The members of Li Ch’utam arrived back to the volunteer house today exhausted after our first-- hopefully not our last--organized field trip with fifth and sixth grade students and maestro Ronny of Nueva Mercedes. With twenty-five of us crammed in a mini-bus, our destination was Agua Calientes of Finca Paraiso, just outside of of El Estor, a beautiful lakeside town on the edge of Lago Izabal. For a majority of the students, it was a first time experience leaving the Polochic Valley of Alta Verapaz, therefore being a mysterious adventure.
Our first stop was in El Estor where we sat alongside Lago Izabal eating breakfast, taking photos, and interacting with people passing by who seemed intrigued by our caravan. Maybe it was the smiles on the kids’ faces that made it quite obvious to the residents of El Estor that today was no ordinary excursion for us.
Around noon we hopped back in the mini-bus and finished the trip to Finca Paraiso admiring the green, mountainous scenery along the way. Practically running to the hot springs, each of us was extremely eager to take advantage of the time we had in this special environment. We spent the day swimming, cliff-jumping, and taking mud baths in the hot sulfuric paradise. Additionally, it was a welcoming day for our two new volunteers, Quentin Veuillet and Jess Lyga, to get to better know the students in a greater casual setting. We are very excited to have two these new fresh energies, each appearing to have many ideas and skills to share with our project.
As much fun as the day ended up being it still carried with it a hint of finality as it was the last day in the Polochic for one of our volunteers, Samir Messaoudi. Following our return to Mercedes, Samir thanked the children for allowing him to take part in the everyday activities of their village and school. There were dozens of goodbyes with seemingly hopeful undertones of “See you soon.” As a volunteer myself working within a limited time frame, to see Samir leave hesitantly (and likewise with Michal just over a month ago) it is a reminder to seize each day, and even more importantly stands as confirmation that the relationships that we are building with these children and soon to be young-adults are very genuine.
In some sense, I feel that we are entering a new chapter in the school year in Mercedes as we bring in our new volunteers as well as continue to build relationships with the children, teachers, and community. The other day as Samir and I were traveling to Teleman we were encountered by the father of one of our students, Jose Julian, who was excited to shake our hands and compliment us on our work with the school. He was so enthusiastic about the IT classes he even told us that he hopes to be able to purchase a computer for his household in the near future so that his children will have more time explore and learn. Speaking of the after-school class, Jess, Quentin and myself have been brainstorming and plan to spend the next week, a national “Rest Week” without classes, to build a more structured and diverse agenda on activities, scheduling, and monitoring. We are climbing steadily and taking some exciting leaps along the way.