Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Transitioning from Thanksgiving to Advent

So after a VERY busy week, including working ALL the time (well it felt like it), I was treated...along with the other volunteers....to an AMAZING thanksgiving dinner by an American couple living here (okay, it's our director and his lovely wife).  They went ALL OUT and I mean all out, importing canned pumpkin, dried onions and cranberry sauce (and when I say importing, they had a family member bring it to them early this year).  Our crowd consisted of Americans and Europeans, most of whom had never experienced a thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings (one of my friends had never eaten turkey before)!

We didn't find tree stands.

Saturday we got our Advent hat on and set up the trees...we dug out a box labeled "Navidad" and found all kinds of treasures!  Thank you former volunteers and people who have gone before!  We now have two lit up fake trees, an advent wreath and a mini-gold tree.  Definitely in the Christmas spirit!

Tree required an ace bandage to hold it together.

Down on the ranch though, things are sad.  Many of the kids have headed home for the month and some will now be able to stay home...so we won't be welcoming them back in January.  The clinic lost a nurse this week and I'm taking over her rotating 24 hour shift...this is fine since it means more time to spend with my kids on my days off!  LOVE those guys!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How to say THANK YOU!

Not sure how to say thank you so you will know I really mean it, but since today is Thanksgiving, going to give it a try!  First of all, to everyone who jumped up and sent me the means to make this possible: THANK YOU and God bless you...I will be forever grateful!!!  The past two days were AMAZING.  I took my special needs kids and their caregivers to the beach (only an hour and a half away!) for a special trip.  The kids had never seen the ocean before and neither had half of the caregivers!  So at the risk of sounding extremely tacky....thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

We left Tuesday morning in a big yellow school bus, wheelchairs and special mattresses tied on top.  We had 23 people and when you included the luggage and the things that the kids needed, well...we filled that bus up!  

Couldn't get this one out of the pool!  What a fish!  Who knew?

We arrived at the house in one piece, albeit picking up a wheelchair that fell off while we were driving (NOT damaged!) and unloaded into the prettiest little beach house ever.  

The back yard had a huge pool with a jacuzzi above it.  The area behind was set up for eating with a barbecue.  Behind that ran a stream with a dock.  The house itself had air conditioning, a large kitchen and sitting area, five bedrooms with beds, and lots of bathrooms with tubs and showers.  For my kids and their needs: it was perfect!

I wish you could have seen their smiles (lol wish I could post them!).  I sat there all day watching them in the pool, playing or just sitting in the sun.  I didn't even realize how much I was smiling until I realized sometime before dinner that my face hurt!

The house was near the beach but a river blocked us from attempting to walk there.  I didn't realize this when I booked the house because when I looked at the map, I thought the little river was the road we could walk!  The bus driver overcame this hurdle by offering to come early the next day.  We left at 11 in the morning and went to the beach at Puerto de San Jose.  We slathered the kids with sunscreen and then headed to the water.  Only a couple of the kids and caregivers braved the waves.  I think the size and power of the ocean scared them...which is understandable!  Especially if you've never seen it before!

On the way home we stopped at the local KFC, popularly known as Pollo Campero, for fried chicken and french fries.  The kids were given paper crowns and we arrived home with as big of smiles as we had taken off with.  The caregivers and kids were exhausted but I think I beat them all....I was so tired I pretty much had a brain freeze and couldn't speak Spanish to save my life!  I guess that's okay because I knew just from the happiness on everyone's faces that this trip was a special and memorable occasion for all of us!

So once again, a million thank yous!  And may you have a beautiful and love filled Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Helping Hands comes to Guatemala

The medical team that I normally work with came to Guatemala this past week!  This group, called Helping Hands Medical Missions, goes all over the world setting up medical clinics, dental clinics and sometimes performing surgical procedures.  The teams consist mostly of people from the US and the clinics last for approximately 10 days.  I have been going to one or two Helping Hands missions every year since 2005.  Ironically, my first medical mission with them was to Guatemala.  Little did I know then that I would be living here some day!

I joined up with the group for one day on Sunday, for a small retreat, and again on Friday where I drove with them to an outlying pueblo and helped them see patients for half the day.  It was so neat to see old friends, work as a nurse practitioner, and, miracle of miracles, see patients without a translator!

Afterwards they invited me to their going away party, held at a local couple's house in Antigua.  The food was delicious, their home lovely and the camaraderie amazing.  I am always amazed how the threads of life intertwine.  It was so lovely to have my helping hands life intercept my NPH life for a couple hours!  God has brought an AMAZING amount of truly beautiful people across my path!

Leaving tomorrow for my despedida with my kids.  Successfully vaccinated 110 niños this past week.  I'm ready for a break and going to the beach with my kids sounds like just the thing!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Caye Caulker, Belize

In the interest of keeping everything in order, I am now blogging about my fantabulous trip to a Belizian Island at the same time I am currently vaccinating over 180 kids in the clinic.  And so is life!  

Short review: AWESOME!  Small island full of hippies and locals.  Streets of white sand.

Went with my BFF.  And of course found a sign.

Took in the sights.

Sailed out to the barrier reef.

And swam with sharks.

Manatees were also involved.

And sunsets.

Super tiny and super cute.

Even when a storm blew in.


And sunrises.

View from our hotel.

Walking along the street.

Stopping to look at the water.

Walking back along the other side of the island.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Ancient Ruins of Tikal and Modern Flores

Blessed to have a friend come visit for the week recently!  I met her in the airport in Guate and we flew up in a little bumper plane to northern Guatemala: the Island of Flores.  It was charming, adorable and super fun.  

The island was originally discovered and built upon by the Spanish a very long time ago (yes, too lazy to look it up) but there is a story that when Cortez came discovering he left his favorite horse with the people who lived near by.  The horse unfortunately died so the people buried it in the lake.  I lost something in translation but there is now a statue to the horse and whenever there are waves on this very calm and very beautiful lake, they say the horse is alive and kicking under water.

Back at Flores we entertained ourselves with boat rides, hikes up to creaky, ready to fall apart observatory towers, and kayak rides to a zoo located on a nearby island.  

We also rose at three in the morning for sunrise tour of Tikal, the ancient Mayan ruins located about an hour and a half away.  We arrived before the generators had kicked on and walked in pitch black through the jungle on a little dirt path.  The guide stopped along the way to shine his flashlight on tarantulas, poisonous snakes and piles of ancient stones covered in grass and moss.  Eventually we ended up at Temple IV, most famous for its appearance in Return of the Jedi and climbed up rickety stairs to the top.  We sat and listened to the jungle wake up, listening as the howler monkeys, known for their appearance in Jurassic Park (they were the cries of the dinosaurs) greeted the dawn.  The clouds blocked the sun but the mist rising and the sounds around us provided an incredible experience.  I think we lucked out because even though it was 98% humidity, we didn't get more than a few drops of rain before the sky cleared and we were able to hike around the ruins with sunlight and blue skies.

The food was delicious, not that I'm exactly a connoisseur at this point (believe me, everything tastes good...and the very least I'm willing to eat it).  So much to see and do!  And so much fun with a dear friend!