Global Midwifery

Finding Your Path

I’ve shared a bit about the heavier topics on my mind during the trip so decided to share something I found very funny – so amusing I was laughing at it while it was happening. What you are looking at is aloe, or its Guatemalan cousin. The plants have very sharp points, which make them perfect for keeping people and animals off your land.

Every time we drove to the mountains we saw aloe lined up as fences framing yards. This may seem excessive protection for families in extreme poverty, but makes perfect sense when you realize the cattle, chickens, goats and pigs run around pretty free during the day. So if you want to protect your garden– or banana trees, or the palm leaves that make up your home– from the teeth of your neighbors future dinner, you build an aloe fence.

With that background, onto my story.

Our group had been split in two one afternoon, and while the other half were diligently repairing a house we were sitting at the van waiting. After about an hour of waiting, I decided we could wait no more and convinced the pastor’s 10 year old son to take me to the home (he had been there less than an hour ago to tell the group we had finished our job and that we could come to help). Off we went down the path.

At the first fork he started on the lower trail. I was a bit suspicious as I counted the cows munching weeds around the trail and the waist high cement block wall about 100 yards ahead.

“This isn’t the trail we took yesterday.”
“No, this is the way to the house.”
“But they got to the house from the other trail yesterday”
“This is the way.”

So off we went down the trail, shooing the cows out of our way. When we got to the wall he looked around and noticed the upper trail. He decided that was where we were supposed to be and so back to the fork we went.

He hesitated on the upper trail. This didn’t look right to him either. Scanning through the trees he saw the blue of the tarp our team was using. The house was in that direction.

“This is the trail.” He started into the trees.
“I don’t think that is the trail”
“Yes, see the house. We need to get down there. This is the trail.”
“But there isn’t a path here.”
“Yes, they had to use the machete to get here, remember.”

I did remember we purchased a machete the day before and could accept that they had said something of cutting a new trail. But I could not see any evidence of a trail actually having been cut.

“I don’t think this is the right way, we need to stay on the trail.”
“No, they used the machete.”

We headed into the trees, doing our best to avoid getting scratched by branches and the sharp weeds on the ground. A few feet into the trees I saw the aloe that meant we were at a fence.

“You cannot go through that, it is a fence. We need to go back and get on the trail.”

He called out to the team. They heard him and replied, “Come this way, toward our voice.”

“See, this is the way.”

We started to walk along the fence being even more careful not to get cut. I glanced up and saw rope stretched between trees ahead. The team had talked about finding a way to make the steep path to the house safer, this must have been what they came up with.

“See the rope, this is the way.”
“No, the rope starts up there at the trail. We should have stayed on the trail and we could have come down that way.”

We were close enough to hear the team, but the fence and trees meant we were still far away.

“Stay there, we’ll send the boy who lives here to lead the way.”

They had heard us talking. The boy emerged from the trees ahead of us and waved us to come to him. We traveled slowly, though it felt faster now that we had a purpose.

When we got to the rope I showed him how we could have stayed on the path.

“Oh. Well, I didn’t know where they were working. Our path worked too.”

The team finished their work, and as we headed back to the van we asked the family if there was a different path to the road. They pointed down the hill/cliff to a trail. It was less steep than the one we used to get there, so we went that way. About a 100 yards from the house we came to a waist high cement wall with some makeshift steps. We climbed over and followed the lower path right past the cows and to the van.

Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)