7:30 AM, with coffee in hand, Gustavo and I boarded the chicken buses for Chirijox. Gustavo is a Guatemalan businessman. He heard about the project through a friend of mine and he offered to accompany me when I needed him. Today, I needed him. Marisol had a meeting and was unable to come.
Describing Gustavo is not an easy task. He is exuberant to say the least. His energy is infectious. He talks… to everyone. He knows… almost anyone he passes. He clearly loves and enjoys life. On our way on the chicken bus, I recall him saying, “I love taking the chicken bus.” I look at him like he is crazy, but I understand. We both talk about how it keeps us close to “local life”. Gustavo owns a tour business so he most often travels around in a car. I, however, am on this bus every week! We both agree though that being on the bus is a chance to feel a part of the daily lives of the locals. We comment on how happy the people are and how friendly and content they are. He smiles while saying this, but there is rarely a time he does not smile.
We arrive in Chirijox and walk into the home where I meet the youth each week. He immediately stands tall and reaches his hand out to each and every one of them. One by one, he introduces himself. Gustavo is just one of these people whose presence fills the room with energy.
Gustavo come to offer help with translations, but his contributions were far more considerable than changing words for me. He showed genuine interest in the stories and topics of each youth or group. And as he interacted with them, inspired the youth and he made them feel at ease.
This is a perfect example. Edgar is not often present for our sessions. It is not exactly clear why he isn’t there, but the reasons include is work, his family, his school, or how far he lives. Today, he was present and I was thrilled to see him! I got the others started on doing KChe-Spanish translations or on interviews. I started to work with Edgar on his story. He had written it yet. When I asked him a questions, he was so nervous. Gustavo was right there. He set his hand on Edgar’s shoulder. Are you nervous? Tranquillo, he said. Relax. All is good. And right away, Edgar did relax. His breath softened and he was able to focus. Gustavo conversed with him and Edgar began to write. He wrote an introduction for his documentary and work a list of ideas of what he wanted to record.
Later on, Gustavo shifted his energies to the girls working on the history of weaving. This came right after he and I were talking about the importnat custom of weaving in the community. I was talking about how I wanted the girls to go deeper with their interviews. I wanted them to be curious and get the women to talk about the significance of the colors and designs used. He said, “They don’t know this.” I said, “Why don’t we ask them.” So he did. He engaged in a ten minute conversation with the girls asking all kinds of questions about their traje. It was an eventful moment. We all learned not to assume that knowledge is not there, but rather when we engage in inquiry, we find out more than meets the eye.
For me, this was would become a perfect example I wanted to encourage that their interviews be more conversational and less didactic. My interest in this peaked especially after Catalina and Fabiola interviewed Fabiola’s mom.
That interview like many of the ones that all of them have done this far were a dry question/answer session – all but Emilio’s (in which his subject told a personal story). Dynamic and interesting were words that came to mind when thinking about how we needed to regroup. Gustavo’s dialogue with the girls was just perfect; it was an interview in a sense, but so much more interesting. There was curiosity and inquiry. And just like that, with Gustavo’s gregarious personality – we had the model example.
Upon leaving, Gustavo asked, “When do we start working?” I laughed. He said, “That was not work, it was fun.” On a more serious note, he shared that he was heartened to see the kids working on such an interesting project. Moreover, he was impressed with the depth of the topics that these youth – at such a young age – were concerned with and were tackling.
There is no better affirmation for me, than having a local person say that this is “one of the most profound experiences” he has ever had. It means ever more from someone like Gustavo who grew up in poverty, worked hard to teach himself business and English, someone who understands the lives of these youth… there is nothing more rewarding than to receive kudos for this projet from him. Yet we remind each other that this work is all the work of the youth. I’m just here, he and others that help are here, to offer the tools and the vehicle. The stories are theirs and we are so thrilled with their work and proud of all of their commitment.