The squawk of exotic birds and a moist breeze wash over David and I each morning to lift us out of sleep. Our house has no windows, but rather huge openings strung up with screens to keep the evening throng of insects out. It is quite a change from the caves of homes to which we had become accustomed in our urban lives past, but a welcome change at that. There is no boundary between our resting place and the outside wilderness here, save a thin strip of mesh screen, and I think we would not have it any other way. Much like the nature of our work here, in contrast to previous jobs in the United States, everything is much more interactive and tangible.
Free of office cubicles, time sheets and the like, we are at work day and night. Any hopes that our time here would be an extended summer vacation have diminished, to our delight, as our commitment to make a real impact in six months grows stronger. That is not to say we do not enjoy each and every day, but it is to say that all the markers of hard work are apparent: falling asleep each night just an hour or two after dinner, awakening early with no aid of alarm clocks, and soar muscles and brains pushed so hard that an hour of reading a good book each evening is a welcome escape. With every new person we meet, every new fruit we try, and every new schoolchild we teach, we move slowly but surely in progress—the long-term vision of which David and I have spent the last four days arduously deliberating on our balcony conference room (It coincidentally happens to be both our favorite part of the house and the spot with best Internet reception though like explorers on a distant planet searching for signs of life we sometimes must turn our computers to and fro, even leaning over the balcony’s edge to pick up any traces of internet). Our meager air card, however, has served us well in hours of research and many a conference call this last week.
We have been here a month now and seen the extent to which the people of Nueva Mercedes are in need. This was no surprise, but this week we have begun the fun of grouping the needs and actually settling on courses of action. It is in this tedious process to which I alluded previously regarding hard work. That being said, our proximity with the people has given us a refreshed understanding of the tasks ahead. The inhabitants of Nueva Mercedes are a tireless bunch of laborers—mostly farmers. They work in the same fields and forests in which their families bathe, their children fetch firewood, and their wives plant gardens. In the west we all have personal lives and professional lives. It seems that an abyss lies between them that we hope will never grow shallow. In the Polochic Valley there is a single, simple life for all, and this is the life that Dave and I have discovered and live now. Work is a constant process as we keep reading, writing, and taking in every morsel of knowledge to be had around us. So as the lines between work and play fade, we begin to see outcomes and the picture of how we will facilitate the progression of our neighbors here. More comprehensive and detailed plans have been drawn up now, of which Dave and I will share in a later post. This was the fruit of our efforts this week so much so that when the weekend arrived we both found ourselves, again roused early, alert, and in the “conference room” discussing future projects, doing research, and continuing to try and make something legible out of our mountain of thoughts, ideas and ambitions.
The arrival of our good friend, Khaled is now upon us. He is Li’Chutam’s second volunteer (the first being our good friend Gabby) and was a welcome surprise yesterday. We arrived home from a lunch with the neighbors to find Khaled in road-worn garb, helping himself to a bowl of fried potatoes from our pantry. Khaled, was a good friend of ours in Mexico and will be a welcome addition to our work here each day for as long as his nomadic spirit warrants him to stay. Gabby proved to us that a fresh perspective from a traveled individual has much to contribute to Li’Chutam’s work. We anticipate that Khaled will certainly have some valuable insight. Dave and I are excited to see what the coming weeks have to offer as the real implementation phase begins, meetings in Guatemala City are expected, and the evaluation/deliberation phase is winding down. But, in the meantime, the sweetness of the humid valley air in the morning and the peacefulness of the afternoon showers will continue to be welcome luxuries.