Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Adelante!




Moving forward...adelante.  I still have six more months here in Guatemala (and eleven days) but already I am beginning to look forward.  Not because I want to leave or move on, but rather because life happens and for some reason we have to make plans for it.  My boss contacted me and it looks like I'll be able to work when I get home (that's good!).  I asked to make my start date February 1st.  I also talked to my tenants and it looks like they are going to rent my house for another year.  I'm glad to have these things settled and yet at the same time: aack! I'm not ready to!




So I'm trying to stay focused and live in the moment.  Started back up with vaccinations yesterday.  This entire week I'll be giving these poor kids shots.  Yesterday I had two families come in for tetanus boosters.  Of all the kids ranging from age four to fourteen, guess who was the easiest and least afraid to get a shot?  The four year old!  So funny.  She just rolled up her sleeve and stuck her arm right out, no fear whatsoever.  You just never know with kids!



Our soccer team has one more game to determine if we are in the final game.  We are already talking about what sport the NPH tournament will be in the fall.  Since we had an exceptional amount of broken bones this past tournament with soccer, we are kind of hoping the over-riding vote will be for volley ball.  Since I like both sports, I'm excited to join in with either!

Did I mention my basketball career is over!?  But I am going out very happy.  I made a basket, fouled someone else, was fouled by someone else, got a rebound, and learned how to do a lay up.  Apparently the only thing I missed during my short career was committing a technical foul.  If I had aspirations of playing again, I found an easy way to make a technical: you just walk off the court in the middle of play! This way I couldn't hurt anyone...so good all around, right?  :o)



We get our new volunteers this coming weekend.  Only three.  We are losing two in total, the second leaves tomorrow.  My room was changed so I have a new bedroom and a new roommate.  So far, everything is good and I'm sure it will stay that way.  :o)

Hope everything is good with you.  Moving forward in Guatemala!!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Los Animales!!!


I bet you didn't know June is National Zoo Month!  I didn't either until this week...and that has nothing to do with why we took a trip to the zoo...but random fact I thought I'd share!  :o)


Well we are almost at the end of school vacation and generally during that time, as previously mentioned, a bunch of the kids get to visit family.  For the kids that remain, it is a time to relax, ride bikes, play in the field, sleep in and just basically enjoy not going to school.  


Traditionally during this time the volunteers try to plan an outing for their sections.  Some of my fellow volunteers and I had the genius idea to take our sections to the zoo...and for a last minute idea: it was epic!!  (Last minute being ten days ago!)




The Guatemalan City Zoo is gorgeous, huge and clean; and just full of well cared for animals.  We saw lions (definite favorite), tigers, bears, giraffes, zebras, penguins, hippos, crocodiles, lizards, camels, llamas, elephants and well everything you see at a zoo.  We also saw north american animals including raccoons and fox.  The kids loved it and so did I!


Afterwards we had lunch and ice cream.  The kids were all smiles and so were the caregivers.  A super amazing day and one I would love to repeat!!  Love my kids!




Monday, June 20, 2016

There's rain and then THERE IS RAIN


I liken the rainy season here to Swiss Family Robinson.  I remember how calm and beautiful it appeared on their island: perfect sky, sun, breeze...and then, within moments, the sky would darken.  Torrential downpours accompanied by thunder and lightening would cloak the island while the family would try to batten down the hatches and wait it out in the dark.



That's pretty much how it is here.  Only the thunder sounds like it is exploding in your house, it is that loud!  And we can't always batten down the house...especially when I'm working.  Through rain, lightening and thunder, I trudge my way to the kids' houses to distribute their medication.  

Last night I walked over, admiring the moon above and the distant lightening that occasionally flashed above the mountains in the distance...only to find myself back at the clinic thirty minutes later as the rain began pounding and the building began vibrating from the force of the thunder.  This went on for hours, rain driving into the tin roof and effectively drowning out every other noise: including the padre's late night house repairs hammering on the other side of the wall.



I only have two more 24-hour shifts.  I know I have said this before, but this time it might be true.  Our kids have one more week of vacation and I have three weeks until I go home for a visit to my family!  I honestly cannot wait, but I'm already scared to think of how hard it will be to leave again!



