I spent the past week delivering and installing stoves in the communities of Chicoy, Mocohán, and Purulhá. Throughout the week, I kept my eyes open to the surreal adventures at every turn.
. . . I see a street still blocked by a landslide five months old. There's not much money in Purulhá and so a clean up just may not happen for a few years.
. . . I see a woman nursing her toddler while seated on the ground under a tree in her yard. She looks exhausted.
. . . I see a tractor trailer surrounded by emergency vehicles and non-emergency vehicles. There are cans of cola everywhere. A big mess.
. . . I see down into the stovepipe into a kitchen that will no longer be filled with smoke. I get to cut lots of holes in people's roofs and then I get to seal the pipe with instant gasket silicon.
. . . I see bright pink flowers in the trees as I drive home crossing the departmental lines between Baja Verapaz and Alta Verapaz.
. . . I see a dead piglet still tethered in its yard. Its feet are almost pointed straight up.
. . . I see brilliant white cliffs on the mountain that walls in Mocohán; the clear blue and the textured green.
. . . I see fast fading photos of a recently deceased father. The photos are in a frame with broken glass. The man is in his army uniform and he's firing a machine gun.
. . . I see women quickly put their weaving down to show me how they've set up their stoves. I'm sure they are grateful for the interruption. The weaving itself is always bright, though I see a girl weaving on black for the first time.
. . . I see black cobwebs hanging from low rafters. They are thickly covered in soot as are the rafters and aluminum sheets composing the roof.
. . . I see sunrays exposing dust and smoke in a kitchen.
. . . I see a widow smile. She's ecstatic about getting her new stove. She's torn apart where she used to cook and she gratefully presents me and my helper with a glass of juice.
. . . I see an outhouse all alone in a field. There isn't much of a door. There isn't a door. Who am I fooling?
. . . I see cheap china piled on a wooden shelf in a kitchen where I'm working. I'm sure the family saved up to buy these pieces over time because many of them don't match.
. . . I see a rather stout woman lathering herself as she wears only her corte (traditional skirt). She doesn't care that I'm walking right in front of her on the path. I don't stare.
. . . I see a pot of madly boiling maiz in a blackened pot over an open fire.
. . . I see chickens and chicks scratching around inside a kitchen. I restrain myself from telling the family how unsanitary this is. I guess I don't want to tell them because my assumption is that their assumption is that I could be arrogant and bossy.
. . . I see a modestly beautiful garden. The mom and a few children are weeding while I'm there. It's the mint that really catches my eye. They call it "hierba buena" (good herb) and use it in soups.
. . . I see a mother pulling up her child's pants on the side of the road. It's refreshing to note that it isn't a man urinating on the side of the road facing me this time.
. . . I see a baby girl with Down sydrome. I can only pray that her life will not be defined by abuse. She is a sweet and happy baby while she is in front of my lenses.