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Archive for March, 2010

Yesterday was the official start of our vacation from the schools in La Limonada. My original plan: sleep, coffee, blogging, laundry, more sleep, lunch, etc. Tita and the gang from the schools were going to take the team visiting from Origins Church and some of the gang members to the volcano for a hike. I sat in my pajamas with my coffee while they waited for Kate to arrive to pick everyone up. Something in me woke up… and literally four minutes before Tita and Kate arrived, I decided to join everyone. I threw on some clothes, filled my water bottle, grabbed my shoes and was ready when the time to depart arrived.

The whole reason that I had decided to stay home was because I am still (kind of ) nursing the remnants of my sprained ankle from two weeks ago. So, I decided to take a horse up the mountain when we arrived. I felt like a coward. I felt kind of lazy. Then I remembered how hard it is to ride a horse. My feeling of laziness eased. Riding is harder than I remember it being, especially when you are in a massive incline and you think that your horse hates you. Champion was a great horse. While most of the rest of the group hiked the mountain, I was the only adult who was consistently on a horse. I had to prove to myself that I could ride this horse up this mountain. The reason that I hadn’t been on a horse in so long is that I have been tossed off twice. The first time was when I was young, at a summer camp… I was about 11 or 12. The second time, I was 23. The feeling of being tossed is not one that you can just shake. Riding the massive, muscular beast was an amazing feeling. However, today I am very sore in places that I forgot that I had.

Once we got to the base of the volcano, we hiked. The terrain was unlike anything I had ever seen in person… one of the team members said that it reminded him of Jurassic Park, which was kind of true. The group was far ahead. The lovely Mann family from Colorado stayed behind, and made sure that I didn’t kill myself on the hike. It took about 40 minutes of climbing (because of my slowness), but I totally did it. When I reached the resting place where everyone was having lunch, I was greeted with applause and cheering. I felt kind of ridiculous, but proud nonetheless. I admitted to my fear of heights, especially the decline… where I am always certain that I will somehow plummet to a bloody death. Tita called to me that she was proud of me and that every time we do something that we fear, we break a chain that holds us back. I will always remember that.

I did not climb to the flowing lava. I was so shaken by the height, that I kind of chickened out. But I got to hang out with Monika and Gracie while the rest of the folks hiked ahead. We sun bathed on hardened lava, which is not as comfortable as it might sound. Hardened lava feels like tiny razor blades… not so great for sunbathing. It was a beautiful day, and the wind was cold. We could hear the gas being released from the volcano. Laying there looking at the sky, and how fast the clouds moved around the volcano’s summit was a beautiful thing. Just… wow!! I felt free.

 The group returned, and we started our decline down the volcano. This is where I started to panic. The terrain was unstable. Stuff would move when you stepped on it. The climb was much easier than the decline. I was ecstatic when I reached the bottom of the volcano without injury. I got back on the horse, another unstable thing while on a decline. Riding the horse down the mountain was much scarier than the hike down the volcano.

At the end of the day, I can say that I conquered some fears. I had a great time. I had to say good-bye to a beautiful friend, who I know that I will see again someday soon. I also got to spend some time in the front yard with the team from Origins, and amazingly beautiful group of people who love God in a way that impressed me.

It was a very good day.

 (Thanks for letting me gank your pics, Wade)

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The Limon side of the ghetto has been experiencing an increase in violence in the past month. The team at La Limon has decided to start doing something about this. We have decided to begin making home visits more of a priority, after the Semana Santa holiday. Today, I got to go on my first official house visit on the Limon side. The mother of one of our older students had a baby this past Saturday… the name of the child has yet to be determined.

“W” is a tough cookie. He is one of the smaller boys in his class. He is approximately 12 years old. His father is apparently serving a 30 year prison sentence. His favorite name for me (and apparently for April) is “gringa”. Usually, I am acknowledged on the day of English class with a sideways stare that accompanies a snide “gringa” with a head-nod. On good days, he says “hola gringa”. Those are good days in class with “W”. This kid is smart… not only street smart, but is a decent student too. Today “W” gave me the chance, for the first time, to like him. It was a good day.

“W” welcomed us into his home that he shares with his mother, grandfather, and 5 day old baby brother. We were welcomed into the home with hugs and offers of a seat on the beds. The house has no windows. The perforated tin roof has a plastic piece that allows natural light to enter the dwelling. The house smelled of fried platanos and the dog that was hanging around our feet. “W” was mostly smiles… when he wasn’t combatting April with the name “gringa”, and she back with him with the name “little boy” (in English so that he didn’t know what it meant). We visited “W” and his family for a bit and passed around the new addition of the family, with mom looking on proudly. It was a beautiful time.

