Sunday, September 28, 2008

A day at the orphanage

My friend Cristen is a nurse from Illinois. She invited my housemate and I to visit the orphanage, Casa de Shalom, where she will work full-time when she graduates from Christian Spanish Academy. I was so excited yesterday morning to go meet the children. I hadn't been to an orphanage since my first mission trip in 1996.

We took a taxi to a little town 15 minutes away. Cristen showed us the different buildings on the probably 20 acre lot on the side of a mountain - clinic, offices, director's house, cafeteria, recreation room, and children's homes.
Casa de Shalom was started by American missionaries from the Church of God in the 1980's. It is home to 56 boys and girls ranging in ages from 2 to 18. Students attend school on property during the week.

We walked up the hill and entered The Baby Home. When we walked in, it was dark and silent. Then, all of a sudden, ten little children wearing footed flannel pajamas burst through the bedroom door and jumped into our arms. That is a moment I will never forget. They were smiling from ear to ear. As soon as I put down one, another reached up to be held. We hugged and talked for a while. Evelyn loved my sunglasses while the others wanted my hat.

One little boy stuck out immediately. I called him Monkey because he climbed on everything. I was his tree and swing for most of the day.

The children got out a few of their toys and books so we read and practiced the alphabet and numbers.

Then, it was time for breakfast. The children sat quietly at the table waiting for their food. They must have been told to be silent during mealtimes because I didn't hear a peep out of them until the end. After pudding, an orange, and bread with syrup, each child got a cup of hot diluted coffee. That's normal here, but it was so strange. They looked like little adults sipping their daily cup of Starbucks coffee.

When a child finished, he said, "Muchas gracias" (thank you very much), and everyone else said to him, "Buen provecho" (I hope you enjoyed your meal and I hope it is beneficial to you).

I was amazed at the independence of the children. When 2-year-old Tony was finished, he climbed out of his high chair like a contortionist , took his plate to the sink, then pushed his high chair to the wall.

After getting the children ready for the day, we played outside to our hearts' content. I was scared that the kids were going to roll down the mountain, but apparently they are used to their play area. They played on the swingset, slid, threw rocks into a bucket of water, rode little toys, played cops and robbers with pipes and sticks as guns, and played ball. For a while, I was a prisoner in jail who was only given water from time to time. Of course, little Monkey's feet never touched the ground.

After a good lunch of chicken, rice, potatoes, and tortillas, we watched a cartoon. I think it was the movie Barnyard.

Since it was raining, we played indoors the rest of the afternoon.

I enjoyed time with and will remember each child. By the time we left at 5:30, I was completely exhausted! I don't know how the house mothers do it every day.

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to spend time with the children. It was an unforgettable day. It certainly made me even more grateful for my family. I love you and miss you!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Making Progress

I passed Grade B today! Yea! I have pages to review this weekend, and then I will start Grade C on Monday. I just have a second, but I wanted to let you know that I am alive and well. I played soccer this afternoon for the first time with fellow students and locals. We had a ton of fun. Tomorrow I am going to an orphanage in a nearby town with a missionary friend. I will have pictures on Sunday. Until then...have a GREAT weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Great Reminder of Why I Am Here

I have the neatest story for you. Last week I was just emailing at school when this woman sat down beside me. I asked her name and we began talking. I told her all about Parenting Alone. Just then her daughter Audra walked in with her 6 week old baby. I continued telling them about the services Parenting Alone will provide. They were stunned. Audra said that before having the baby, she lived in DFW. She looked high and low for a program that could guide her as a single mother. Since she did not find one, she decided to have her baby in Guatemala to be near her mom. She is moving back to Fort Worth in mid-November. Guess when Parenting Alone is opening....November 15th! Audra is so excited and looking forward to receiving guidance at the center. She is also going to visit Thrive with me. Imagine that! Meeting one of the first single parents we will help here in Central America! I can't describe how that divine appointment encouraged me to press on and learn Spanish quickly and to the best of my ability.

Hot Chocolate Surprise

I must tell you about a neat surprise I found in my drink. Before boarding the bus to head to Monterrico Beach, I ran by the coffee shop for some hot chocolate. It was no Starbucks, but it was pretty yummy. Towards the end, I came across a big hunk of chocolate. When it did not crunch right, I realized it was not the chocolately hunk I thought it was. You got it. It was a baby cockroach!!! I screamed and spit until everyone in the park was watching this crazy gringa running around in circles. Bet you wish you could see a picture of that! I have decided to drink water for the next 9 weeks.

I am starting my 4th week of language school. There are 7 levels of instruction. When I pass my test Thursday or Friday, I will move up to level 3. Yippee! I'm making progress.

This weekend I went with 7 other women to Monterrico Beach. We boarded the travel bus at 8am Saturday and then rode for about 2 hours to the edge of nowhere. When we got off the bus, we crammed onto a ferry that looked as if it had survived a hurricane or two. We talked to our new friends from Chile and Germany during our 20 minute ride. When we hopped off the ferry, we walked about half a mile through a very colorful but poor town to the beach. It was very different than the Texas coast because the sand was black due to nearby volcanoes and also there was no one in sight! We had the whole place to ourselves. It is recommended that you do not swim because of the strong undertoe, so we stayed pretty close to shore. After a lunch of shark, chicken, fish, and shrimp, and, of course, hundreds of corn tortillas, we relaxed in hammocks shaded by giant leaves. Ah, what a wonderful half hour! I briefly forgot all about those irregular past tense verbs that give me fits. We headed home rested and ready for another week of school.

If you are wondering how I am really doing, I'll fill you in. The first 2 weeks were difficult because everything was new and I missed everyone like crazy. I still miss everyone, but I am taking it a day at a time, enjoying this experience to the fullest. I have a new appreciation for everything in the states.

I pray everyone is doing well. I miss y'all!

Monday, September 15, 2008

So many people!

This is a big money-making weekend for the markets. Last night at Bible study we watched a film on the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth of Great Britain. We also sang and prayed for each other. I love Sunday nights. Afterwards, we went to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant. The Guatemalans will tell you that is VERY different from their food. There are SO many people in the city this weekend. Some streets have become parking lots. For 2 days straight people have been running around the city carrying torches and blowing whistles. The marching bands have been playing for days. The sound of drums is our background noise in the coffee shop.

Have a wonderful week. Look for more next weekend.

Independence Day Celebration

The teachers brought typical Guatemalan food to school on Friday for our party. It was so delicious! The tostadas were my favorite.

Field Trip to Macadamia Nut Farm

Antigua used to be the capital of Central America

Starting Week 3

I finished my 2nd week of school here in Antigua. I feel like I am learning a lot, but don't ask me too many questions in Spanish yet. :) Today is Guatemala's Independence Day, so we do not have school. I'm at Higher Grounds Coffee Shop emailing and doing homework. Here are some pictures to enjoy....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Home by Thanksgiving!

Hello, my friends and family.

Good news! I am coming home by Thanksgiving! That still gives me plenty of time to learn and practice Spanish. If I stayed longer than 90 days I would have to get a visa, which requires some travel. I do not think it is a wise decision to stay that long. far as support goes, I have reached the amount that I will need exactly!! Thank you so much for supporting me with your prayers and finances. I really appreciate it.

My classes are going well. I am feeling much more comfortable here. There are so many things to experience. September 15th is Guatemala's Independence Day, so the teachers are bringing typical food for all the students to try. I'm looking forward to that.

Enjoy the pictures!



Pictures of my church

Pictures of Antigua

Pictures of Central Park

Pictures of the market

Pictures of my house