Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 7 G of G Dec. 2014

Off to Antigua to enjoy this beautiful UNESCO Heritage site. But first the vendors worked on getting just one last sale in while we packed the van. Once we got to Antigua we unloaded our bags then headed to the heart of the village stopping along the way for lunch at Fridas's where the food is great and the margarita's are wonderful. After lunch we continued down Arch street which if you Google Antigua, Guatemala you are bound to see a picture of the arch. Along the way we encounter conquistadors announcing events to come. I don't believe I have ever been in Antigua near Christmas so it was lovely to see all the lights and decorations. It's a fun place to explore with all the beautiful churches and ruins that occurred during a massive earthquake in 1773 leaving this capital of the Spanish empire in ruins. After which they moved the capital to Guatemala City where I have been told is actually on a larger fault line!!! Then finally, after a nap for some of us, we went to dinner at La Fonda where I always have to have the Caldo Real soup. Lorenzo and Kathy had a redeye flight so they left before dinner. The rest enjoyed some Christmas carols at the main Cathedral on the square being sung by children. Then off to bed for those who had early morning flights. It was another wonderful trip with great and generous people. Remember that all the pictures can be found on the Picasa link at the right of the page. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all and come join us on a future Grace of Guatemala Trip in 2015. God Bless.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 6 G of G Dec. 2014

Another very busy day. We toured the site of the San Antonio preschool and the first, of what we hope will be many more, community gardens. The mothers of sponsored students have helped to put in a community garden that is the experimental project in which they hope to be able to do in other communities. There is a plan for one on the site of the new preschool in El Barranco which I am very excited about. We then visited the pottery where a man named Ken Edwards who was a potter from the US migrated to Mexico and started a pottery company. He then trained people in other areas where he found good clay soil to make pottery. This included San Antonio Palopo, Guatemala. I have several pieces in my Guat home and love them. So some shopping had to be done. We saw women washing clothes on the rocks in the lake, a life size Nativity and Alan and Steve sporting their man bags. Back in a pickup and on to the carpentry trade school where students are taught a skill they can use to make a living and be able to support their families. After lunch we toured the Mayan Families facility where they not only have all their offices but house the Panajachel preschool and the sewing trade school. Traditionally in Guatemala men have been the sewers since it is a machine!! But now women are being taught to sew and create items they can sell and help support their families. At the end of their training they are given the opportunity to own a sewing machine and start their own cottage industry. Then one more stove to install for a family in Panajachel so we returned to the carpentry school where the stove parts are stored and loaded the parts and performed another successful stove installation. We finished just in time to shower and attend the farewell dinner at Sharon and Dwight's home where they show a video of the weeks highlights. In the morning we leave for a night in Antigua.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Day 5 G of G Dec. 2014

FREE DAY…time to explore on their own. Some went to Chichicastanego for market day…some went hiking…others recovered from travelers discomfort. No picture for today but lots of memories. Here's an old picture from Chichi

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Day 4 G of G Dec. 2014

Busy Busy Busy day….. visit to the Solola women's co-op, 8 home visits, one stove installation, delivery of a water filter and several food baskets and dinner at Penguinos. I am exhausted thinking back on it. Our first stop was at the women's co-op in Solola where they weave mostly with bamboo and use low impact dyes. Beautiful colors and soooo soft. Like the co-op in San Juan it helps the women in this area to make a fair wage for their work. Then once again in El Barranco to visit sponsored students in their homes. Since there are eight homes…you see some sponsored more than one student…. we split into two groups. I hate it when I have to make a decision as to what group to go with because I want to go to all of them. We had six new students sponsored. Steve was returning to visit his two boys he sponsors and to spoil them with gifts he brought with him for the whole family. There is so much joy in this day when each sponsor gets to have a personal relationship with the students they sponsor. They realize how important it is to give the gift of an education so these children can have a better chance in life to end the cycle of poverty. Silvia got a bit of travelers sickness so could not go with us but we visited her sponsored student and took photos for her. It's always so moving when these families are so incredibly poor and yet are so eager to give a gift of thanks to the sponsors. Very humbling for all of us. When we finished with the home visits we had lunch and awaited the stove parts to be delivered….however they were so late in arriving we decided to save the second stove for Fri. since it was going to be installed in Pana anyway. The reason for the delivery delay was that MF was suddenly down one driver…Juan Carlos's wife went into labor and he had to head to the hospital!! Stoves be damned. Back again in time for a shower and off to Penguino's for a traditional meal of Pepian and entertainment by the owner and his daughters. Everyone gets a try a making tortillas and Lorenzo won the contest. The owner Miguel tells the history of his people…with lots of humor…and his daughters play the marimba. His niece was also there to sing for us in Spanish and French. It was a wonderful end for a very full day.

