Thursday, May 26, 2016

Whoomp, there it is!

Well I really, really thought I'd be writing this blog to solicit donations to bring my kids to the beach in November for my despedida (leave-taking)...I created a GoFundMe account this past week thinking it might take me until November to raise $500.  

Instead, the most amazing, awesome people in the world (mostly from work!) came up with not only the $500 but $600 dollars in JUST ONE DAY!!  I almost cried!  People are so very generous!!!  I really think God must want these kids at the beach!

So a HUGE and LOVING GRACIAS!!!!  To everyone and all who shared my GoFundMe account, wrote words of encouragement and especially to those who donated!!  So very blessed to have you in my life and now sharing that blessing with these kids!

Today in the van as we were driving home from therapy I heard one of my kids (sitting in the back) say to one of the tias, "But we're really going to miss Elizabeth when she goes, aren't we?"  And the tia responded, "Yes, but don't worry.  That's not for a very long time."  Love these kids!  Thank you letting me do just a little bit more for them!!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Series of Unfortunate Events

We had a hail storm last week that took out a tree which happened to land on a power line and leave us powerless and internetless.  This also left us waterless as our water comes from a well that has an electric pump.  And then, of course, we ran out of gas for the stove in our house.  Water, power and internet have been restored to my house and the clinic but the kids' houses, next to the downed power line, continue to be powerless.  Thankfully we ALL have water!  Right now, however, the kids are doing everything at night by candlelight.

Despite all that, I think I like the rainy season.  I love listening to the rain.  We have a tin roof and the sound is thunderous.  Kind of like sitting next to the ocean with huge waves crashing in: it overwhelms me with how huge and out of control nature really is.  Then I think of God, and how huge and out of control He really is! And how He created the lightening, the thunder and the ocean...and, well, how neat it all is...because even though He is so great and mighty...He became one of us because He loves us.  

Remember on the Sea of Gallilee how Jesus calmed the storm after the disciples woke Him because the wind and waves grew wilder?  They were scared they would all perish.  My last blog was about some recent internal struggles and honestly it seems funny but being without power, etcetera didn't bother me at all.  It makes me think of a song that has a line saying, "Sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms His child." 

I met God in the morning,
When my day was at its best
And His presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered;
All day long He stayed with me;
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O’er a very troubled sea.

Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them
Brought to us a peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind. 
When I too had loosed the moorings
With the Presence left behind.

So, I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way;
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day.

Ralph Spaulding Cushman

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The struggle is real

So it isn't really any different from normal life, but some days are just a little bit tougher than others here in Guatemala.  

Yesterday our entire house realized we have head lice.  :o/  My first time...hopefully my last...but I've got to say, you know who your friends are when they'll pick lice out of your hair!

One of the nurse's I work with had a death in the family yesterday and I had to unexpectedly cover her 24 hour shift.  While working I wrote a letter to someone I don't know at the behest of my boss and received a very scathing reply...short and inconsiderate.  I wanted to write back: don't shoot the messenger!  But I'm not sure how to say that in Spanish.  No hablo español!

Then I experienced a very rare event where that same person who wrote the slightly rude letter tried to get me in trouble with my boss (without me actually being in trouble with my boss, thankfully!) by calling her and telling her I haven't been doing my job (which, phew, I had).  Oh well, water under the bridge...and no, I'm not even sure who this person is!  Just a name on a letter!  I'm told this is cultural.  I think it might just be human nature! I'm thinking back to the hot springs and the ruins...not focusing on yesterday!!  I need to remember that after the downs come the ups.  And in another ten days I'll have a friend visiting!  And tonight I get to hang with my kids.  So it's all good.

In photos, here are the Mayan ruins of Copan.  Of note is King Eighteen Rabbits: only because he is everywhere and has a very easy to remember name!  Our guide was super awesome.  His grandfather down to his generation have worked at the archeological dig site and he could tell us what it was like inside the pyramids during an excavation!

The ruins were absolutely beautiful!  So was the weather!  And the Macaws, flying wild, were breath-taking.  Definitely glad I made the trek!  Glad that I didn't know a struggle day was coming but in the big picture I'm glad to have the struggle days too...because they make me appreciate the fun, easy and love-filled days even more!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Border Crossing: Honduras

So I finally crossed the frontera after five months of living in Guatemala.  Six hours to Honduras isn't too bad!  I went with a fellow volunteer, leaving at 4 in the morning, and spent the weekend in Copan, a beautiful little town!  We met up with a sweet lady from Slovenia who was traveling alone and kind of adopted her into our group.  One of the things I like most about traveling is how many, many interesting people you get to meet who also love traveling!

