Sunday, October 23, 2011

Departure Day

It's the day of departure and we are doing it in shifts. First of all Dave and Beth went to Guatemala City yesterday after having lunch with us and visiting the convent/hotel. Beth had made arrangements to have dinner at Hotel Barcelo with the family that fostered her son Will until the adoption went through. I hear they had a wonderful time together. Getting up at 4 in the morning is painful but I got 4 of them off then. The remaining 5 had breakfast with Sherry and I then their ride arrived and we saw them off. I think I forgot to mention that Joy and Gladys along with Gladys' sister stayed in Pana to take Spanish lesson for another week.
Sherry and I are staying another night to relax and do some last minute shopping.....because heaven knows we haven't done enough by now. Sherry and I ended our day with a shuttle up to one of the hills overlooking Antigua. It is another property of the convent/hotel that we heard about today that has a great sculpture garden and views of the town. There is also a restaurant and bar . We had a drink then headed back to our room at Hotel Los Bucaros. We had a wonderful day and are ready to get back home tomorrow. It is always hard to leave the highlands so the only thing that makes it bearable is that I know I will return.

Day 7 Sat.

It is that time when we leave the highlands and head to Antigua ...not to be confused with the island....for that last night together. Antigua was the capital of the Spanish empire and is now a UNISCO heritage site. It is like a step closer to civilization. Once we get moved into our rooms we head out and have lunch at Frieda's cafe for great food and margarita's. Then it is off to see the Santo Domingo Hotel which was a former convent. It is now a very high end hotel and museum. The grounds are beautiful. There is still more to do and last minute gifts to pick up.
We all meet at La Fonda for our last supper together. The time has come to a close and we have all had some great experiences and made new friends. It is always bitter sweet at the end....your tired and ready to sleep in your own bed but also difficult to leave the grace of these beautiful people.

Day 6 Fri.

The sun is shining and it is a very welcome site. Some of us met at the coffee shop then proceeded to the used Quipil market. At 9:00 in the morning a part of the group joined my friend Michael who took them on a down hill hike that gives the most beautiful views of the lake. They hiked to San Antonio Polopo and visited the pottery shop. They took a launcha to Santa Catarina and had lunch at the hotel there. After that they took a pickup back to Pana.
I stayed in Pana so that I could be with my dear friend Nelda while she met her sponsored student. What a pleasure that was. He is one of the nicest and sweetest boys I have ever met. He is a perfect gentleman and such a sweet boy. I am so glad to have met him. His mother is very talented and so out of necessity she is an excellent beader and weaver and she also sews. She brought us gifts of her many talents. I was very blessed to be a recipient of her talents.
Then I met up with one of my favorite vendors and took him to lunch so we could go through his inventory. Juan is the most delightful person and so kind. He loves to show you pictures of his two girls and his wife who makes the jewelry he sells on the street out of his backpack. This is how they put food on the table. With not so many tourist this is not easy. He is always grateful when my groups are in town...along with all the other street vendors.
At the end of the day we all met at El Bistro for a lovely supper....tired but happy!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I woke up to pouring rain on wed. morning. It was relentless but it finally quit. We have some that woke up with a bit of a virus so they stayed in bed for most of the morning and are gradually recovering. We gathered at MF to sort clothes and shoes to hand out at the gym where some families are having to live right now because of all the rain causing so much destruction.

All the kids in the gym eagerly lined up to receive some fresh clothes. We tried to see that each one got a top and a bottom. Then shoes here handed out but as is usual there is never enough.

When that was done it was lunch time. After lunch some shopped their way down the street towards MF office and some went straight to MF to bag the food that Beth and Dave purchased to help families in need. Even some of our girls who were feeling puny were doing better and able to come and help pack food. We always have a dinner party for the team and friends in Pana on Thur. night but because of so much rain Mathilda, our wonderful resident chef was afraid food might run out in the markets so we moved it up to wed. We had a great evening of relaxation and wonderful food. Susie from MF makes the best brownies I have ever had and she brought a pan fresh from the oven. Also MF set up a video of our week in Pana and it was so much fun to see some of the things we experienced and went through. The evening was wonderful.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