Day 3 of G of G Dec. 2014

Tis' the windy season here in Guatemala, which of course makes the lake a bit rough, so we had to make a change of plans…..bigger boat. Worked wonderful to have the bigger boat since the rough water doesn't effect it like the small launchas. The other plus side is that it is way more fun. This is the day we go to San Juan la Laguna to visit the women's co-ops. All the dyes are natural and everything is hand made. So many beautiful things to see and purchase. First Francesca demonstrates the dying process and today she used a wood that is indigenous to Guatemala to turn the cotton thread purple… my favorite color. We are then shown how the thread is wound on an apparatus to create the warp and weft. It is then backstrap woven, meaning the weaver becomes part of the loom. If they work 10 hrs. a day they can complete one scarf in 4 days. This never ceases to amaze me when I realize I only paid $20 for a scarf. During the day my very talented friend Kim made a quick water color of the lake view. These co-ops are a way for these talented women to make a fair trade sale. Out of each item purchased the weaver receives 90% of the sale. The remainder is used to run the co-op. There are so many beautiful handmade items and wonderful artists in this village. One of my favorite artists is in San Juan and I have two of his paintings that I love. Ones a nude and made my housekeeper giggle when she saw it the first time. For those more sensitive people, if it helps it is the backside!! After much shopping and bargaining we headed back to Pana to have lunch at the new Panajachel Center where the owner Aimee makes, among many wonderful dishes, coconut incrusted fried avocado. A must have. Then the end to a perfect day….there was a rainbow on my way home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 2 of G of G Dec. 2014

Day two was a busy day starting with picking up all the donations and volunteers at the hotel and going to MF compound to sort and load all the supplies, donations and volunteers for the ride to El Barranco. It was a beautiful day and the views of the lake were as amazing as ever on the ride up to Solola and onto El Barranco.The preschool children greeted us with loud "HOLA"'s. We got to interact with them for a bit then Lorenzo and Kathy and Gavin brought the kids little goodies and handed those out. Then the children formed lines to wash their hands then another line to receive their snack. Today it was a big chunk of watermelon and then their daily vitamin. They had already received a nutritious breakfast. The seven preschools MF have started help children who are at risk for malnutrition. It is so wonderful to have seen over the years how much healthier these children are now as a result of this feeding program. While we waited for all of the dancers to arrive we visited the new preschool site. It will be so wonderful to have a permanent place to be able to grow the preschool and other programs in. Up to this point the space has been rented from a not so cooperative landlord. Thanks to the generosity of others land was purchased and building supplies and labor have been provided for. Then the dancing began. The children perform the traditional folkloric dances of their ancestors giving thanks for planting and harvesting and the lore of the monkey's. Always very entertaining. Especially when everyone is invited to participate in the monkey dance. Donations were then handed out and since this was a large group there were lots to hand out. Many children received shoes this time. During all the activities several of the group made decisions to sponsor 6 children. This means these 6 children are guaranteed an education for another year. This is such a wonderful gift for these families who struggle to feed their families and can't imagine having anything left over to provide school supplies and clothing. Education makes all the difference in the lives of impoverished families. Thank you Silvia, Candace, Alan, Lorenzo and Kathy for making a difference in the lives of these children. After a long day and a couple hours rest we met for dinner at El Bistro. Then off to bed to start a new day.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Arrival of G of G Dec 2014

The next adventure begins. We are off to a great start. Got everyone picked up from Hotel Barcelo and GUA airport and back up to Panajachel safely. All along the highway to and from the city there are lots of little businesses selling locally made items to tourists and locals alike. Among the goodies now are Christmas decor which most are made of straw and twigs….wreaths, ornaments, sheep and reindeer. I think I need a couple sheep. We all got about an hour to rest then off to Sharon and Dwight's for a welcome dinner. They got their first of many rides in the back of a pickup truck. I am really looking forward in getting to know each one of these very talented volunteers. Gonna be a great week.