Sunday, February 28, 2016

Serious thoughts

When you are taken outside of yourself and placed in a new world with new people, you tend to question a lot... From who you are, all the way to what you believe is true. In the day to day of my normal life at home I think I just take it all in stride, but here, when I'm faced with my own selfishness and weakness, when it's entirely up to me if I want to do the right thing, say the right thing, believe the right thing... Well it makes it all so clear that the way I live my life has to be based on something greater than what my family thinks, my friends think, my boss or pastor or anyone else thinks.  

When the people around you don't know you, don't have expectations about you based on previous knowledge of your character... Well there is the loss of a big motivation to be the person that you think you are or should be.  If in this moment I were to abandon my faith or life long desire to be holy, no one would really know... Even more, no one would really care.  There is definitely time here for some serious soul searching. Grateful I'm not alone and that though my faith is challenged, it is not lost. Being accountable only to God is a new experience and it's good for me.

On a less serious note, I started salsa lessons, joined a local basketball team and started teaching some of the girls how to crochet. Also found what I think is perpetual adoration in Parramos! Life goes on!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Horse Therapy

So another really cool thing we have here at NPH is horse therapy. Once a week the special needs kids climb in the microbus and head out of town.  About thirty minutes later, down a long dirt road, they arrive at a gate where they wait to be let in.  Another long dirt road brings them to this idyllic place.  The owners, who run a small spa, restaurant and getaway allow our kids to ride the most docile horse you have ever seen for a couple hours every week.

The kids take turns, changing the saddle to fit their different needs and engaging in games like reaching for hoops to help with balance and hand-eye coordination.  We have several therapists that accompany them and plan out their treatment.

The best part is seeing the smiles on the kids faces!  This past week I took the morning off work to accompany the kids to therapy.  We were such an excited group! While the kids waited their turns to ride, I crashed on the grass and then strolled around the beautiful grounds with them.  Then I walked beside the horse and handed rings to one of the kids riding on top. Afterwards we had a light picnic on the lawn, loathe to leave.

I wish everyone could spend a month with these kids.  And not just my special needs kids...all the children are amazing.  I took one of my kids to Mass in her wheelchair last night and as we came up the aisle she was met with waves and invitations to park her wheelchair next to different kids.  During Mass I could hear the little girl sitting next to her whispering, and even an occasional giggle.  For communion, the same little girl pushed the wheelchair up.  As we left, the kids walking past us reached out and gave my special needs kid handshakes and squeezes on the shoulder.  Precious.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I hiked a volcano!

I hiked my first active volcano yesterday!  Pacaya is about 2 hours from Antigua and its last big eruption was in 2010...its last small, lava flowing eruption was in 2014.  My stats may be a little off, I was listening to them in Spanish.

The place is like a wasteland, very little fauna, black rocks and steam rising.  I went with another volunteer for the afternoon and we saw the most amazing sunset.  It was almost mystical...or like really poor special effects from a B-rated movie.

The turning the corner thing is real.  I already have plans for my next two weekends off (read in two weeks and then two weeks after that).  I found a website with biking tours, kayaking tours and hiking tours.  I'm so excited!  My tax return and last work bonus came this past Thursday so now I know exactly how much extra money I have for excursions.  I'm ready to see this country!  Well, in between working at the clinic and spending time with my section.  After all, that is why I'm here.  :o)

So just some pictures from this beautiful hike.  It was about 8km roundtrip and there were horses available if the hike became too strenuous. Only one woman, a nice lady from Australia, availed herself of this service half way up.  She arrived in Guatemala three days ago and I don't think she appreciated the affect the altitude would have on her.  Altitude is real and the body definitely needs time to adjust!

Missing all my friends and family.  Wish you all could climb and see this country with me!  I'll try to bring you along for at least some of it with this blog!  Abrazos a todo!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Turned a corner

I think I’ve finally turned a corner in my stay here in Guatemala.  For one thing, I not only like beans and rice…I find myself craving them…for dinner…for snack...for lunch...even breakfast!  Nothing is more disappointing than going up to the commodore to get food and finding out we are having ramen noodles.   And DO NOT substitute rolls for the tortillas!  I'd rather starve!

Just kidding!  Not that picky but yeah, totally loving the beans and rice thing (for now).  I’m also feeling more confident with the language…plenty is said that goes right over my head but people talk to me now, in Spanish, and I answer, in Spanish.  It’s pretty amazing.  Okay, to me, it’s pretty amazing.

Another reason I know I’ve finally turned a corner is because I want to GO places again!  I’ve spent the last six weeks at NPH just trying to figure out when I can wash my clothes and how to buy a papaya.  Now I don’t care if I have a papaya…I want to see things!  Hoping to hike the Pacaya Volcano this weekend with one of the other volunteers.  I REALLY hope it is a clear day!  Since it is only 20 USD roundtrip…I guess I can always go up it again if my pictures are a bust.

Another reason I know I’ve turned a corner is because I am enjoying my section and job.  I don’t count down the minutes until I can get back to my house and um, not speak Spanish.  Tonight I am going to Mass.  Father is going to let me go to confession in English!  I approached him last night about trying it in Spanish but admitted I didn’t think it would end well.  He very hesitantly told me in English, “Then speak English.”  No he doesn’t really speak English…but we will get by!  Is it a bad thing that I am ecstatic he won’t be able to understand me completely?  Ayayaya.

