Because of the protests, we couldn’t go to Elisa Martinez today like we originally planned. So, we started the morning at the market in Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful, tourist-type town about an hour away from Guatemala City. We spent the morning walking the cobblestone streets, listening in on the English conversations we heard all around us, and bartering at the open-air market. Although it ended up not being a very big deal, the excitement of the morning came from the fact that the police closed down the market, and we (well, actually our wonderful mission coordinator, Ana) had to get special permission for us to leave the area. Apparently, a man was trying to sell original Mayan artifacts, and the police had to search the place to find him and his illegal goods.
In the afternoon, we went to Manchen, the girls’ home in Antigua. There are over 100 girls at Manchen. (Can you imagine? 100 girls living together in close quarters! There is constant drama there, I’m sure.) Anyway, we set up stations where the girls could make bracelets or get their nails painted. Not surprisingly, my energetic and friendly husband was quite popular. The girls gave him bracelets they made, bragged about how good he was at painting their nails, asked to get a picture with him, and even suggested he leave his wife for one of them! I have to wonder if they’ve ever met anyone quite like Nate or the other man in our group, Brad, before. Have their fathers ever been in their lives? If so, what was that like? What about their current boyfriends or the fathers of their babies? How do those men treat women? Who gives these girls the positive male attention that they so desperately need and crave?
Throughout the day, I had the joy of seeing the people in our group connect in different ways with the girls. I noticed Jen talking, with the help of a translator, for quite some time with one of the girls. I also noticed that some of the other girls had roped Mandy into giving them French manicures and, as Amanda said, “talking girl talk.” Regina’s camera was quite a hit. Nate jumped right in and played soccer with the girls…barefoot. Amanda hugged and touched and painted the fingernails of several of the girls. Jody played Frisbee. Breya and Brad held and cuddled some of the babies. And Emily spent several minutes lacing up a pair of shoes for a girl who could speak only with sign language, but obviously was grieving because she couldn’t go home. It was a truly incredible experience to watch.
As part of our little manicure setup, we gave the girls hand massages. A highlight for me was when I noticed, at one point, that the hand I was massaging belonged to a girl, Julia, that I had met in August. At first, she was embarrassed to let me rub her hands, but then she didn’t want me to stop. I rubbed and touched and massaged her hands for at least 15 minutes. 15 whole minutes of good, loving, and gentle touch.
The other highlight of the day was connecting with Brenda. I don’t remember ever meeting Brenda, but she told me that she remembered me from our trip in August. She actually said (in Spanish, of course), “I remember you from August.” August!? I sometimes forget what month we came–how did she remember? In August, Jody, Nate, and the Longyear family, and I tried to paint all of the girls’ nails all by ourselves. Needless to say, I felt like a fingernail-painting machine. I didn’t remember a single name other than Julia, and that’s only because Julia refused to let me go the entire time we were there in August. How neat that Brenda remembered me! She told me she was glad to see me, asked when I’d be back again, and told me she’d be waiting for me.
At one point, I randomly asked Brenda if she liked the babies (there are seven mothers and babies currently at Manchen). She smiled and said she had a baby (“Tengo una hija!”). She said she was four months pregnant when we last visited, and now she is the proud mother of two-month-old Michelle. I asked her how it felt to be a mother, and she said, “happy.” Last but not least, as we were leaving, she told me she loved me and she told Nate to take good care of his wife.