Hugging skeletons

I’m so glad we made the 2-day trek to Oaxaca for Day of the Dead at the beginning of this month.

Bright yellow flowers

Cemeteries filled with buzz and beauty

Guitar music, soulful songs

Taco stands, skeleton faces of all ages

Drums and trumpets and dancers

And alters to the dead filled with

Things they liked – apples, chicken mole, Corona beer

Skull paintings made of coloured sand

And street food steaming

Once a year, it is a chance for family members to decorate the graves of and remember their loved one, chat about them to other family members and even strangers. I spoke to a woman whose niece had died from cancer aged 5. Her grave bore a princess castle, sweets she liked. Her auntie proudly showed me photos. Both our eyes filled with tears. A chance to share.

Oaxaca. Hmmmm. A city to fall in love with. Things work. The food is delicious. There is culture. Contemporary art. Music. Good bars.

And I went to the coast – to Puerto Escondido – where my eyes were opened at the wonderful Buena Onda hostal where the wonderful twin owners there each spend 6 of every 18 months travelling and make it work.

And I went snorkeling with a life guard, underground with some eco-builders, cuddled a Jehovah’s witness on a bus, ate the best fish tacos of my life and invited 4 separate wonderful people to El Paredon, who all arrived on the same day.

And made a fabulous new friend, David, from San Francisco, who volunteered repairing bikes at the fascinating MayaPedal and whose friend Kirsten is going to try and find some outlets for our jewellery in coffee shops in The Bay Area.

Stitching and oranges in El Naranjo

Armando drove me on his motorbike to El Naranjo, the next settlement East, on the search for petrol. A hot black sand road, cows in the lush palm filled fields, stacks of sesame seed plants piled ready to strip, a warm orange sun. We met Dora, who makes these wonderful embroidery adornments. I commissioned her to make some for our shop. Armando climbed the orange tree and we ate them, green and hard on the outside, juicy within, by the tranquil canal, a couple bathing nearby. A lovely little adventure.

There are angels

‘Good morning, I stumbled upon your page while looking for a place to vacation in Guatamala. My questions for you are do you take donations for your school and do you allow visitors. If my wife and I go to El Paredon on vacation we would enjoy stopping by’

Larry found my blog by accident in June. He was researching a holiday to the Carribean island of Antigua and instead he found Antigua, Guatemala and our education project in El Paredon. Three days ago, he and his wonderful wife Wenona said an emotional goodbye to us and the kids from La Choza Chula after a 6 day holiday, leaving us with over $3000 worth of equipment and materials for the school, the workshop and the local community.

Larry’s enthusiasm for our project had rubbed off on his colleagues over the months preceding his trip and slowly they came to him with surprising amounts of money: ‘I didn’t even need to shame them, they just wanted to help!’

And it is incredible what he and the Men’s Church Group of Illinois and lots more anonymous donators have enabled us to buy:

A projector for us to play films and photos to the kids. Here is the moment when we showed them the projector and photos from the project. This is the first time some of the kids have ever seen photos of themselves:

 

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Books for the school for the teachers to be able to teach their subjects properly. Before they had no books. They are over the moon. And it will have a serious impact on teaching standards.

 

Also for the school: a photocopier and lots of paper (priceless), calculators, marker pens, 2 internet modems (the children currently have no internet access).

For La Choza Chula workshop: a superb digital camera, 2 vices, 2 hammers, safety goggles (the latest fashion accessory in the workshop)

For the community: a football and pump, sunglasses for Daniel (who loved Larry’s glasses so he left them) and a goody bag for Maria from a little girl the same age in Illinois. In response, Maria sent back this traditional dress for her new penpal.

And there is still money left over! Which we will spend on more books for the school, world maps, storage for the workshop and more! We have so many new ideas and this money will enable to us to achieve some of our visions.

Larry and Wenona’s visit was much more than what they physically brought us though. They are warm, affectionate, loving, generous, funny people who were great company for both us and all the kids they met and got to know. Larry and Wenona enjoyed the impromptu screening and performance event put on by the kids on Sunday night and the friendliness of the community towards them.

‘This Sunday was the best day of any day on any holiday we have ever had’ (Larry)

The kids are asking us daily ‘when is Larry coming back?’ and they have decided between themselves that they will be back for Christmas. In a very short time, they became part of the community and will be talked about for years to come. THANK YOU SO MUCH from El Paredon.

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