We’ve only just begun

August 14, 2012

6 a.m. was our departure from the Casa Retiros.  To work backwards, that meant that breakfast began at 5:30, and wake up, 4:30. My earliest meetings, at home in the States, start at 10 am—that’s a stretch for me.  My favorite time of day is morning, where I ease in—often with the same routine: skinny coffee and a book in my pajamas; an hour later, breakfast; then gather and prep for the day.  I had no coffee with me, and if I had chosen to leisurely enter my day, my wake up would have been 3:00 a.m. for a day devoted to manual labor.  No thank you.

Breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, bag packed (complete with baby wipes, sunblock, bug spray, construction gloves, and other Mary Poppins items), we left at 6 a.m.  Why so early? Two words: city traffic.  Although Casa Retiros is just outside Guatemala City, it would take an hour to reach our work site in Zona 7.   Andres and Juan Carlos would pick up the police from city hall after they dropped us off.  In the interim, Alto Gracia and Sr. Esperanza (from St. Francis Coll) and Ever (a policeman who worked at Paso a Paso 2x/week) would keep an eye on us.

The bus ride was silent, except for the girls’ hum in the back while they braided each other’s hair.  Great bonding time, but they missed so much outside: there were bikers whose license plates were on their helmets, newspaper and flower vendors in the streets, dilapidated buildings, bright colors, and amazing feats of driving skill on the part of Juan Carlos.  I’m sure details are missing from what I saw, but this trip, I practiced presence, not recording.  I rarely closed my eyes during our drives—I wanted to see everything there was to see.  I didn’t take loads of pictures, either.  Instead, I opened my pores, my ears, my eyes, my heart, and I basked in it all.  On a tea bag, once, I read “every heartbeat creates a miracle.” If so, during my trip, I experienced millions of miracles as I practiced presence.


We were arriving early so that we could lay foundation for a roof on a building next to St. Francis Coll.  Once the building was completed, the Paso a Paso teens would use that space instead of renting at their current location.  Our 13-person team was going to work with the team of professionals (3 workers and 1 foreman) to make the cement, move the cement to the roof, and then lay the cement for the foundation.  The plan was to work from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. or so and complete the roof.  That’s an 11 hour day of manual labor for 9 teenagers and 4 adults (who mostly work in offices). Here is one before picture.  The next post will be longer than normal and will only cover the cement/roof process of Wednesday.  Set aside a few more minutes than normal to read it.  It’ll be worth the time investment.


 The little glass squares that you can see are place-savers for mini-skylight areas to allow natural light into the rooms.

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