Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Special Olympics

Every other Monday all the special needs kids climb into a van and head into Guatemala City for Special Olympics meets.  There are kids from all over the surrounding areas, aging from five or so up to grey-haired special needs adults.  They all are wear matching uniforms and are given the chance to run fifty, one hundred and two hundred yard dashes.  

This week's meet was held at San Mateo Flores, the national futbol team's stadium.  The place is huge!  And very pretty.  We arrived around ten in the morning and went to our assigned sections.  Then the kids were called up for their respective races.  Not to brag, but our kids placed in the top three spots for pretty much every race!

I wish I could post close ups of the kids!  The smiles that stretched across their faces as they ran, so excited to hear their names cheered!  Some of the kids were able to stay in between the lines on the tracks, others ran straight across all the tracks to be with their group (never even making it to the finish line!) while others just stood and watched while other kids ran past them.  

All in all it was a really great day!  We had so much fun and the kids proudly went home with paper medals, crowning their achievements.  Just another great experience with these awesome guys!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Stop moments

Sometimes I just stop where I am, look around me, and wonder, "How did I go from cutting carpet to living in Guatemala?"  Today I was in the middle of the courtyard where I had single-handedly brought eight special needs kids outside to throw a ball, play with stuffed animals and walk around in circles.  As I walked with one little girl, I looked around at the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, the perfectly formed clouds, the storm moving in, and had that stop moment.  

Sometimes this moment comes early in the morning, when I'm heading toward the commodore with morning meds and I am walking through the early sunlit world, listening to birds and taking in the ginormous sky.  Other times it is at night when I'm walking down the eons of stairs to my casa, barely lit by one streetlight.  It is when I stop and ask God, "How did you get me here?" because sometimes it just seems too unreal.  Especially when I think of my normal life!

I read a meme today that said, "If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you."  Judging by my first four months here, I am going to be a completely different person when I come home!  

Yesterday was crazy with another 24 hour shift that ended at 8 this morning.  Today was completely tranquilo with the morning spent painting kids' nails, making an animal sticker book and reading books I had brought from the library.  And hugs. Lots of hugs.

It has really started raining.  Yesterday we had our first major thunderstorm.  I now know the word for thunder in Spanish.  And it is raining again right now.  I was told the rainy season begins in May but I guess we are starting early.  Since it has rained maybe once before this since I came in January...its a whole new experience!  There goes the thunder again and a bit of lightening.  How weird...I live in a world of volcanoes and hurricanes.  Lol, another stop moment.  :o)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Strawberry crepes

 So I'm taking a poll.  Do you or do you not think that it is possible to eat an entire bottle of cinnamon in thirty seconds?  I took one of the girls in my proyecto familiar group to the bathroom today and her brother was standing there with an empty, newly opened bottle of cinnamon when I returned less than two minutes later.  "Where did it go!?" I asked in surprise.  "Oh," he says nonchalantly, "I ate it."  "The whole thing?"  No change in expression, "yep." Is that even a thing?

When I told my kids we were having our proyecto today, I had to explain to the youngest little girl (no more than five) what that meant.  When I told her we were getting together with her family, her face lit up and she jumped up and down saying, "With my mom?  My mom is coming?"  Broke my heart!  "No, just your big brothers," I told her trying to stay upbeat.

We made crepes.  I'm sure all the tios and tias are hating me right now.  Besides the cinnamon, an entire bottle of choconela (pure chocolate and peanut butter) disappeared.  Unlike the cinnamon, I saw that go down four throats.

The kids got all into the action, cutting up the strawberries, mixing the crepes and then pouring and flipping them.  We ate more crepes than I thought humanly possible.  These kids do not mess around.

We watched Zootopia.  Is that out on DVD?  I think my 10Q (approximately $1.20) copy in Spanish from a vendor in the market in Antigua is a bootlegger version...but we enjoyed it!  Do they even have copyright laws in Guatemala?  I think maybe not.

Absolutely love these kids.  They are just real, honest to goodness kids...who have had a tough life.  They would say please, thank you, and ask before they touched a strawberry but then they would hit each other when one brother got in the way of another or the little sister touched them with her chocolate covered hands.  Her older brother then politely explained to me why he has a marijuana leaf self tattooed on his arm.  

I so wish I could post pictures of the kids faces as they ate!  The youngest boy told me he "likes every part of this proyecto!"  Made the missing cinnamon and the three trips to carry all the stuff for our afternoon more than worth it!

