Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day four and it's off to El Barronco to visit sponsored students. We were picked up at the hotel and transported to MF office to collect food that is being donated to the families we will visit. Dave and Mike stayed at the office to make up food baskets for some other families and then went to visit Dave's sponsored students that are not in EB. The rest of us proceeded to EB Where we went to the preschool first and Amanda brought the balloons she forgot on Monday. It just happened it was recess time so the kids were having a great time playing with the balloons. Then our first home visit was to Amanda"s student, Sonia, who is in preschool. It turns out that the mom is in Solola with another of her children getting their end of yr. school grades so we visit w/ the grandmother a bit, drop off the donations and will return after our other visits. Next is Angela's little boy,who's name has left me right now. He is the brother of Norma, who is my friend Joy's sponsored student. He's a bit shy at first but then warms up to the whole idea of this strange woman who has come to visit him. This is Angela's virgin trip so on Mon. when we visited the preschool she decided she would like to sponsor a student like her best friend Amanda, so this made it the first time for her and him to meet. This was the first time I had met the father and he was so happy to have the help to get his children an education. Many of these parents did not have the opportunity to get an education but they understand how important it is for their children. We had a good visit and found out what the the most important needs for the family were before we were off to the next home. Food is always the most important and then this family need a repair on their mud brick home because of a recent earth quake that left a big crack in the wall. Next was Jay's little girl who he met last yr. Two other children in this home are sponsored by friends of mine and so many improvements have been made with this collective effort. Electricity has been installed and a new bathroom with a flushing toilet has been built. Again this is the first time I met the father since these men are out trying to earn a living which in most cases means about $2-$5 dollars a day and they can't be at home when we are there. Jay brought gifts for each of the kids and the big hit was a tub of Legos. Between the kids and MF staff members LEGO building was happening while we visited with the mom and dad. It always warms my heart to see little Brenda Liticia peer up at Jay who is a teddy bear of a man. They look so cute together. We then were able to return to Amanda's family where Amanda and her family and friend had collected and donated clothing for every member of this large family including the grandparents. She had also made a photo album for them from her previous visit last yr. and she added two photos of her family. Photos are always a huge hit since they can't afford them and in some cases they don't even very often see themselves in a mirror. Amanda's parents sponsor the oldest boy and he was very exited to see pictures of his new sponsors. And the highlight was when Amanda was able to tell them she had raised the money to have their very leaky roof repaired. The mother was in tears and couldn't stop hugging Amanda. By then we were all in tears. Our last visit was to one of our poorer families, which in a country of such poverty is saying a lot. Sandy and her friend Kendal co-sponsored a girl in the EB preschool and now Sandy's daughter, Melissa, is sponsoring her sister. We walk through more corn fields than you can imagine to get to this families home. They live in a mud brick home and as he is able the father is making more mud bricks so he can eventually add another room. There are about 5 kids that sleep in one bed and the parents and infant sleep in another. Food was given and gifts of jackets and sweaters were given to each family member. They were so pleased with this since it can get quite chilly up in EB at night. After a long and tiring day we retuned to Pana for a rest before happy hour and dinner. W dined at Jose Penguinos for the tradition Pepion dish and Miguel, who is the owner, tells of the traditions of his people. Our friends Joy, Gladys, Kristie and Eleana joined us for dinner. It is always so enjoyable and humorous especially when everyone gets to try to make tortillas. More than a couple hit the floor!! Amanda must have been practicing this past yr. because after dropping hers 4 times last yr she won the tortilla making contest this yr. After a full day and a full tummy it was time for bed.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 3 and it's a launcha (boat) to San Juan La Laguna. The day was beautiful...sun was out..and the sky was blue. After coffee at El Dorado I met the group at the hotel along with two of MF staff and our friend Stephanie who actually knew where to get the boat we were looking for. It was so nice to be on the lake again and with perfect weather.San Juan is a village of women"s co-ops and I have a couple of favorites. I had arranged ahead of time with Francesca, one of the ladies who runs one of the co-ops, to demonstrate the process that is used to achieve such beautiful textiles. They produce their own dyes from natural sources and then dye the cotton and wrap it around an apparatus that then creates a loop at each end that is then placed on a rod at both ends. One end is tied to a pole...or tree or any place they can put a hook...and then the other end is attached to a strap that they slip around their backside which makes them part of the loom...this is called back strap weaving and most all Mayan women's clothing with the exception of the cortes (skirts) are done by this method. From dying to completed product can take at least 3 days. With these fair trade co-ops the women who produce the product receive 90% of the sale and the other 10% goes to the running of the store. Then the shopping began! We worked our way up the hill and saw many beautiful things. We then arrived at the restaurant Artesano for a wine and cheese experience. I had heard of this place but had never been...I think it will continue to be on the agenda from here on out. It was a wonderful experience. As we returned to the boat a few other items were purchased and then it was another relaxing ride back across the lake to Pana in time to rest up before the party at my home. As usual Mathilda cooked a magnificent meal for us. I always invite my local friends so we ended up with about 26 people. I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

