Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 5 Panajancel Guatemala

Love these boys!

We got up early this morning to head to Panajachel/Lake Atitlan. Before leaving Lee and Karin had about 5 minutes of painting n Gabby's flower and we got to see the kiddos before the older ones left for school.

Completed Project!  Thanks Ladies!
Lake Atitlan is always listed as one of the twelve most beautiful lakes in the world. Panajachel (Pana) is the headquarters of Mayan Families and is where Maria and Edgar live (the siblings we sponsor to attend school). Pana is about 2.5 hours away from San Lucas (3 hours from Guatemala City). Edwin rented a larger van for us although Tamara was unable to go as she had too much to do at the Hogar.

And we are Off!
Karin...our co-pilot!

Front gate to El Amor de Patricia
Nothing is unusual to see in Guatemala!
Chicken bus on left

Public Clothes Washing Area

We stopped to have breakfast at Katok for an authentic Guatemalan meal. It was delicious. I especially liked the cinnamon, milky soup and the hot chocolate. While we were enjoying our meal, Lauren looked over at Edwin and said "So Ed, have you ever been to the Cracker Barrel?" :). Like I said, Lauren kept us laughing.
We decided to then take a slight detour and go to Ixcheme, Mayan Indian ruins. Shane and I've been there once before. It's a real quite, peaceful place. We saw two different ceremonies. One involved illnesses and the "priest" was hitting (not violently) a woman's back and then a man's back and saying some kind of chant/prayer. Some sort of sacrifice is typically given at these ceremonies, such as chickens or an item special to them. The other ceremony was just setting up with lots of candles. Ceremonies can also be one of celebration.

After leaving Ixcheme, we headed to Pana. The road is very curvy, as well as climbing up and descending down the mountains. Not a good road for anyone who gets carsick. I told Lee, Karin, and Lauren how beautiful the lake is but word or pictures don't do it justice. They couldn't believe their eyes! What makes the lake so beautiful to me is the volcanoes that surround it.

Guatemalan cemetary

We checked into our hotel, Jardines del Lago, located on the lake with a magnificent view of the volcanoes.  Dwight one of the founders of Mayan Families, met us to take us to Mayan Families headquarters. We met Sharon (Dwight's wife and co-founder of MF) who gave us a tour. I wish I could remember everyone's name that we met but there were so many employees and volunteers. In the courtyard area, families or students are waiting for something whether it be a food basket donated to them, gifts, medical care, etc. I honestly an speechless by this organization and all the do.....they have approximately 2500 sponsored students, preschool program, elderly feeding care, medical clinic, music room, sewing classes, orphan care, family aid, micro loan program, off-sight carpentry shop...the list goes on and was mind boggling. I was happy to met Sharon, Dwight, Elizabeth, Gloria, Laura, Jeaneth, and FB friend Cindy....and many others! I am amazed this organization, founded in 2005, stared as a result of one little baby boy needing a $4000 heart surgery that Dwight and Sharon believe was "worth" the cost. This child is now one of their sponsored students!

Elizabeth and Gloria then took us to meet Maria and Edgar. I was so very nervous! Can you love a family you have only seen in pictures, a family who you need an interpreter to communicate, a family whose life is a daily struggle to survive and mine is a life of luxury in their eyes? Absolutely...a picture says 1000 words.

Pictures are worth 1000 words!

Maria and Edgar were waiting by the road for our arrival. I was so overwhelmed with emotions. I look back now of all the things I wish I would have said and asked. Now I don' have that opportunity. They live in a one bedroom "apartment" home. their sink, bathroom and stove area is in a central location and used by the other 3 families in this home. Maria went and got her older sister and her baby for me to meet. I do believe what touched me the most was the picture of our family they framed on their head board. This was a picture Gabby sent to them in a note she wrote to Maria. Shane had made the Gabby bowls. One large fruit size bowl for Maria's mother, Maria. And a set of four nesting bowls for Maria and Edgar. I knew the family probably had very few pictures of themselves so I made an album for them and I think Maria really liked it. Before we left Maria gave me two red flowers. And right as I left she caught up with me for one more hug. I hope they know how honored I am to have them in our lives.
Left:  Edgar....he reminds me of Tucker
Right:  Mom Maria with her Onil Stove, the round
 stand with ashes is what that use to cook on.

Oh....How I wish I would have said more.....Looking forward
to seeing you again!
We got back to the hotel in time to see the sunset at the pier words or pictures can do it justice. Karin said the she used to think Watagua Lake was nice :). I was able to Skype with Shane and Tucker and promised Tucker to Skype the next morning at 6am so that he could see the volcanoes again!


We had dinner with Sharon, Dwight, their children, Zoe's boyfriend, Elizabeth, and Jeaneth at an Italian restaurant, el Bistro. It was great getting to know them more. Seeing some of the families (both the young and old) in their programs run up for a hug or to talk. Lauren once again attracted an man who appeared to be a tourist but the feeling wasn't mutual. Especially when he and his group started dancing. I was glad when they left the dance floor and two little Guatemalan Boys (approximately 2 and 4) took over.

Hearing the stories of children whose parents died of alcoholism, mothers who are prostitutes, a child who died from eating a radish, uncles who want custody of kids to work the in the fields and keep their money... And knowing this isn't a painful chapter in their life but their entire life is filled cover to cover with pain and despair. It does make you know in both your head and your heart that you are blessed.  But it does more than that.  I teaches you that YOU are responsible for doing what is right and good.  I have no idea why I was born in the US, a land with so many opportunities available and why Maria and Edgar weren't.  But I do is my honor to help them anyway I can.  Not because I have to because I want to.  My life is no longer about me....but I guess it never was or it never should have been. 

