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Orphanage

Guatemala Journal
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 orphanage

12 octubre
I visited an orphanage with Brian, the Canadian PE teacher. He's been there several times and has warned me about what to expect, it's not a pleasant atmosphere, but it's their life. Over 50 boys live at the Hogar Elisa Martinez (Elisa Martinez Home), many retarded, ages 7-18. Miguel gave us some used clothing to bring. We visited with the boys for a while, some are so starved for a hug and some attention, my meager Spanish didn't matter. Many have intelligent, sensitive faces and you know their lives could be so much more hopeful if circumstances were different for them.

Two tired-looking women were in charge today. Dora showed us around, followed by a band of boys. A cemented playground, where we parked, held a basketball court. In the bedrooms were bunk beds with thin patterned blankets. The boys were proud to show off their communal rooms. They spent a lot of time in a large room that looked like a cell - no furniture (we were told it just gets destroyed, only plastic or metal furniture would last), bars on the doors. No decorations hanging on the walls, but painted colors. Inside we saw the doorway to their classroom, down another hallway was a locked room with equipment, including drums and marimbas. The cook, an outgoing younger woman, invited us to come during the week to hear them play their instruments. I asked for permission to take photos - no candid photos possible here, every time I pointed the camera they were right there posing for me. One youngster offered to take a picture with me in it. The photos for this section are in black and white, it seemed to me a more appropriate way to express their environment.

Brian, Dora and I planned a shopping trip - she would take us to factory outlets where we could buy in bulk cheaply. Jairon (hy-ron, I'm guessing at the spelling), an attractive, intelligent and friendly 17 year old with stylishly spiked hair accompanied us. Jairon took the bus to attend high school in the city, science was his favorite subject, and was interested in becoming a lawyer. He also worked a few days a week at a local hotel.

After driving around the city checking out several places, I'm following directions in Spanish, we ended up in Zone 1. Brian and I were certainly the only gringo faces on the street. Dora advised me to wear my backpack purse in front for safety. We bought dozens of socks and underwear - Dora and Jairon inspected the clothing and conferred, choosing what they thought would be sturdy and functional. White sweatsocks, and underpants in many colors, enough for 3 for each child. We bought the socks first in one store, and walked out with two large bags, joking about how the women would shop and the men would carry. By the time we returned to the car, we had one big bag apiece. At Brian's suggestion, we found some cardboard along the way and bought some packing tape to patch up my broken car window (a little vandalism in Antigua last week).

When we came back to the home, Jairon and a couple of others meticulously constructed an enclosure for my little window. He found some yellow paper, traced the shape of the window, and cut out a template to use for the cardboard. He worked like a serious artisan, measuring, inspecting, adjusting. By the time they finished, the yellow paper faced out, covered with strips of clear tape for weather protection. I'm reluctant to replace it, they were so proud of their work.

10/48

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