Despedida is Spanish for “a farewell”, and the tradition of the despedida is a cherished part of Hispanic culture. As we all loaded in the van this morning to make our commute to San Rafael, everyone knew (whether we actually said it or not) that this was our last day on the work site. This was our time to say farewell to the family we have worked with side by side with for the past three days, and this was the time to despedir our co-workers and new friends who helped us realize the construction of Juan and María’s new home.
We used all of our remaining energy to work as hard as possible and finish as much as we could in our remaining day. Though we knew what we left incomplete would be finished in the coming week by two new volunteers, and mother and son team, all still wanted to donate their energy to the cause we had begun three days prior. There was a great deal more mixing of concrete which was added to the holes where the steel rods are providing structure for the walls. We also prepared the “sand” which would ultimately be used for the floor in the home.
As we worked we could see the doors take on more shape and were able to see the beginning of three windows on the facade of the house. In one of the windows we took the time to etch our and our school’s initials in the drying concrete before sealing our memories into the walls that make up this new home.
The students also took a little time to say goodbye to their new crew, a group of children from the neighborhood who have been periodically stoping by to check us out under the pretense that they are “friends of the family”. They chose to use soccer as a medium in this farewell get-together, and our students handed out candies and treats while the boys (and Tori) kicked around the soccer ball in the streets of the village.
In the afternoon we were joined by our volunteer coordinator, Giselle, who did the despedida ceremony with a few other members of the Constru Casa team. Upon her arrival she immediately commented on how much we had accomplished, saying that in our short time we had finished more than she had seen any other team do in that same time. Our co-workers were also truly impressed, thanking us profusely for our help. They credited the speed of the project to our eagerness to work, and were very clear that our team’s presence would be missed. Finally and more importantly, the both María and Jose took the time to thank us and hug us for our time and dedication to them. More than giving them a new home, we were giving of our time and of our hearts, something that each of them noticed and could not be more thankful for.
As we returned home and met again as a group to debrief the week, we used this time to reflect on what all we had seen and experienced in our time thus far in Guatemala. Though the focus of our trip is now shifting, the purpose of our travel is still very much so engrained in our memories, and is something we will carry with us always.