Sunday, September 23, 2012

Independence Day

September 15th is Guatemala’s Independence Day and the whole week leading up to the big day, the streets of Xela are filled with parades, music, food and an overwhelming number of people. One of the main attractions of Xela during this week is the Independence Fair, or “La Feria.” It is just like your average State Fair in the United States, complete with delicious smells wafting from the various stands selling fatty foods, screaming children, and the classic carnival games where you can win overly large stuffed animals.

Because the fair in Xela is such a big event, and because the kids of the Family Support Center (formerly the Guarderia) live so far away, we decided to recreate la Feria in Llanos de Pinal. We spent the week planning and preparing. A scavenger hunt through the city proved fruitful when we discovered a beanbag toss game buried under the odds and ends of a thrift-like tienda. Carmen splurged and bought a mini-foosball table that, although frustrating to put together, was a huge hit. We wanted to make the Feria feel like the real thing so our two Guatemalan secretarial interns crafted some tickets for food and games.

Thursday afternoon the whole Family Support Center staff helped set up la Feria. Balloons, a colorful umbrella displaying cotton candy, bright signs and all of the different game stations transformed the playground into a carnival. Some of the mothers cooked up some delicious treats to add to the festivities.

While we were setting up, the kids were inside learning more about the story behind Guatemala’s Independence from Carmen. The national anthem was played, and the older kids proudly displayed the flag of their country. Finally, the kids were allowed to rush outside to see all the games and treats we had prepared! Carmen led a hilarious game of Bingo, Amy manned a very popular game where each person was given two tennis balls to try and knock down a tower of old milk cartons. Foosball, of course was immediately taken over, and Ashley was bombarded with kids wanting to play coin toss. It was chaos! Screaming, laughing, smiling and joking sums up the atmosphere of the Center’s version of the Fair.

If you played a game you were pretty much guaranteed to win, and winning meant prizes! We had an assortment of yoyos (yoyitos), bouncy balls and candy. The moms even got into the activities and Doña Delfina wowed the crowd after knocking down the tower of milk cartons on her first try.

The fair was a complete success and it was so warming to see everyone getting along and having fun. Any worries or stresses evaporated and it was all fun and games (literally!). Days like these make it obvious why the Family Support Center is such a necessary and effective project. Any time we can find ways to bring a community and families together in a fun and active environment is an accomplishment.

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