Chronicles of the Wayward Moot

WELCOME TO THE MOOT, oh world-wanderers and word-whisperers. After two years of Peace Corps. After 2,200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. What. Comes. Next?


Another year has passed and I was recently fortunate enough to participate again in a Helping Hands Medical Mission in the fascinating country of Guatemala, a place of both great beauty and dire need. This year's group was larger than in 2009 with a total of more than 40 doctors, nurses, pharmacy specialists, dentists, and various assistants and volunteers. I served as one of the latter, as a Spanish/English translator, a vital link in the system intended to help many of the poor and often overlooked residents of two relatively insignificant communities receive much-needed medical care. Again, the mission worked in two groups: Our group descended each morning upon the Hospital Nacionál de Amatitlan in the town of the same name, on the shores of a lake also bearing the same name. The second group rode their own converted Blue Bird school bus up into the steep folds of the land beneath Volcán Pacaya one of the country's three active volcanoes. There, in the town of San Vicente Pacaya's combination church/community center, they set up a medical clinic that would serve more than 2,000 patients in only five days.

Our proud group of missionaries inside the church, downtown San Vicente. This was moments after the missionairies received their special blessing and the work of the mission began.

A great grandmother lights candles in front of her home's altar, surrounded by images of saints that she has been collecting her whole life.

Our second day in country, the program calls for a few hours of evangelical work. Now those who know me know that this is something I've got mixed feeling about, but be assured I'm certainly not out there trying to convert people, nor am I interested in being converted to Catholicism or any other iteration of spirituality. I do however feel a great sense of connection, fulfillment, and LOVE through the act of speaking with strangers in their own language, being invited into their modest dwelling spaces, meeting their kids and great grandparents, and learning about their lives and troubles and hopes ... that was at the heart of the home visits and such opportunities to really be with people from a world that it simultaneously the same one we live in and also totally foreign in so many ways - those are precious and remain imprinted in my mind long after returning to the often materialistic bubble of abundance represented by life in the U.S. We spoke to a man in his 80s who spun a long tale of how he was finally able to marry the woman he had lived with out of wedlock for years, and how she had eventually died. He had been living alone in his old age for more than a decade and thanked God every day for the life he still has in his bones, even for the aches and pains whihc are his constant companions, for they remind him that he is ALIVE! Seldom do we enjoy such gracious and appreciative hosts in the world of twitters and facebook. In the age of instantaneous access to nearly anyone, we lose out on the flesh and blood interactions with our fellow humans. Not in rural Guatemala though.

Also on the evangelical visit around the town, several of us encountered a previous favorite - the man on the left wearing the purple woman's jacket and flowered fleece cap is nearly 100 years old, and still walks around whenever he wants to get somewhere. There are people in their early 70s condemned to senility in a wheelchair elsewhere, but in the streets of San Vicente he's still a lively sight. Don Chon, as he's called, has an older sister whom he insisted we would go meet with. She's a spritely 106 years old and welcomed her brother and accompanying guests into her home, where the siblings laughed and bickered and heard "Happy Birthday" sung in two languages as a tribute to their commendable collective longevity. Oh, to have the fashion sense of Don Chon at age 99!


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