Abby Weil

Abby Weil (ADIVIMA): Abby completed her undergraduate degree in anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she had the opportunity to serve as a tutor in Lima, Peru. At the time of her fellowship she was pursuing a master of arts in public anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. Abby also interned for the Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA, promoting human rights in Guatemala through research, educational outreach and advocacy.

A Parting Gift: Glancing Back and Looking Forward

08 Aug

As I am finishing up my last week here at ADIVIMA it is of course a time for reflection. While I am certainly sad to be leaving Guatemala and the people here at ADIVIMA, at the risk of sounding cliché, every ending in life is also the beginning of something new.

This is a time to reflect over my successes here as well as those things that truly challenged me. As for the challenges, they certainly included functioning completely in another language, operating on a completely different time schedule, lost passwords, missing or late information, working within a new power structure with new people, and of course adjusting to life here in rural Guatemala. I adapted to and learned from all of these challenges throughout my time here in Rabinal. I learned that I am far more creative, resourceful, and resilient when confronted with new problems and challenges than I ever imagined. I also learned to truly let go and search for help and guidance from others when I had a problem that was beyond my abilities.

While I was here at ADIVIMA among the things we accomplished were a website with an online donation system as well as a monthly newsletter in both Spanish and English. I say “we” because I worked together with ADIVIMA, an amazing web development team, Ron and Hans Huether at Huey Productions, as well as a professional translator, Wendy Fournier, all of which agreed to continue to work for ADIVIMA for free in the future. The response that I received from them was absolutely overwhelming. They agreed to donate their time and experience for me and for ADIVIMA. It is this kind of generous spirit that has been the greatest blessing of my time here in Guatemala.

Working on difficult subjects like violence, genocide, and post-conflict healing and justice can become overwhelming at times. Sometimes it seems that the horrible things that people are capable of doing to one another will always triumph over the good. However, people like those working here in Guatemala at ADIVIMA fighting for justice, and those like the Huethers and Wendy Fournier in the US donating their time remind me that kindness, generosity, and love are still present in this world of ours.

So, I will leave you with the story of a woman I met in the market here in Rabinal who thought she was giving me the gift of a painted bowl, when in fact she gave me the gift of a restored faith in human kind.

I always wait until the last moment to buy souvenirs and gifts as I can easily go through and find a gift for every occasion, thus saving me a ton of time while I am especially traveling abroad. I went to the market on Sunday with a friend to enjoy the bustle of Rabinal one last time and buy a few of the traditional wares made here. I knew I wanted to buy some of the bowls made here of old coconut shells and painted brightly in yellow, red, and black.

Browsing among the crowded stalls my eyes fell upon an indigenous woman sitting on the ground holding a large basket full of painted bowls. The bowls were the perfect size for gifts and were more beautifully painted than any I had seen before. As I approached I noticed that she was not wearing shoes and appeared to be almost blind. We began talking and she explained how she made the bowls and carefully painted each one. She happily helped me pick out seven bowls and I paid her the three Quetzales (approximately .39 cents USD) she requested for each one.

As I was thanking her and wishing her well she began rifling thorough the basket to pick out the most beautiful bowl of all. She then extended it up to me and I smiled. I assumed she wanted to try to sell one more bowl while she knew she had a captivated buyer. I reached into my wallet to retrieve three more Quetzales to pay her. It was then that she did something that completely took me by surprise. She quietly refused to accept my money, placed the bowl in my hands, and smiled.

I was completely blown away. To me, three Quetzales is almost nothing, but to her it could mean the difference between a meal and going hungry. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thanked her and turned to leave. While she thought it was only a painted bowl that she had given me, in reality she had given me the gift of a renewed spirit for my work and a rekindled faith in humanity.

As I am looking forward to finishing my master’s degree and embarking on a new career path, I will take with me the lessons I have learned here in Guatemala and at ADIVIMA. I will remember that the fight is never hopeless and that people like the woman in the market are those worth fighting alongside and fighting for. Thank you all for reading my blog. Your interest and support has meant so much to me during my time here in Guatemala, and I wish blessings and peace upon each one of you. I hope that you will each find your own source of hope and inspiration, whether in your community or on the other side of the world, and take up the fight for justice as you see fit.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Posted By Abby Weil

Posted Aug 8th, 2007

1 Comment

  • Stig Salling

    January 1, 2008


    The tears are even welling here, thousands of miles away in Europe (DK).
    I visited Rabinal some years ago and I know their story. I’m always thinking about how they kicked Rios Montt out in 2003 and took his hat, as the story goes.
    I miss that place. It is an amazing story about the woman. Thanks for sharing it.

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