Thursday, February 20, 2014

Childhood; Interrupted

Four of Sylvia's seven children
Last month, when my friends and I were doing a home visit with Sylvia's family (above) in Guatemala, our minds and bodies were assaulted with the usual overload of sensory input when in Guatemala. When traveling from the U.S. to Central America in January, just getting used to the weather change takes a day or so. Added to this disconnect is the sense of chaos from the traffic, the smell of diesel fumes, the sounds of engines without mufflers. Color saturates the clothing worn by indigenous women, but the hills are brown from dried up stalks of corn. The color of dried mud floors inside the houses makes everything else look more colorful by contrast. And curious children are everywhere. American visitors always draw an audience. 

I didn't notice her at first. She blended into the confusion in the courtyard; she seemed like one more Mayan child who had decided to see what all of the excitement was about. 

A life of labor starts early in Guatemala

Once I saw her, I couldn't stop watching. She was quiet, diligent and every few minutes, would look out of the corner of her eye to see what and who we were. Her eyes were wary, her facial expressions guarded. 

Sylvia's hut is surrounded by metal walls, and a gate. This girl, who didn't belong to the family, had been let in, but I didn't know why. 

"She does her family's laundry in our sink," Sylvia explained. "I let her in because her house has no running water or sink." 

Childhood; interrupted. 

It took some time, but for a few brief moments, this nameless girl allowed herself to get lost in a moment of fun. She relaxed. She laughed. 
We stood by and watched, happy that this child of the slums could forget that her childhood was interrupted by the scarcity of chronic poverty.

FFF friend Gerry shows the children photos of themselves.