Jon and I left Xela carrying a gigantic duffle bag. We wove our way through the throngs at the bus terminal market, pushing sometimes, getting shoved by grannies with bundles on head, feet being crushed by pushcarts piled with veggies, and finally to the bus to Huehuetenango. After a five hour ride high into the frigid mountains we get off in the village of La Ventosa. Here lives my friend Don Geronimo. On the six day trek I usually lead we stop and stay in Geronimo's village. It is a compound made up of his eleven children, his brothers and sisters, their children, their children's children, his children's children, packs of dogs, pigs and chickens. About a month ago when I passed through Geronimo asked if I could bring presents for the kids in La Ventosa. His daughter sat down and wrote a list of names and ages, thirty in total. I have found its not uncommon for people here to ask me to do tasks that are close to impossible, so I tell him I will see what I can do. Over the next few weeks, using extra funds of the Quetzal trekkers, we buy and wrap trucks, dolls, crayons, pencils, hair scrunchies, water colors, packs of cards, coloring books, stuffed animals, sparklers, candy. This is what fills the sack we are hauling as we enter the village, hearing immediately the excited shouts of the children announcing our arrival, running back and forth from house to house, hiding behind one and another, swarming us in their shy way. Geronimo greets us and brings us in, the children follow closely. We hand out the presents one by one. Their eyes are huge with expectation, they are trying to be polite but can't contain themselves. Some open their presents right away, others take them to a secret place. Hugs and kisses, feliz navidad. My eyes sting and I take deep breaths to keep my self from sobbing.
We have dinner in the kitchen around the cooking fire. We are served the most special feast of eggs, hotdogs, fried potatoes and freshly made tortillas. Geronimo tells us this is the first time any of the children here have ever received a present. This village was hit hard by the civil war, neighbors were turned against each other, terrible acts committed. But the family is strong, they take care of each other, they give each other all they can, and most of the time all they have is love. He hugs Jon and I, we are part of his family forever.
We catch the bus as the sun is rising, Geronimo and his pack of dogs see us off. On the journey home I can't help but listen to the Guatemalan Christmas music blasting from and ancient speaker. The song changes and most unexpectedly I hear the Jon Lennon christmas song. The war is over. This time I can't hold back the tears, I let them roll, I let people think what they will. So merrymerry Chirstmas, and a happy new year. Let's hope its a good one with out any fear.