Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 6 The Gabby Lewis Library in Tierra Linda Guatemala

View from our room...this isn't a picture!
All of us woke up early to Skype with our families before they left for school/work.  Tucker was excited to see the volcanoes before heading off to school.  While each and every day has been unbelievable, today felt like the climax.  I usually shy away from attention especially in front of a lot of people and knew today, more than any other, would be focused more on my family, Gabby's life, and the blessings that have come from our tragedy.  And that made me very nervous.

Lauren and Karin ready to roll!

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Mayan Families headquarters.  Edwin was going to take the van he rented and MFs was going to take their Toyota pick-up truck.  All over Guatemala you will see tons of people riding in the back of pick-up trucks.  In Pana, you have to ride standing up because it's too bumpy to sit down.  Most trucks have a bar round the top to hold onto (thankfully).  Karin and Lauren couldn't get to the truck fast enough while Lee and myself stayed safely buckled in Edwin's van.  Everyone says the truck ride is wonderful because of the views...not just of the lake and volcanoes but of the farms, houses, and people.  Cindy, a Facebook Friend who visited the library earlier that week, joined us.  It's about a 45 minute drive to Tierra Linda where the Gabby Lewis Library is located.  It is up and down on a curvy road.  The last 15 minutes is mostly large gravel.  Once you are on this road, you know you have found it when you can't go any further.  The road literally ends.  While we drove to Tierra Linda, I began to understand Sharon's comments months earlier about how there is nothing for these kids to do in Tierra Linda and just how this library will be to everyone.

We stopped at one of the hair pin turns where we could look below and see the village of Tierra Linda. At this point, Lee and myself decided to climb in the back of the truck for the remaining 5 minute ride. All that was in the village, was houses, farms, a church, schools, and the community center that houses the Gabby Lewis library. I had asked Dwight what was in Tierra Linda before MF came to help. He said that there was a school in which the students didn't all have seats or desks. Some students used an upside down bucket to sit on. When it rained (which is daily about six months a year), water poured in. He said the teacher didn't have a desk and she had 5sheets of paper to last the entire year.

Looking town on the Village of Tierra Linda
View from Truck of Volcanoes and Lake

Looking down on Tierra Linda....Community Center is the large building
So thankful for these ladies!!!!  Love you all....even during the crazy truck ride!

Overview of Tierra Linda

Edwin in the van!

When we arrived, we went into the community center where there were lots of children of all ages awaiting our arrival.  We were late but that is normal in Guatemala.  I've learned you just have to go with the flow.  I could see the sign over the library above us that said "Gabby Lewis Biblioteca". They had tables and chairs at the front for us and Mayan Families staff.  Elizabeth, a MF employee from Kentucky, served as the the interpreter and speaker.  A lot of very nice comments were made about Gabby and the importance of this little library to Tierra Linda.  They had music playing in the background.  Several speeches were made and then translated into English by Elizabeth.  And I though "oh no....they will ask met to say something!"  And sure enough my worst fear was realized...but I did it...somehow.  I think what got me through is looking at Lee who i think indicated that I can do this and then I thought "ok...not one knows what I am saying!  So I can do this!"  I just hope Elizabeth made me sound better in the translation!  Funny thing though, some of the kids are just learning Spanish and didn't understand Elizabeth either!  They speak the Mayan language of Kaqchikel!

I was presented with a framed letter of appreciation and certificate.  Sharon was presented with a embroidered weaving and later offer it to me and I graciously accepted.  Shane had made a Gabby bowl for the library and Tucker had painted a picture frame with a picture of him and Gabby.  I again stepped out of my comfort zone to present these to items to Josue, the new librarian.  I didn't get to speak with him much, unfortunately, but Sharon told me that he is a former MF student who completed his teaching degree.  She said the kids really listen to him.  He also walks 40 minutes each way every day to come to work at the library.  He also speaks both Spanish and Kaqchikel.

After the speeches, I had the privilege of helping give out 20 certificates to students who participated in a Vacation Program at the library (Guatemala's break is between October and December with the new school year beginning in January each year).  The students also received a gift from MF. 

After the awards ceremony, we had the honor of having a dance presentation and magic show.  About ten student groups performed....from breakdancing to the traditional Guatemalan marimba.  After watching these dances, the middle school threw a basket of flower petals on us followed by "I will always love you" being played.  By this point, Lauren, Karin, Lee, Sharon, and myself were in tears.

Cake was then served to everyone. By this point, I really felt like I was having an outer body experience. Was I really sitting through all this? And I haven't even made it to the library yet! I told Dwight and Sharon, I really didn't expect all this, all I wanted was to come see the library. Dwight said "well, we couldn't just open the door and say here it is".
Before we went upstairs to the library, Sharon started examining the weaving hoping the monograming was spelled correctly.  She started laughing because it read "Thank you for the chicken for the library" rather than "Thank you for the help for the library".  

Cake, letter, and heart shaped pedals

Sharon discovering the "Thanks for the Chicken!"

