It really is time for a bit of down time but it won't be today. More home visits and a fiesta. The hotel I booked this time seems to be a big hit with everyone so I am very happy about that. You never know when you are going into a new place. It certainly is a lovely space and the rooms are the largest I have seen in Guatemala. Today some stayed in Pana to get some much needed shopping done and poor Kay is still working via the internet so she takes every opportunity to get that done. A part of the group were up early and on the truck at 7:30 AM to return to EB and spend the day doing manual labor. Apparently 88 yr. old Larry is running circles around everyone. He and his son, Jim, have hooked up the electrical lines and got juice to the house so they now are able to use some power tools. Michelle, Amanda, Charlette, Jessica and Laurin have been hauling, shoveling, lifting and toting for the most part. We have some tough broads here. Also apparently Jessica and Laurin are now apprentice brick layers...or cement block in this case. The house unfortunately will not be finished while we are here but should be in another couple of weeks. The mom that is receiving this home of her own, is often in tears from being overwhelmed at the generosity of her new found friends.
The three ladies that sponsor her four boys in school are making sure she has everything she needs to set up a home. The rest of us went up to EB at 9...well at least that was the plan but today was a very important holiday for the Mayan ( and if I was better at this I would remember the name of it) so there were parades and lots of traffic to get through and I needed to go to the grocery to get lunches for everyone...so about 10:30 we headed out of town. Just to clarify the reason we have been taking our lunch fixings up to EB is we are very far from and grocery stores or restaurants. Again there were four home visits splint into two teams. I just hate it when I can't go to all of them so I pick the ones that either I haven't been to or at least haven't been to in a long time or if there are other issues or problems that the family is having so I know what is going on as best I can. I think I'm just plain nosey.
The first visit was Brian's family who he has clearly adopted as his own. He brought, from the states, clothes, toys,beautiful sweaters his mother knitted for the kids and other household items and then shopped here for some cleaning supplies for the family. A side note...the mom is 8 mo. pregnant with #3. This family have embraced Brian as another family member. The father, through tears, said he didn't have a father growing up and so Brian is like having a father now and he felt so blessed for Brian's generosity since he himself can not provide his own children with these wonderful gifts. These two men stood in a long embrace with both of them sobbing. Joy comes to both the giver and the receiver.
Our second family is one I haven't been to in a couple of yrs. They had some damage from the earthquake last Nov. so I wanted to see that. Sherry sponsors two of the girls and I think this family may have something like 10 members. She brought each family member either clothes or toys and even dad got a new shirt and shoes. She even brought food for the dogs since they just have to try and find scrapes wherever they can. Sherry may be robbing a convenience store soon but she is planning to help with repairs on the house which may entail building a new structure. They live in an adobe brick home and the earthquake put a crack in one wall.
Exhausted once again we got back to Pana to clean up and get ready for the fiesta at my home. Anyone who has been privileged to have had Mathilda's cooking before doesn't like to miss an opportunity to have it again. Mathilda caters the parties for me and my Maria takes care of all the cleanup. This is the only way to have a party!!! Wish I could afford this in the states. Now for a good nights sleep.
Another day in El Barranco and most of us are sun burnt by now but still have a great time. We split up into two groups and the worker bees went to the building site and those who were scheduled for home visits, which are being spread out over the week, got to meet their families at there homes. On todays visits there were four, Laurie and Ari who had not met there sponsored students until this week so I tagged along with them. Joy and James, who is visiting his sisters sponsored student, did their home visits with Elizabeth from MF and we had Laura with us. Again it is so overwhelming when a family who has nothing, presents you with a gift for helping their child receive an education. This is a village of weavers and so often the gift will be a hand woven piece. One of the mother's who knows me from me coming to their village so often and her other son is sponsored by someone from a previous group of mine, gave me a piece of cloth she had woven and I'm not even the sponsor. I have to say that the sponsors are so often so generous to the families bringing them clothes,food, toys and many other items to help the families and yet I know they feel as I do, that their lives are more blessed by being able to be a part of these humble families. I always feel I get a great deal more out of it than I give. speaking of giving it happen to be the birthday of Laurie's sponsored boy so she brought him a birthday cake and he was so happy.
After the visits we had lunch at the construction site and some of us went back to Panajachel and the troopers stayed and worked on the house. Apparently Lauin is a master cement mixer. I hope someone else has pictures. The children here live a very hard life because they must help the family in order to survive so it was so much fun to see them having such a great time with Grace and Shannon running and playing.
In Pana we had one more home visit. Sherry sponsors 3 ancianos (elderly) so that they receive food and medical help. They are in their 70's and 80"s. The oldest was born mentally challenged and he is an example of how good it is to life a life of no stress. He has no concept of any worries and so he looks the youngest of all of them. We could take a lesson from that. The other brother was injured on the job and has been bedridden ever sense. Their sister also lives there and it is her daughter that looks after them. She does an amazing job of it too because the bedridden one has no bed sores at all. They were so excited to see us. Now it was time for showers and relaxation which included really good Mojitos and Mexican food.
Manday was a long, exhausting but rewarding day. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to MF offices to sort through the donations to be taken to El Barranco. All were loaded onto pickups and up the mountain we went. As always the best views are from the back of a pickup.
Everything was unloaded then we went to see the house that is being built because of a generous donation by Michelle. It is right by the property where the family has been living. The boys sponsors, Amanda, Charlette and Michelle brought them more gifts than they have ever seen in their lives. I think they were a bit overwhelmed. It was so touching when Amanda presented the mom a photo album she had made for her of their families. All were in tears.
We then did one more home visit. Jorge whom Michelle sponsors and two of his many siblings, Maura and Joquin, who are twins, are sponsored by Laurin who happens to be Michelle's daughter. Again many gifts were brought for the family.
