Sunday, February 26, 2012

Time to pack up and move on

Day 7 and it is time to pack our belongings and head to Antigua.

Most will be flying home the next day. As the last minute packing is going on everyone is also saying their last good byes to the street vendors and making last minute purchases. Suitcases are stuffed to the brim and in some cases new bags were bought. There are some very tired peeps.

We get to Antigua in time to get checked into the hotel and off to have lunch at Frieda's Cafe for nachos and margaritas.
There of course is some more last minute shopping to do and exploring this very interesting city.

Antigua is a UNISCO World Heritage Site and the original capital of the Spanish Empire. There are a great many ruins from an earthquake in the 1770's.
In the evening several of us met for dinner at La Fonda where I always have to have their traditional Guatemalan chicken soup..Caldo Real. Love it!!!

Free Day

Friday was a free day. There were several lining. A good many of us did the hike which was advertised as an easy down hill hike.

I wouldn't quite go that far. We rode in the back of a couple of pickups to the top to start our hike. It was a bit strenuous and we had several falls but everyone made it down the mountain to San Antonio Palopo. We visited the pottery shop and made our share of purchases.
Then into pickups again to Santa Catarina for lunch at a lovely hotel. It was a beautiful setting and good food.
Those of us on the hike who were taking the cooking made it back just as the class was starting.

We made several traditional dishes...Chuchitos, Chrimol, Guacamole, Tortillas,and Rosa de Jamaica... and then got to enjoy our handy work.
We also received an apron and a small cookbook of the dishes we prepared.
There were those brave souls that went zip lining and as soon as I have pics I will share them. It sounded like they had a blast.
That evening MF had a farewell party at the main offices but before that started many of the families that had students sponsored came in to receive the gifts their generous sponsors purchased for clothing...beds...and other gifts.
Let me apologize now for whatever was on my camera lens. UGH!!
Then the presentations began. MF honored our youngest member who raised over $1000 for the trip to be used for their families they sponsored. Grace is only 12 and out did us all ...with the help of her mothers baking skills.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thursday...a fun day

On Thur. those who wanted or felt well enough went to Chichi for a day of shopping in their world famous market. It is a place with so much color it is overwhelming. Lucia, one of my favorite street vendors went with us and was our guide. Lucia was born in Chichi but now lives in Pana.Some stayed at the hotel to tend to a couple that were not feeling well. And four went with Michael, a MF volunteer, and did a construction project. When I get some pics of that I will add them.

We first went to their very colorful cemetery which resulted in us having to hike back up a very steep street. UGH!! Some of us were huffing and puffing by the time we got back up to the market area.
We went in the min church and when I saw Ann lighting a candle it was such a great picture that I took one before I remembered your not suppose to take pics in the church...OOOPS! The quickly reminded me.
Then once again there was a great boost to the economy in Chichi.
The boys and Jessica spent the day elping Michael and Carlos in the wood shop. It looks like they had a great time.

In the evening we had a dinner at me Casa.
There was great food and a wonderful camaraderie that comes from a shared experience. We realize how blessed our lives our when we view true poverty and see that even with so very little these people still have joy in their hearts. Who are we to complain about anything.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Visiting newly sponsored students

On Wed. we gathered at MF to make our trip back to El Barranco. Everyone had gone shopping the night before or ordered food from MF to take to their students. So all the supplies and people piled in a van or a pickup.
With 17 new students sponsored and 3 previously sponsored but never been visited, who's sponsors are on this trip, we had a full day ahead of us. This was an especially hard day for me. I have been to every home visit of students sponsored through my groups and with 20 new students there was no way that could happen. We had to split into 4 groups.
This is always an emotional day for everyone. Seeing how these beautiful children who always look so happy really live is a real eye opener. Homes without electricity, beds with boards where a mattress should be, no bed at all, only a grass mat on a dirt or concrete floor. Even those that have electricity it is just a light bulb in the middle of the room. Some have a toilet and some go in the fields or use a neighbors. And the ones who do have the luxury of a toilet it is one you would never want to use.

The first home we went to it turned out that the mother has been very ill and in bed for two yrs. The doctors told her she had a liver problem but not any details and of course they can't afford the medication. She sleeps in a borrowed bed because they have no mattresses. Had we not visited we would probably have never know about her. Now hopefully we can get her some medical care.

One of the things I love about El Barranco is that the dads seem very involved with their children. In a country ravaged by a civil war for over 30 yrs. and the resulting destruction of the family unit this is such a lovely site to see.
Most of the sponsors were given gifts from their families which is so touching. These are usually items they have made to sell so they can buy food and yet they want to give back to those helping their children have a better life.

