Monday, September 01, 2008

Day 1 and 2

San Francisco El Grand Church

One of the candle stalls in front of the church.

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. For us it was so nice just to do nothing and spend time together as a family.

Arriving in Guatemala that first day was very surreal. I forgot that everyone had said that the airport had changed. I was amazed how much it had changed in 2 years since we picked up Liv. None of the little shops were in the airport. they had been replaced by 3 or 4 big shops that sold mostly liquor and were way overpriced. I was also shocked by the outside. I had remembered waiting for the Westin shuttle right across from the airport and all the street kids asking for money. This time I was prepared for them. I had brought a big box of the individual cheese/peanut butter crackers and a bunch of singles for them. But they were gone too. I suddenly felt very sad. Where had the children gone? Where were the little old ladies who ran the shops? I'm sure it was not their choice to leave. What were they doing now for money? It was on my mind the whole time I was there.

After my meltdown on day one, see previous posts, I was much better on day two but still filled with all these questions. We spent the day shopping after having a great breakfast at Cafe Condesa, I love that place. Day two was special because I got to return to the church where we had Olivia baptized on our pick up trip. The Church is San Francisco El Grand it is where the remains of Santo Hermano Pedro are.

He is known as the “St. Francis of the Americas,” Pedro de Betancourt worked and died in Guatemala. Pedro was born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1626. He worked as a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, Cuba he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line which the Franciscans had established… As quoted from Wikipedia (click to continue reading).

The church is just beautiful and outside of it is a courtyard with little stalls that sell all types of Guatemalan goods, but especially candles to be brought into the church and lit as an offering.

While we were in there I noticed a woman in traditional Mayan dress and her little daughter. Both of them were filthy. The little girl was about 4 years old and she was so good just kneeling next to her mother as she prayed. I continued to watch them as they got up and put a few coins in the collection box. I then noticed that the little girl had no shoes on. My heart broke. This could be my Liv. I wanted to get out of my seat and give them money, but should I do it in church. Would the mother be offended. I didn't know in Spanish how to say can I buy her some shoes.

They walked over to the left side of the church where the remains of Santo Hermano Pedro are in a ornate mausoleum type box. I tried to decide what to do. I watched as the mother prayed to the Saint. She was so passionate as she quietly mouthed her prayers. I could see her hands were very worn and rough, as she made the sign of the cross. I noticed my Aunt get up from the pew behind me and she was making her way to the left side of the church, I got up to follow her. As I crossed in front of the alter, I remembered to genuflect, just as i had been taught all those years ago in Catholic school. When I reached the Saints remains, I looked for the mother and daughter. I didn't see them. After a few minutes of kneeling and saying a few prayers to Saint Herman. We got up and went outside. Again I looked for the little girl with no shoes, and her mother. I didn't see them. I was so mad at myself. Why didn't i just get up and go over to them. Now this poor little girl will go on with no shoes for how long. But how many other children in this country are walking without shoes. Olivia has probably 20 plus pairs of shoes, most that she doesn't even wear because she doesn't like them.

I was frustrated and overwhelmed. We made our way back to our posh hotel and I felt like a hypocrite. I came here to do something, to somehow give back to the country that had given me my daughter, and I was finding it hard to not feel paralyzed by the enormous need.

The hotel. It is in a cute little neighborhood, about 5 blocks from the central park.
The entrance way of the hotel.
A little reading nook right outside our room.

My aunt would sit here each morning and call my Uncle as she drank her coffee. I would still be sleeping.
View of the volcano from the gardens.
Me picking some type of banannas, from a tree on the grounds. I tried to eat one but it tasted chalky.
Students in a procession in front of a church right next to the hotel.
Me and Auntie at dinner on day 2.


Kim said...

I didn't realize that you had Liv baptised in Guatemala - that's really cool. Love the pictures - and I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip.

lesley said...

Am sure your trip was a great learning experience as well as meaningful in all that you accomplished and all the love you passed along to those you came in contact with. How proud Liv will be of mommy when she gets older,(LIV-not mommy-dudh) and wow-how wonderful Vinay held down the NJ homefront! Way to go to all 3 of you!! Love Bene's Mom Les