Friday, January 13, 2017

Last day reflections

Sipping my coffee after unintentionally rising before the sun.  I head into my last shift at the clinic in an hour but my day should be pretty laid-back and yet go by super-fast.  I have two hours to finish orienting our new nurse before the clinic takes all of us out for brunch to celebrate my leaving and her coming.  Then we have our big song and dance this afternoon followed by dinner out in Antigua with all the volunteers, old and new.  Then tomorrow at 4am I head out to catch my bus to Honduras with my friend.

In the calm before the storm, I was reading over my blogs for this past year and realized how glad I am to have this picture journal of memories!  It's been a year since I wrote about my very first impressions of Guatemala and NPH in a blog entitled What you make of it.  It's so funny to see how much my perceptions have changed.  Linking then to now...well it's been a challenging yet amazingly beautiful year and I think it will be months before I really get a handle on it.

Yesterday was my last time going to my section: feeding them dinner, washing their dishes and then settling them into bed.  We've created so many habits together over the past year without realizing it: LL hiding under his blankets when I went to tuck him into bed, pretending he's not there but then throwing the covers off his face when I pretend I can't give him a goodnight kiss because he's not there.  Em yelling as I come in the room, running to jump in his bed because it's our tradition for me to get his blankets out of the locker and cover him up but he's not ready yet.  Al hugging me around the neck so tightly I can't move and then not letting go until I kiss his cheek and say I love him.  Yeah making the rounds for the last time pretty much brought me to tears.  

It's the small things, the daily routine type items that I want to remember.  Laughing today.  I can cry tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Old volunteers 2016

 The new volunteers have arrived!  It's like we're really going home!  And we are really going home: in four days: how crazy is that!  Well, leaving...I'm headed out to see a friend in Honduras (plan: not die) and then hitting up Nicaragua with a fellow volunteer before meeting up with some other friends in Costa Rica.  Que loca la vida!

I just finished what is purportedly my last 24 hour shift...but I'm holding out for them to ask me for one more...just can't quite believe I'm really (really) done.

Last night in a hospital bed from the 80's

Last night was SO COLD...down to the low 40's.  I know you people in snow-covered lands aren't impressed but you probably, most likely, have heat in your houses.  We have hats, scarves, sweatshirts, blankets and more blankets.  We literally walk around wrapped in our blankets.

On a sad note there was a local tragedy on Saturday night.  Six people died on Acotenango Volcano, the volcano we hiked last April, after a freak rainstorm and freezing temperatures.

We're gearing up for our final song and dance...literally.  We're putting together a small show for the kids.  Tomorrow I have a going away breakfast hosted by my kids.  Friday night is our big dinner out in Antigua.  And then Saturday...dum-dum-duuuum...nos vamos.  Wow!

I imagine I'll have a few reflective blogs in the next several months before I close out this part of my blog.  It's been an awesome adventure this past year...I've learned and overcome a lot to be happy here...but happy I definitely am.  So glad I came.  God is good!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sponsoring a child at NPH

A week from today I am leaving Guatemala and NPH.  Bittersweet, to say the least.  I've spent the last few days mostly with my kids and then yesterday I worked what I thought was my last 24 hour shift...but true to Guatemalan planning I'll also be covering turno on Monday.  Oh well!

What I really want to write about is sponsoring a child at NPH...which is what I signed up for this week.  As is common in many latino countries, people have godparents for more than just their baptism.  Confirmations, weddings, all kinds of things introduce new godparents to the family.  In becoming a sponsor at NPH you are considered that child's godparent: which is what they call you.  Most kids have multiple godparents...some in the double digits...because as delightful as it is to think $30 will support a kid for a month it takes that several times over to feed, clothe, educate and provide health care for the kids.

Gonna miss these views as I deliver meds in the morning!

I chose two girls from my special needs house who only have one or two godparents.  I took them out to lunch this week to tell them (just the three of us in the only restaurant we have in town :0) and then gave them a rosary and miraculous medal.  They lit up like Christmas trees and one of them couldn't stop hugging me...and still can't. :o)

My goddaughters are both going to live at NPH long-term as they could never care for themselves independently.  They are also cognizant and verbal enough that they can appreciate our relationship and remember me when I come back.  For purely human reasons, that is important to me.  :o)

My time is really winding down.  It took a year to feel like I belong here and now I'm leaving.  Wow! How quickly this year went!  I'm so very, very blessed to have had this experience.  So grateful to know and love these kids (all of them!!).

