Before Ben Soden and I set off on our trip to Guatemala and Honduras we did some research into our destinations. Guatemala City was described as the murder capital of the world, with words such as big, dirty, and dangerous being constantly flagged. My grandmother had even been staying up listening to radio programmes explaining to me in great lengths how I would be caught up in some awful situations. However, having already spent a week in Guatemala back in 2013 I was feeling excited and buzzing to return to one of the largest cities in Central America. After having stayed up for 25 hours on planes and stop overs we had finally reached this incredible city. Waiting in George Bush International airport in Houston for 6 hours was especially tiring but was endured through counting the number of obese people being ferried around in the buggies normally reserved for disabled people.
Our first day in Guatemala City started off at lightning speed. We were blessed with a delicious breakfast with Herby which was cooked by the delightful Deborah! To Benjamin's delight he was allowed to drive the automatic Toyota Yarris into the city from Frank's house (where we are staying). He was soon accustomed to the local driving norms such as swerving in and out of lanes erratically, using the horn at any possible opportunity, and calling out over enthusiastic greetings to anyone within earshot HOLA, BUENAS DIAS MI AMIGO!
Once we arrived at the newly acquired mentoring centre we had a quick tour before taking a stroll with Duncan to see some of the children nearby. We met a group of boys who work seven days a week shoe shining, and treated a lovely boy called Jose to lunch. Mi Arca are trying to enrol Jose into school but it's tough going. Towards the end of the meal he had to stop eating as his shrunken stomach was full, although he said it was the nicest thing he has eaten in a while. Ben was touched by the fact that Jose took the leftovers in a takeaway box to share with his friends. The way those working or living on the street share nearly everything and look out for each other was emotional to witness first-hand.
After this we joined up with Walter, Hector and Emma to visit some youths on the street. We chatted with a kid who had just come out of prison and was having to stay clean to avoid returning, played UNO with some solvent using men and gave piggy backs to some adorable kids who had returned from school. Meanwhile a 16 year old mother was chatting to the team about her abusive boyfriend who harmed her and threatened the child. It is sometimes shocking to hear these stories and it was hard to put on a happy and enthusiastic face for the children when you understand how challenging and difficult their lives are.
To round the eventful day off we accompanied Frank and Juanita to Zone 4 to help run a children's club for the niños. We made origami cranes an hearts in the bus whilst more active games such as skip rope and captain's coming were enjoyed in an alleyway. Ben was surprised at how mothers dropped their 2/3 year old kids off at the alleyway and left them by themselves.
We feel super blessed and grateful to be our positions back home in England, after one day we have remembered how hard these people have to fight to survive and how so many children have had to forfeit their childhood due to poverty, misfortune and child caring duties. We just hope we are serving them dutifully and that God's love and message of hope is apparent in what we do.
Buenes Noches, Alex D