Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bearing the Load, in Guatemala

Bearing the Load, on the Shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, is something that the Mayan and Spanish descendants have done for centuries. But they do it with a smile.

When I usually think of backpacking, I often think of it as a recreational activity, a pleasant escape from the burdens of the work-a-day world. The people that I saw in Guatemala simply did pack things on their back, if they were male, or on their hear if they were female. Not ultra light loads but bundled firewood and multiple gallons of water, in a town on the slopes of a volcano where nothing is ever flatland.
I look at what I have to carry; a three gallon bucket of water to fill my aquarium, about 20 steps from the water faucet, 10 times; forty pound bags of dog-food, a load of firewood, with a wheelbarrow, from the edge of the yard to my front door. Not long ago, I balanced two 30 pound toddlers on my hips.

Beyond that, I reach for my car keys and moan when I have to make several trips from the drive way to my kitchen with an abundance of fresh groceries. I scoop up my fat cat and carry her to a lawn chair and curl up with a fresh coffee and a good book.

Not that an American, mother of teenagers, lives a burden free life, but my burdens are often the ones that weigh down my mind and spirit with worries of things that never happen. They do not exercise my legs and keep my back erect.

Watching the grace and acceptance as a child lifts firewood onto her head is a humbling experience for me. Looking at the beautiful, handwoven clothing with the Mayan tribal traditions in every thread, remembering that Santiago, Atitlan has suffered massacres and devastating mudslides. I am again amazed at the ringing laughter and the broad, gold-toothed smiles. The one thing these pictures cannot show is the smell of fresh fruit all around, the dragonfruit trees and avacado trees and banana plants that grace the roads and homes where these people live each day.

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