Soooooo if you are interested in sponsoring a kid, it's pretty simple.  Thirty dollars a month and they send you a welcome packet with a picture and information about your kid.  Then you have the opportunity to communicate with them (NPH translates your letter and vice versa) and you are welcome to visit, if you would like.  You really will be someone important to your godchild.  The kids here go on and on about their godparents...when they write, send something and especially if they are coming to visit!

Here's the link and if you have any questions, please contact me!

Sponsor a child at NPH

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Spending New Years in El Tunco: Surfing

So every once in a while I have random ideas like "I want to learn to surf!"  or "Let's climb to the highest point in Central America" or even "Let's make a reality TV show about Guatemalan volunteers!"  And when I say these ideas out loud, other (very nice but rather innocent) people jump in "That sounds fun!  I want to come!"

Hence why five of us were out on the waves in El Tunco, El Salvador this past week, standing on boards as massive waves pushed us forward.  Okay...the first day...the second day we found a better surf school and they had us out (albeit at seven in the morning) but for much calmer "learning" waves.

Surfing is fun.  That being said: it is HARD WORK.  After my first two days I took a break and it took me another three days before I got back up on a board and remembered that I actually LIKE it.  I have so much respect now for people who can ride that stupid thing!

So as we only surfed in the morning and since laying out on the beach, running at dawn, eating fish tacos, swimming in the surf, climbing natural rock formations, and strolling down to wander through the water caves wasn't enough...we climbed in a pick-up with about 15 other people and rode who knows where to a field in the middle of nowhere for five bucks.  There we followed two boys down a long and winding trail to a waterfall where people (not me...) jumped twenty feet off boulders into a bathtub.  After that we hiked, crawled and let ourselves down on ropes into a canyon where we found three more waterfalls.  Beautiful!

New Years itself was super fun (except I came down with a stupid head cold that day and ended up crashing at 11) but strange.  NOTHING (including most restaurants: finally found a Belgian hostel that was open) was open until MIDNIGHT.  That meant you waited in your hostel to go out at MIDNIGHT and then partied until dawn (which is probably why I fell asleep... needed something to keep me awake more than waiting!).   Being the wild partier I am, I slept through the yelling, fireworks and music they apparently welcomed the new year with. My friends had a blast!

Last sunset of 2016

Fish tacos

Latte from Dale! Dale!

Me trying to be creative: fail

One of the coolest things about speaking a little Spanish is just TALKING to people.  I loved striking up a conversation with the woman selling empanadas from a tray on her head as she walked the beach, a local family sitting next to me, some Guatemalan musicians we went out to hear play one's just so wonderful to be able to TALK to people!


I hope I can continue learning and speaking Spanish when I get home.  This year has absolutely flown by.  I spent a lot of New Years thinking about everything that's happened this past year and how drastically my life will once again change when I get home.  I need to stay focused on trusting God.  Sunrise to sunset to sunrise again ...He's gotten me this far.  I'm sure the adventure is just beginning!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Simply Christmas

Navidad this year was simple and precious.  It is the first time in my life I haven't spent the holiday surrounded by friends, family, platters of goodies, gifts and, well, more gifts.  I love my family traditions, but this year was more peaceful than usual...and I was more at peace.

We started Christmas Eve morning with a volunteer brunch in our house where we exchanged our Secret Santa gifts.  The quetzal limit was 25 (about 2 dollars) and you'd be surprised with what we came up with for so little.  Afterwards we all headed to our sections for work (we cover the caregivers' positions so they can go home for Christmas).  I covered the nurses in the clinic.

From my SS: don't judge

In my section we gathered around the Christmas tree and sang Christmas carols in English, German and Spanish, accompanied by a guitarist.  Afterwards we ate cookies and then the kids took turns opening their two gifts.  The gifts were simple but the kids were ecstatic to receive anything and I think it's pretty rare they get to pull wrapping paper off of anything!

That night we gathered outside the church for the Pasturela, a Christmas nativity pageant performed by the kids, complete with fire...there is definitely a fire thing here.  Coal, wood, sparklers, fireworks: it all gets burned on Christmas Eve.

