Last week, my friend, Annalisa, invited me to go with her to distribute school supplies for her organization, Eduacion con Esperanza. I jumped at the chance, of course. It was just a short, overnight trip, but I was excited to A) check out her project, B) travel a little bit and C) hang out with her.
We left on Sunday afternoon with our backpacks and a bag of supplies that hadn’t gone up with a friend the day before. I haven’t traveled longer distances on a chicken bus in many years now, so it brought back memories, climbing aboard the bus and wedging myself into the tight seats. All part of the adventure!
On the first day, we arrived at Pujijil II and were picked up by Manuel, the project leader in Solola (yep, back to the lake!). We headed to interview one of three families in a rural area where we had to walk quite a ways through cornfields. That wasn’t a problem, but the terrain was up and down. Despite living on the side of a volcano, I’m not used to hiking up and down and up and down!
After about 20 minutes, it became obvious to me that my legs weren’t going to hold out much longer. They were on the verge of collapsing and my eyesight was pretty much narrowed to directly in front of me. After passing a couple of houses with rather aggressive dogs (nothing like a bunch of snarling dogs to make those legs work!), I stopped to rest, waving everyone else on. Of course, they waited for me, but it was getting late and I didn’t want to hold everyone up.
Once we reached the top of the hill we were climbing, the guide, a local woman, pointed out the house. It was downhill and then back up again. I told them I’d stay put and wait. So I sat down, accompanied by Edgar, Manuel’s teenaged son, and we talked chickens and corn and education while we waited. It was incredibly beautiful up there, with the cornfields stretching down around us, no sounds but the occasional distant shout of a child floating up the hill and the chortling of the chickens scratching around us.
When everyone returned, we headed back to the truck. Manuel was nice enough to take pity on me and bring the truck closer so I didn’t have to walk up the last hill, which, quite frankly, may have been the death of me.
We saw two other families (thankfully much closer to the road) and headed to Manuel’s house in Solola to have dinner with his family and sort school supplies. He has four sons and a daughter, all really neat kids. His wife made a huge amount of tortillas to go with the chicken soup she served us and later left the remaining tortillas on the wood stove to crisp when she went up to bed. I had to laugh when the kids came bouncing back down the stairs and gobbled up the crispy tortillas around 10 pm. That is EXACTLY what Dorian would do!
In the morning, this was the view that met us. Amazing!
We met up with the women in Annalisa’s project. The meeting place was at the top of a steep path and I once again struggled up it, my legs not fully recovered. Word of my weak legs had preceded me, I realized, when everyone was chuckling at me as I finally made it up. Our guide from the day before was animatedly telling the story of how I’d stumbled my way up the hills the day before.
Annalisa and Manuel began to sort out the supplies and give them to the women while the children played. I particularly liked this one idea . . . a Pepsi box turned into a swing!
School supplies distributed, we were ready to head home, but first, I had to use the bathroom. When I asked where it was, one of the women called out, “Half a kilometer!” and they all started laughing again. Well, it wasn’t half a kilometer, but it was down a steep path! I made it safely there and back and we were ready to jump on the bus and go home to where the boys were eagerly awaiting my return.
It was a fun trip. I have to admit that I miss traveling like I used to do, so this was a great way to get out for a bit, even just for a one night trip. Though, in the future, I will be making more trips to the area, because I’ll be working as a translator for some upcoming tours!