A View From the Ground - Continued

This entry is the second part in a series describing Matthew Pattinson’s experience working on CEF Projects July 27, 2010: The school in Tuixoquel

After visiting the school and taking some photos in Loma Linda, I continued on my motorcycle towards Tuixoquel; the village where CEF’s work all began. As always there were a few stray dogs that tried to chase me down on the way. I successfully applied my strategy of putting the bike at full throttle to out-run the dogs and protect access to my leg by sticking my shoe out.

When I arrived at the school, I wanted to visit don Trinidad. He is one of the leaders in the community and is a big reason for the success of CEF’s projects in Tuixoquel.  The school in Tuixoquel is at the top of the mountain and don Trinidad was harvesting peaches down in the valley below the school. I had to descend down into the valley where he was working. One of his daughters had to take the horse down to bring up the fruit so she led me down. Although she was just walking down at what seemed to be a normal pace, I had to do a slight jog to keep up. I just couldn’t seem to keep pace, which was kind of embarrassing, because I am pretty sure that I have the longest legs in the entire community and his daughter was descending wearing an ankle length skirt, some simple plastic shoes and guiding a horse.

Once I descended three-quarters of the way down, I found don Trinidad working away with his wife. We talked about farming and how the peach crop has been ruined this year because of all the rains that Guatemala has had. A lot of the fruit had fallen to the ground before it ripened and some of it had rotted on the trees. He also shared with me some of the village politics, as there is an ongoing land dispute between two communities.

After our talk I went with the family to put the peaches out to dry. Don Trinidad had some more work to do so I followed his son and daughter back up the mountain. I lingered too long in the valley and had to run to catch up, which was a bad idea. The community is at a very high altitude and I quickly learned that I needed to exercise more, as I was gasping for breath by the time I caught up. Upon reaching them I began to follow behind the horses. I don't know what they had for breakfast, but the horse I had to follow behind was constantly farting the entire way up the mountain.

Once I got back to the school. I opened my laptop to do a little work as I was waiting to take one of the teachers back to the main community of Comitancillo. I was probably a bit of a hindrance, because every time the teacher turned his back to the class all the students would crowd around me and watch me work while feeling my arm hair, rubbing my back and giggling.

In the evening, I had supper with Fredy's family. Fredy is the director of the school that CEF built in Tuixoquel. He is incredibly dedicated, hard working and an inspiration to the community. Fredy, his family and I all crowded together in a small kitchen built with adobe blocks and with an open fire. His mother always talks to me in Mam, the local indigenous language, as she gets a kick out of how I don’t understand it. She would say a few words to me and then start to laugh. For me this was probably the favourite moment of the long day. We chatted around the fire and the children fell asleep in their mother’s arms. Saying good-bye is a bit of a process in the Mayan culture. Everyone takes a turn saying a few words and is always very thankful for all that has been shared. The good-bye lasted about half an hour and I headed back to the hotel to get some sleep.