Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Flowers for Mary

Survived another week at NPH!  Can't believe it's already the end of September!  While everyone at home is enjoying the changing of the leaves and the cooling of the temperature, we continue on with our rainy weather and ever green plants.  Definite plus: constantly blooming roses!

We made our second trip into town and bought roses again for Our Lady in the Church this past weekend.  My kids loved it the first time and kept asking for a repeat.  I think it will be a monthly thing.

Had a proyecto with a family of seven last night.  We gathered up the troops then made our way with pizza, chocolate cake and a movie to the library.  In what turned out to be a comedy of errors, the movie was in English, the electricity went out, and we ran overtime...returning the kids late to their houses.  BUT it was fun and kids LOVED it!  And the computer had enough juice to show the entire (back-up, in-spanish) movie!  And as I've said before, proyecto is one of my absolute favoritist things we do here in NPH!

Not much else to report...I think we're onto repeat things.  We had another Visitor Day last Sunday (obligatorio work day but laid back and fun).  I'm on day nine of twelve working days in a row.  Haven't died yet.  Electricity came back on this morning.  God is good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rio Dulce

Sweet River, or Rio Dulce, is the river that connects the biggest lake in Guatemala, Lake Izabal, to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a wide, tranquil river and has rightly earned its name. 

I went with some fellow volunteers this past weekend for a quick visit.  We stayed at a river side hotel on stilts, one that is only accessible by boat.  Night and day, we were able to jump off a rope swing and swim in the water right in front of the dock.

The first full day we climbed on a local colectivo and headed up the road to a hot spring in El Paraiso.  It was already crowded, being a Saturday and the weekend after a national holiday, but we were early enough that we didn't feel like there were too many people.

The hot water is what is streaming down the rocks.  The water at the bottom is cooler and collects from the hot spring but also is a part of a creek.

Afterwards we went for a beautiful stroll through the countryside.

Then we climbed on another colectivo and headed upriver to an area called El Boquieron.  There we found canoes and drivers who offered to take us upstream into a canyon.  It was beautiful but the best part was when we jumped out and swam down the river, back through the canyon, carried by the current.

After a late lunch and liquados overlooking the water we called our hotel and they sent their boat to pick us up.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn (literally, 5:30!) and we headed out again.  This time on kayaks where we made our way over to Castillo de San Felipe, a local fort that was built in the 1600s.  It was beautiful and awesome to be the only ones there in the early hours of the morning, climbing in and around the ramparts.

After breakfast at our hotel we climbed into a river boat and headed an hour and half up river to Livingston.

Livingston is where the river meets the ocean.  It is known as a Garifuna town.  The Garifuna are mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people.

After a lovely day we headed back to La Frontera de Rio Dulce.  We were able to make it back in time for Mass and attended one of the most upbeat services I have been to.

Our ride home was a bit trying.  Our bus ticket said departure 10am but when we had waited for an hour, I called the agent and found out the bus was leaving Flores at 10am but wouldn't be in Rio Dulce until 1pm.  So we left and came back at 12:30 and then waited until 2:30 only to find out the bus had broken down.  At 3:30 a bus came, passed us and then didn't turn around.  An hour later another bus with the same people from the last bus arrived, because they had changed buses on the outside of town.  We finally hit the road to Guatemala City at 4:30pm but as luck would have it a car accident had us side-lined for another hour and a half in the middle of nowhere.  We finally pulled into the bus station in Guatemala City around 11pm and into Antigua at 1am.  A combination of safety concerns and miscommunication found us at a hostel where we curled up for six hours before climbing out of bed to catch a chicken bus this morning.  Because duty calls and we here at NPH answer, we all tried to make it work on time.  I was an hour late but that is neither here nor there...grateful I went and grateful to be back!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Independencia and Marching Bands

We have been listening to the marching band practice for months now.  It probably has improved their playing exponentially because they practice every day all afternoon.  I think the pounding of the drums kind of erased how cool marching bands are until this past week when we had both a marching band competition here at NPH and then a big parade where we all marched behind the instruments in a local town.

The formations the bands make while marching around the field was pretty epic and their music was fun and upbeat, switching out from heavy booming to lyrical saxophone medleys.  

Today, September 15th, is the actual day of Independence in Guatemala.  I can hear marching bands (not ours), cheering, honking and fireworks from the local village.  Did I mention that they started their celebration at 4am this morning?

Off for the weekend.  Today is a lovely free day for all non-essential employees (I qualify today!).  Packing for a quick trip to Rio Dulce (about 7 hours away) with fellow volunteers.  Can't wait!

*Photos courtesy of Katie!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Running for freedom

This month we are celebrating the Independence of Guatemala from the Spaniards in 1821.  I think it was 1821.  Well maybe it was 1776.  Let me check.  Yep, 1821.  Okay, what happened in 1776?  Here, not in the United States...let me check.  Oh, they founded the Capital City.  I knew something happened.

ANYWAY.  We have some cool traditions here.  The actual Independence Day is September 15th but this week we are busy EVERY DAY with something and it really is a month long celebration...kinda like when we celebrated Holy Week (Semana Santa) all through Lent.

I digress.  What I am trying to tell you about is our Independence runs!  Apparently back in 1821 when freedom was declared, the people in Guatemala City lit a huge fire and then people took torches from the fire and ran all the way to where ever they were from to tell them the good news.  This could be nearby or all the way in the outermost parts of Guatemala. 

