A Road Trip to Remember
It is currently Tuesday morning and I am typing this from our new home in the town of Panajachel that overlooks the beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. This past week has seen Mo and me in many new places and situations. Some brilliant and some challenging, but these new experiences are filling our hearts and minds with so much passion and a new sense of wonder. We are excited to see where the next 2 weeks in Lake Atitlan will take us… but before we set out to explore the lake, we must share this past week with you.
Last Thursday we rose early at 3.30am. After months of preparation we were headed to Tuxtla Gutierrez with Pam, Mari (Mision Mexico’s wonder woman organiser) and 9 of the kids. The seven-hour road trip was for the kids to participate in the 'Chiapas Dances Ballet Gala' with their dance school Ballet Clásico de Tapachula. They were all so excited and had been counting down the time to this special day for weeks. Most of the children had never been outside of Tapachula, so this experience was very unique for them.
We got on the road with Moacir in the drivers seat, there was nothing but darkness around us. However, as the sun marked the break of dawn all we could hear from the children was a choir of “que bonito!!” (meaning how beautiful). They were in awe of their surroundings as we drove past fields of green that were long and luscious due to the rainy season. There were high-pitched squeals as the kids drove through a tunnel for the first time in their lives, they sung songs together and as we arrived in Tuxtla they marvelled at the high rises. It was such a special road trip and we were so happy to share these new experiences with them. Their curiosity and excitement allowed us to see things in the eyes of a child again and reminded us to appreciate nature and its beauty.
When we arrived to the hotel the excitement grew as the kids saw their room decked out with an air conditioner and television. These things that we yet again take for granted every day. Moacir and I were looking after 4 boys in our apartment and watching their faces light up when they saw their room was priceless. After treating the kids to pizza and a swim in the pool they all put on their tights and ballet shoes for their first rehearsal at the theatre.
The next day we visited Tuxtla’s zoo that is home to around 180 species of animals native to the state of Chiapas, with many of them in danger of extinction. I am always a bit apprehensive when I visit a zoo as seeing animals in captivity saddens me, but I was blown away by how spacious and natural the environment was due to the amount of vegetation. There were monkeys swinging in the trees above your head and deers were free to wander throughout the entire zoo. It truly felt like you were in a jungle and seeing these animals in their natural habitat. The kids were blown away and being their first time at a zoo they were pulling us from one enclosure to the next in a flurry of excitement.
During that afternoon the kids had one more rehearsal, followed by their first performance. Moacir and I sat amongst a full audience to watch the whole show and we were so proud to see the kids move on stage with such grace and confidence. Pam reminded us of how much of an achievement this truly was. As all of these kids have come from difficult backgrounds, seeing their beaming smiles on stage was reassurance of how far they have come in all aspects of life.
The next day we set off to the theatre to watch a master class run by a well-known Cuban dancer. We then took the kids on a surprise visit to a shopping complex where they once again shared many firsts. There were joyous screams and laughter as the kids took a ride up and down an escalator for the first time. They were also treated to a lunch at McDonalds, another first for all of them.
In the afternoon, they all got ready for their final performance. Mari, Pam, Moacir and I were taking turns to care for the children backstage and tonight was our night. Unfortunately, typical of Mexico the backstage area was still under construction. There were open power boxes, cables everywhere and wires hanging from the ceiling, certainly a place not fit for children. There was nothing backstage apart from safety hazards, rooms with white walls and over 60 kids screaming and running around on sugar highs. The heat and lack of fans were enough to make anyone go crazy. It was madness, but once you saw the kids on stage it all became worth it. Luckily Moacir and I kept the boys occupied with a board game and colouring in, whilst the girls were happy to socialise with their friends. The kids did brilliantly once again. They were so happy to showcase their hard work and commitment to the crowd, especially since Pam was watching in the audience.
The next day we took the kids up to a canyon look out before driving home. They were amazed by the view and sad to say goodbye to Tuxtla. We stayed at Mision Mexico that night and in the morning set out for Lake Atitlan.
Now that we are here safely we are so excited to get back into work. For the next two weeks we will be meeting artisans, exploring co-operatives and seeking out market places on the Lake. We are getting back to work with fresh eyes to further the vision of Cielo. Thank you for following along.