After the performance (lovely!) we gathered together in an outside, covered area to partake of TAMALES.  If there is anything you want to know about Guatemalan Christmas traditions, it can be summed up in that one food.  And boy were they yummy!

After dinner, we gathered at a bonfire and the kids were given sparklers and small firecrackers (yes even casa de bebes...I had visions of thirty kids lined up at the clinic for burn treatment but surprisingly no one was hurt!).  We were given bolsas of fruit, peanuts and candy from a dear family that came to spend their Christmas Eve with us.

My Christmas present came early.  As I sat in front of the bonfire, one of the little boys from the baby house came and plopped in my lap.  He grabbed my hands and wrapped them around himself with a tight hug and then promptly fell asleep.  We sat there for several hours until I felt like my arms would fall off and my bum and legs were numb.  Picking him up, I carried him back to his house and helped put him to bed.  Seriously, made my day.

The next morning we slept in and ate a late breakfast.  Then everyone leisurely enjoyed movies, riding bikes or doing nothing until after dinner.  We started Mass in the church with caroling but then processed outside and all around campus, our way lit by candles on the walkway.  We returned carrying the baby Jesus wrapped in a swaddling cloth and placed him on the altar.  After Father began Mass, Jesus was carried to his manger under a Christmas tree and then we had Mass.

The caroling was beautiful.  It's neat learning Christmas songs in Spanish.  It's even neater being a part of a simple and beautiful Christmas celebration.  There is something to be said for not having things.  I did put together presents for all my kids, the nurses, doctor and the kids in the clinic....but really they were just tokens to say: "I thought of you." Because the only thing I really took home from this is that Jesus gives HIMSELF as a person to us and out of love and gratitude, that is the best thing we too can give to each other: OURSELVES.

God bless you!  ¡Feliz Navidad!  ¡Y Próspero año y felicidad! 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas Eve!

Luke 2:1, 11-12

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas from our Belen to yours!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Las Posadas: Is there room at the inn?

This week we started Las Posadas, an advent tradition I am growing to love and wish we had back home!  

All the children come together to sing, pray and walk around with Joseph and Mary carried on their shoulders.  They are looking for a place to stay.  

We do this daily, going to a different casa each time.  When we finally arrive at the one assigned for the day, we stand outside the door and sing back and forth with the people inside, asking for room in their home.  After what seems to be a long debate, we are allowed inside.  

Once the doors open, it can take a moment for your eyes to adjust to the bright lights, balloons, streamers and pre-nativity displays set up inside.  

We enter and listen to a small presentation of the advent story: the angel appearing to Mary or Joseph taking his wife and fleeing after seeing the angel in his dream.  Then the house invites us to share in a refa (snack) or meal.  Last night we had tamales and the night before that was sweet breads. Yum!

This has to be one of the most meaningful and beautiful advent traditions I have come across.  As we walk and pray, especially in the dark with candles, it is so easy to remember Mary and Joseph journeying alone to Bethlehem.  And when it is cold, and windy, and dark, you can so easily identify with how brave they really were as they went on their way.  

The light from inside the house draws you closer and as you stand on the threshold with Mary, Joseph and the unborn babe, asking entrance, you're reminded powerfully how Christ asks entrance into our hearts as well.  

My favorite night so far was a windy one.  We walked with candles and one of the little boys came up and grabbed my hand, asking me to hold his candle because he was scared of the flame.  We walked the entire way, hand in hand, singing our carols and looking for a place that would take us in.  

(Pic of people waiting inside)

My heart burns sometimes, because even though I understand the foundation's precepts about not adopting out (this is a part of Padre Wasson's philosophy from 60 years ago and now reinforced by Guatemalan law)...many times I wish I could bring these kids back with me!  But God has a place for them.  And God has a place for me.  And He is asking entrance into our hearts, because He has a place with us as well.  

¡Oh ven!, ¡Oh ven, Emanuel!

Libra al cautivo Israel,

Que sufre desterrado aquí,

Y espera al Hijo de David.

¡Alégrate, oh Israel!

Vendrá, ya viene Emanuel.

¡Oh ven, Tú, Vara de Isaí!

Redime al pueblo infeliz

Del poderío infernal

Y danos vida celestial.