 For this reason we find a town and light a torch (thankfully NOT everyone has to start in Guatemala City) and then run and run and run until we reach our own town where we circle around Central Park yelling "Viva Guatemala" and "NPH" with ear splitting whistles (we literally have whistles).  People honk their horns and cheer as the people with the torches lead the way. We eventually end up at home where fire crackers welcome us back and the people who stayed behind cheer us on.  We eventually light our own torch back home and by that time we are pretty tired because we just ran 4 miles if we are the pre-K kids and 7.5 miles if we are the big kids...so we say a few words about how great everything is and then rush off to drink water and shower.

In a word: CHILERO!

*Thank you to Vanessa for the photos!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

El Pescado leaves ocean and other futbol news

 Last Tuesday I had the honor of accompanying our kids to a national football game in San Mateo Flores (where we held the special olympics)...and not just any game.  This was the last game of Carlos Ruiz Gutierrez's career.  Who is Carlos Ruiz?  He's the capitan and all time post-season high scorer of the MLS, born and raised in Guatemala City.  Known as "el pescado" or "the fish" he has played all over North, Central and South America for the past 16 years.  He has qualified for the World Cup five times and on Tuesday night he showed us how: by scoring five goals in a 9-3 win against San Vicente Las Granadines.

We were super blessed because we weren't there to just watch the game.  We were invited to participate!  Before it started they ushered all of us into the locker room.  El Pescado came in and greeted us, posed for photos and accepted a gift from NPH.  Then our kids walked onto the field with all the players, carrying the Guatemalan Flag and their 2018 Qualifiers flag on national television.

In typical rainy season fashion, it rained throughout the entire game but honestly, we were having so much fun that no one cared!  The kids wore trash bags and the adults cheap ponchos that we bought in the stands (we didn't fit in the trash bags).  

At the end of the game Pescado was taken out with less than five minutes to go.  He hugged and high-fived each of his teammates before passing off the Captain's armband.  After the game was over he waved and threw kisses to the crowd and then his teammates doused him with gatorade before throwing him in the air over and over.  It was a pretty awesome moment.

I feel so blessed to have been included in this game.  It was literally a last minute thing (I found out about the game and got permission to go less than an hour before we left) but something I'm pretty sure I'll remember forever.  Oh and the President of Guatemala was there so a couple kids went up to snap a photo with him.  That's twice now that NPH has run into the president.  Not something that happens back home!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Staying in Guatemala

So I'm not staying here but people have started to ask me if I want to.  How do you say in the nicest way possible that I love you and I love your country but I want to go home?  I am so glad I came and I am so happy I have four more months to live here...but when I'm done?  Well, I think I'll be done.

My mom went home last Thursday.  We had such a delightful time.  After the City and Antigua, we went to the beach for two days.  Basically we got wet, dried off, got wet, dried off and drank liquados in between.  So fun and relaxing!!

Back to work today.  My boss let me know that we have to give boosters to every kid so I've spent the day going through records, creating a spreadsheet and calculating how many vaccines we need to buy.  I can't wait to give 200 kids their shots.  Just kidding.  Ob.  :o)

So I'm working two weeks straight and then heading on another short excursion!  We aren't allowed to use our vacation days the first six months which means that in the last six months I get to use all four weeks!  I am so excited to travel.

Oh, and my mom and I were able to take my kids into town to buy Our Lady flowers.  They loved it, we loved it and I know Our Lady loved it!


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fourth time's the charm: Guatemala City

Guatemala City is technically the fourth location of the capital of Guatemala.  After multiple, devastating earthquakes in the 1700s in Antigua, the people of Guatemala up and moved to the current location of Guatemala City.  Since it is a good hour without traffic (and up to three with traffic) all of my trips into the city have been instigated by NPH and always work related.  This past week when my mom came into town, I decided to book a tour of the city and a nice hotel.  We stayed at a lovely place with a spa and pool and went on what turned out to be a private tour with a local guide last Saturday.

We learned about the arrival of the Spanish, who asked the Guatemalan people to show them their valuables.  So the people brought out their children and showed them to the invaders.  Rather than gold, jade was the precious stone worn and traded in these parts.  The Spaniards failed to find gold but they did find silver.  You can still see silver covering the altars in the churches.  

The word Mayan, we were told, means "I don't know."  The guide said that when the Spaniards came and asked the natives what their names was, they answered "I don't know' because they didn't know what they were saying.  The guide also showed us the Mayan arches and other parts of the church that reflected the Mayan culture.

We also were blessed to venerate a relic of Mother Teresa of Calcutta while we were at the Cathedral.

Interestingly enough, the beautiful altars from La Merced in Antigua were moved over the course of three years to the new church of La Merced in Guatemala City.  It was neat to see the same church layout and ceilings in the city.  The altars are gorgeous...I can see why the people wanted to take them with them.

The story behind this private little Catholic Church is simple but sweet.  A man wanted to marry a woman and she said she would only marry him if he built a church for them to marry in.  He started construction and a year later they married.  The church was finished sixteen years after that.

The history of Guatemala itself is interesting when you've been living here.  The architecture and culture of the city has been influenced by the Spanish of course but there is also a large French and German presence.  The City square is lovely.  We went into the cathedral and around the Palacio National.  We climbed above the city and looked out at the mountains and volcanoes and then we ended up in Cayala where a cute, pseudo-european city exists.  

I am glad I spent a little time seeing the city and my mom, history major, loved all the information.  There are other things I'd like to make it back for before I salir: namely a professional soccer game and to hear the Guatemalan Symphony Orchestra.  Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to find a way in the next four months?