We hit the hot springs first, taking a ride in a local man's private truck for about forty minutes until we arrived literally in the middle of nowhere.  The springs themselves were AMAZING!!  I've dipped in hot springs before but none so private, natural and just lovely.  There were several lines of pools along the side of the hill and each one blocked the others so we felt like we had the entire place to ourselves!

One thing I've noticed since before I spoke any Spanish is that I now can have conversations with people that I rather wish I couldn't.  The driver started by talking to us about how much he had traveled, how he always knew he would marry a rich person, how he had a one month old son but wasn't with his girlfriend and could we please explain why a man can never trust a woman and why women never trust men.  I'm pretty sure five months ago our conversation would have been limited to "Are you from the United States?"  "Yes, I'm from the United States."  "What's your name?"  "My name is..." and "I like trees, ice cream and the color orange."

Something you may not know about Central America, at least the parts I've been in, is that the showers run hot water on the lowest setting.  This means if you turn the handle all the way up to the highest setting, you will have the coldest water.  Since this is the opposite of the US, I'm pretty sure I spent my first month here taking the coldest showers on record.

The next morning we took an interesting and beautiful tour of the Copan Ruinas. I'll upload a separate blog later this week with lots of pictures.

One of the hardest parts of taking the weekend off is coming back to work.  While in Honduras I saw shuttles for $25 to Nicaragua and it was so tempting to just take off and never look back.  My twenty four hour shifts have finished until December and right now I don't know what God will use to fill my time as my regular job probably fills only a quarter of the time I originally put in (now that I've computerized and organized all the information, it is just a matter of printing out what schedules and such need to be done each week).  Trying not to be discouraged as I want to work hard while I'm here. I'm sure something will come up soon.  I'll just have to keep trusting God!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My fake Guatemalan life...

My fake Guatemalan life grew out me saying so many times, "In my real life...I work in a hospital or I eat salad every day or I have two dogs..." You get the the opposite of me not living my real, normal, what-I'm-used-to life is: my fake one.  Hence...the title!

Sooooo... in my fake Guatmalan life I basically do things I've never done before or never would have imagined myself doing.  

You can just insert "in my fake Guatemalan life" before each phrase:

I sing karaoke in spanish with my mouth full of marshmallows in front of an audience...

I wait on side roads with random shuttle drivers I just met two hours ago for their friend's taxi which is "very safe"...

Ginormous bugs crawl into my house just to die ...

I regularly receive packages with all kinds of awesome things... Even though it's not my birthday or Christmas or anything! 

I drink wine from a box and bake a cake every other weekend... So far that makes eleven cakes since I arrived...and I'm not counting the boxes of wine!

Kids still get chickenpox and then come live in the clinic for two weeks.  And lice, scabies and viral carrying mosquitoes are normal, everyday things...

I'm always up before seven. Even on my days off...literally have not slept in since I arrived five months ago!

We celebrate Mother's Day on a Tuesday...and Labor Day on a Sunday.

I drink Japanese coffee from a can heated up in a pot of water on a gas stove...

I dance the salsa weekly with a bunch of kids from Europe...

I climb volcanoes and think its normal when the house shakes from eruptions...

I'm a forward on a basketball team and a soccer star on our clinic team...who knew all those years of playing soccer as a kid would be so useful??

People call me enfermera....and I answer.

There are always flowers blooming and fresh fruit available...

Kids run across fields and down streets to show me their scraped up arms, give me flowers and hugs or tell me their belly button hurts...

I make fifty dollars a month and get more excited about spending my monthly paycheck than I ever did spending fifty dollars at home...

And in my fake Guatemalan life I speak Spanish, get stressed, frustrated, laugh and continually find joy in the people around me.  Really blessed to be here and I know that when I do return to my "real" life, I'll be bringing a lot of beautiful Guatemalan memories with me!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Oh the people you'll meet!

"Oh the places you'll go!  You'll be on your way up!  You'll be seeing great sights!  Whenever you fly, you'll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.  Except when you don't. Because, sometimes, you won't."  ~Dr. Seuss

Spent the most interesting weekend horse-back riding at Lago Atitlan with a good friend and fellow volunteer who left yesterday morning for Iceland.  We went as a despedida, a farewell, and with the expectation of spending time by the lake on a ranch with a little horse-back riding on the side.  What we found was one of the most interesting couples I've come across in all my time in Guatemala.

