Thursday, April 26, 2007

martes. el 24 de Abril. 20:26

I see the realities of this country's poverty daily. Diario, one of the newspapers is sure to report the latest gang killing in zones one or three of the capital. Report it does with as varied vocabulary for gunshot, massacre, murder, victim, dead, and gunman as one can find within the Spanish language. It is a practiced habit among reporters here.

Rising early in the morning of any city in the country, any rural road, an individual encounters bundles of people - sleeping or passed out under old archways or waiting along a desolate path for a bus... or someone from whom to hitch a ride.

Women are whistled at and if one turns the right corner, it is easy to find the local whorehouse. In Cimaltenango, I have passed it may times as it lies along the main highway: CA-1. Such a highway that runs from the United States, through Mexico and thus further south. Among gallo signs are women's backsides in flourescent thongs. Their bodies are pinned to the cervezeria's side streeted doors and walls. Dusted and gaunt individuals stare from their plastic wicker chairs to the street, which often offers less entertainment than the strip club I pass on my way home every day. Gunshots lull children to sleep in my part of the city. But it seems a better situation than that of the capital city's Zone one - a place where entering will get you shot. Or, if you're lucky, only robbed.

Small villages along Atitlan's coast have been destroyed with the introduction of Marijuana and other sorts of coke and dope. Other places have been lucky to find streams of alcoholics... if you call permanently scaring your family and having other women lucky. Making your children work dirtily in the streets for money. Money used to supply your irresponsible and uncontrollable urge for the depressant that is the catalyst causing your rage to float to the surface. Meanwhile, your son's young, dolled face is growing up and he brings home less and less to you everyday. But he is working longer and harder, forgetting about school so as not to thicken his scars of anger and pain, of both the physical and the heart. A child should complain about homework and beg for an ice cream as he walks the cobblestone of Pana on a hot day.

Often a girl is lucky to be married early as she is out of the grasp of a father. Perhaps she will be given into a worse situation. But perhaps with a little grace, her husband helps her to escape the pain she's grown with.

It's a gamble, a toss up here. And while all are not so drastically troubled with abused situation, suffering is common to nearly all.

For it exists in other forms. It exists in hernias that result from years of wood's haul. Women and men trace paths walked along highways years of lives, by minute, hour or day. And the cycle continues as fathers teach sons. As they wear the same rubber boots, the work of the land is learned with a hoe in hand, made to fit such a small frame. Technologies of sprinklers irrigate families while women weave and spin and grind corn. While a stove is manned that requires a husband to bring literal tons of wod to its tiled sides, this carbon monoxide producting beast enduces burns to small hands. Yet tortillas and beans must be made so they might fuel the cycle with energy renewed. To let rest fall upon beds of lice and scabies, a coffee made with wormed water will comfort bodies that ache. Welcomed sleep will take heavy eyelids and greets souls of seven and seventy until stretches of dawn stream to fill the sky at five.

As I will remian forever an outsider, regardless of my linguistic capabilities and the length I might live among the places of this country, it is easy for an individual to desensitize themselves to such a reality. But I pray it doesn't ever become such a perspecitve. Two and a half weeks from now I return to that of the compfortable United States. Hell, even here I have my own room with a desk and fresh oranges and dried manogoes. I was called a mango the other day. In Guatemala, that's slang for beauty. I have Q100 to spend on this private room of mine. Q100 ($13) per night.

And this is without mention of any life I might lead in my own country.

Apparent most is my relationship with my friends here- those who are doing better than many. Friends who own cars, are putting family memebers through school, raising children, loving their grandaparents.

But really, they still struggle to get by every day. They cannot affort to have inconveniences and accidents. But regardless of what they might or may not be able to handle, their worlds still fall apaprt.

To see my friends: grown men with families and decent jobs sob and cry into each other's arms because there is nowhere else to turn, no money to borrow and broken hearted, their cries turn to God. This is an an aching my twenty years and college student brains do not have the the status to understand. I understand tears. I understand how to hug someone experiencing tears, but I have no capacity to comprehend money and what any individual feels when it runs out, or when someone you trust and love crashes and totals your car and does not have any money with which to pay you back. But nor can you pay for the damage as your son is grows, asking why you won't come home from weeks of work. Your wife is trying to finish school, and you're already working to pay off yet another car accident among the stresses and fear of losing this new and significantly more stable job.

