Guatemala: Day 2

I need you all to understand that right now, I’m trying to type this entry while a cat wearing a dragon costume stalks the innocent mug of water by my elbow. Frida Katlo, resident feline, has the super-cat ability to leap 8 feet from the garden to land, spread-eagled, on the screen door behind which cowers her greatest enemy and greatest desire: the house’s other cat. To discourage this reign of terror, David and Jenn have lit upon the solution of making Frida wear her dragon costume.

I wish that all of life’s problems could be solved this way.

Today was the school’s clausura (I think I’m spelling that correctly?), which is the celebration of the last day of the school year. (The year begins afresh in January.) All of the girls came to school today wearing floofy dresses and sparkly shoes, and presented a recital for the parents, complete with singing, dancing, English-speaking, and then followed of course by cake. (So much cake!)

My favorite bit was when the girls presented their daily mantra (it has another name that I can’t remember right now…): one girls shouts, “I am strong!’ (And the other girls repeat, “We are strong!”). And then, “I am unique! I am kind! I am smart!” And then she begins to say, “We are strong! We are kind! We are smart! We are the future! We are the light of the world!” And all the kids shout it after her. Then, as the crescendo, “We are Hope Academy!”

Jenn told me a story this morning about one of the girls who Jenn helped to teach years ago. The girl needed some extra support to even be able to attend school regularly, but with time, she became an excellent student, and did what no one in her village thought she could do: finish high school. As graduation neared, the girl and Jenn went for a hike, and as they neared the top of the volcano they were climbing, Jenn asked, “So what are you going to do now?” The girl demurred, and then finally, haltingly, named the thing she thought was impossible: she kinda…sorta…wanted to stuy psychology so she could become a therapist and work with the kind of girls like she had been. But no one, no one from her village had ever gone to college before.

Well, now she’s the first. Jenn hopes that she might come back to her village when she has her degree and work with exactly the kind of girls like she had been. No one else could be equipped for that like she is.

She was the first girl from her village to go to college, but God willing, she won’t be the last. These girls, their lives aren’t simple and their futures aren’t assured. But they’re intelligent and kind and and strong. They are the light of the world. And it was powerful to watch them shout that out this morning.


This afternoon involved four more hours of Spanish and a list of vocabulary that is growing dangerously fast. My teacher continues to be really good at what he does, and even though it feels like my brain has started trickling out of my ears, I can command more Spanish today than I did yesterday, I can understand fractionally more of other people’s conversations, and thanks to Giovany’s patience, I have more confidence in my ability to converse, however painfully, and find workarounds for the vocabulary and grammar I don’t have yet. On top of that, people everywhere are surpassingly gracious at my attempts to follow and respond to conversation.

Tomorrow will include more Spanish (surprise!), and a trip to a local Mayan ruin. Until then, please enjoy this photographic record of my friendly neighborhood dragon cat, laying on all the stuff I needed to type this entry, because of course.


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