San Juan Love

Editor’s note: Lisa Ramsey, director of student activities, went on an immersion trip to Guatemala in January 2013. She reflects on her trip through a poem she wrote about her experience – one that moved her deeply. The poem provides insights of the village, children, and way of life in San Juan La Laguna.

Roosters’ crow reminding the sun to wake up
The dawn breaks as the villagers hustle down to the dock.
Yogis stretch in the courtyard as they forward fold and downward dog.

Sleepy workers gather for breakfast and meet a smorgasbord of food.
Cereal, yogurt, fruit and the peach nectar of the gods,
Always more than enough.

The author poses with a Guatemalan boy.

The author poses with a Guatemalan boy.

Coffee gulped, tummies filled and the day can now begin.
Hands work hard.
Spider-egg filled windows cleaned, dirty, sticky desks removed
Carved with children’s scrawled writing
Showing that kids are kids no matter what language they speak.

Floors swept and mopped.
Leaves gathered, rocks moved, and moved some more
Walls painted. Bodies painted too. And faces painted in the afternoon.

Joyful greetings of “Hola” and “Buenos Dias” echo from the man hauling a mound of sticks on his back …
Walking uphill.
Visitors proclaim their victory on the way back down from Rostro Maya
As they pass a woman coming up. Is this her daily victory or her daily chore … or both?

One hundred and fifteen pounds of beans picked in 75 hours
What is a weeks’ work worth?
Only twenty-seven dollars? Are you sure there is not another zero in that figure?
I want to meet the star that is getting the bucks from this transaction
And pick coffee with him!
I wonder how much that batch would sell for!

The afternoon means it is time to play
Balls, a parachute, balloons, coloring books, chalk and face paint
Are the tools for joy today
And none of them need a charger.
The children explode with shouts of “otra vez!” filling the gym.

Carroll students at the foot of a cross in the hills of Guatemala

Carroll students at the foot of a cross in the hills of Guatemala

Happy to play with the “big kids”
Happy to just be in the present moment
Happy to be in their own skin
No big screens needed here … just big hearts.

The walk to dinner is filled with anticipation
Simple food and simple conversation changes this simple hut
Into a sacred space of fellowship and community.
Family is created here.
Love. Love as sweet as the smile of our gracious cook and host.
Love as sweet as the bread that ends our meal
Fills this place.

Soon laughter soaks the courtyard as “criminals” are revealed, names are learned and jokes are created.
Love from dinner has followed us here. I hope it will fit into my 50 plus pound suitcase!
We need to stay connected.

The cold drippy shower cleans the body, mostly.
But I’m glad for the dirt.
It keeps me grounded.
Grounded to a place that spreads God’s love as freely and as plentiful as the kernels of corn that make the unbelievable tortillas.

Settled into my mismatched and uncomfortable bed
I feel more comfortable than I have in a long time.
A few stubborn firecrackers ring out and I chuckle to myself,
Ready to hear the roosters wake me up tomorrow.


2 Comments


  1. Lisa: I would like to connect with you. I work at the US Embassy in Chile (class of 75) and I am the person in charge of connecting with our 10 American Spaces in Chile – bi-national centers. We are looking for students to come to Chile for two or three months to teach English. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful opportunity for Carrol students who would like to travel and visit foreign lands? I visited Carroll 3 years ago with this idea but never heard back. Maybe we can try again and make it work. Get back to me and we can take it from there.

  2. Hi Sandra,

    Thanks for the message. Sure, please contact me at lramsey@jcu.edu and we can discuss this further.