Is it odd that strolling into a brothel doesn’t seem strange?

Sometimes I wonder.

Last week, we couldn’t take our bus to La Terminal, so we went old-school and visited the ladies directly in their places of work. Out of nowhere a very drunk man approached me and asked in broken English, “Lady, what you looking for?” I smiled and told him I wasn’t looking for anything. But he kept insisting (I think he was worried that we were tourists who’d ended up in a very bad place) and asking. Finally, I said, “Thanks but I’m really not looking for anything. I work here. No, really I work here. I’m fine.” The look of confusion on his face was priceless and I really didn’t have the time to explain. So, somewhere in Guatemala City, there’s a confused man who thinks a six foot tall gringa is currently working in a very trashy brothel/hotel. Hey ho. My reputation is not my problem.

But on to more important things. Meet T. She is a sweet, shy woman who has been visiting the bus and saying almost nothing for the last few months. But when we showed up on her doorstep last week, she had lots to say. While she’s been sitting quietly on the bus, eating her lunch, she’s also been listening to endless encouragement/nagging about school!

Out of nowhere, this fifty-year-old lady from a remote Maya village signed herself up for an intensive primary school course. She’ll be doing three grades in one year! This is huge. And she is so proud.

It’s a big deal because in this country where so many experience immense poverty, education just doesn’t get the funding or attention it needs and deserves. Few people make it past elementary school and those who do have very few options available to them if they wish to continue their studies. In rural Guatemala, where the population is predominantly Indigenous, the percentage of people entering and completing elementary school is significantly lower than the rest of the country. T’s choice challenges everything she’s been told about herself, about women in general and Maya women specifically. Often we meet ladies who tell us they’re too old to study. They might be in their 30’s and it seems like a mountain that is just too high to climb. At 50, T is daring to do something very few adults are willing to try.  She is being so, SO brave.

While we stood around chatting with her colleagues, T hurried off to grab her books. She showed us every page she’s worked on so far and the chapters she’ll be doing next. The look of absolute delight on her face was just beautiful!

Hope whispers in so many ways. Sometimes it’s a nursing program, sometimes it’s high school or even university. But sometimes hope at it’s most beautiful and glorious is a middle-aged woman drawing shaky lines in a first-grade workbook.

We couldn’t be more thrilled!