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Archive for February, 2011

Many people who come to visit us here in Guatemala are affected by visiting families in their homes in La Limonada. This week, I had the privilege of visiting three homes in the ghetto. I think that it’s important to describe living conditions of these families to folks who have never visited La Limonada. Every home is so different. Some homes have just a dirt or concrete floor and a bed, while others are made up of two or three stories and have furnished rooms.

We visited the home of S and A this week, two students at the Limon school. When we entered the home, we found that there was a lot of concrete bricks and pieces of wood lying around. There was a toilet in the middle of the room and a la pila that wasn’t being used. The girl’s mom answered the door and invited us into her home and explained that the family was renovating, and asked us to please excuse the mess. The girls were so excited that their teachers were visiting. They ran around us in their bare feet, stepping over rocks and bricks. We were invited down a new set of concrete stairs to an open area that served as the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. Next to this area was one room that the entire family, including the dad (who was at work) lived in. This room was no larger than 12′ by 12′ and was serving as the families kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom. The girl’s mother pulled stools from under a table and invited us to sit and talk with her. Beans were cooking in a pot on the stove next to where we sat, making us hungry for lunch. We talked about how the girls were doing in school and how the family was doing. We had the process of the renovation explained to us. The girls happily sat on our laps and showed us the homework that they were doing for the public schools that they attended. All in all, it was a really great visit.

The next home we visited was of a young girl in the Limon school. Her mother invited us into the home where the temperature was at least fifteen degrees warmer than outside. This was due to the mid-day sun hitting the corrugated tin roof that sheltered the home. The walls were made of red and white wrapping paper… Yes!! Wrapping paper was being used to decorate the home, which is not insulated. The paper was merely taped and stapled to the wood beams that held up the structure. The floor was made of dirt and concrete. The home had at least three rooms, all of which had dirt floors. The house was dark, and smelled of lunch being made. We learned that the grandfather, who lived in this house, had fallen the day before while working at his church. It is assumed that his wrist is broken. However, when he went to the hospital the x-ray machine was not working, so he was sent home and told to take something for the pain and to come back another day. The family was worried about how they would come up with the money to pay for the x-ray and medication that would follow… a total of about Q110 (about $13.75). We prayed for this man, who wore a large smile on his face despite his pain. He asked us to pray for him because now he can’t work.

The third home we visited was large and had a full kitchen with a washing machine in it. In this family, both of the parents work. Their youngest daughter attends the Limon school and her public school, while the oldest daughter attends 2nd basicos (8th grade). I was happy to visit this family because their youngest daughter is a wonderful student in my english classes. She’s always very excited about speaking english. The mother told me that her daughter loves english, and she hoped to have her take english lessons eventually. We were welcomed into this home and all given a giant piece of watermelon. We laughed and talked for nearly an hour. We asked the parents what was they were in need of. The oldest daughter is in need of school books. Books are not provided in school here in Guate as they are in the States. So far, the family has only been able to afford 2 of the 4 books that are needed for this school year, and the school does not permit students to make copies of the text books needed. I asked what happens if they can’t afford the books and was told that the student wouldn’t be able to complete assignments or homework and would be graded either way. Wow!!

For children in Guatemala to make it to the 7th grade is kind of a big deal. Public school education stops at the 6th grade here. After that, school gets expensive and books and uniforms are not provided to the children anymore. This creates a huge financial stress to families that are not well off.

Consider the comforts in your home. Carpet. Furniture. Microwaves. Insulation from the cold and heat. Water that won’t make you and your family sick. Privacy. Now imaging your life without these things. For some it seems impossible. This is how people live every single day in La Limonada. I ask that you please keep these families, and the entire community of La Limonada in your thoughts and prayers.

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How many times have you thought this to yourself? You see a homeless person or a man with a sign at an intersection that says “will work for food”, and you avoid them at all cost. Here in Guatemala we have kids juggling at intersections, a guy who looks like a pirate who goes from car to car, and people selling gum, candy, or other things on the bus.

Just don’t look them in the eye… right?

I hate to break it to you, but they are still there. You can ignore them, but the problem doesn’t just go away.

Today on the bus ride home a woman got on the bus with her daughter, who was about three years old. The child was dressed in torn pajamas, and the mom carried a box full of chocolates. The woman paid her one quetzal (Q1=about twelve cents) for the bus ride and sat her daughter down next to a man wearing a business suit. The little girl was eating a huge ear of corn still wrapped in the husk. The mother spent most of our ride home trying to sell chocolates on the moving bus while people got on and off around her. She told her story of her hard life (as much as I could understand), and waited patiently for anyone to buy a chocolate for Q1. The little girl happily talked nonstop to the man in the business suit. He half-acknowledged the child and smiled politely, but got off the bus without buying a chocolate.

How many times have you pretended to see past a person in need. You roll up your car windows at the intersection. You say that you have no spare change, but you take the kids to the McDonald’s drive-thru so that they can get one more toy that they don’t need. You justify this by saying that “those people” will probably spend the money on alcohol or drugs.

Personally, I never give out money. However, I always have food with me. I always keep crackers or a piece of fruit in my bag for the people at intersections. There are times when I will see one of my students begging at an intersection. They are just as happy to say hello and get a smile and an orange as they are money. When I lived in the States, I always kept a pack of bottled water and some apples in the car for people who I encounter.

Consider the actions you take. Consider the people that you are ignoring… they are people. Say hello. Ask them how they are. Have a conversation. Shake their hand. Wish them well. Be human. Look them in the eye.

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I wanted to take this opportunity to update everyone of what’s happening here in Guatemala. Our new Lemonade House (located just 5 houses away from our old house) has been without internet. If we are lucky, and sit very still in just one location, we can snatch the occasional signal from Tita’s house. But this is a rare thing and I’m coping with having limited internet access. Basically, I’m getting lots of reading and knitting done. 

Big changes have been happening here in the house and in La Limonada. We started going back to the ghetto the second week of January to find big changes. New buildings and houses erected, the kids all seem to have gotten a foot taller in the two months that I have been gone, and we have lots of changes going on in the schools this year. Everything has been a flurry of activity.

I was happy to get back to teaching this week… it feels like I have waited forever to get back to the kids. I love walking in the ghetto to find the kids and families recognizing that the school is up and running again after the holiday break. We started visiting families this week again, and its like we are celebrities for the community. We can’t go anywhere in La Limonada without kids running to us with hugs or finding that you have a new child climbing on your back when you turn around. Classes went pretty smoothly this week for me, and my kids seem eager to get to learn some more english to share with the visiting gringos this year. Some of the kids have already asked me if their ‘padrinos’ (sponsor) will be visiting them this year. To this I have to tell them that I don’t know and that we should pray for this.

A quick update on my little Lidia… she’s not so little anymore. I came back to from the States to find that she has grown at least four inches and looks more like a young woman than a little girl. Her smile is contagious and she has really come out of her shell. During class this week, she was super excited to share that she knew the answers to some of the questions that I asked in english. That just makes me so happy. I spoke with her mother and grandmother this week to tell them how much she has changed in the last  year. They thanked me for opening my heart to her. In reality, Lidia is the one who has opened her heart to me. She is a beautiful and intelligent little girl and I truly treasure her friendship.

More good stuff happening… My roommate, Donnie is getting married in Nicaragua next month to the lovely Eva. We will be traveling down to Nicaragua for his wedding on March 5th. Please keep Donnie and Eva in your thoughts and prayers for this happy occasion.

More to come…

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