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March 20, 2003
The recent declaration of hostilities and beginning of some kind of fighting between Iraq and the U.S. has given me a lot to think about, especially with some of the reactions I have seen in the people around me and some of the conversations that I have had. For me, the actual fact of having a war, or conflict, begin between the U.S. and Iraq wasn't too surprising considering how much the U.S had built up military power in the area over the past weeks and months. What was surprising to me was how big a deal it was for some of the people here in La Esmeralda, considering how much they are isolated from most events in the outside world.
The part that I remember most clearly as being surprising to me was yesterday when I went over to the house where I was eating supper and found everyone gathered around the radio listening to what seemed like some strange countdown to the New Year. I couldn't understand very much of what was being said because the reception wasn't the greatest, but every so often the announcer would come on and tell us how many minutes were left before the attack began. To me it seemed a very strange type of broadcasting style, almost making a game or party out of a serious conflict, but to the people around me it remained something very serious, almost as if it were a countdown to the end of the world.
I found the concern and caring that people had both for people in the U.S. and Iraq to be very real and substantial. I was even asked if my parents knew how I was doing and vice versa. I think a lot of the concern and wish for there to be no fighting, and how big a deal some people make of it in this community has a lot to do with their history and personal knowledge of what war is like and what it is like to lose family and friends.
Finally, although at first I thought that most of the concern about how the war would affect life here was totally unfounded, this morning I realized that people here are well aware of how the conflict will affect the price of petroleum, which will in turn cause the prices for most things necessary for life here to rise. I wonder how populations that are already so much under the poverty line, like Guatemala, will be able to survive such an increase in prices. So often we just count all the direct casualties of a war, but what about the people who die in other countries when they don't have enough money for food or good medical attention while we are squabbling over our rights to more petroleum.
Nathan Harder -La Esmeralda, Guatemala
April 4, 2003
For my service learning time, Caleb Stitely and I worked here in the city with ASIDE. ASIDE is a group of evangelical, indigenous pastors who do a number of projects aimed at helping the indigenous people of Guatemala.
We worked with their microenterprise project which gives money to poorer people to start or expand their business. It was very interesting to see how a microenterprise project is run and what some of the challenges are.
We performed a number of different jobs over our time. We started by traveling out to different areas to collect the loans and meeting the different business owners. It was interesting to see what each person did or didn't use the money for. This also allowed us to see a number of indigenous areas within Guatemala.
The rest of the time we worked in the office updating accounts and analyzing past projects to help figure out what works and what doesn't.
While ASIDE's microenterprise venture hasn't been very successful, it was still very educational to learn about the process and witness some of the problems faced in economic development as well as the cultural struggles one faces when working with different peoples.
Tim Jaquet-Guatemala City
Saturday, March 22, 2003
I love it here. I finally have reached the point where I honestly don't want to return home! I finally feel as though I am helping these people and putting myself to use.
This community has welcomed Katrina and I in with open arms and open hearts.
I have very little trouble understanding sermons and am learning some of the more common praise and worship songs. I feel like I'm beginning to form relationships with the pregnant ladies I'm working with but also with many of the church members. My piano lessons get better daily and my students seem to really enjoy it.
On Thursday we brought nail polishes to the maternity home and painted 6 or 7 of their hands and feet. This was a humbling experience. But they loved us all the more for it. They didn't want us to leave. Santo Oneida told me that she is going to try to hold in her baby as long as she can! How cute is that.
Elissa Cirignotta -San Marcos, Honduras