Small children tugging, pulling; smiling and smiling. They run after us when we leave, chasing us down the dirt road, sending up dirt clouds with each step, until they become a blur, falling further and further behind. At the beginning, before we stuffed the Mario piñata and rode in the van, wondering how our day would go - before all of that, we were in the market shopping; being capitalists. Negotiating for the best price until we walked away and the stall owner shouted out a lower price and we'd return to buy the item. This bartering is unfamiliar to us and we feel sorry for the seller, yet we talk them down each time. We see the children of Guatemala wrapped up tightly, flung over their mother's back, eating mangos; holding the orange fruit in their tiny little hands, content. And slightly older children helping out in the stalls, making transactions or running to another stall to bring back more choices for the spoiled Americans. Each stall is it's own little mystery, a story we won't know, our mission is to buy and ignore, (purchasing tokens for ourselves and family). A few days earlier Charlie carried the Mario piñata through the streets of Antiqua. His group purchased it in the market and Charlie became the designated carrier, a role he often assumes, joyfully. When we left the school Charlie filmed the children running after the bus, running as if their very life depended upon catching up to us. Chasing and making the dirt clouds. One little boy follows us for a long time, until he finally gives up. My heart hurts as I watch, we all feel it. In just the few minutes we spend with the children we fall in love, a kind of instant love that warms and breaks hearts.
First fill the bag with sand or stones, hoist it over your shoulder and start down the pathway. Past the giggling girls in their school uniforms, and past the boys playing marbles; and past the woman making tortillas, past the dogs, and then briefly pause before taking the steep stairs, then a sharp right. It's there you can see all the structures built into the hillside. Homes for many families- primitive spaces; dirt floors and chickens pecking and roaming. Free range dirt chickens.
We move the bags methodically, intentionally; there is a system of carry and pass which gives us a moment to greet the next person on the line, so we wonder how those further down; nearer to the house are doing. Those at the end of the line have the hardest work; it's there that the stairs burn your muscles.