I successfully transitioned back to the routine of tutoring after a brief hiatus to film an introductory film about Semillero for their website (which is coming along very well now! I have a rough cut but still need to add subtitles, which will take several focused hours to ensure that I'm translating as clearly as possible.)
After a typical day at Semillero I was heading home with my boyfriend, Daniel, who arrived last week to visit me in Guatemala and work at Semillero too. When we were passing through the neighborhood, I heard a little boy's voice scream, "Hola Maia!" from the top of the hill. It was Jorge, from Semillero, who was shouting from his cement block window on the top of the hill. I waved hello and asked if we could come up, curious to see his home since I'd only passed by before. He eagerly came down the hill to greet us and led us up the steps to his "neighborhood," a small cluster of cinder block homes stacked on top of each other.
I was astonished to discover that every child there I already knew from Semillero. It was the Semillero hill. Living right underneath Jorge was the home of Alejandra, next to Jorge was Carmen and Fernanda's home, and next to their home was Roberto's home. I chatted with Roberto briefly, inquiring why he hadn't been coming to Semillero lately. His reason, a good reason, was that he has had to work after school every day. He's only 9 years old but his family needs him to work, so he hasn't been able to come to Semillero to do his homework with the other kids and participate in "normal" children's activities.
The kids were eager to bring us into their neighborhood crew. We followed them to a steep dirt path that led up the mountain. The kids scurried barefoot up the hill one after another eager to see an alleged "culebra" (snake) hiding in the bushes. They urged us to follow, but we waited at the base of the hill awaiting an update on the snake. They returned covered in dirt with the jaw bone of a chuchu (stray dog), high off of the adrenaline from their little adventure. One of the little girls recounted the story of her grandfather's death from a snake bite on this very hill, and yet their parents were too busy in their homes and at work to supervise the crew's mischief that they seemed to be digging up anywhere they could find it.
Back by their homes we met two of the little girls' mother standing outside and many more siblings from each family peering out of the windows to watch the gringo visitors. Jonathan insisted that we visit the wild "lobo" (wolf) living in an abandoned home down the hill. We followed him and peered through the gated window into an empty room that seemed to be abandoned. A large dog jumped up and slammed its body against the fenced window. Daniel, Jonathan and I sprinted away as the dog barked and tried to escape through the bars. Jonathan cracked up, his eyes were wild with terror and thrill.
It was quite a little adventure and nice to experience a day in the life of the local kids, since I only know them in the context of semillero. In comparison to their homes, Semillero is a luxurious place. But it was nice to see them in the context of their homes and to see how they spend their days. It was saddening to see the state of their bare homes, which were deteriorating. And outside of school and Semillero they don't have much stimulation at all so they roam around searching for excitement. It helped me to understand how easy it can be for kids to fall into gangs and mischief when there is so little supervision and structure in their home lives because their parents are so busy working to earn money. It really clarified their situations and reassured me of the difference I can make just by being a consistent and supportive figure at Semillero. The state of poverty they live in is incredible, and a bit disturbing, when juxtaposed with the luxury of Antigua, Guatemala just 20 minutes away.