I remember parts of my first night with the street team, we went to a usual square where we hung out with the kids, mainly in their teens and twenties, for an hour or so. We mainly just chatted, the team knew the gang well, there were a few wounds for me to clean and bandage, if I recall rightly, one of the girls had a wound that the team were dressing regularly to assist healing. Life on the streets was dirty, wounds often got infected and blood poisoning was relatively common. I remember being shown a covered market area where some of the girls slept at night, being introduced to their ‘partners’ and looking into the glassy eyes of 4 or 5 year olds sucking on dirty rags soaked in solvent. So many of the kids were either in a solvent haze or had that general dullness of speech and alertness that comes from chronic solvent abuse. There was a skit the team did with some of the kids, one of the characters was called “Solventina”, they thought this was hilarious!
During my time there, I didn’t get to stay at the girls home as it was under reconstruction. I spent a few weeks at the boys home though, helping out generally, making hand puppets with them and helping to make the place a little more homely by making curtains for the living areas and some of the bedrooms. It was a real privilege to have the space to spend time just hanging out with them; life gets pretty stretched when you’re the house parents for 13 boys between the ages of 3 and 14, so they didn’t get a huge amount of down time. In fact, the last 10 days of my stay in the country, I looked after things while the house parents had the first holiday they had had for a couple of years. I remember taking them all to a water park, which they LOVED!!
Other things I recall about Guatemala are the colours and the food. When I think of Peru I think of bright primary colours, the traditional clothing, the markets, the themes were always very colourful. In Guatemala though, the colours were those deep, rich, vibrant browns and reds – everywhere! I don’t usually go for browns, but these were stunning! The food on the other hand…. well I was expecting something along the lines of Mexican fare, rich, spicy and colourful, but no!! I was amazed as to how bland to the taste and sight it was…. disappointing!!
I loved the 8 weeks i had in Guatemala. i havent returned to Central or South America since then, but i look forward to the day when i do return, hopefully for a longer term stint.