Friday, July 29, 2016

Los Perros

The dogs here are unbelievable.  They bark all night and spend all day foraging around our houses for food.  I see the really cute ones being surreptitiously fed dog food out of the back of cars by people who feel sorry for them.  

None of these dogs are really "ours" per se but somehow a singular amount seem to find their way inside our fenced in property. They also seem to change out over the course of the month and from one day to the next it can be a completely new pack circling around. 

This is only an observation but I've noticed that the wealthier a community, the fatter and healthier it's dogs.  Not just here but all over the world.  The dogs of Parramos are skinny, missing hair and usually running in groups of two or three.  All the females always look like they've just delivered a litter and the males follow them around, usually with some non-healing wound on their body.

Every once in a while I'll see an ex-pat walking with a dog on a leash (or even more rarely a Guatelmalteccan walking a dog) but in general, the dogs run wild.  I'm also impressed by the variety.  From Husky-looking dogs to German Shepherds to little Chihuahuas, a large variety of descendants appear to have found their way to the middle of Guatemala.

I am off for the weekend.  After working 24 hour shifts throughout the month of June and then having a week's vacation, I forgot how exhausting working 12 days in a row is!  My brain is pretty much shot.  Looking forward to the next two days to recharge!

Have a great weekend too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jimmy Morales: El Señor Presidente

Not gonna lie.  I like Jimmy Morales.  The guy is not only funny (okay, he's a former comedic actor) and religious (an evangelical Christian with a degree in Theology), but he's also a family guy (married with four kids) and incidentally the current President of Guatemala.

The guy is also super nice and met with some of our kids and a few of our volunteers last week at a neighboring pueblo.  He has a new initiative for our area that includes support of the metal workshop, woodworking and bakery. A few pictures:

Apparently his election in 2015 came on the heels of a crazy political scandal where both the former president and vice president were arrested for fraud and corruption.  His platform is conservative and his slogan simple, "Ni corrupto, ni ladrón" (Neither corrupt, nor a thief).  And like me, the people seem to like him.  :o)

Not going to pretend I have much interest or grasp of Guatemalan politics but it is cool when the president comes within your sphere.  Although I was working that day, I'm estatic that some of my fellow volunteers and the pequeños here had the opportunity to meet him!

Special thanks to Vanessa for the photos!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Learning Spanish

Hi! The following is an article I wrote for NPH regarding learning Spanish while working in Guatemala.

Saying foreign languages don’t come easily to me is an understatement.  After two years of college level Spanish classes and six weeks in Spain, my ability to understand when spoken to was zilch and my ability to speak was limited to present tense verbs and basic nouns.  I arrived in Guatemala one week before orientation with the intent to take Spanish classes in Antigua, a twenty-minute bus ride away from NPH.

I remember being picked up at the airport by two Guatelmalteccans who didn’t speak English.  They chatted the entire way back, occasionally asking me questions.  Every once in a while I’d grasp the occasional noun like “país” (country) or understand a trite phrase like “Cómo te llamas?” and be able to answer, but overall even that first car ride was overwhelming.

My job here is pretty fun and not very complicated.  I work in the clinic and don’t get me wrong, it can get pretty busy…like the day I was working solo and fifteen kids came in with strep throat at the same time.  But compared to my old job in an Emergency Department, this place is pretty low key.  The trial came with the language.  My first week I cried at least once a day…I wanted to understand!  I wanted to help!  I wanted to work!  But I couldn’t.  I was so incompetent, not because I couldn’t do the work, but rather because I couldn’t understand what they were asking me to do!

I remember that first day I was sitting at the computer while someone tried to explain the electronic medical record to me.  I became teary because I was so overwhelmed with my inability to understand.  The year of service kid came up to me and patted me on the shoulder.  I’m not sure what he said exactly but it amounted to, “Don’t worry. You’ll get it.”  And then he said the phrase that would become my mantra over the next six months, “Poco a poco,” or “little by little.”

And they were right.  It was painful but I stuck with it.  Over the past six months I’ve learned what I would call a functional Spanish.  I can function and communicate.  I am able to call people on the phone, a feat that seemed impossible in the beginning, and make requests.  It came in small batches…vocabulary expanding with practice and circumstances.  I learned the words I needed in the clinic, the house, playing sports and shopping because I worked in the clinic, lived in my house, played sports and went shopping.

I was also surrounded by very patient, very friendly people.  To this day, I immediately ask someone to repeat something I don’t understand.  When I am given a request I repeat it back to make sure I understand what the person wants.  Too many times I learned the hard way that I might think I understand, but I am completely wrong.  Like the time the doctor asked me to cancel her first appointment of the day and I thought she wanted me to keep that one and cancel the other five.  Yes, that happened.

The one thing that made those early days easier (besides the amazing people I work with) was my section.  I was assigned the special needs kids section and honestly, with those kids, you don’t even need words.  A smile and a hug is enough.  And when we do speak, they could care less if my verb tense is correct or if I mess up para for por.  Love is its own language and I have definitely found a place that speaks it.  God is good!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Run Guate!

This past weekend I participated with a bunch of other volunteers from NPH in my first international running race: a half marathon in Antigua.  There were over 2300 runners and the race was almost identical to a race back home in the states: except of course we were running through cobblestone streets at the foot of a volcano.  Otherwise there were water stops, gatorade stops, and people cheering with signs all along the way.  The only thing I really missed were mile or kilometer markers...I never knew how far I'd gone until I reached the finish line!

Returning to Guatemala has been an easier transition than I expected.  The one thing I worried about before I took off last week was that I wouldn't want to come back!  Instead, after a week of fun with family and friends, I feel refreshed and excited about the next six months.  It is a blessing and an attitude I hope I can retain in the near future!

I slept 10 hours last night before coming in to work this morning.  I was greeted with hugs and smiles in the clinic from my coworkers and of course a new work load.  Things can't stay the same here: every day I'm given some new assignment and my schedule is ALWAYS completely turned upside down.  I've decided it is the norm (based on the last six months) and since I can never predict these changes, I just laugh and accept them now.  It's the Guate way.

As far as running goes, so far I know of a run in September and one in November that we are talking about running.  When I took up running five years ago, I had no idea all the fun I would have with it! God is good and knows what He is about!  God's blessings on you all!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Heading home

Short trip home...leaving tomorrow.  So excited!!!  These are a couple optical illusion pics from my kids.  I can't put the ones up that show their faces...more is the pity...they are so cute!!  Anyway, I will be away from the blog for a little over a week.  Blessings!

Monday, July 4, 2016


Went to the largest outdoor market in Guatemala yesterday!  Two and a half hours in a chicken bus on curvy roads finally brought myself and some fellow volunteers to this out of the way town.  The market itself was amazing!  Huge and spread out over multiple streets, we walked and walked with no direction, always in the market.  We visited the church, the weird church like thing across the way and a museum.  We ended up in a nice restaurant with a large screen TV and watched the first half of the France vs Iceland futbol game.  I get why Iceland doesn't have the worlds greatest team (it is such a small island, I imagine it is hard to find 18... or however many people they have... that can play soccer at a world championship level) but that was painful.

Chichi is mostly Guatemalteccans....a few tourists were interspersed, but mostly we were surrounded by the tradition and culture of Guatemala.  Beautiful and definitely worth taking in!