Missing you all!  Lots of love and prayers!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Family Projects

Another program we have here at NPH is a thing called Family Projects.  Twice a month each volunteer is assigned a family for two hours.  The idea behind this project is that even though many of the kids have siblings living here, they do not necessarily live together (for practical reasons, all the kids are separated by age and gender).  So how do brothers and sisters who live in different sections find time to be together?  This project is one of the ways they can spend time with just their siblings.  We have so many kids, they only get to participate in Family Projects twice a year.  

My first family was a little boy from the baby house and his older sister in the girls house. Not having done this before, I honestly had no clue what to prepare.  I spoke with the project coordinator and was given several ideas, the main one being that the kids just need time to be together.  At a quarter to four I left work (early) to go back to my house.  After changing out of my scrubs, I made my first pan-popped popcorn on a gas stove EVER (err...with help). After filling paper bags with popcorn and my pockets with coconut taffy (side note: coconut taffy is the best, period...), I headed out the door with three DVDs and a borrowed laptop.

When I showed up at the girl's house, she ran up to me with the biggest smile I have ever seen, her eyes bright and excited.  We made our way to the baby house where her brother quickly left his seat at a table with some other kids, all smiles when he saw his sister.  As we walked across the campus to the designated classroom, my eyes filled with tears.  The kids were hugging each other, walking arm in arm, and chatting up a storm.  Their excitement and happiness in being together was tangible.  

We watched Horton Hears a Who in Spanish and the kids sat spellbound, side by side, only taking a moment to politely offer me some of their popcorn.  The little girl was so cute, carefully removing her shoes to sit on the blanket I had brought with me and telling her brother to offer me a taffy (which he dutifully did). 

After the movie we went outside and played on the playground.  It was cold and the little boy didn't have a what did his big sister do?  She took off her own jacket and gave it to him.  Wish you could have seen this little guy happily running around dressed in pink and grey!

My next family project is in two weeks.  I will have two special needs kids.  As of now I am planning to go into town and buy them ice-cream.  Something simple but good.  The idea of family is so strong here!  I really appreciate that NPH goes beyond the family it has created for these kids in order to respect and treasure the bonds many of them already have.  Before I did my first family project I didn't understand what a big deal it is.  Initially, it just seemed like one more job to do!  But after my first project, I realize how special and needed this time is for the kids.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Gotta be honest...I'm tired of everywhere being dangerous.  I've never lived in a part of the world where it was considered risky to just go out the front gate.  If you walk to Parramos (town that is a five minute walk away), be aware people have been kidnapped off that road.  And less than two years ago there was a huge gang thing in town and police were apparently everywhere.  

Today I went into Guatemala City for a specialist appointment with one of the kids.  There are zones there I am told NEVER to go into and for the rest, well, just stay inside whatever building you are there to see.  Even City Park in the center is considered very dangerous, even for Guatemalteccans, at night.  I also went to Chimeltenango today with one of the kids for his X-rays.  This is the city I was told NEVER to go to and honestly, it's so disappointing because it is such a cute, cute town!  I just wanted to stroll around, look at things and people watch.  Not safe.

Speaking of dangerous I am listening to the loud belching of the nearby volcano as it rumbles through the sky.  The thing is super active tonight.  Smoke and red flames out the top.  How weird to listen and not even feel a little trepidation?  The locals say it is louder and brighter than they can remember.  Hmmm.

All this to say that even though I do not want to live my life in fear, I have a feeling it would be wise to live in caution.  So I'll wait and see where and how I get to places.  In the car today with locals I was perfectly fine AND I got to see a little bit, albeit from the backseat but I did get out!

Wish I had a great night camera to show you the volcano.  Prayers for everyone as we begin lent!

Friday, February 5, 2016

First day solo

Survived my first day by myself in the clinic.  Please, do not be impressed!  The 24-hour nurse and one of the doctors went into the city for appointments with the kids and that left myself, the clinic director and another doctor (well she was there half a day).  I was left to answer the bell, give noon day meds, and medicate the two kids who came in with stomach illness.  Not much, but it boosted my wavering confidence...because I managed to do it!

I then promptly became sick overnight with a fever, body aches and head cold...and spent the entire next day in bed.  Above is what my roommates gave me to get better.  I am mostly recovered.  I still have a runny nose.  It seems to be going around the volunteers...taking us down two or three at a time.

On a positive note, I received my first care package!!  Followed by a letter!  Followed by another care package!!  This TOTALLY made my week!!!  Love my friends and family!!!  I am so blessed to be remembered when I am so far away!

I went to Holy Hour the other night.  We have one a week.  This one was for the smallest boys.  They all took turns offering a prayer and then we said the Our Father together after each petition.  When it came to one small boy, he offered his prayer for his parents and began crying.  Suddenly the entire chapel was full of little boys weeping for their parents.  Some because they had lost theirs, others because they had been abandoned and yet others because they had been taken away from them.  This is a special place.

My first day solo ended with a peanut butter snickers bar from the doctor to say thank you for working alone all day.   It was amazing!  Mostly because it made me feel loved, appreciated and wanted in a place where I am constantly making mistakes, not understanding and bumbling the simplest things.  Off to lunch now and then time to start giving kids their vaccines.  Somedays more so than others but I'm really glad to be here.  Even more so: I am so glad it is Friday!