They had closed the library so we would have a few moments to ourselves.  I walked into what really seemed like a dream.  Books, computers, games, a loft area, decorative pillows, an adorable wooden chairs and table hand painted with bookworms, butterflies, flowers, etc.  Gabby's pictures hung on the wall along with her flower painting.  I had emailed a photo of her flower to Sharon and it appears they had every single detail correct.  Below her picture and flower painting were the words "A smile, a hug, and a heart full of love" in English, Spanish, and Kaqchikel.  This was all contained in a painted cloud on the wall to represent Gabby looking down from Heaven over them.  After taking pictures, we then distributed all the items we brought.  Elizabeth gathered a group of kids around the table to play "spot it". And then Karin, who was in the loft area, brought out the finger light....oh my...she as "attacked".  Kids were climbing on the ladder, tables, and chairs to get to one.  Some kids were being sneaky and putting it in their pocket in attempt to get another. 

One gift brought that brought a lot of attention from the teachers and other adults was the Bible in Spanish.  It brought me a lot of joy to know that they were very appreciative of the Bible.  I saw several looking through it and picking out verses. 

Lauren then gave out some toys she brought and the same thing happened to her as did Karin.  It is amazing to see how much a small toy that is often thrown away at home can bring so much joy.  Even though I was out of the really small Gabby bracelets, I gave out what I had.  Although it seemed like we were only there for a split second, it was then time to return to Pana.  When we left, kids were on the computers...computers that had Jesus as their background.

Walking into Gabby's Library

Edwin...Glad he made this journey with us!

Finger lights!
Enjoying a sucker!

Computer Time

Books, Books and....

More Books!  Thanks Everyone!

Loft area!

Playing "Spot it!"

Tucker's picture frame and Shane's Gabby Bowl
A Smile, A Hug, and a Heart Full of Love

Karin added Julie's butterflies and Love!
Karin Decorating
Riane's Picture she made for Library<3

Lauren with some donations

Josue, Our Librarian

Anxiously awaiting new items!
Gabby Bracelets!


Adios!  Until next time!

Thanks to everyone who made this possible and brought these smiles to these children!
As crazy as I know this was to do, Lee and I decided to join Karin and Lauren in the back of the pick up truck. It was an amazing ride with tremendous views. View you can't see from inside a vehicle. Also, it seemed like you were less likely to get sick in the back of the truck. It was also great to see the houses more, see what the kids were doing. We saw one boy laying on the rood of his house. Lots of kids and adult working in the fields. We discovered that the kids and adults were typically very shy. But if you waive and say "hola" they got a big smile on their faces and waived back.

When we got back to the hotel, we laid in the hammocks, looked at the lake and volcanoes trying to digest the day and week's events, trying to reconcile the beauty with the poverty that is everywhere you look. Karin and Lauren wanted to ride the zip line but unfortunately rain set in. And I was so physically and emotionally exhausted, I crashed for a nap. I had been waking up every day at 4 or 5 am thinking about what had occurred and anticipating what was to come.

That evening, Sharon and Dwight invited us over to their house for an authentic Guatemalan dinner. We rode in the back of the pick up truck to their house and played "tuk tuk" with their youngest daughter. This is kind of like playing doodle bug. Every time you see a yell "tuk tuk". We had a wonderful chicken and rice dish. Lauren and myself loved the ice cream and wished we could lick the dish :). It ended up becoming a two desert meal as Louisa's 17th birthday was that day. Sharon and Dwight bought her a cake and we sang Happy birthday in English and Spanish to her. As we were singing, Louisa became more and more emotional. This was her first birthday cake ever. Her parents had passed away and she was the oldest of 5 children. Her 9 year old sister had been taken to an orphanage and she had no idea which one. After we ate cake with Louisa, Sharon's daughter came and whispered to Sharon that Louisa (who was now in the kitchen) wouldn't stop crying. She was overcome by the birthday cake as well as the emotional turmoil she was experiencing in her life. It really was heartbreaking.

To top off the night, some of the MF students who were studying IT, put together a video of the past 2 days. A mere 4 hours after returning from the library.

Click here to view Mayan Families Video:

I can never thank Sharon and Dwight enough. They could have easily taken the contribution made in Gabby's name and used it for much needed supplies. But instead, they allowed us to use that money and be a part of all the decisions made. Allowing our friends and family to give the village of Tierra Linda a tremendous gift while honoring our sweet angel!

Gabby moments:
  • Lee spot a truck with Gabby written on when we were in front of Mayan Families' headquarters.
  • As I was feeling down on the way to Tierra Linda, I looked out the van and saw a single purple flower with a small pink center.
  • Magic show included a Butterfly trick.
  • Heart shaped flower petal throw onto us by the middle school girls.
  • The excitement over the Bible donated to the library.

Funny moments:
  • "Thank you for the chicken" on the weaving.
  • Karin "attacked over " Finger lights.
  • Edwin running into people he knew including his cousin at the hotel. Anytime he stopped Lauren would say "Edwin just saying hi to his cousin".
  • All my worry about my speech that few understood and the finding out that some didn't even understand the Spanish translation because all they spoke was Kaqchikel.