and the adventure continues

The rains have continued each day with some periods when it lets up but it then returns just when you have a little hope so on tues. since it was a bit clear we decided that we would take a private launcha (boat) over to San Juan. Because the lake has risen so many feet they have to keep building higher docks. So when we arrived they had raised the dock considerably. Men were diving down to retrieve the wood from previous docks to build the new ones...this included a man in full snorkel gear. However it wasn't complete yet so they had to help lift us down about 4 ft. to the wood planks that took us to dry ground. This required a bit of balance beam skills. NO ONE fell in thank goodness. We just used our airplane arms for balance. This is a village of artists co-op's. There are painters and weavers. The weavers in San Juan use natural dyes that they make themselves. At one of these shops the ladies showed us how they make a blue color from bugs and they were also demonstrating backstrap weaving for us.
There is virtually no tourism in Guatemala and particularly in this village. They were so happy to see us and everyone in the group did their part to boost the economy in San Juan. Many paintings and textiles were purchased including a surprise for me from my friend Kay who purchased me the most beautiful painting of a maya woman. It is already on my wall. Also Gladys was able to handout some glasses to some of the women to help them see to thread needles and do other close work.
One other thing you will see in the Picasa pictures of our trip is a water filter system on the wall of one of the co-op's we are interested in installing in the preschools to produce clean water for the school and to be able to sell the extra to help support the school.
Then back to the docks we went....remember the 4 ft. drop ?....well I was the first to approach it and the men were encouraging me that they would get me up and up they did by me standing on their knees and with all dignity lost I finally made it. In this picture of Dave you can see how much higher I am than him. Our launcha driver saw what was going on and brought the boat ladder so several had it a bit easier.
About two thirds of the way back the boat died and of course it was raining steadily. After several attempts to get it started I called Sharon and she contacted the tour company and they sent another boat out to help us. It turns out we ran out of gas. DUH!!! The driver was about to syphon gas into the tank...with the motor running...until there was a great outcry of protest by those who, thank goodness, have some safety sense. Long story shot we got it started and arrived back to Pana a little later than expected and a little worse for ware but in one piece.
Lunch and drinks were seriously called for at this point. I have to say I have an amazing group. They hung in there and just went with the flow. My stress level was a little high only because I feel responsible for the group. After all I'm the one that said what a great time they would have!!! EGADSS!!!

This was the first full day of work. We arrived at MF early in the morning to sort through the donations that everyone brought down. Then the items we were taking to El Barranco were loaded onto the trucks along with beds and mattresses that were donated by the Lutes family.
The main road that goes from Panajachel to El Barranco is closed due to the rain causing so many problems with the roads. There are land slides everywhere and many roads are closed so we had to go the back way that is about an hr. longer. The conditions of that road are barely passable and not for the faint of heart. This is one of those trips that separates the men from the boys.
We were not to be stopped since there was celebrating to be done. Beth and I along with Sue who was with us in spirit wanted to celebrate the new preschool that we have all participated in supporting. There were tamales for the kids and cake. Hunger is such a huge part of everyday life so this was a big day for the kids. I watched as one little girl picked every grain of rice off of the banana leaf they were cooked in.
Beth and I were presented with beautiful hand woven table clothes and received many hugs which of course made us a bit teary. On top of all that they had a birthday celebration for me and I received even more hugs. Couldn't have been a better birthday.
We handed out donations, had an eye glass clinic that Gladys and Joyce head up so that women who do close work like hand stitching and beadwork could continue to earn a living, installed two stoves and did two home visits of sponsored students. The return trip to Pana was adventurous to say the least. Not only had it rained all day and deteriorated the road even more it was foggy on top of all that. We freshened up and had dinner at El Bistro where there was a lot of shopping going on since some of our favorite street vendors came in to show there wares.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Everyone arrived safe and sound to Guatemala. We got everyone from the airport and then picked up the 3 that spent the night at the Hotel Barcelo. Also my friend Lucy who lives in Guat. City came to welcome us to her beautiful country and bring goodies to eat from her shop.
The ride to Pana was uneventful but a bit adventurous. The roads have been greatly damaged from all the weather causing many mud and rock (boulder!!!) slides. Our most excellent driver, Geovanni did a wonderful job getting us through.
We got our tubs unloaded at MF office and everyone checked into the hotel. Sharon and Dwight then had us all to there home to celebrate our arrival and my birthday. Those who wanted got the chance to try their hand at making tortillas.