I have no comprehension of cousins who refuse to help your grandmother stand and bring a bowl to her, while you're expected to bread win for the remainder of your family. Especially when they have scarce appreciation for the work you do and they care little for your presence among them. I have no power to understand why someone would wish they were dead so they wouldn't have to worry about money anymore. I have no comprehension for the weeks spent with HELPS teams being the only weeks you find happiness in your life.

Real tears from grown men, so desperate and with single chances within their lives. Single changes that when lost mean the loss of not only plans, but partial stability and hope for an upward stint. Yet never have I seen Alex nor Chori give up. Becuase they know they can't. Many nights, however, with our upcoming leave for the States and with the loss of companionship these months have built, have I seen sullen heads and tears without the prevail of a cheerer's laughter. It's not the kind of sadness that a best friend can turn to giggles with insults to an imbisul boyfriend or with the immature suggestion of a bodily function. It's a deeper kind of sorrow, a kind that whishes for better for their children, the kind of chance both of these men are trying to make in their lives.

This kind of suffering they have chosen to endure with hope.

There is an equal suffering it takes for a father to leave his country for another, where all is foreign and his language isn't spoken and a pig farm provides a tin roof and broken down home for comfort. This is the kind of suffering I will never have the capacity to grasp, nor never will have to endure.

This other suffering is the kind of suffering this man's son feels when he feels he's failed the opportunity his father suffered to give him. The pain he will feel to look into his eyes knowing he's lied and broken others, but experiencing the love his father has without regard for his faults.

I might continue this broken soliliquy, yet this exemplified cycle will require that I continue long on until morning with the determination and exemplified vigor these people have for their suffering. They suffer with the hope that a moment in their lives might come when they won't be worried and hurt and suffer to get by. Even if the relief begins for seconds and disappears, they suffer with this hope.

This kind of situation is unlike the strife of many because most others, especially in my country, have options. There are options for food, health, school. But when these are removed, spirits begin to break and cycles offer no option but to incite broken paths.

I could take pictures to bring to you and to show you, but they are only images. Images that may have been scalded onto my heart, but remain that of an image to you. Perhaps it will move you.. but how far? How far have I been moved?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Breathe. Just once for me.

With the end of this week came more than a great relief for me. It was likely the least pleasant upon my arrival in this country. But with that said, and the fact that I was PR photographer for the week, it is over, I have taken enough pictures of Ronald McDonald and I can move on.

What never ceases to amaze me, however, is the ability for one's life to be changed by the work an individual can do in this country. With the intent to come and do and be, often we end up changed beyond what we could ever give in a physical manner to the people I encounter.

Without divulging ridiculous detail of my woe, I will say that my entire day was changed by an eleven year old boy this week. Walking camera in hand to the clinic, I had a mind to rid myself of all the stickers and stuffed animals and pencils I have been carting around in my bags for these last four months. Gosh, has it really been that long?

Walking toward the clinic, I heard... "Good. Morn. Ing. How. Are. You?" and I see this kid giggling at me as I grin and respond. Sitting next to him and inquiring the other English he knows, we strike up a conversation (as he continues to laugh at the fact that I look weird and can speak spanish). Poco a Poco (little by little), our little circle grows to encompass nearly every kid in the area and their mothers. Using Spanish as a transitive, we began to swap language. My English for their Katchiquel- a Mayan language comprised of clicking and deep throated kinds of words, which is transitively nearly impossible to pronounce. Mind you English and Spanish have a similar makeup and tonal quality. Most Mayan languages do not even have a written alphabet and pass the language on generationally. Thus, there I was, the awkward blonde girl surrounded by natives from Solola laughing nearly so hard they are crying as, I nor the others can pronounce either language.

But it isn't so much the fact that I only remember two words in Katchiquel meaning donkey and cat. It's the sentiment and the guts (in Guate we say Huevos - eggs) that this eleven year old had to just say hi in my own language. There is little more to be said than that. The entirety of my day and ultimately my week was drastically changed by someone I will never see again.