The part that touches us all so much is the generosity of a peoples who are so poor. Hand woven scarves and beaded jewelry. Things that could have been sold for income are given with much love.
Grace and Shannon who are the two young teens on the trip brought balloons and a pump so they could make balloon hats for the kids. They were very busy because the kids loved them and lined up to receive one.
The children of EB performed their traditional dancing which is always a treat. The the long lines were formed in hopes of receiving a new pair of shoes or article of clothing. Then we packed up and back on the pickups to return to Pana. Showers were on the agenda for everyone and then several of us had dinner at Pinquinos where they entertain you and teach you about the culture. Everyone had a great time but our beds were calling.
There is a reason I always say.."this is not a trip for "A" type personalities. First all two weeks after reserving a coaster bus...somewhere between and van and a bus....the owner calls to let us know he has already revered it for someone else that day so we only had one other option and that was to hire two vans in order to fit 18 people in. One of those picks me up for our 3 hr ride to the city. We arrive safe and sound at the airport a little before the first group to arrive at 11:30 AM. So much fun seeing so many familiar faces retuning to Guatemala. The majority of this group are those who have been here with me before. Maybe that says I'm getting better at not offending people...we can only hope.
Once we have gathered everyone from the airport and loaded all their donations..which requires a pickup along with the 2 vans... we head to Hotel Barcelo to gather those who arrived a day and some two days earlier. I have divided the group so that I have the majority of the newbies in my van.
A couple minutes after we are on the road the driver gets a call from the other van...there is a problem. I have to call Sharon of MF to translate to me what is going on. We turn around and go to the gas station where the other van had stopped to get more gas, since it wouldn't have made since to do that while they waited over 2 hrs. for everyone to arrive, and it turns out after much discussion and translation they have put gasoline in a diesel tank. Just like Oregon you don't pump your own gas here so it was not the drivers fault. Thank heavens Sharon had Eric, who was driving the MF pickup, come be with us. Eric is a driver for MF and I know him well and even though we speak different languages we can communicate. He understands just enough English and I understand just enough Spanish, then you throw in a few hand signal and we are good to go.
Tanks are drained, filters are cleaned..all of this with much discussion....the problem is taken care of. So two hrs. later we are on the road again. Thank you Laurin to have the sense to use your time wisely at the hotel to go buy beer for everyone to have on the road trip. We needed it for our wait at the station.
We get to the hotel in Panajachel none the worse for wear, unload and get checked in, which no matter how much advanced planning is still always total chaos. The hotel had a tray of Mojitos waiting for us and by this time I had to have two of them.
Two MF pickups came to pick us up for the ride to Sharon and Dwight's home for a lovely welcome dinner. Zoe, who is Sharon and Dwight's oldest daughter, had invited one of my sponsored students, Belsar, to have dinner with us. What a treat.
Everyone got returned to the hotel and I went home for some much needed sleep. Monday we will hit the ground running.
The wind started kicking up last evening and it has not stopped. However the sky is nice and clear this morning and my view of the 3 volcanoes is fantastic as ever. It has been overcast most days because they apparently are burning sugarcane on the coast. I hope all my lamina is still on my roof though since it has been rattling like crazy all night. Wind is common at this time of year and is often referred to as the "windy season".
I will be off to the city in a couple of hours to gather the gang. Some came in two days ago and toured Guatemala City yesterday, which can I just say I have never done. Hope they have good pictures. Some came in yesterday and napped (Sherry, Laurie and Ari)! We have an agreement with a beautiful hotel near the airport so when anyone has to arrive before the start date we reserve rooms at the Barcelo.
It is a 3 hr. drive to the city and should obviously be 3 back....but do you have any idea how long it can take for 18 plus people to take a pit stop?? The herding of cats begins. Since so many of this group have been with me here before I can pretty much already imagine the dynamics and it should be a wild ride through this week. There is going to be late wild nights and early mornings and energy gone amuck.
Because Michelle, who is returning for her second trip, has raised the money we are building our first home. The house has already been started because it would be impossible to complete one in 4 or 5 days and we really want to see it pretty much done so we can have a welcome celebration of sorts for the sweet single mom of 5 wee ones.
Her husband was found dead about a yr. and a half ago about two weeks after a couple of us had met him. We don't know the cause of death but now here she was with an infant girl and 4 boys and no home of her own and an income of maybe a dollar a day if that. They were and have been living with her in-laws and since the grandfather would not make a will out to the boys like he promised, so they could inherit the property, there was no guarantee they would let her continue to live there and we felt it very important for them to have a place to call there own.
While I was here in Oct. we found a piece of land ( well actually Mayan Families found it) and Michelle quickly sent the money so we could purchase it. This land is deeded in all of their names....mom,4 boys and daughter. The mom doesn't have much in her life to smile about but she sure was when she was given the deed to her very own land.
If you were wondering how we chose this family to build a home for it is because Michelle sponsors two of the four boys. Amanda and Charlette sponsor the other two and I am so happy they can all be here for this project. They have all been doing wonderful things for this family...buying beds and closets and a stove and clothes and sending money for food besides seeing to it they are getting an education which is pretty much there only chance to change their life of extreme poverty.
There are some people in this life who touch your heart in a special way. This mom, for some reason, has always touched mine even when her very sweet husband was still alive. I am humbled and blessed to be a part of this project and bringing a bit of peace to a life which is a struggle none of us could fathom.
Time to make the donuts...have to shower and get going. Good thing I got some good sleep last night since it will most likely be the last for a week.
Side note...writing is NOT my gift so be patient with me as I struggle to keep you posted on our adventure.