I wasn’t as shocked or as frightened as I had been last year. However, the maddening throng of black-exhaust-belching vehicles swerving chaotically and manoeuvring on the edge of existence did little to ease my sense of nervousness at being in another foreign land, overwhelmed by a new language of which I had no knowledge. All part of the thrill of travel I suppose :). Once out of the main throng of the city, the towering mountains and volcanoes proved to be an inspiring vision that left me awestruck at their sight. Wow, I heard that this land could be beautiful, but with no real expectations or previous glimpses, I was impressed by the scenery and greenery that pervaded my senses. The road was incredibly well-maintained (putting many North American roads to shame!) and the vehicles travelled at a crazy pace, all apparently trying to overrun each other. I felt like a mouse being chased by a multitude of cats :). Once in Chimaltenango (Chimal for short) we headed south towards the orphanage. The entrance to NPH Guatemala was heavily gated and securely attended by a diligent man who took note of the time and license of every driver that passed through his domain. How wonderful to see this level of security!! I’m told that every week all 355+ children are led through these gates on the short walk to a local Catholic Church for Sunday mass. I can’t imagine a building holding that many children at once … and the noise level? How behaved are they precious angels??! I’ll see in a few months time I suppose.
Wow, wow, wow. The buildings are so new and clean, pristine yet sparse. White tile line the floors of all the buildings (my guess as to help maintain its cleanliness, especially during times of the wet season just around the corner) and wrought iron decorates all the windows and entrance ways. I was introduced to a multitude of volunteers upon placing my bags in the female volunteer dorm. I would share a room with Christine for the evening but come July, I was unsure as to where I would be placed … 12 new volunteers would be providing a year of service at that time. I was given the ‘grande’ tour by a lovely 16 year old girl named Lucia. Carlos, the current Director (a very gentle and appreciative man) gave me an incredibly warm and generous welcome. He suggested that Lucia practice her English skills in being my tour guide, and I in return enjoyed the complete tour, from the special needs area housed within the health clinic to the music room to the boys dorms (where 5 years olds ran gleefully naked from shower to open bedroom) to the kitchen and bakery. Everything (but the babies housing) is contained within this large complex. I was soulfully impressed by everything I came across. I’ve never visited an orphanage before — and to see so many children (dependant on their age group and sex) packed into age specific houses (I think 30 was the largest number in one large hall) was a little overwhelming — in the sense that I couldn’t even imagine such a lifestyle, feeling very spoiled in my upbringing … it’s going to be an emotionally challenging but fascinating year!
I shared dinner (frijoles = black beans + fried pancakes) and conversation with the female volunteers, and was deeply enlightened by all the stories and information that came my way. I can’t even begin to pass on their stories … You’ll have to wait to read my own experiences! Exhausted, I fell into bed, only to be awoken at 2am by a group of Women who were giggling and speaking rapid German (too fast too translate). A good reminder to always have my earplugs handy at night. I’m really quite intrigued at the possibility of not only becoming conversant (fluent??) in Spanish but also improving my French and German (I can only hope!).

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