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La Buena Lucha (The Good Fight)

It appears that things are wrapping up for me here in Guatemala. As excited as I am to head back to the good old US of A, I know I am only beginning to understand the life-long impact of this opportunity. I have been taking my time to enjoy the beauty of Guatemala before I hop on my plane back to the country of comfy couches, pizza, and Netflix. I mean, really: how fortunate am I to be living in Guatemala?

It does not exactly take much to be humbled down here, whether it is from staring up at the volcanoes that surround the city of Xela or from feeling the warmth and happiness that glows from people, despite the poverty in which they live. How do I put this into words? There seems to be this energy that tells you, as you look up into the sky, exactly where you are: in a crossroads between an ancient world and a modern one. I mean that both in that it geographically connects the Americas as well as in a less physical sense. Really, there is no need to get existential about it. All one needs in order to realize that Guatemala is at a crossroads is to look around. There are women in traditional dress talking on iPhones. The old men look like Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but the high school boys seem to carry a tube of hair gel in their pockets. Tourists stop by WalMart on their way back from visiting ancient Mayan ruins. Guatemala seems to be figuring out its identity amongst the many different cultures present here while simultaneously having a strong and unmistakable one of its own. Sometimes I am bewildered by this busy chaotic life and other times I am amazed at the incredible streamlining of this chaos and the efficiency by which, somehow, everything gets done.
I will always have a place in my heart for the people Semilla Nueva works with along the rural southern coast. They are a people poor in material things but not in spirit and I think I have come to learn a great deal from their point of view. Their wealth is contained in the relationships they share, a richness that we fail to appreciate in a society of online social networking and cell phones.
As I leave Guatemala, I will undoubtedly take parts of it with me. For starters, I am definitely going to try to make tortillas at home. It will probably take me a long time to stop interjecting random Spanish words into my English conversations and we will see if I can ever manage to stop snapping my fingers. I may even download a rooster crowing as my new ringtone.
Finally, there are the wonderful people at Semilla Nueva. Their slogan should really be “no guts, no glory.” One time, after all of the guys on staff had buzzed their hair and I was looking particularly pale and frazzled, Joe pointed out that we looked like the characters in the film Fight Club. It was just a funny comparison at the time but today I think maybe we really are a “fight club.” Nonprofit work always involves getting knocked down and getting back up and maybe not everyone understands why we do what we do. But if one thing is true, we from the United States and the Guatemalan people we work with share a common fighting spirit, or el espiritu de la lucha. We are the warriors in the battle against poverty. Our weapons are not of violence but human ingenuity, compassion and perseverance. As my time as a Semilla Nueva intern ends, I ask everyone to do one thing: just keep fighting the good fight.
~ Caroline Craig

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