One of my roommate's friends just came in all shaken up after watching a drive-by shooting occurr in front of her today while riding the chicken bus.  Another reminder that I'm not in Kansas anymore!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Random NPH stories

And other such first week here we had a meeting with a former resident who was raised, educated and is now employed by NPH.  He gave us a beautiful talk about his experiences (in English).  He spoke of his own first few days at NPH, recounting how he was welcomed off the street and told that, even if he burned down the buildings, he would still be wanted here.  He spoke of the life he left and the person he would have become.  He finished his talk by saying, "We are a normal family, we just have lots of problems."  I know this is true and the longer I live here, the more normal those problems seem!

We had an outbreak of scabies and strep throat this past week.  We still haven't completely cleaned up as another kid tested positive for strep this morning and a different kid showed up with the scabies rash.  I have seen both many times in the US.  It is something fairly easy to contain by basically quarantining an entire family in their house for a few days while they all take medicine.  Here it is a different story because we have over 200 kids living together....and we can't conveniently put everyone on medication and lock them up for 24 hours.

I joined a soccer tournament.  We play for eight weeks and the winning team goes home with some quetzales in their pockets.  The little kids from the Baby House come and watch, cheering us on.  One of the girls broke her ankle during this week's game.  She's staying in the clinic with her leg elevated for a couple days.

I sat down the other evening with three of the girls from my special needs section and made bracelets.  It was so peaceful as the sun reached the horizon and music played in the background.  One of those moments that is so much a part of what makes up every day life here and yet these are the moments I want to remember.  The laughing, giggling...the kids struggling to put rubber bands on the bracelet-maker struggling to understand some song in Spanish about a butterfly...just having fun together.

I start 24 hour shifts again this Sunday.  All week has been so tranquil.  I've caught up on all my paperwork, vaccines, inspections etc.  Oh, and I found out how much the nurses' monthly salary is today...I'm going to work any shift they ask me to cover for free!  No way am I taking anything away from that!  

My sister's response when I told her the amount (after shock) was that probably they work just as hard as we do in the states...and I laughed to myself...because, if anything, they work much, much harder!

Hasta luego!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Acotenango Volcano or I hiked another volcano

Saving up my cute kids stories because there are definitely a ton of them!  But I wanted to share this past weekend's adventure (mostly the pictures!!) to Acotenango.  After working three weeks straight of 24 hour shifts every three days I finally had a small break over the weekend (starting Thursday) to hike!

The rainy season here starts in May so I basically needed to get this volcano hiked or wait until the fall.  I tried to go the week after Semana Santa but with the advent of my friend's visit, that plan was postponed.  Since I was also postponing the plans of four other fellow volunteers, I count myself blessed that I didn't end up hiking this thing alone!

We set off the night before, spending the evening in Antigua and the night in a hostel that didn't quite cost ten dollars.  I kind of feel like I'm doing in my thirties what most do in their twenties, but we all crammed into a little room and slept like the dead until 6 am when we loaded our gear and headed for breakfast.  After breakfast we drove THROUGH the town we live in to reach the trail head.  The guide was awesome and we were off and away almost immediately.

Including the five of us, the guide, two Israelis, one Australian and a guy from LA, there were ten of us.  I'm not sure why an overnight hike up a volcano climbing to almost 4000 meters didn't sound like a lot, but I really had no trepidation.  I figured I would be the slowest of the group and of the five of us from NPH I definitely was (don't try to compete with marathoners and 20 year olds...ever!) but I held my own with the four other people making the ascent.  The scenery was breath-taking and honestly, I'm grateful my slow ascent allowed for me to take in the view!

We arrived around 3 in the afternoon and set up camp.  The trip included a homemade pasta dinner and wine.  We feasted around the campfire until almost nine and then piled, all five of us, into a tent where we attempted to sleep until 4:30am.  All through the night the Volcano Fuego was belching and shaking our tent...but heroically we strove to sleep through it.  Before sunrise the call came from our guide to arise.  As we started up the last hour and a half climb to the crater, four of our group caved and headed back to the campsite, content to wait by the fire for sunrise.  Only the five of us from NPH pressed on.

We finally arrived above the flora and fauna to lava rock and ash, walking single file (I was completely last and totally okay with that!) until we reached the summit.  Ironically I had a lovely little black and while dog who accompanied me the entire way...still not sure who he belonged to!