It is much harder than it looks. Since this is a very long day by the time dinner was over everyone was ready to hit the sack.
Today we hopefully head out to El Barranco. Everything we do on this trip will be dependent on the weather and how the roads hold up. "God willing and the creek don't rise" has become a most accurate quote for this trip.

Saturday, October 15, 2011 didn't rain all morning so Sherry and I were able to take a launcha (boat) over to San Juan. I hadn't been there in a couple of years and was thinking I wanted the group to see it. We are so going to San is the cleanest third world village you have ever seen. It also has a large women's co-op make natural dyed textiles. They are beautiful. We shopped 'til we dropped.
The lago ( lake) has risen so much they are putting new docks in everywhere so the entrance was fun. Just last yr. they put in new docks because of all the rain. The lake is a caldera with no outlet so there is no where for all the water to go and there is not evaporation.

Ate at a great vegetarian restaurant when we got back to Pana. All in all a great day. Still have some jewelry shopping to do this afternoon. Oh some partying to do at La Palapa tonight to celebrate my friend Stephanie's arrival last night. I promise to be at the airport tomorrow by 11:30 AM to meet the group arrival!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mucho LLuvia...although there was less rain last night and today so far. Now we just need them to get the roads cleared of mud and gigantic boulders so the bus can get through Sun. so the rest of the group can get to Panajachel. We went to my house yesterday...have had renters so have been staying in town until pick up some rain gear. This wood working shop was intact when we arrived in Pana but no more. They pulled the wood out as it was collapsing.
That terra cotta colored house across the river is where my condos are. The bridge to it has been trembling so it is only foot traffic now. When we move our luggage today we will have to take it by way of the upper bridge in the MF pickup. That's Sherry sporting my wellies that I keep down here and I also had waterproof hicking boots that I put on.
A view of the river towards the lake. If you are reading this and are coming to the lake this week pack rubber boots even though we are hoping this will be past us by then it will still be muddy in places. I am praying hard that next week is great weather since we have so much planned.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We are having mucho lluvia...much rain....but we did manage to get a Spanish lesson in. I am praying this goes away before next week. I have never had to deal with much rain in Oct. but then me doth think the whole world has gone mad with unusual weather.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Arrived Sun. night and met up with friends and shared a bottle of wine we picked up at Pricemart (like Costco) in the city. Yesterday tried to connect with our Spanish teacher with no luck but heard from her this morning so hopefully we will have a lesson this after noon.
Had no electricity when we got up but it is back on and so we are finally showered and the toilet is's the little things!!
It is pouring down rain right now so we may just stay in today and consume what little we, mixed nuts and cheese. Living the good life!
We did some shopping yesterday and managed to go get breakfast today before the heavy rain started but it sounds like it is slowing down now.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Leaving tomorrow for two weeks in Guatemala. Taking spanish lesson the first week and then the team arrives on Oct.16. It will be a busy week for the team. There will be 15 of us all together and we have a lot to accomplish. Donation to distribute, stoves to install and beds to deliver. Villages to visit and children to meet. Those who sponsor a student will have the opportunity to go and meet there student at there home. This is always the highlight of the trip. I will do my best to stay on top of the blog and keep you up to date with our progress.....but I am not making any promises. It can get pretty hectic and exhausting, but what a great time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I had the great pleasure to visit the newly opened El Barranco preschool. So many of these children are sponsored by friends of mine so I have a very special feeling for them. They are still at that stage where there is a lot of crying because these children have been strapped on their mothers backs or by her side their entire lives so it is scary to be away from that security.
Rodolfo of Mayanfamilies took the kids school sponsorship pictures. That was interesting since it was towards the end of the school day and the parents had started to show up to pick them up and they wanted to go home. So a few struggles and tears later all of them got their pictures done. I had to prop up one of the boys who had earlier been crying and had let me hold and rock him and now did not want to do the photo. So if his sponsor sees an adult hand in the picture it is me. I went home and had to take a shower and wash my clothes from all the dirt, tears and snot I wiped up and I still call it an excellent day.
We delivered the wonderful supplies that Debbie and Bill lutes shipped down. So many fun toys, games, art supplies and more. This will give, Soila, the teacher, great supplies to teach with. Most if not all of these children do not speak Spanish so this is one the things they are learning so when they go onto public school they will be able to keep up with the teaching.
Jay and Beth McFadyen are paying the rent on the school building which is $125 a month and Sue Franks and myself are working at raising the $900 a month for the teacher and Cook/helper. Thanks to the generous $3000 donation from Gladys Loewen's mother the $900 a month debt has been helped greatly.
I would love to show you this school in person so if you ever feel the urge let me know and you can join one of our group trips to this enchanting place. All the photos can be seen on the Picasa site at the right of this page.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sat. Feb.19, 2011

