Sunday, July 31, 2016


Water is central to life. With it a village has a level of security that allows them to grow. Without it life revolves around a cycle of need for one of the most basic necessities. The village of Xecono lies almost 3 hours up the hill from the farm. It is a new village just 4 years old. It is also a village of the future- new opportunities and for some of it's 13 families the first time they have ever owed a piece of land. What they don't have is water. In the above photo Pedro crouches beside a shallow well he has dug. All other families have trapped lined pits to collect the rain water in. The water in these open pits is the color of coffee during the dry season. For most of the rest of the year it is a habitat for frogs and mosquitos. That is soon to change, a couple in Florida had decided to make a differance and donated the funds to bring clean, dependable water into the village .

Last Monday I joined the village in a trip up the mountain with cement, pipes and rebar to offering my part in the development of their spring. They had already carried forty plus hundred pound sacks of sand and gravel up the steep trail. I was happy to get a chance to hike and test out our new mule "Macho". ( silhouetted in the photo is Antonio on his moto bike and Macho with one of the villagers)
Macho, and all male mules in Chel are call macho, and I were running late as Antonio put new shoes on him that morning. The night before I mentioned that we should shoe Macho because it is a hard trail up the hill and like many other things Antonio or another of our team members just make it happen. So with a pair of new horse shoes and a pair of new pick axes we are ready lend a hand.
 I  like to hire local masons help with the construction of the collection tanks and I felt fortunate to have two masons in the small village. They both are named Pedro but not all masons in Chel are named Pedro. 
There are three river crossings in the valley before we start the climb, each getting smaller than the last.
Once we start up the hill the mud begins. This trail goes for 8 hours before coming to the last village. Four villages or 115 families depend on this trail.
Most of the villagers do not have mules and hundred pound loads are not uncommon.

Rebar makes for an awkward load especially around sharp bends in the trail. The rebar was divided up into sixty pound loads.
Sometimes I would like to take the " I am an odd man and the trail is too hard" excuse but Jose is the same age as me  so... if he can do it I can too.

It takes good mules to climb the trail. They are constantly encouraged with calls of "Tchoka b'an b'ey oon la b'ena"  "Look for the good trail go slowly".

Important words and I was impressed at how well all the mules traveled. The stick in the mud in front of the mule is a warning marker. It marks one of the many holes that a mule or person can break a leg in.

But after two hours the trail levels out on a ridge line. Soon we will descend on the other side. There we leave the main trail entirely and arrive at the spring site by a freshly cut path.
Once at the spring site a tally is taken of all the cargo and who carried it. 4 dozen boards, 40 sacks of sand and gravel, 300 pounds of rebar, and 15 bags of cement. It has taken two weeks to gather all of the materials.
Lumber has been sawn free hand with a chainsaw and carried to the sight.

Bags of cement have been hauled over the treacherous trails.
And now the work of trenching and forming can begin. I had two  thoughts as we began the actual construction. 1.) I am tired already,2.) That was quite a commute.
This is a three month project for 13 families to bring clean water into the village. This is only the report of part of a  day in the life of that project. What TRE and our donors bring to the Ixil people is the opportunity to make their tomorrow better. They are more than eager and willing to make good use of that opportunity with all that they have. I do not have the ability to speak as elegant as Dr. King but I too have a dream. I want to make a lasting change in twenty villages. Every week the farm receives visiting leaders seeking help for their village. Some like Xecono travel hours in the early morning to ask if we can come help with gardens, water, stoves or other forms of aid. I know we can't do it all but they are not asking for that. They are willing to do their part. What they are asking for is the opportunity to make a good dream a reality. What I am asking of you is the same. In stead of complaining about the state of the world let's roll up our sleeves and create the best dream our hearts
hold so our neighbors and children can live better lives.
Some of our work crew for the day.
Lunch for the day - beans and tortillas- no big surprise. This higher country is good for growing apple, plums and pears. The next trip Macho and I make up here we will have to bring some fruit trees and garden seeds.

Macho and Jose one of my Ixil teachers returning with a load of firewood. The trail not only holds many adventures but many lessons as well. At one point during the day I was not sure if a fork in the trail was before me or behind me. When I finally came upon someone that could tell me it was behind me I stopped worrying and turned around. I wasn't where I wanted to be or where I should be but to know what was the right direction was enough to put my mind at ease. Our lives can be like that. We have past the right road but when it becomes clear where we need to go and turn around peace walks with us. I know you did not read all of this to have someone tell you what to do but... Take a look at life, at your life and make sure your heading in the right direction. Tchoka b'an b'ey oon la b'ene-- seek a good path and take it slowly. If we do we are sure to arrive in a good place.
Corn leaves for the tamales and firewood on which to cook them. I think it has been a good day but then I can't remember a bad day when I was hiking in the mountains.

Passing by the valley to the east of the farm. The evening thunder clouds roll over these hills and drop down to Chel. They bring with them over 100 inches of rain a year but this afternoon it is clear. Three springs lie in the valleys below. I think we will be back this way and bring some more water to Chel.
Tchoka b'an b'ey Look for the good road.


Buck said...

Excellent report Mike and very interesting. I am sure the work you are doing is truly appreciated. You are the epitome of "boots on the ground." God Bless, Buck

Johnny said...

Well, you'd better have a good pair of boots for me when I come up there. Ha! This year we'll set up the dental clinic in Chel with a minimum of a 2 week stay. Not sure how many people will show up for treatment but I'm committed to 2 weeks. Perhaps in the future if outlying villages are interested in coming into Chel we can see more people. Looking forward to the visit, the service and staying at the farm. Good work, old man!