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Archive for the ‘Guate’ Category

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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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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Monthy Rations

Every month impoverished Guatemalans receive food rations from the government. For the last several months, I have watched families from La Limonada come out of their homes early in the mornings to receive their rations. These rations include 20 lbs. of rice, 20 lbs. of dry black beans, 5 lbs. of corn meal for tortillas, and 2 bottle of oil.

When I realized that rations were being passed out, I asked a woman who was seemingly in charge of the team if it would be okay to take pictures of the men distributing the food. Gina introduced herself to me in English, saying that it would be okay to take pictures of the men.

Gina and I talked for several minutes about how the rations are passed out. She then asked me about the program at La Limon. I told her about how the program works, the children receiving a meal, lessons in hygiene, and assistance with their homework. The teachers at the schools also support the kids emotionally and spiritually. Gina was impressed by the efforts to keep the children off of the streets and away from the gang activity. She then told me that she would be praying for our efforts, and that she would see us next month.

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This week is Semana Santa in Guatemala… Holy Week. Basically, everything is closed for Good Friday and Easter. The busses have stopped running. Stores are closed. Usually busy coffee shops are deserted. Guatemala City is a ghost town. The entire ‘family’ went on vacation to Panajachel, a beautiful lake that is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Going to Pana gave us the chance to bond, gave me the chance to spend some time with people who I rarely get to visit with, and everyone had a good time (and got a little sunburned).

On our first night in Pana, we went to dinner at a fantastic restaurant. During our meal in the open air, street vendors would cruise through the restaurant trying to sell bracelets, purses, table runners, scarves, etc. Nine times out of ten, our response was a very stern “no gracias”. The persistent ones kept asking, the rest gave up. At one point, a boy came into the restaurant to sell his goods. On this particular night, I’m not sure if he made any sales. However, the boy left the restaurant with a bag full of our leftovers. He happily sat across the street from the restaurant eating pizza from the bag.

The next day, we decided to return to the restaurant for lunch. Once again we were approached by many vendors from the street. Some of them were very annoying. Another boy came into the restaurant, selling bracelets and purses. We greeted him with a seat at our table, passed down as much food as we could and purchased a good amount of jewelry from him. The boy looked overwhelmed, but ate nachos and pizza that was placed in front of him. He made quite a bit of money from our group of fifteen people. At the end of our meal, we bagged the leftovers and sent him on his way with more food. I later saw him sharing the food from the bag with two other boys.

Later that night, I was reflecting on the experience. We never really leave the ghetto. We never forget about the work that we have been sent here to do. We are so blessed by all that we have. Tita expressed it best by telling me that she “can not have a blessing without sharing it with others”. We are truly blessed to have this amazing life and to be surrounded by so many amazing children in La Limonada everyday. We may have left town for a few days, but when we returned and were in the vicinity of the ghetto everyone lit up. I was so happy to see Astrid (my sponsor child) walking at the market with her family. I’m so looking forward to returning to work on Monday, and to be surrounded by our kids again.

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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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San Mateo

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a school in the village of San Mateo. Getting to San Mateo took about 25 minutes on a very packed chickenbus going completely up hill… further up the mountain than I had ever been. While getting back to Antigua took a mere 10 minutes and a very empty chickenbus going warp speed down the mountain. Needless to say, we held on to our seats for dear life.

Visiting the school was an amazing opportunity to see how other schools in the villages operate. This particular school in San Mateo is run by one family. Judith, at teacher at La Union, and her husband run the small school located off of an alley-way in San Mateo. While Judith teaches at La Union Language School, in Antigua during the mornings, her husband (Juan) teaches the children at the school. Judith returns to San Mateo each afternoon to teach the children, while Juan goes to work in the afternoons and evenings. Judith’s mother assists with the children all day. Judith and Juan’s twins also attend the school. The school is sustained entirely by donations and by this one family. Without Judith and Juan, these kids would have no education in San Mateo.

I was greeted with hugs and laughter from the kids, as well as a greeting (in unison) from the entire class. We had an amazing afternoon full of play and education for the kids. Nick, one of the assistance and a resident of Canada, has assisted at the school for sometime. Yesterday was his last day working at the school. The kids threw him a party. Thanks to Judith, Juan, and Kate for inviting me to the school for the day. I would love to visit again sometime in the future.

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Last night after I left school I went to have dinner with my friend Raul, one of the teachers at La Union. We arrived at Cafe Sky, a very popular restaurant that is close to the school. After Raul and I had dinner, Raul’s student, Jacob came to join us for a beer. Jacob had decided to have dinner at home last night because he didn’t want to spend any extra money. This is completely understandable, as we receive free meals as part of our stay with the families in Antigua. I chose to splurge and have spinach and cheese quesidillas.

During our beer drinking (only one each), Jacob began to feel sick. All foreigners learn quickly that you are bound to be sick to your stomach at random times. It’s just common knowledge. So, Jacob disappeared to the bathroom for several minutes. After returning to the table he explained to us that he was suddenly not feeling well and after a few more minutes went back to the bathroom to do his thing. The owner of the restaurant went into the bathroom after Jacob came out. Jacob apologized to the owner, Carlito, and told him that he had felt very sick. Carlito nodded and said “no problema” and Jacob returned to the table to finish his beer. We asked for the check. Jacob’s check read as such:

Pollo (the only beer readily available in Guatemala) : 22Q … or approximately $2.75

Limpiar Sanitario (cleaning of the bathroom) :40Q … or approximately $5.00

For a total bill of 62 Quetzales. SIXTY-TWO QUETZALES!! To poop!!!

I immediately called Carlito over to our table and asked if he was serious. Carlito replied with a simple “si”. Once again I looked him in the eye and said “seriouso?”, waiting for Carlito to crack a smile or something… because this just had to be a joke of some kind. Nope. Carlito was serious. So, while Jacob and I sat with our mouth hanging open, he dug money out of his wallet shaking his head and just laid it on the table.

This would be one way to ruin something that you love… Cafe Sky has the best view of Antigua with it’s roof-top seating. Tourists love this place, as do students and most everyone else. It’s very sad that I won’t be returning there.

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