Looks like everything is a go for the zoo on Thursday.  I'll take lots of pictures!  I also have a fumigator coming tomorrow and have to move out for 24hours.  Not sure yet where I'll go...lots of empty beds here this week!

Sayanora!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

No more teachers! No more books!



While my nieces and nephews are celebrating the end of their school year with graduations and field days, we here at NPH are having our summer "break" where the kids have two entire weeks off from school!  But not to worry, these kids will have most of November and December off for their winter break...essentially reversing how we do it in the states.

So what happens when the teachers all go home and the kids are essentially schedule free for 14 days?  First of all, many of the kids are picked up by family members for a visit in their respective towns.  The rest of them have fun activities and relaxing activities planned, some of them hosted by the volunteers.




(I think that's a giraffe...serious tree art here at NPH!)

Yesterday in the clinic we met with all the kids heading home and packed up enough medication for 2 weeks.  The responsible adult would show us their DPI (personal identity card) and sign for the kids and their medication.  If a grandparent, uncle or aunt couldn't sign, they would make a mark on the line with their thumb dipped in ink.  

The first woman who told me she couldn't sign her name took me off guard.  I was so grateful another nurse beside me knew exactly what to do because all I could think was, "Why not?  Did you hurt your hand?  What's wrong?"  It took a few minutes to realize she couldn't because she didn't know how to write her name.  



(And yes, those are edible mushrooms!)

Tomorrow morning we're having a big breakfast with my kids.  Next week another volunteer and I are taking them to the zoo.  In between I'm still working those 24 shifts...off to town to barter for some papayas and pineapples!   Hasta luego!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Despedidas


 


I already told you about my plans for the end of the year when I went on gofundme to raise five hundred dollars to take my kids to the beach.  This is called a despedida or farewell event.  What I might not have mentioned is how widespread and appreciated this practice is.  


Of all the volunteers here in NPH only one is leaving this month.  For her despedida she arranged transport into the city for everyone and took us to the biggest mall in Guate (I think!) called Miraflores.  We walked around the shops and looked at the displays.  Another volunteer donated a piano to the church this month so I thought it might be nice to find some music books.  I went to a book store and then a musical instrument store and between the two of them they had two piano books.  Strange, huh?  Neither one was a good value so I guess I'll have to keep looking.


After shopping I went with a friend to a little Spanish restaurant where we split a tapa (tasted better than it looks!) and had glasses of wine.  Then we headed to Chili's for dinner with the entire group.  Not gonna lie, eating at Chili's was a big deal!  They had the biggest menu I've seen in forever and all the pictures were mouthwatering!  I finally settled on some hot chicken thing and sat back to watch Chile beat Bolivia...appropriate don't you think?


Now that our solo despedida has occurred it is shocking to realize I have been here for SIX months!  I'm another year older, can falter around speaking Spanish and I've built relationships with my kids which will provide me with a lifetime of memories.  Everyone from last years volunteer group said that after six months the time will fly.  Scary and exciting!


I passed my thirty-sixth birthday last week (that's not us celebrating above, it's a local parade of quinceaneras we passed).  If I'm being honest I'll admit I feel really old!  But not in a depressed, sad kind of way.  More like, "How did that happen??" I'm definitely not where I saw myself being at this age but I've also seen and done so many things that I never expected...so I guess it all evens out in the long run.


I'm back to working 24 hour shifts.  The kids have the next two weeks off for vacation.  I'm going home for a week in July.  God is good.  Blessings!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Weddings: Mexican Style


Wowzers!  Mexican weddings should be on EVERYBODY'S bucket list!  I just came back from the most beautiful, heart-warming, uplifting and just simply amazing wedding!  Friends of mine were married in Guanajuato, Mexico...in the very heart of the country.  They were married on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart after starting the celebrations the day before on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.  Can you say "I love you" in a bigger way??  I think not!



So my friends and I met up on Friday at the hotel before heading downtown.  We had Mass in a beautiful church with the bride and groom before heading outside to a gorgeous little park full of fountains, trees and lights.  A troupe of musicians met us and handed out small flasks of tequila.  Can you see where this is going?  

