by Caroline Black
Our first Sunday in Chajul was marked by a five mile hike through the hills of Chajul. The destination: One beautiful waterfall.
We met up with a group of Limitless Horizon’s students who led us up, down, around, etc. to see the sight. After about 2.5 hours of a group of Aggies realizing how out of shape they are, falling and slipping down muddy rocks, envying Dr. Wingenbach’s ability to not slow down… we arrived at the waterfall and enjoyed the refreshing, cool water. The pictures of the area alone are beautiful. Too bad we didn’t pack a picnic lunch!
After our trek to the waterfall, we rode back to Chajul on a Chicken Bus… and survived. Hallelujah!
The afternoon was spent in the homes of Chajul learning to weave. Dr. Wingenbach, his daughter Sydney, Julie Brod and I visited the home of a Limited Horizon’s student Carina. Carina’s sister Margarita taught us how to weave. It was very interesting to learn the process of the weave. Margarita mentioned that it may take up to two days to finish a belt, shirt, scarf, you name it.
Sydney, Julie and I each got to take our turns weaving. (We will have to post pictures for everyone to see.) Upon leaving the home of Carina, we thanked Margarita, and she gave us each the piece of cloth we made. I officially am a weaver – okay, perhaps that is a stretch, but I do have the cloth to prove my skill!
In addition to today’s activities…
Since arriving in Chajul, I have fallen in love with the little kids that hang around the house where we are staying. All of the little boys know my name, “Carolina,” and I’m one of few they come running to for a hug or high five. They sit in my lap, ask me to play soccer… they are fabulous.
I will be sad to leave them. One in particular, Juanito, looks like he is four, but he is eight. Dr. W said that it was due to malnutrition. Juanito has “stunting disease,” or in other words, his body has eaten himself because he has not received proper nutrients… it absolutely breaks my heart.
I don’t care how bad these kiddos may smell… They can climb all over me all they want. Another little one, Mauricio, pounds my fist every time he sees me. Although I can barely communicate with them in Spanish… it has been fun to just sit and color with them, play games or throw/kick around a soccer ball.
This country is very colorful, and the people are proud of their independence. But it is their independence that is killing them!
For example, they don’t want to use GMO corn that has been bred to be more efficient and nutritional, because they do not want to depend on another country to feed them. For so long I’ve always thought, “Oh, it’s the American farmer’s job to feed the world…” because that is what we’ve been taught in school.
Although the statistics behind the fact are true, I’ve come to a conclusion that even if these people receive food or new Ag practices… If it is against their culture, they won’t use it.
THAT blows my mind.
Yesterday our crew talked with a man who is an Ag specialist in the area. He said that people learned the most by attending trainings and workshops, but if the leaders in the town don’t implement the practices taught, then no one else will either.
Furthermore, they mainly plant corn and beans in Chajul. Some have learned to grow peas, however the people here only grow peas for EXPORT.
Even if this does give them cash and stirs up the economy… the opportunity to have a variety of nutritional foods in the home is getting exported to the US and not imported to the stomachs of their families and children.
It’s more of a cultural change that would have to occur here in the Highlands of Guatemala to get this country out of famine.
The people of Chajul are hungry. Hungry for Food. Independence. Freedom. Life.
I am hungry to learn. Help. Grow. What an experience this has been and will continue to be!
I wish everyone could see this place and read the stories and passion in everyone’s eyes, as kids run into the streets with no shoes on, just to say HOLA to us.
This experience has been humbling, mind blowing and without a doubt heartwarming.
Forever changed… Si Dios quiere (if God wills it).