On another encounter in the ghetto this afternoon, the mother of one of the younger (and probably most adorable kid that I have ever seen) students asked us to pray for her in the alley way on the way to our home visit. She had recently found out that she is 2 months pregnant. However, she had been taking shots every month for birth control. She had the shot last month, and now the doctors are concerned that there may be a problem with the baby. She has been ordered to bedrest. She is the mother of two other small boys, both under the age of 6. This makes it virtually impossible for her to remain in bed. I’m concerned for “R” and her health. She has a beautiful spirit, and a gorgeous family.

Coming back from lunch break this afternoon, Monika (one of the teachers at La Limon) took us on a tour of another barrio… the one where she grew up. I was excited to check out this new and unexplored barrio. This barrio has a public school, a private school, several churches, and wider roads. I was confused as to how this area seemed so advanced over the Mandarina and Limon areas. I admit that I was excited at the prospect of a new escuelita being built in this area, someday. I would really like to further explore other barrios in La Limonada at some point.

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For the past couple of weeks, the team serving at La Limon has been dealing with difficulties on our side of the ghetto. There has been a surge of violence. Families falling apart. Increase in gang activity. Various family problems with different students coming to surface. All of these, and more, have been weighing heavily on our hearts and minds. I find myself waking up in the night to think about this kid or that one. Why was “A” crying in class today? What happens to little “C” when he goes home tonight?

Today we were blessed with a time of release… all of the teachers and staff members at Limon were brought together for a time of prayer. The amazing group of folks from Origins Church in Boulder, Colorado gave us the chance to let it all out. For about an hour today, the group of seven sang, prayed, talked, and comforted the staff of La Limon. The staff of Limon went through an emotional rollercoaster of thoughts and feelings. I was emotionally exhausted at the end of the session. I know that all of the teachers and staff at Limon appreciated having this time to reflect.

Thanks to everyone who visited from Origins Church… you have been wonderful guests.

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I am fortunate this morning to have some time to reflect on things that I’ve seen and heard in the ghetto in the last two weeks. My mind absently goes back to the unhappy things… while I know that there is joy around every corner. I figure the best way to handle this is to get them all out.

While walking through the ghetto from the Limon side to the Mandarina side last week, I saw a boy who was no older than 13 sniffing glue. He was standing over a hole in the walkway, lighting two other bottles of glue on fire while 2 more boys were inhaling the fumes. The boys were maybe 6 years old.

One of the girls that I am close to has been physically abusing her sibling. I learned that, of course, she had been physically abused herself.

During a class yesterday, I realized than an 8 year old boy can’t even write his own name. He was unsure of how to hold a pencil correctly. He can’t read, and when I asked him if he wanted to learn to read he told me that he didn’t. I told him how important it is to be able to know how to read, and he grudgingly agreed with me. I’m going to try to make a point of spending extra time with this child.

On the Mandarina side of the ghetto, there was a baby locked in her house while the mother was gone. When some of the teachers went into the house to check on her, the child was covered in feces and the house (in Tita’s words) was “how pigs live”. All of the children in this home are now attending school at Mandarina, and the baby is being cared for by the teachers during the daytime hours while the mother is working.

We have welcomed a male onto the team on the Limon side. Wade is from Australia, and has been a blessing to us. We are all excited to have him. I love it because he knows less Spanish than I do. He also has a hilarious laugh… (Beth, he might have you beat.)

We have a wonderful team of musicians staying at the Lemonade House, from Colorado. They are full of energy and hilarity. I particularly love that they are so close that they write songs about each other… sometimes not so flattering ones. My favorite was about the bad breath of one of the girls.

On the way to the ghetto yesterday, I saw a man stealing a cup of goat milk… directly from the goat. The owner of the goats was down the street retrieving some strays that got away. By far one of the best things that I have seen thus far aside from all of the dogs on rooftops. (I’m working on a photo collection of the dogs on rooftops for a future blog.)

I received an amazing gift this week from friends at home. I want them to know how much I love them and appreciate them. This was an answer to a prayer that I had been sitting on. Thank you.

My students are beginning to welcome me in English as I get to school in the morning. This is huge, considering how resistant some of them were about having an English class to begin with.

