Monday, November 5, 2012

Off to Antigua

I'm a little behind on the blog but that is normal towards the end of the trip. Too many long days and too many nights of sleep deprivation....what can I say.
Sat. morning we gathered at the hotel to take the van ride to Antigua, Guatemala....not to be confused with the island. Antigua is a wonderful place to decompress after trekking through corn fields and over mud trails.
Antigua is a UNISCO heritage site and the original capital of the Spanish Empire. It is a lovely colonial village of beautifully colored stucco walled buildings. Every now and then you get a glimpse of the inside courtyards when a door or gate is open. They usually contain beautiful gardens. Only 5 of us went in the van since Joy and Gladys stayed in Pana to take more Spanish lessons and Dave, Jay and Amanda hired a MF pickup and Samuel as tour guide to take them to a mayan ruin on the way to Antigua. We arrived at Hotel Bucaros too early to check in so we dropped our bags at the front desk and headed out. We made it as far as Frieda's Cafe where we indulged in Mexican food and adult beverages. We were enjoying the relaxing atmosphere so much that we were still there when the other 3 made it to Frieda's. We then all walked to the Park Central where we enjoyed the
fountain with the serinas (mermaids) spewing water from their tata's and listened to a couple of Bolivian musicians play pipe flutes then onto a beautiful art gallery. By then it was time that we could check into the hotel. We got to our rooms and relaxed for a bit then off to dinner at La Fonda for the best chicken soup ever!! I think I may have mentioned that in a previous blog update. There was an unusual amount of traffic and people even for a weekend. It turns out that Nov. 3 is a special day for weddings in Guatemala...not sure why...need to google that. There was even a lovely parade right past the restaurant so we got to watch that go by. We noticed on the way to the restaurant that they were creating live carpets on the cobbled streets so I should have guessed then there would have been a parade gathering somewhere.
Wasn't it nice of me to arrange a great meal and a parade!!! Dave and Jay were picked up the next morning by one of my favorite drivers, Jose, to catch there early morning flight to Boston and home. The rest of us left at a more decent hour...10:00AM for our respective flights home. I am always so awed by the wonderful people who join me on these trips and this group was no exception. Thank you to all who participated and to all who kept us in your prayers. I plan to do this until I can't!!!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Free Day Friday Nov 2-12

Friday is free day. Some of us met at the El Dorado for coffee.
Lynn saw one of the young boys who sells gifts on the street whose shoes were falling apart so she took him to the shoe store to buy him some new shoes. He was very happy with his very cool new shoes. Then we hit the used quipil market.This is where I get a lot of my little zipper bags to sell. We then proceeded to shop our way down Santandar until lunch. After lunch we got in Tuk Tuk's to go look at the trade school that MF has recently opened up.
A Rotary group from home state...donated all the tools. MF has hired a teacher and my freind Michael oversees the shop. They are making wooden gift boxes, jewelry boxes, humidors and wine holders in beautiful woods. They are just getting started but I bet by my next trip there will be many completed goodies to buy.
In the evening Sharon and Dwight...2 of the 3 founders of MF...had us over for a farewell dinner. The women of the group got to play dress-up and modeled traditional clothing. They were all quite lovely.
They showed a video of our weeks activities which had touching and hilarious moments. A good time was had by all.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dia de los Muertes..or...All Saints Day Nov 1-12

