Guatemala & US/Mexico border
spring 08

'Let the little children come...'

February 22, 2008

Greetings to all!

We have successfully completed our first month of cultural immersion here in Guatemala and have thus ended our first semester of Spanish classes here at CASAS. There is quite a bit of excitement throughout the group seeing as our remaining month of travel is only three weeks away. Although, there is also the realization that we will be leaving our host families within a very short period of time, and for many the time has passed quickly. There is always the question of how to say goodbye to someone you might never see again. Many students within the group have expressed appreciation for the personal discovery and development of relationships that has begun to occur since our arrival here in late January.

An unexpected cross-cultural experience presented itself sometime during the first week of February when several bus drivers were shot in zone 6 where half of the group lives. Students living within that zone encountered mass amounts of people migrating towards the central bus station instead of the usual heavy traffic and bus exhaust. Bottomed out trucks hauling 15-20 people in the bed were passing through traffic as they decided to join the throng of people and walk further down in hopes of hopping on a different bus. Between receiving advice from locals and attempting to read the newspaper through their broken Spanish, the students decided to return to their colony and spend the day with their families. The experience was frightening for some and more thrilling for others, however it did bring home the reality of violence in Guatemala and the insecurity that Guatemalans have to live with.

Throughout the past month our group has encountered severe social problems... severe poverty as well as economic injustice. It has been extremely taxing to wrestle with these realities and come to some kind of favorable conclusion. I've included an exerpt from my journal as a reflection of my personal struggle with these issues.

'I never gave a lot of thought towards the street children until this past weekend at Panabaj. I had two young girls following our group through our tour for an hour and a half begging for a quetzal. I couldn't pay any attention to our guide because verses kept intruding my thoughts: 'Let the little children come unto me' and 'You fed me when I was hungry, I was naked and you gave me clothes.' I looked at those little girls, dirty with torn clothes worn many times over, hair all in tangles and all I saw was God. The older girl was trying desperately to pin the younger one's ratty hair, but the dusty locks wouldn't hold the clip. It seemed others in our group ignored them – perhaps thinking they're not as poor as they look… Maybe this excuse to send the children away is also a clear demonstration of Henri Nouwen's quote 'We all seek to hide what is strange and painful and to act as if things are as usual.'

As more children joined the two girls I wanted to take them all in my arms, give them new clothes and bathe them. Part of the reality of acknowledgment of pain is also the realization that we may not be able to solve the problem single-handedly."