We had heard about the city of Guanajuato and its unique beauty, however when we arrived by driving through a system of cave-like tunnels, we were blown away. We arrived at our campsite, or home for the next 10 days and are amazed by the view and also relieved to be in the same location for a while.
That night we went to Katie’s house for a delicious pozole dinner with everyone who would be volunteering over the next week. She shared with us the volunteer projects we would be working on and the excitement in the room was shared amongst everyone. We wake up early the next morning and head out to the city of Irapuato, where the boys orphanage is located. The boys were all so excited to meet us and for us to play with them, they especially liked Tad and Gaila’s motorcycles.
We spent the day playing games with the boys like soccer, zombie tag, giving shoulder rides, climbing trees, drawing with chalk and getting to know them. Even though we had a pretty large language barrier, we all seemed to have a great time.
I found myself missing my former students a little, so it was nice to get to spend some time with these special guys. The boys all left for school at 2pm. Schools in some places in Mexico are so crowded that school is broken up into two daily sessions from 8 – 1p and 2-7p (those poor teachers). While they were gone at school we starting planning our mission for the week. We all got carried away with some ideas because there was so much we wanted to improve at the school, however we decided on 3 major ways to help improve the school, of course with input from the boys. The playground was in pretty bad shape and the slide resembled more or a cheese grater than a device to play on, so the men all decided to work on a playground transformation. The boys bedrooms were very dull, dirty and did not feel much like home. Gaila and Jen took on the project of painting 2 very large rooms. The boys were also in need of bedding, they were currently sleeping with either a sheet or a dingy blanket, that would not even keep and Eskimo warm, so I decided my skills would be best used by sewing sleeping bags and pillowcases. After a run to Home Depot, and a good nights rest, we started working in the morning. The boys were all interested in what we were doing. Some of them wanted to help tear down playground equipment and some were interested in using power tools. Others were excited about painting their rooms. A few boys even wanted to learn to sew and help in making their own sleeping bags. We worked for four long days to complete our projects. A lot went down in those four days, but the results and the reactions from the boys was the most important. The playground now had a teeter totter that was functional and safe, new swings were installed and a climbing wall made from tires was created. The bedrooms were bright, clean and made the boys smile. 15 sleeping bags and 15 pillowcases were sewn and my heart was beaming.
The new bright bedroom Gaila and Jen painted
making the sleeping bags
The new pillow cases and sleeping bags
Being overlanders, it made sense that we celebrate with a campout. We made a fire, set up tents and slept at the orphanage for the night. As a teacher, I am of course thinking that this would never fly at home unless we all went through background checks and fingerprint clearance, which is unfortunate, because it was a blast!
Throughout our time volunteering, Katie, who works for the Muskoka foundation (www.themuskokafoundation.org) was phenomenal. She moved to Guanajuato 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri and has created so much positive change since she arrived and has such a positive attitude about her work, even when challenging. Another special bonus to the week was the friendships we created. Being away from friends and family can be sad at times, but not this week.
In Guanajuato and throughout Mexico, celebrations were happening for the Patron Saint of Guadalupe. We took to the streets a few nights where parades were happening and families were gathered in the streets to celebrate. A major part of the celebration is to light fireworks, aka: BOMBS! To an outsider, these fireworks can be alarming, but they are all part of the culture and celebrations. Little children would light the bombs, something my mother would have never allowed, and their families stand by and cheer.
After a while it was part of the background noise to us and the noise just added to the charm of Guanajuato. In addition to the bombs, there is a constant barking in the background throughout the city. In Guanajuato, the homes and buildings are all built on and into hills with very narrow cobblestone roads. What this also means is that there are not many backyards in the city, so where do dogs roam? No, not on the streets, but on rooftops. Well, they roam the streets too. This was actually one of the things I found charming about Guanajuato.
Our last night in Guanajuato was also the first night of the Maya “End of the World” Rally. Teams from all over the states had now arrived and were ready to take on Mexico….