After raining hard all night I wasn't sure what to expect for the first full day of activities with the group but it turned out to be a very good day. MF picked us up at the hotel along with all the donations everyone had brought with them so we could take them to the office and sort them. All donations are appreciated and all will be used however in El Barranco (EB) the girls still wear traditional clothing so we don't take them western clothing. On tue. MF delivers food to each of the 7 MF preschools so part of the group went on the food run so they could see 2 of the other preschools on the way to EB. They went to San Jorge and Tierra Linda before arriving at EB. The rest of us stopped in Solola to drop off Jay, Dave and Mike at the back doctor since both Dave and Jay were suffering from back issues. It must have worked because they both seemed better for the rest of the day even before the beer and wine started to flow. When we arrived in EB there was a truck blocking the road. It was being loaded with the carrots that had just been harvested and bagged. The men were strapping them on their backs and carrying them to the truck and up the steps into the truck to off load them. These people may be small but even the women can put a full grown American man to shame. Once we were able to move on we arrived at the preschool just as the kids were getting ready to do some of their songs as a great way to learn Spanish. Most of these children grow up in homes where they speak only Kachiquel and when they attend public school it is only in Spanish. You can tell they love doing this because they have lots of hand motions that go along with it. Sara, the MF volunteer coordinator got right in there and sang and did all the hand motions too. The kids loved it. The older students performed traditional dancing for us. Since several of my group have been on this trip before and have sponsored students, their sponsored students came to sit with them and receive lots of hugs. My heart swelled as some of the children who I have known for several years and are sponsored by friends would look up and recognize me and give a big grin or the little ones who came to sit on my lap or just come for hugs. I love these kids so much I can't describe the feeling I get when I see them. These are a very shy and reserved people so to have the kids know me well enough to come up and hug me means so much to me. If you are a sponsor and have not come to meet your student or have but not for a long time I can tell you that they ask about you. They love to meet their sponsors and to have them come visit. They often ask me if their sponsor is coming to visit them. So know that if you have visited but it has been a long time they miss you and if you haven't visited they want very much to know you. Then it was time to relax on the veranda of the hotel for a bit before dinner. Poor young Mike was getting advise from the women in the group of what not to say to a girl. It was pretty funny and of course at 10yrs. of age he couldn't understand why you should ask her age or talk about her weight or ask if she is pregnant....he will never be the same I'm afraid. Our friends Stephanie and Michael joined us for dinner at El Bistro since they also know several of the group from previous visits. It was a good day!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The group arrived yesterday Oct.27. Sandy and Melissa were already at the airport cafe when I got there. There is no concept of "fill'er up" in Guatemala so on the 2 hr. 45 min. drive from Pana to Guate City my driver stopped twice for gas. About an hour later Jay, Dave and Dave's son Mike arrived. We then proceeded to load all of their giant bags and Rubbermaid tubs filled with lots of goodies for families in need....and what I mean by we, I mean they and I tried to supervise but men here have a hard time taking direction from a woman. Needless to say they had to eventually put the tubs on top of the van just as I had said to begin with. That is why I ordered the van with the roof rack to begin with. Then it was off to the Hotel Barcelo to pick up Amanda and Angela who arrived the day before. Again a lot of bag shuffling but finally we were on the road for the 2hr. and 45min. ride back up to Panajachel (Pana). We tried to drop the tubs off at Mayan Families(MF) office but the road was closed for repair so it all got unloaded at the hotel. Got everyone checked in and we all received a welcome cocktail which we enjoyed on the veranda of the hotel overlooking the pool and beautiful garden. Once we had a bit of relaxation off we went to hit the ATM for local money know as Quetzels (Q's). Then a walk to my place for for a glass of wine until it was time to go to Sharon and Dwight's home for a welcome dinner. This is a good way for everyone to get a little oriented to Pana. After dinner they got to meet some of the dogs and cats that have been rescued from the street. One was a sweet puppy who had two broken front legs in casts and Amanda decided this puppy should be her Christmas present. The rain had decided to set in so MF returned us in their vehicles. It rained hard most of the night so I am hoping it got it out of it"s system. The sun is now coming up and I can see some breaks in the clouds!!! Today we will visit El Barranco where we concentrate most of our efforts in trying to improve living condition for the Mayan living there. It is where most of the 70 plus children that have been sponsored in school by the members of my groups live. It's always a fun day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Today I climbed a mountain and my legs are still quivering.
I visited Ronaldo's new home in Santa Catarina Palopo....well actually high above the village. It was straight up and even after 3 asthma meds I though my lungs would collapse and my legs wouldn't take another step. I don't think in my whole life I have ever climbed that far straight up or that high. The view from the top is a million dollar view but the price to get there is too much for me to ever do it again!! It is the land the mother, Erminia, inherited from her father. I can't imagine what it was like for the construction people and the family to carry up all those concrete blocks, bags of cement,re-bar, tin sheeting and all the other things it takes to build a house on a mountain w/o the help of big equipment. It is all manual labor here.
It is hard to tell from the picture how far up we are from the lake but trust me it is far. They still do not have electricity or water hooked up or a proper toilet. That will be the next step to raise money for. Hope all my Portland friends are eager to buy some beautiful handmade Guatemalan jewelry and textiles. In thanks for the new home the family presented me w/ a most beautiful guipil (traditional blouse)that was backstrap woven and hand embroidered by the two older girls, a faja ( belt) woven and embroidered by Erminia and a small table covering. It is overwhelming when you are presented with these gifts that take months to make and they could have sold them to have money for food. I am very blessed. Then it was time to walk back down that mountain.I thought my legs were going to give out on me because of the toll it takes on the front of your thighs going straight down. It is now about 4 hrs. later and my legs are still quivering. All in all a very gratifying day. Thank you so much to those who contributed to help build this house. Now lets hope and pray I can walk again by the time the group gets here Sunday.

Monday, October 14, 2013

This entry is a long time coming. I broke my wrist on the last trip and writing was too painful. The trip was wonderful but hectic with such a large group and so many sponsored children to see and a house to build. But all has been accomplished and a new group is about to start a their own adventure. Small group this trip and several have been before so should be a piece of cake after last Feb....that is as long as I can stay upright and not injure myself. I leave tomorrow for Guate and am very overdue for my fix of Guatemala and all my friends there. They have already planned a birthday party for me when I arrive. With all they deal with I can't even believe that can remember my birthday. Let the party begin!!