The downside to paradise

I’m headed home Saturday morning after more than a month in Antigua, Guatemala. In part, we were here to meet the new library in Parramos. True confession: I screw things up now and then, but whoa, did I get this one right. The painting, done by a local patron, is headed home with me.

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The problem with being here however, is that you always, always see the need. Everywhere. And it’s not the beggars. It’s the mothers trying to make a better life for their children. It’s the men dusty and thirsty and living off avocados for days at a time. And it’s the children. Oh, the children.

Today I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking down one of those dusty back roads to this facility.


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Luke took me. He’s the first guy in that video. Though he doesn’t work with the organization anymore, they still let him in to weave his magic. He writes. He travels. And he is still one of their best ambassadors.

We wore masks to visit the twelve children. The kids don’t like the masks. To be honest, I didn’t either, but it’s for their protection. They are so poorly nourished their immune systems are very compromised.

The video doesn’t show the volunteer commitment to the center. Even folding clothes takes a lot of time when you have twelve babies. And the place was spotless. Mothers are sometimes allowed to stay with the very young children to nurse them. That’s one of the things I noticed: although the women nurse, they do so with such a poor technique that it’s not very efficient for the mother or child. Hearing air whistle through is never a good thing.

I asked if the women are given coaching. Luke laughed. (He promised it wasn’t actually AT me.) No, they are expected to know. But as you saw in the video, many of these women are stunted themselves, and cognitive development is remarkably challenged. It is a cycle that simply must be broken.

I am delighted to be here. I am over-the-top happy with my average 85 degree days. I’m in a fantastic ex-pat neighborhood where I am protected. But I am most grateful for a couple of friendships I’ve made here. People who make the world smaller and teach me so much. They’ve taken me places I would never see otherwise.

Yes, I travel. No way will I ever apologize for that. It completes me, you might say. I’ll leave you with this Mark Twain favorite:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.