Market Children

Two days, two plane rides away from home. Tomorrow, we’ll be in Antigua, the Guatemalan capital. Tomorrow, I’ll sort through reams of brilliantly colored fabric, piece together a traditional outfit for each of my sisters. I’ll sort through a bowl of bracelets, choosing one with blue beads, another with one lone brown bead. I’ll bargain, weigh my options, smile, chuckle, nod, at the vendor’s animated exclamations.

But that’s tomorrow.

Today, it’s the middle of July and this is our last day in Santa Domingo de Xenacoj.

It’s a little town, safe. We walked, this morning, from the school up the hill. I thought it would be far, braced for a long hike down that winding half-paved road. But then we were passing a familiar tiendita, and I recognized a corner, an intersection, a face, and it was not so very far after all.

There’s an indoor market, down along the square. We visited last week, on the afternoon of our arrival into this green, thriving, aching country. Then, it was late and the stalls were closed, mostly. Then, we wandered up the wide, white-washed ramp to the second floor, leaned over the railing, overlooking the dusty, bustling square.

Then, two little boys, four, five years old maybe, followed us curiously. I caught their eye, or maybe they caught mine. I grinned at them, waving from around the corner. They shrieked, retreating down the ramp, behind overturned vegetable crates, grinning all the while. On the balcony, their dark faces, black, shining eyes bob together, quick, behind us.

I grin, nod in their direction, wave. They yell, laugh, scramble away.


That was last week.

Today, it’s earlier in the day, and the market is still swinging, vending, purchasing; busy. We step past heaps of huge, bright orange carrots, heads of luscious green lettuce, bushels of strawberries, rows of hand-made Guatemalan treats. Women sit by their wares, skirts made of intricate fabric, wrapped, tied, high on their waists. Shirts with delicate red, orange, yellow, blue flowers embroidered around the neck, the cropped sleeved. Their shoes are old; dusty, broken leather, slip ons, sometimes changlas– flip flips.

There are some men, sitting by stalls, hawking vegetables, meat, clothing. There are children, too.

The children run amongst the stalls, chasing one another and the birds that settle from the rafters, sometimes even a stray dog, wandered in from the street. The littlest ones are strapped to their mothers’ backs, round baby faces swinging rhythmically to the beat of their mother’s steps, movement.

Toddlers just a little bigger stand, awkward, baby legs wide-set, at odd distances from where their mothers sit behind stalls; vending, watching simultaneously. Learning to take steps, to move themselves in the world, they hesitate, sway, walk. Faces concerned, creased forehead exaggerations of the cares of the world.

The older children play. It’s a small town, not a packed one, and the children have an unsupervised freedom that contrasts sharply with the lives of many American little ones. They run and play and scheme and shout, threading in and out of market stalls, market customers. They are smart, wise, curious, observant children and on the second floor, between a stall devoted to pirated DVDs and one replete with traditional trinkets, I come face to face with three of them.

Little girls, all of them. Seven years old, eight, they have t-shirts, worn pants. Dark hair pulled back in thick ponytails down their backs. I kneel, there next to the overpriced authentic dresses and beaded belts, and we’re eye-level. They smile, they laugh. We talk, a little. They’re shy, giggling, holding small hands, dirty nails, to their mouths, eyes dancing, glancing at each other for support, shared amusement.

Many of the same people who traveled, lived, ministered in Guatemala with me in July are returned in March. I cannot join them, this time, but my heart races to be back in those green Guatemalan mountains. We talk, here in the States, and trips are mentioned and far away ideas are proposed, and I hope, hope, hope my return to Guatemala is soon.

And then I think about, all those memories of that medical mission week, what I remember most, what draws me back strongest, is those market children. The faces and the laughs and the names and the joys of the children running, watching, pacing, exploring, in and out of those market tables, piles of produce. That is- they are- what’s calling me back to Guatemala.



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  1. Trackback: Never The Same as Right Now | Lead Me Where

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