I was the last to summit but still made it in time to see the sunrise.  I was definitely feeling the altitude at the end, each step heavier than the last!  The view was worth it and even though we were frozen in the wind, we stayed on top for at least half an hour, watching the sun come up over the Guatemalan world that lay before us.

On our way down we slid and slithered through ash and lava dirt.  Fuego continued to erupt, giving us good reason to pause and watch as smoke lifted and filtered through the air.  It was almost surreal, jurassic park and very Tolkien as we made our way down the volcano.

We reached camp and enjoyed a delicious breakfast before packing up and heading down.  The worst part for me was putting that backpack back on but running on the adrenaline high, I was soon sliding down the mountain with the best of them.

This hike was definitely challenging but at the same time beautiful and worth the effort.  At one point during the night we could see Fuego and Pacaya erupting simultaneously.  Definitely something I will never forget!  Or the sky, so full of stars and the milky way, stretching over the earth majestic and rich.  God is such an artist and the world is a beautiful I have been blessed!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pilgrimage to Esquipulas

This past week my dear friend came for a visit.  We rented a car and toured up to Esquipulas, a city about 6 hours away.  In the center there is a basilica with a famous crucifix called the Cristo Negro.  The basilica itself was visited by Saint John Paul 2 in the 1990s and is considered the largest Catholic Shrine in central america (in 1996 JP2 called it the "spiritual center of Central America").  The city is also on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

The basilica itself is gorgeous!  We were blessed to be there during a Jubilee year and pass through the Jubilee doors!  The crucifix is in the center behind the altar but to access it you have to go outside and through a side door.  Tradition dictates that when you leave the crucifix, you walk out backwards.  It was beautiful to see!

My friend and I were the only non-latino people there.  The shrine receives over 1 million visitors a year but no one spoke English and the food and lodging were remarkably cheaper than where I live.  The gardens were beautiful.  The people super friendly and the food delicious!

We were able to attend three masses and went to confession (in English...although the priest only listened to us speak in English, he answered in Spanish).  We were only there for a little less than 20 hours total.  It was such a peaceful, tranquil shrine...I hope to go back some day!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Combo Blog

First of all: THANK YOU EVERYONE for your prayers!  My grandma made a beautiful turn around and came out of intensive care and finally to a nursing home earlier this week!  God is good!  And we're blessed to have her with us still!

This is a combo blog because I feel like I have missed a couple important events I want to share and I don't have the patience to blog about each one over the next couple weeks!  Plus, I am assuming there will be more events and then I'll just never catch up!  So first thing:


So three times a year we have a day where extended family and friends of the kids who live here are invited to visit.  The kids who have visitors are ecstatic and usually spend the morning and lunch talking, playing, and receiving sweets and gifts from their family.  The other kids, historically, have stayed in their section and basically just remembered that no one was visiting them.  To remedy this, the volunteers have begun a day of games to distract the kids from thinking about their missing families.  We go all out, including a bouncy house, slip-in-slide, and multiple sports/table games.  My job was the pizza truck, which you see inside above, going around and handing out all types of pizza.


The day of work came right after the day of family.  We all, and I mean ALL, were assigned to different groups and cleaned ALL of NPH.  I was in the school group and for three hours we swept, mopped and cleaned the school, library and around the clinic.  Not going to lie...that was exhausting!


Easter was beautiful!  During Holy Week all the volunteers worked in their sections as caregivers while the Tias and Tios took a well deserved vacation.  Easter Sunday we set up an Easter egg hunt for the kids and I wish you could have seen their faces!  The smallest kids were adorable, dressed up in their Easter clothes, running around finding colorful eggs full of candy!  We also had three eggs painted silver, gold and bronze. These eggs were worth money so they were definitely the prize eggs!


So I had a friend come visit!  She came into town for Holy Week and I met up with her on Easter.  On my way into Antigua I took some pictures of the alfombras in Parramos.  It was Easter Sunday and there was a triple wedding happening on the front steps of the church with Mass and everything!

It was SO NICE to see a friend from home!  We had a late lunch and strolled around Antigua until evening.  Then I went back to NPH to work another day before we headed on another adventure to Esquipulas...but this will have to wait for another blog.  This one is certainly long enough!  God bless and Alleluia!