Nov 1 is Dia de los Muertes or All Saints Day which is a celebration for those who have passed away. Many communities have kite festivals where some attach to the kites the picture of a loved one who has passed away in order to release the soul. We traveled to Sumpango Sac for one of the largest kite festivals. We drove about two and a half hours to Sumpango. We had eight of us along with some MF staff, Erin, Laura and Samuel to look after us. Dave and Jay were not with us since they spent the day visiting more families that Dave has been involved in making life better. We also had Eric, one of MF's drivers, who road in another vehicle, with us and he was our "bouncer" protection since these are very large crowds and many pick pockets are there. Once we found a parking place that both vehicles could be close to one another we walked up a steep hill through masses of humanity to view the kites. Our driver stayed with the vehicles to guard them. Somehow there is always one in the the group you can count on for a little comic relief and usually it is a SWA flight attendant. We do like to enjoy ourselves. Some of the kites are so massive they would not ever get off the ground unless there was a hurricane!! The frames are made out of sticks or bamboo poles for the larger ones and covered in colorful tissue paper. Very intricate designs using only tissue paper. They are amazing. They were each assigned a category of which I haven't a clue about. It was just amazing to look at them. We wandered around viewing and photographing them and then returned to the van for our fabulous picnic that once again the fabulous Mathilda prepared for us. Then back to the festival to watch them start to raise the semi large kites into the air. I think they were judged by how long they could keep them in the air. With such a hugh crowd they didn't have much running room but some of them got up and stay there for a good bit. Some started up and came right back down. The crowd would cheer as they started up and then a hugh sigh as they came down. We retuned to Pana and everyone including Dave and Jay came to my place to eat left overs since I still had so much from the party and picnic. It was a fun day.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Home Visits in El Barrranco Oct 31-12

Once again we piled into pickup trucks that Mayan Families sent to the hotel for the group. We first stopped at MF office and picked up the staff members that would be accompanying us to El Barranco and the food baskets that everyone wanted to take to their families. One truck also had two beds to deliver and water filter replacements. We knew where one of the beds would go and would decide where the other would go once we saw the homes. Then off we were through this beautiful country. The back of a pickup is the best way to see it too. Views of the lake are breath taking. We arrived at the EB preschool first so we could hand out kites to all the kids since the following day (Nov.1) is All Saints Day...Dia de los Muertes...and it is traditional to fly kites for this holiday. Since these families are too poor to buy a kite MF tries to see to it that each preschooler gets one. They loved them and it didn't take long until they were in the yard running with their kites. Since most of the kids whose home we would be visiting were at the preschool we also put them and their moms in the trucks with us. It was a bit crowded but a happy bunch. Somehow through all this poverty they still manage to be happy. We had to split into two groups since we had so many visits to do. I went with the group whose homes I had not been to. The first home was Amanda's sponsored student who I could not figure out why she had such short hair since this is not a style they use here. Turns out she like most of our own kids got hold of a pair of scissors and decided she was a hairdresser. Children all over the world are not that different. This family had so many needs and fortunately none of them were beds. They did however need a mattress and a water filter so I decided in lieu of a bed we would give the the mattress and a new water filter. She is a single mom whose husband died as a result of alcoholism and she is in debt to the bank as many are and in fear of losing her home. The next two homes we visited were children who had lost their previous sponsors and I am so grateful to have tender heart with me who wanted to sponsor them so they could stay in the program. They are preschoolers so this means they get a nutritional meal every day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a yr. One of these has a sibling who is sponsored by a member of my Feb group. They had the picture that was given them of their sponsor on the mirror of their dresser. They now have all the wiring done for electricity thanks to their other sponsor. Now we just need the funds to connect to the pole so they can finally have electricity in their home. The mother fears for her children since they have already had one small fire from using candles. Then the last family we visited was a fair distance. We drove as far as possible then it was a long trek through corn fields and some wooded areas. I can't begin to grasp doing this in the dark. These children walk, I would estimate, anywhere from 30 to 45 min to school. And can I just add none of it on smooth paths. This family now has cosponsors, Kendal and Sandy. They will share in the sponsorship of this sweet little girl. These visits are very emotional for the sponsors since it is hard to grasp the depth of poverty these families live in until you see it first hand. Guatemala is 6th in the world in chronic malnutrition and yet it is not at all a poor country. It is a sad state of affairs. We returned back in Pana exhausted and hungry so we headed to the Deli...they have one of my favorite dishes...Pollo Melinese....and while we were there the rains started. The calle became a river once again. I had to get home because I was in much need of rest so when it was a little lighter I grabed a Tuk Tuk and arrived home where a hot shower and PJ's were in order. Tomorrow is Dia de los Muertes and the kite festival.