The bell rings harshly throughout the corridor but is ignored by all and quickly fades out. A new attempt. No reaction except for an old man who holds on to the bars of the gate while mumbling something incomprehensible and pointing with his chin to the world outside. Two ladies shuffle past, tightly hanging on to each other while strolling for hours around the small centre garden. Usually clockwise, but once, just once, I saw them going the other way around.
Birds play with the straw gathered around the crib of Jesus in a forgotten Nativity scene in the garden. Nurses hurry past long lines of elderly sitting on couches or in wheelchairs along the corridors around the patio. I hate to ring the bell again and disturb this harmony, but why beat myself up, no one is bothered by it anyway.
So I ring again and this time I hear hurried footsteps. One of the orderlies comes in sight, balancing a cup of coffee in one hand, a huge keychain in the other. He opens up for me and my assistant, and the work can begin.
Well almost. First we walk by the long row of elderly in the corridor. For some we’re no more than shadows passing. Others greet us, happy with any distraction, even if it is just a person not wearing a white uniform. Others recognize us from previous days, a smile of recognition appearing on their faces. With those we chat a little before moving on to the next.
We walk through the dark corridor that leads to the dining hall. The space is dark and low, almost like a tunnel. I’m reminded of the Sculpture Museum in Copán Ruinas where a tunnel through the Maya Underworld leads up to a magnificent view of Temple Rosalila. Here in the nursing home, the end of the tunnel is covered with a blanket that muffles the kitchen sounds coming from beyond. And then, when you push the blanket aside, there is, well, not a Maya temple, but a mural that; I’m proud to see, livens up the place. Don Santiago and Doña Juanita against the church of San Andrés Xetul.
To the left there is another mural, this one of Doña Trini against a backdrop of one of Guatemala’s famous giant kites.
But there’s one more wall that’s calling out for a mural… The design is ready, all that’s needed are some donations towards materials… Nine more donations of $25 (Q185) each and we're there. Shall we make this happen together?