So, what's been going on? For one thing, I feel like every weekend just keeps getting better and better. I'm not a city person, so all of our trips out of the city are completely wonderful. Satiago Atitlan was last weekend's destination where we visited a good coffee finca, various places around Santiago and Panabaj, a bead co-op, and crossed the lake to visit the market. One thing that continually amazes me is the reactions the people of Guatemala have towards us, a bunch of United States Americans traveling through their country and, inevitably, sometimes behaving like tourists (camera-toting is a pretty obvious mark of a non-native). During our visit through various places in Santiago we learned more about the 36-year civil war here in Guatemala. Background information: the US played a large role in starting the 36 years of needless violence that ravaged this beautiful country. We saw the church that was a safe haven for many indigenas during the war and saw where an Oklahoman priest who was working to protect the same people was shot; his blood stains are still visible on the wall. Yet, despite all of this, they still welcome us with open arms. Example: several of us were enjoying the freedom we had to walk around the town in the evening and were hanging out in the central plaza for a little while when an indigenous man, who had been watching us for quite some time (in a very non-creeper way) came over and started speaking to us in Spanish. He was so excited that we are here, learning about his culture and history! It just blows my mind how active most Guatemalans seem to be in separating US citizens from the US government; I'm seeing just how much we can learn from the Guatemalans.
I mentioned that we also visited a good coffee finca; the disappointing bit of this tour was the fact that we couldn't actually see where they grow, roast, etc. the coffee because, since this finca is working to improve the lives of the community members and its workers, the people who aren't benefiting from it are really angry. The people at the finca are often robbed and threatened. I don't understand how people can do this to people who are just trying to help and make life better for someone! The Peace Accords may have been signed, but the scars are still evident. But still people have hope, which is wonderful! Some say that things will never improve, but I met a friend in Santiago. She's probably about 5 years old and giggles all the time and loves to be picked up, swung, whatever. I saw hope in that.