Another home we went to the family had built a nice concrete block home for themselves but now were in a land dispute with the husbands brothers. They now have several thousands of dollars in debt to pay lawyers fees. We are certainly going to have to do some serious fund raising when we get back.

We had planned to install 4 Onil stoves on this visit but it turned out that a previous mission group installed so many stoves in El Barranco that none needed a stove. In it's place we are buying beds for the families most in need.

When we finished our home visits we gathered at the El barranco preschool for sandwiches. There would have been more cheese sandwiches but a very sneaky dog snatched the cheese off the table. Bless Gloria, who with her husband are the MF managers, because she made eggs for us to make sandwiches with. This was around 3:00 so we were ver hungry.
Everyone went back to their hotel with some very mixed emotions of deciding what they could do to help their sponsored students. There is so much need but first and foremost is food and clean water. The things you and I take for granted.
All in all, roller coaster emotions aside, it was a very rewarding day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

trip across the lake

On Tues..I'm a little behind on blogging...we met in front of the hotel for our 2 min. van ride to get our hired bout across the lake. With such a large group we went with a double decker. It was so much fun except some of us got a bit more sun than we planned on.

We went to San Juan where there are artist and weavers co-ops. We visited Maximon the Mayan God. There was a demonstration of how the cotton is prepared for spinning into thread to use in the weavings. They showed us what plants are used to make each color. Needless to say there was a lot of shopping going on.

After doing a considerable boost to the economy in San Juan we returned back to the boat and headed for Santa Cruz for lunch. The Iguana Restaurant had a wonderful buffet set up for us and we emptied the buffet table.
On the return trip to Pana there was a little napping going on

on the boat but once we got to the dock everyone was ready to go. There was a bit of shenanigans on the return trip.

Several wanted to place orders for food and other needed items for the families they sponsor. Some staid at MF to help distribute the Valentine food baskets.
Others were anxious to find the best deals on jewelry to buy so they could bring it back as gifts and in order to raise more money for use with MF. I led them up the street and introduced them to my favorite venders and we then ended up at my place for drinks and snacks.
Some of us then proceeded to rest up for the busy day ahead of us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

First trip to El Barranco

Yesterday was long, exhausting and most rewarding. We started out at 7:30 sorting the donations everyone brought...and boy did they bring donations.

We then jumped into our transport of choice. Some in the van and some of us in the back of the pick up.
On our way to El Barranco we stopped off at Tierra Linda to visit the preschool and for Debbie to visit one of her students. Debbie also brought balloons for the kids.

We also went to see a house that another group built for a family who's house was about to fall down. It turned out that the elderly man living there had an injured foot so we had OBGYN..look at his foot. We decided it was within 4 ft of her specialty so it worked for us.

Back into the vehicles and off to El Barranco. It was the first time I had arrived w/o the yard full of people. But never fear they all showed up within the hour. We had a light lunch and visited the kids in the preschool while we waited.
Brian got to meet his sponsored student,Elvis. Elvis is alive and in the house.

Once everyone arrived...we had to wait for the kids to get out of school...The children did their traditional dancing. Always a winner.
One of the dances is the monkey dance and audience participation is encouraged.

We then handed out our donations...these kids run to get in line to receive used clothing and shoes. This means so much to them.

During all of this chaos most of the group found children they wanted to sponsor in school. We broke our own record and sponsored 17 children. I don't have what it takes to describe how excited these children and families are to have the opportunity to go to school and get what we take for education.

Before it was all over we were exhausted and ready for dinner and drinks. This makes for a very long day but everyone enjoyed their encounter with these wonderful people.

Monday, February 13, 2012

There Here

Everyone made it safe and sound. I was up early so I could get ready to pick everyone up. First the caterer arrived with the sack lunches and I saw him coming from my window so I went down to meet him. I opened the porton...big gate... and stepped out into the calle and the porton slammed shut behind me. I had a heart attach right then and there...I did not have my key and it was the one night my property mgr. was out of town. Thank heaven that Janet who lives on the first floor was home and came to my rescue. It was going to be interesting if she wasn't because our compound, like others in third world countries, is surrounded in razor wire. YIKES
The hired bus arrived at the same time so we put it all in the bus and we were off. That is after one stop at the ATM and another at MF offices to pickup two people that needed a ride to the airport.

Brian was the first in then the other arrived in two waves about 30 min. apart. By 2:00 we were at the hotel picking up those who arrived a day or two early.