One of my toughest students spent this past weekend with Shorty, and I woke up Sunday morning to find him sitting in our dining room. He gave me the stink-eye. I made him breakfast and we played pinball on Inna’s computer. On Monday afternoon, he ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. However, he was very pleased to hear that English class is cancelled this week. I guess you can’t win them all.

Me and Astrid

After a lot of thought and prayer I have decided to sponsor a child in my school. A small sacrifice from my comfortable living for a very special girl. Astrid is 12, and an incredibly bright student who loves to draw. Due to her home life, she is emotionally closed off. Last week, I received a letter from Astrid thanking me for being her “madrina”. She now seeks me out and hugs me almost everyday.

I get more hugs in one day than I can count. Several of the kids tell me that they are my ‘hijos or hijas’… my sons and daughters. My classes are full of intelligent kids who love to learn something new. And of course there will always be that kid who doesn’t care (this is an international problem).

I look forward to everyday that I spend in La Limonada. The happy things, no matter how small, always out-weigh the sad things. I find reasons to smile everyday. But there are also reasons to mourn. Being here has helped me grow in my faith, my compassion, my emotional strength. I am so thankful. I love my life.

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Visiting Team

This week La Limonada is being visited by several teams of missionaries from different places. The Lemonade house is hosting a group of seven from Boulder, Colorado. This group consists of 5 men and two women. In the last 24 hours I have heard at least 4 songs made up about one group or the other… all done in good spirits and hilarity. For example, yesterday’s premier song was about the bad breath of the teenage girl on this team. Tonight, this girl is singing about how bad the Spanish is of one of the guys. I am thoroughly enjoying having my first group of missionaries visit the house. It’s a great experience for me and the rest of the household.

It was interesting to hear the perspective of La Limonada from this group, being first-timers in the ghetto. It makes me remember my first experience a year ago, and the nostalgia just comes rushing back to me. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more of their experiences as the week progresses.

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The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions. I started yesterday morning with the news that Cherie had purchased my plane ticket home to visit my family in May. I was so happy… not because I want to leave Guatemala, but because it’s been over 3 months since I have seen my nieces, and I miss them so much.

After a productive morning at Limon, I made an unexpected house visit with Tita, Inna, and April. The visit was to the sister of a person I work closely with at Limon. The family issues that this girl is taking on are amazing. Her father left the family to be with a prostitute, who is also practicing witchcraft (the evil kind, not the happy-hippie-nature-loving kind). The father says that he wants to return to the family, but he feels drawn to the prostitute when he is not around her. The girl has also decided that she no longer wants to go to college, which would most likely be her only way out of the ghetto later in life. She has started dating a gang member.

I ended up getting the story behind one of the most intelligent students that I have met… who also happens to be in my favorite class. She’s been beating her sister, who is two years younger than she is. I asked Sofi if I could sit in on the conversation that was going to take place with this student. I needed her to know that she is so bright and beautiful. She has so much potential. She cried. She cries at the school because she doesn’t cry at home. Her mother has left her and her sister with a relative. Her father is dead. Before her father died, he beat her. Once, dragging her from the shower to do so.

On the walk from the Limon side to meet the rest of the team on the Mandarina side, I saw a boy sniffing glue. He couldn’t have been more than 14. Not only was he sniffing the glue, but there were two bottles of glue in a pothole that he was lighting on fire so that the smaller boys could sniff the fumes.

During the Life of Hope meeting last night, I watched Shorty talk to the gang members in a small house on the Mandarina side. About 6 gang members showed up for the meeting last night. It was as if he were speaking only to them. One of the gang members was so into the message that Shorty was delivering… his face lit up, he was smiling and laughing. He was consumed with what Shorty had to say. It was an honor to watch this transaction between Shorty and the members of this community.

I went to bed exhausted, at 8:00 pm. Emotionally drained from my day. My sprained ankle acting up, as I haven’t given it a fair chance to heal… I just keep going. That’s what I’m here for.

This morning I received an email from home. A good friend is in her 7th (I think) month of pregnancy. The baby hasn’t grown since the last doctor’s appointment, and she now has water on her brain. Her survival is not looking so good. This may be the third baby that my friend has had to deliver that will not survive. I can’t stop thinking of her pain.

All of these situations need our prayer and support. Please take a moment today to send happy thoughts, prayers, good juju, whatever you’ve got.

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What happens when the kids get ahold of my sunglasses…

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