We walked the streets for hours, singing, laughing and playing word games.  The bride and groom strolled arm in arm among us, chatting and laughing, snapping pictures as the sun set.  We finally ended up at the city center and broke into small groups for dinner.  I think we must have filled all the restaurants in a four block radius.



The next morning we were up and enjoying a beautiful breakfast spread before heading into the city for a little sightseeing.  We took a ride up the funicular to see the town from the top of a mountain. Certainly worth it (see pic at the top)!  And then did a little shopping before grabbing tacos and heading back to our hotel to start preparing for the wedding.  



(This is a local hero at the top of the mountain.) Then I did something I have NEVER done before: had my makeup and hair done professionally!  



The salon set up in the hotel conference room and eight very talented ladies spent the next four hours working us over.  We all stepped away looking like movie stars!



After a rush to make it to the cathedral, we arrived in time to see the groom escort his mother down the aisle and then the father of the bride escort his daughter.  She was breathtaking!  Joy and love radiated from both the bride and the groom's face and filled everyone watching with happiness. 



The wedding itself lasted two hours.  There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen.  Certain customs were new to me, like tying a lasso around the couple and handing them a small treasure box.  The priests saying the Mass knew the couple personally and told us stories about their courtship and love.  It was clear to see that God had led these two together amidst all good things!



After the wedding we boarded buses to the reception. We walked down a long staircase and greeted the newly-wedded couple at the bottom before being escorted to a ginormous area beautifully set up with gardenias, carnations and roses accompanied by live music...the male singer seriously sounded like every famous person he imitated. We were served drinks at our table while we waited for the bride and groom to appear.  When they did come, they made their way to the front table amidst cheers and then sat down with their parents, siblings and sibling's spouses.  I loved that they sat with their family and not at a table by themselves or with just the bridal party.



We finally finished our multi-course dinner at 11:30.  Then the dancing shoes came out!  Literally!  The bride gifted all the women with dancing slippers!



And boy can Mexicans dance...for like a really long time!  After making us all cry with the father-daughter dance, the bride made us all laugh with her brothers-sister dance and eventually tear up again as she danced with her new husband for the first time.  Then they opened the dance floor (lit up and changing colors from beneath!) to everyone and we all got in on the action.  Then around FIVE AM the party broke up...yes, I said 5AM!  Like I said, Mexicans can party!

The next day I was up for Mass at the crack of dawn, okay 8am...and then went to a mummy museum.  That's a different story!  After shopping and a late lunch, I headed back and holed up in my hotel room as all my friends left on an earlier flight.  Around six I headed for the airport only to find the bride and groom on my plane!  And I was reminded how precious this couple truly is.  God has filled my life with the most beautiful and amazing people.  Blessed and grateful.  And loved.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

Off the grid in Semuc Champey





After a ten hour shuttle ride, the last three hours on a dirt road, my friend and I pulled up to a hostel in the middle of nowhere, Guatemala.  We were internetless, drank water that was boiled or filtered from a stream, received electricity from a generator and spent our days swimming and hiking and tubing and water-caving.  To say it briefly: it was beautiful!!!  The hostel we stayed at was a seven minute walk from the pools which enabled us to stay there all day.  People who stayed in the nearby city of Lanquin (about 45 minutes by jeep) were gone by 3:30 in the afternoon.  We'd lazily crawl from the crystal waters of Semuc a little before five to make our way back to our rooms.  After a hot shower we'd lay out in hammocks, waiting until hunger hit us hard enough to drive us to the kitchen where we indulged in hummus shawarma for an appetizer and then pasta with rich sauce for a main course.  It was beautiful, relaxing and the best way to start my 36th year!




This was my first real vacation, time away from work, I'm a tourist-type trip.  Absolutely loved it!!  I'm back home for the night but tomorrow I'm off to Mexico for the weekend.  My friend who came out for my birthday is getting her first taste of NPH today!  That's after the massive rainstorm including a leaking roof and flooding around the house last night.  God is good!  And life goes on!