We had to make, not the usual one pit stop, but two because some of the group, who will remain nameless bought adult refreshments for the road trip. This is going to be a wild bunch...I can see it now.
It rained most of the way until just about when we turned off the Pan America Hwy. As we were going through Solola the sun began to shine beautifully. When we turned that corner where you get your first real view of the lake everyone at once knew why I love it here. It takes your breath away.
We got everyone settled in there hotel rooms and headed to get money from the ATM. Not everyone can do it at once when you have this big of a group so some will get it today. Since we were a bit behind Sharon and Dwight sent 2 pickups to get us off the street because we were due at their place for a welcome dinner. Everyone stood in the back and got their first but not last experience of traveling Guat style.

The Onil stove was fired up when we arrived so everyone who wanted got to try their hand at making tortillas. Not as easy as it looks. We then had a wonderful dinner and 2 of the MF videos of two of the programs the sponsor.
A very tired bunch again jumped in the back of pickups and were taken back to their hotel for hopefully a good nights sleep.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Arrival day

So excited that the day has arrived once again to go and meet my new group. Some arrived yesterday and spent the night in Guatemala City at the Barcelo Hotel. In fact Sheri arrived 2 days ago and graciously accepted the responsibility of being the greeter.
There will be old familiar faces and there will be several whom I have never met. Word of this wonderful country keeps spreading. It still amazes me that it has grown so much ...we will be 20 on this trip....because I can remember desperately trying to get 10 so I could pay for the transportation. I love this country so much and want to share it with anyone who will join me.
Needless to say this will never be a trip for the "A" type personalities since nothing ever goes as planned. Things are always at the mercy of Guatemala time and thinking which I love even though sometimes you just want to strangle someone.
Keep us in your prayers for safe and enjoyable travels.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

happy hour sunset

Had drinks with friends at a restaurant on the lake for sunset. We weren't sure if it would be anything to write home about since it was so cloudy but not to worry.

The time is near

As the time for the group to arrive nears, excitement grows. There are many last minute questions about hotels and packing etc. We have one person coming 2 days early and 9 more one day early to stay in Guatemala City at the Hotel Barcelo.
When the bus and I go to the city to pick them up we will get those at the airport first then the ones at the hotel. They are bringing so much in donations I will also have a pickup truck to take the majority of the tubs of donations back to Pana.
I am overwhelmed at how much fund raising this group has done. The best problem I have had to date is to make sure we get it all to the right people. What fun!!
Yesterday I went to the city to pick up supplies at Pricemart..(Costco) that when they want to hang out at my place we at least have some wine and cheese and also for the dinner we have at my home here in Pana.
Stay posted because the real fun will start Sunday.
Cony...this is what the mayans call me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Not a lot of excitement going on to post about. Just been dealing with issues at my condo. But last evening my friend Louise and I were headed to have dinner...we were going to go to the market but it started to rain hard so we opted for food and drink instead. Seemed like a good solution. As we were dashing in the rain to the restaurant we had decided on we ran into one of the students I sponsor and her mom. Since my friend has a much better grasp of the Spanish language than I do...I know I know what is my just hasn't stuck yet what can I say....I was able to invite them to dinner with us.
This was there first time to ever eat in a restaurant. It cost me less than $30 including tip for the three of us for what you and I take for granted and will be a lasting memory for them. They seemed to have such a good time and we certainly did. Rosalyn is so beautiful and sweet and they both laughed a lot since Louise and I can be a bit loco..okay a lot loco. The sad part is that her sister, Estefania whom I also sponsor, was not with them. I'll just have to catch her the next time. They did have plenty of left overs to take home to share so that was good.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Last evening when I got into Panajachel I called my friend Louisa and met her where she was having dinner. One of my favorite street vendors, Lucia and her son, Tomas were waiting with Louisa so they could see me. It is so nice to have people whom you don't even speak the same language with so excited to see you. Tomas started yelling my name the instant he saw me coming down the street. Obviously they don't know me that well!! I just love them.
Then we went to Louisa's rented apt and had drinks with 2 other good friends ,Susie and Michael, both who work with MF. We witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets over the lake from the third fl. apt. Of course it was the one time I did not have a camera with me. So here is the one from tonight which is not spectacular.
Now it is the end of my first full day in Pana. Had a meeting with my property manager then Mayan Families picked me up and we went to check out a water filtration system in San Antonio Polopoafter which I was starving so my friend Michael and I went to The Jasmine Deli for one of my favorite meals....Pollo Melanesa and a Gallo. Can you tell it is all about the food with me.
I returned home and realized I had locked myself out for the very first time. Thank heaven my property mgr. Rene lives close. He brought a key over and let me in. Took a nap then went to dinner at a new place with Michael and Rene. It is a Spanish tapas place and was incredible. Now I am ready to crash.