It's about taking time and I believe that is the only secret. Take time to feel crappy and take time to laugh. Don't let life get so caught up that you can't even breathe. It is amazing how often we must forget and relearn such things in our lives. But ultimately when we rediscover the satisfaction and peace this pace injects into ourselves, I realize how these people live to be 90 years old and continue to work their land until they end in rest. They've got it figured out far more significantly than our society of things does. I've been robbed twice since I've been here. Things are replaceable, but the serenity of the air in the morning is gone every time the sun passes to its full rise.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Taxi Rides and Celine Dion.

Story to come soon. Transportation in Guatemala.

Lady in Red.

So after waking at four thirty this morning to photograph traditional easter parades in Antigua, avoiding and being trampled by crowds all day with my camera fastened to my hand, my body decided it wanted nothing to do with a nap. Blech. So instead of delightfully finding myself in the varied stages of sleep, I thus am fastened to the computer of my hostel very much in a daze.

I thought I might touch on something of a lighter subject than that which has been lately previous. Cat calls from Guatemalan boys. As a kind of disclaimer, I will say that getting whistled at on an hourly basis in the street is less than pleasant and I've learned to tune out the kind of clicking, shushing sound males make. However, sometimes these events prove to be particularily funny.

I'm not entirely sure where these boys think they're going to get using broken English to hit on us. Especially when it involves, "Hey Baby, or Pretty Lady, Barbie or Canchita (blondie).. etc. etc." I'm not sure how it would be deemed impressive to talk to someone, or how they might believe they are going to get anywhere with that kind of manner. Show me some intellect from less than a block away and a little eye contact and you MIGHT get aconversation out of me. Additionally, I'm sure you're more of a poet in your own language, whether it be Spanish, Quiche, Pokemchi etc. However, if you're between the ages of 12 and 17 as is frequent, kiss your hopes goodbye. But to note a particualrily humorous instance, Laurie and I were walking down the streets of Antigua three or four weeks ago, looking for a hostel to say in during Semana Santa (Holy Week). As we avoided eye contact from a pickup filled with teenaged boys, whistles here and there provoked a mere "...BYEEEE.." from one of its cargoed bodies. That was all the high pitched, toady voice had to offer. Something tells me he meant to say "hi," but we giggled and continued down the road.

Additionally, when we were in Panajachel last week, we were walking down to the water front, and a 13 or 14 year old tuk tuk driver (which is a small go-cart like taxi) leaned out his window and said, "Hi Barbie.. I like your underwear." Both on the verge of rage, Laurie and I decided it was better to burst into rampant laughter at the absurdity of the sentence. Not only were we sure that no one could see our underwear, we were also particularily sure that he had no idea what he had just said to us. Not to mention the fact he was probably 14.

Yesterday, while wearing my gap product red shirt walking down the road I was called Lady In Red. No allusion to the song of course. The word Red was written on my shirt as such: INSPI(RED).

Usually though, when they realize I too can speak their language, they toot a different horn. Aside from the suave, "free" usage, cat calling women is an actual problem in this country. What's startling is at such a young age men are taught the macho motiff and taught often by their fathers how to treat (or all too frequently mistreat) women. They are sometimes sent to "become men" as soon as they enter teenage years. What's socks the wind out of me even more, is that women are taught to be passive about this abuse. No one ever fights back, regardless of a situation of a drunken husband or endangered children. Often, the fear of not surviving is too great. And thus whistling and the maltreatment of women continues. It lies in the conditioning of children as young boys are not taught that this kind of manner is a disrespect to women and their own mothers in turn. I know that if my younger brother would think of treating any kind of female in that manner, he would be pummeled personally to the ground by his older sister. The kind of education toward opposite gendered relations is so drastically different here. It is not that nothing is taught to young boys and they don't know any better, but rather they are shown what to do and how to treat women. And because I am a woman living here in Guatemala, I too, continue to walk down the street and ignore the honks, hoots and hollers, knowing there is little I can do right now to change the cycle.