Sunday, September 26, 2010


As often as it feels like we’re living in the epicenter of “hurry up and wait,” from time to time the opposite happens and problems solve themselves overnight.  There’s that rare day when a week’s worth of frustrations are suddenly put in their proper perspective, and solutions materialize from the red clay of the Guatemalan countryside.  I’d like to share two such vignettes with you, to briefly illuminate a sliver of our good fortune.

Women’s Cooperative
                In the past month, I’ve grown increasingly interested with branding and selling Guatemalan artisan goods in the States. There are certain products that defy the cheap and touristy stereotype, products that could be marketable in the States.  But that conviction was as far as I got.  Then I caught a bus to Chichi (the largest market in Guatemala) on a whim to spend the afternoon taking photos.
After stopping for coffee, I was encouraged by the barista to visit a nearby fair-trade cooperative.  Getting there required you to walk through a hotel lobby, up a flight of stairs, and out onto their parking deck – not the kind of place you stumble into.  But there it was, my obscure vision actualized.  Here was my model.
                Later that week, some of my co-workers were having a meeting in a nearby middle school.  After they finished and just as they were leaving, two women stopped them, imploring their help in translating a business email.  The women who stopped them were members of a self-run artisan cooperative, only minutes from where I work.  What I wanted to incubate already exists.
The organization’s already there, a trail’s blazed for me to follow – and here, for two weeks, I thought the idea would only exist in my mind.  What follows remains to be seen, but unexpected doors continue to open.

Summer Enrichment Program
                We’ve been working for the past month to have a summer program ready to launch when the kids finish school in mid-October.  We had our itinerary and logistics decided, but couldn’t find a place to hold the camp.  There just aren’t buildings big enough where we work, and we understood that the local schools were not an option.  We were only a month from launch with no ideas what to do next.
Then, during the meeting mentioned above, our team inquired as to the availability of the middle school for our summer programs (keep in mind that this was only a meet-and-greet in a different neighborhood than the one we currently work in).  Still, they extended us their facilities. Later that afternoon, we found another space in a building we thought was abandoned that we can use for future programs –adult classes, library, after school program – everything, an ideal location.
Each of these experiences offered a needed dose of encouragement.  Often, as we're busy planning future programs or trying to teach English, it's possible to lose sight of why we're here.  Certainly my perspective becomes too narrow.  But then these warming moments occur, moments when the clouds clear and the view glistens in wide swathes all around, moments when I’m certain that I’m doing what I ought.  It's a bit like serendipity.


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