Gabby moments:
  • Picture of our family above Maria's bed.
  • Although my heart will always ache for Gabby, I do know a few things...she loved us and we love her more than anything, she was happy, and she lived a great 8 years.  Some people in Guatemala as well as all over the world will never have an 8 years like she we had.  But we can all do something to make sure they have the best life possible.  No necessarily filed with things....but filled with smiles, hugs, and hearts full of love. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 4 San Lucas Guatemala

Karin and Lee painting

Today we got up needing to get Gabby's flower painted on the wall in one of the children's bedroom before we ran out of time. This was the sweet idea of Tamara's. I feel so honored they want Gabby to be a part of El Amor de Patricia! We had traced it using a projector on Sunday. Lee and Karin did most of the work. Gabby drew this purple and pink flower a few weeks before the accident in art class. This flower along with the saying "A Smile, A Hug, and a Heart Full of Love" has become Gabby's "trademarks". 

Lauren and myself painting Gabby's flower
Slowly but surely....
Albertina playing with Iphone....wanting to skype with Tucker!

We also spent time with the kids. They have already won over our hearts. Little Albertina loves to show off her teeth. They said when she came to the Hogar her teeth were black but a generous donor paid to have them fixed. She has loved watching videos of Tucker swim, play baseball, and play on the mall jumpy. She will go through pictures on my iPhone saying "Tucker" if he is in the picture and "no Tucker" if he isn't.  I just love her so.  Tucker loved skyping with her also.  When I call him and Shane, he says, "where is the girl that keeps calling my name!"

Lauren's little helper!

Sleeping Maria Belen

Antonio with one Wonderful Nannie

Sweet Boys!

That afternoon, we arranged to purchase two bunk beds for two different families.  Often times entire families sleep in one bed (if they are lucky enough to have a bed).  Sometimes families sleep on old doors, crates, etc.  The bunk bed project is sponsored by a local church where individuals can donate the beds and  
Getting ready to deliver bunk beds!
then go and surprise the families with them.  Karin, Lauren, and Lilly along with the minister and his wife road in the back of the pick up truck while me and Lee were buckled inside the truck!  In Guatemala, everything is gated in some fashion.  There are gates that you must knock on to drive down a road containing house, there are gates when entering a restaurant, and there are gates sometimes surround individual houses.  As we drove along the country side, we had to knock at the gate to enter the road.  Our first delivery was to a mother, Rose, and her four children (3 boys and one girl).  They lived in a very small house made of cement blocks.  The mother talked about being a Christian and that she was sometimes "shunned" (not sure her exact words) because of it.  The kids seemed very excited about their beds....but especially loved the finger lights and cars Karin brought!  The older brother gave us a "thumbs up"!

Sweet boy awaiting bunk bed!

Group photo with family, Lilly and her son, and minister and his wife
Kids receiving bunk beds

Brother and his young sister

Pila (sink) and laundry
Bunk bed assembly

I think they like it!

Rose with her youngest child

The second house we went to was a couple who had 5 children.  Only 3 of the children were at home.  There house was more directly of the road but was, of course, gated.  This family's home was on the roof of another families.  Lilly, one of the orphanage founders, thanked the father for his weekly food donations to the hogar.  This family, who has so little, makes sure that a portion of their food goes to the children of El Amor de Patricia! 
Momma and baby girl

View from the roof top where their house is

Beautiful girl!

Doorway inside home
Trying out new bed

Not sure if his siblings will get those finger lights!
Yes, Shane, I did climb up and down these!

Gabby did love corn....

Love her heart!

Me with the family receiving bed

My friends on the roof beside their "front" door

This families house was on the roof of anothers

Sometimes it's easy to think about what we can teach those who are less fortunate but this trip I have learned that they can teach me more.  Talk about perseverance!  I've heard several people talk about Guatemalan families who have lost children.  They talk about how the heart ache and grief is there just like it is for me.  But one thing is different....a child's death in Guatemala is not shocking like it is here.  I know that so many have seen it happen to them, happen to their friends, that it's not a surprise....but the pain, grief, and despair for that mother and father is still there.  It made me realize how blessed I am.  Not blessed with materialistic thing.  Blessed with Shane and Tucker, without worries of physical survival or a life of fear.  Sadly, some of these families have never know (in their entire life) peace. 

Our funny moment of the day was, of course, from Lauren.  She became our comic relief on this trip!  We ate Domino's Pizza with the nannies and the ground keeper Diego.  It just so happened that no one at the table this particular evening was bilingual.  So we all got the giggles.  The nannies were giggling at something and we got tickled at them.  That is when Lauren looked up and said "I feel like you all are talking about me" and at this time the nannies, in unison, laughed and nodded "yes".....this just cause for even more giggles!

Katie drying dishes

Katie with a carrot

Play time!

Claudia brushing her her!

Who wouldn't love these kiddos!

Lauren and baby Maria
Our ride after delivering bunk beds
Family after receiving their bunk bed!



These boys grabbed my hand and wanted to ride in wagon!

Cuties....the young girl was the sweetest child ever (nannie's daughter)!

Lauren loving on David

Adorable Maria Belen
Lauren Teaching!
Sweet sweet Candy!