So far, this week has not been the most thrilling week of our time here -- I think that's pretty safe to say. We have experienced a "tropical depression," also known as Boris. We have been unable to go down to Panajachel because of the very real fear of mudslides and the closing of major streets. We have been unable to teach our dental health classes in Chaquijyá because school has been cancelled due to the weather. For several days, we have stayed indoors because of the excessive raining and flooding outside. I have ventured outside only once, to walk about a mile up to the market for necessary groceries for the house. We've all been a little restless and anxious to go, go, go -- our American paces and attitudes really coming out. However, instead of focusing on our own boredom or restlessness, I think it is really important to consider how something as "normal" as a prolonged rain storm completely turns Guatemalan people's lives upside down.
For illustration, let us consider the farming families of Chaquijyá. The mothers must take their crops (vegetables, fruits, etc) to be sold in the market in Solola. Assuming they are somehow able to travel there (about a 10 minute microbus ride) safely, will they make enough money for the trip and time to be worth it? I'm sure their daily market income is severely lowered because typical customers may not want to venture to the market in the terrible weather. Another obstacle is that their children are unable to attend school because it has been cancelled. So who is home to watch over and feed them if the mothers must go sell crops in the market? Are the fathers able to farm? Because most, if not all, of the farms in Chaquijyá are planted on the side of a mountain, are their lots ruined? Is the constant flow of rain, rushing down the mountain for several days, strong enough to ruin their crops? If so, then what happens? What will they sell tomorrow or the next day? How drastic is the setback for the family? Does the family have any other source of income to rely on during the storm? All of these questions point back to the cycle of poverty that is so familiar to the Maya community here in Guatemala.
It's crazy to think that in just a week, we will all be back home, in our bustling, fast-paced hometowns, where rainstorms are the very least of our worries. Rain may cause my hair to frizz a little and cancel my brother's baseball game, but hey - at least my car gets a free wash. Those may have been my old thoughts about a rain storm, prior to my experience here. However, I hope that when I return home, I continue to have a new, more appreciative perspective on all the little things that make our lives in the US so comfortable and that I never forget how those little things are actually big things to people elsewhere around the world, like the Maya people in Solola, Guatemala.
- Blair, Visage Student