This is the last full day in Guatemala so we are heading to Antigua for our last night and a short visit of this beautiful colonial city. At one time it was the capital of the Spanish Empire. There are many goodbyes and much packing of the van before leaving Pana. Many treasures are making their way back to the US and Canada.
Once we arrive at our hotel in Antigua we head for a quick walking tour of nearby sites such as La Mercid church, the Arch and the Park Central. And then it is time for lunch at one of my favorite places...Fridas. I love their nachos and margaritas.
After lunch everyone hit the streets for different destinations. Mine was back to the room for a nap!! Gene and Bill found a spa down the street from the hotel and got themselves a massage and Gene even got a hair cut by the same girl who did the massage. Their one hour massage was only $25 US and Gene's 45 min. hair cut and shampoo was $6 US....what a deal.
Then we gathered for supper at La Fonda where my fav is the Caldo Pollo...a delicious traditional chicken soup. I salivate thinking about it.
Once we were all full we took a walk to Santo Domingo to see it by candle light. It was at one time a monastery and is now a beautiful hotel and museum. One day I plan on treating myself to a stay there.
All were full and tired so off to bed we went.

Fri. Feb.18, 2011

Today is a free day for everyone. Gene went across the lake with Jim and Louise to help with the house they are building for a family in Santiago Atitlan. He found out how strong the Mayan women are. I have heard more than one strong man tell me how these women can put them to shame. In spite of this Gene had a wonderful day working with Jim.
Bill and Chas went back again today to Mayan Families work shop to help out there and do some work with Michael.
Debbie and Bill got to spend the afternoon meeting with the three students they have been sponsoring through Mayan Families for some time now. As a result of their visit Debbie got her hair wrapped in the tradition of San Antonio Polopo and I have to say she wears it quite well. They both said what a wonderful time they had with them. Meeting your students face to face is so rewarding and makes this relationship more personal.
Denise decided to go to the Reserva which is a beautiful park where you can see wonderful plant life, monkeys and zip line if you like. Denise decided against the zip line this trip.
Before we got our day started we had coffee at El Dorado and watched a parade of the Pana preschool kids. Little Tomas was in the parade dressed in his traditional Chichicastanengo traje. Tomas is the son of Lucia who is a street vendor that some of you will have met.
After the parade the rest of the ladies and I headed to the used quipil market searching for hidden treasures. And some were found. We then headed down Santander to shop for jewels.
Four of us had lunch at my house since I had lots of leftovers from the party.
And then we all gathered at Sharon and Dwight's for a dinner and a wonderful slide presentation of our trip.

Susie does such a nice job of putting together a CD of group trips and makes sure we have the opportunity to purchase extra copies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thur. Feb 17,2011

The boys work ...the girls shop!!! Our three macho men today went with Michael who has been volunteering for Mayan Families for over a yr now to do guy things. They spent the day building a hope chest for Gene R. sponsored student. They also gave some good input into how to improve some of the projects.
The girls went to Chichicastanego for it's famous market. We visited the Santos Hotel, the church in Chichi that is built on a sacred Mayan temple and then checked out all the goodies for sale in the market. We had lunch together then a little more shopping before returning back to Pana to clean up for a dinner party at my place.
Before dinner Marina, who is a volunteer at Mayan Families, gave us a Salsa lesson. Sadly I'm a little short on rhythm but we sure had a good time giving it our good ol' college try. Some did quite well getting the steps.
We are fortunate to have a fantastic chef from Australia....Mathilda...who is a life long friend of Sharon who is one of three founders of Mayan Families. Mathilda made us a fabulous spread. It was such a pleasant evening with the team and other friends hear in Pana.