We were met at the dock by an elderly american gentleman in his seventies driving a barely running, very old, very decrepit green jeep.  He took us to his ranch way outside of town and directly on the water.  Eighteen beautiful horses roamed the pastureland along side the lake and we climbed out directly above them before going upwards to his beautiful and amazing house.  The gentleman, Arthur (not his real name) gave us a tour of his and his wife's beautiful home which they built themselves.  Extensive walkways and gardens surround it with tame deer, birds, and some other kind of raccoon-like animal running around.  Eight dogs greeted us from the outdoor pavilion, laying with their heads on their paws as if nothing in life could ever bother them.

The house itself was beautiful.  Full of artifacts that the couple had discovered in the lake region, everything was tastefully displayed as if in a museum.  The wife, a native american, also had a room full of decor from the Navajo Indians.  Our suite had a running water fountain and the main sala had one entire wall made of windows looking out at the lake.

The most interesting part was listening to Arthur and his wife.  They invited us unto their home as if we were their personal friends.  They regaled us with stories of being spies during the cold war, serving in the Reagan administration, taking ski trips with their friends (famous olympic skiers) and then losing all their money and coming to Guatemala during the Guatemalan civil war.  They told us they were anarchists and that Arthur has five master degrees and a PhD.  

We discussed history, philosophy, politics and religion....normally all taboo first conversation subjects.  He continues to work online with a big name university, all the way from Guatemala...and they have lived here 26 years.  They told us about guerrilla warfare, about training and breaking horses with no prior experience, about performing veterinary surgery on their dogs when needed, and a lot about life in Guatemala. Neither have been back to the states in 23 years.

They also told us about their neighbors, one of whom happened to drop by and shared cocktails with us.  They are a very young couple from the states with four of their own children, who also happen to be raising 21 other guatemalan kids...all of whom are orphaned and call them mom and dad.  They raise support from local churches at home and have two other couples in the area doing similar work, one with 10 kids and the other with 15.  

Working with children in an institutionalized setting, it was very interesting to sit and chat about what we do and how it differs.  I came out of our conversation with the feeling that both of our organizations are doing more for these kids than not having them would and I honestly wouldn't want either one to be promoted as better and risk the other being shut-down.  Kind of like public school and home-schooling...what ever you can make work or works best for your family!

The horse back ride itself was spectacular.  We rode through fields of coffee plants up to a ridge that looked out over the lake and if there were less clouds, we would have seen the pacific ocean.  We even cantered part of the ride which was my first time cantering!  I rode western and my friend rode English.  We loved it!

And finally, the food.  This was by far one of the best meals I've encountered in Guatemala.  They served us the most tender beef, which they cure themselves, along with salad, creamy rice pilaf and fresh veggies.  Then a caramel custard for dessert. Arthur told us he used to win cooking competitions.  They proved that to us!  Everything was delicious.

I know this is a very long post!  The next one will be short and sweet...I promise!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Black sands beaches

I took two of my special needs kids to Parramos for ice cream this afternoon.  We had a great time!  Well except when I noticed one of Angie's shoes was missing, we were standing in the middle of the park, and it was no where to be seen.  We limped along the way we had come until we encountered it in the middle of the street in front of the ice cream tienda.  She chose at that moment to bum-plant in the middle of the road, presumedly to put her shoe on, and I had a few panic moments as a motorcycle came upon us.  

All ended well and we continued to the park.  After ice cream we climbed in a tuktuk.  I was so impressed!  The driver not only helped me get Angie in and out (she doesn't walk or climb well), he put her shoe back on when it fell off and then wouldn't let me pay for her ride!  If only everyone in Parramos and Guatemala was like this!  I would be able to walk into town alone! sands beaches!  We went to Montericco on Saturday.  It's about two and a half hours away and is the real deal: real ocean, real sand, and real heat!  Much, much hotter than here in the mountains!  The only catch is the sand is: BLACK.  Which means: SUPER HOT!  But so very beautiful!

The sand is black because of all the volcanic rock.  The beach is on the pacific side of Guate and I'm told the Carribbean side has white sand.  We spent the day at a cute little resort with beach chairs, private pools and a restaurant.  So relaxing!

The waves were nine feet tall and so powerful that you could barely stand in them! Some brave souls went past the waves in order to swim.  I watched them go in from my lounge chair, closed my eyes, and hoped I'd see them again.  It was an AMAZING day!

Definitely going back!  My mom surprised me and bought a ticket for August!  I'm so excited!  Hoping to bring her to see the beach when she comes!  And I know exactly where to go now!