This morning began like the others, with an early and somewhat chilly walk around our host city, in this case Quetzaltenango. We walked quickly and early so we could pack up and get on with our day.
Our first session was an opportunity to learn about the life of the in-country consultant for the organization that sponsors this trip. As unbelievable as it sounds, he spent years of his adolescence hiding in the trees of the jungle to avoid the same fate as some of his family members, who were killed simply because they were indigenous, they were different. Escaping with his life, he chose to devote his life to helping others in the same situation. He finds strength in his faith and in the good he sees in humanity. (Just, wow.)
From there we boarded the bus for the long and beautiful ride from Quetzaltenango to Antigua. The roads were punctuated with small villages and fruit stands. From the windows we saw different parcels of land dedicated to crop production and very slim cows grazing. We saw the three volcanoes that surround the area, and Fuego was even giving off puffs of smoke as a show for us.
Our upbeat conversations were quickly halted when we learned about the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, as the genocide is being committed against them in Burma/Myanmar. Once again I’m reminded that “never again” is sadly still a slogan and not a reality. We’ll be learning more about this genocide and the work we can do to raise awareness and mitigate it as we prepare for our advocacy day in D.C. in March.
After a long and winding road, we finally made it to Antigua. We had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant and then went to meet with an organization dedicated to free and fair press. These people dedicate themselves to being on the front lines in all areas of the country and reporting on what they are actually seeing, not what the government wants them to publish. They rely on social media to get their messages out. Mayn of the investigative journalists face grave danger for their work, and yet they keep fighting. They are the voices of the resistance and do it through their persistence. Their stories resonated with me as I reflect on the state of journalism in America.
From there we had some time to boost the local economy. I bought local chocolate and then engaged in a delicious tasting of three local rums. About half the group joined together for this tasting, and it was a relief to have some time to reflect, rejuvenate, and simply be together. The conversation turned to where we should go on our next advocacy trip. I’ve caught the bug of advocacy and would be honored to continue to travel with this organization and promote the work they do.
Dinner was another delicious feast, and then after dark we arrived at our final accommodations: a coffee plantation with gorgeous views and stellar rooms.
I have so much to ponder and reflect upon, and so much gratitude for the honor of being on this trip and for the grantees we are meeting who show me what moral courage, bravery, and persistence look like in the human spirit.