Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One year Guatemala

Sis and Mel peeking through the windows at our luxurious hotel!

beautiful garden of Casa Madeline outside our room

Our Lady of Sacred Heart (my school it was a sign!) at Casa Madeline

Fernando's Cafe

Our first lodging, my room was so filthy I stayed with Sis and Mel and we slept in one twin (sis and I)

Did they wash our dished with those towels? We gotta find a new place to stay!

Mary and her teacher, Lucie

Mel and her teacher, Carmen

Women everywhere carried things this way, imagine the headache, some looked soooo heavy!

Authentic Guatemaltecas

IHS - decor was everywhere one Sunday, first communion day for many children

Mary in La Merced Church

Cristo Rey at La Merced

Jesus in the tomb at La Merced

La Merced Church

school children

We bought such great cheap things here at the mercado including my fave - a handmade nativity set with Mary and all in Guatemalan clothing

My teacher, Rosamaria, and I

Sis and I hiked this mountain!

Mary and Mel with Fernando at his cafe

slum housing

terrace farming

Sis and kids who don't go to school to be able to make .50/day selling hiking sticks which very few people bought in our tour group :(

Sis and I halfway to the top!

Great idea sis, this is quite a haul!

more children quitting school to make $ hauling tourists up the volcano by horse.

typical street parade, religious procession

hand building the cobblestone streets

Me making tamales, too bad it wasn't learn frijoles cooking day!!!

Kafka's bar and Victor, our favorite spot to have a cold beer after all that work!

Last year I spent most of July in Antigua, Guatemala. I would not change that experience for anything in the world! I learned so much, grew up alot (even at my age!), and was able to experience a rich, vibrant, loving, and religious culture that will stay a part of me forever.

I practically begged the principal of my school to give me my current job. DH had proposed in March and I immediately got my teacher liscense reinstated now that I could affort it. I desperately wanted a job at our local Catholic school where my neice and nephew attended, but there was a problem. The only thing available was librarian and a new Spanish teacher position. I studied French in high school and college, and still studied it from time to time and could hold a decent conversation. I knew (and persuadingly convinced) the principal that I could learn Spanish in 3 months and she would not be sorry she hired me.

So....I took Spanish 1 and 2 that summer, 3 in the fall while working, and 4 in the spring. I still needed to learn more to pass the high school teacher's praxis test (they don't have an elementary program, you have to pass the high school test to be certified in elementary). My dear priest suggested a trip to Antigua for a few weeks as he did years before to be more fluent. He gave me all the contact info, and I begged my sis and good friend to come with me. They were on the fence for a month and finally the day before I left, they booked a flight!

My sis and friend arrived 10 hours before me and by the time my flight arrived, it was 10 pm and we were exhausted and ready for our hotel. We booked an awesome, beautiful hotel, Casa Madeline, which was a mistake because we had to stay with a family next and we were spoiled by that luxury up front. We ended up leaving the house family we had originally been set up with because of the filthy conditions, parrots in the kitchen floor, shadiness walking back to the house at night, etc. It was a long first couple of days, but then we found a GODSEND in Fernando who owns a coffee shop behind the school with the VERY BEST COFFEE IN THE WORLD...You can even buy it online!! ( Our priest told us about Fernando, and to find him if we need anything - his English is impeccable as his wife is American! He led us to a clean, smelling of clorox room and we were saved! $24/day with a terrace upstairs to enjoy views of the volcanos, blue skies, and town of Antigua.

We went to class everyday from 8-12, lunch break, then class again 1-5. The school, Probigua, is pretty much non profit. Rigoberto, who started the school years ago, was a seminarian who was so saddened by the lack of teaching materials and how many children didn't attend school, that he left the seminary and started Probigua. They concentrate on opening libraries and classrooms, and providing chilren with books and computer centers (donated by Bill Gates). Many children had never seen a book before Rigoberto started his travelling bus bookmobile.

Food became an obsession. Black beans, black beans, and more black beans. I could eat nothing but them for the rest of my life if only I could prepare them the way they did. Runny beans with eggs, thick soupy beans, or my favorite frijoles coleadas - spreadable black beans. OMG I need some right now on some warm toast...... UGH! I tried to make some a month or so ago and they were good, but not as great as they were there. My last day there at Fernando's, I had a crepe with coleados, pico, eggs, avocado, cheese, and I swear, I will NEVER taste anything that good in my life! We were so exhaused of Spanish at the end of the day, but invigorated as well. My sis knew some Spanish but needed more for her job downtown nursing in Memphis. Our friend just wanted a vacay and to get outta the country, and of course I needed it to keep my job!

They left after a week before me, and I cried buckets while Fernando comforted me as the bus drove away carrying them to the airport. I am dramatic sometimes, but I really was sad and scared. I was now alone in a foreign country for a week. I went to mass daily, class, got on facebook to chat to sis and Mel, grabbed dinner, and called DH from an internet cafe everynight. The guys working the cafe always felt so sorry for me b/c I cried every time I talked to him. I was so homesick and lonely, but I did what I had to do to keep my job I love so much.

I could write for hours about our trip, we will never forget it and I want to go back all the time, sis said she could live there! I forged a relationship with my teacher that will go on forever, we email weekly and send photos, sometimes we Skype, though alot is lost in translation with the connection :) At first I wanted to change teachers because I thought she was rude and I was paying alot to learn! The 2nd day I started telling her how I had just had my first m/c at 10 weeks and 3 lb fibroids removed which they think caused the loss. She started crying and slowly began telling me that she was pregnant but her doctors did not expect the baby to make it and she would probably miscarry. This is what bonded us to the core. Sadly, she had left her husband (55 years old, she was only 35!) because he denied her children. He never wanted any with her and she battled it since they married when she was 17. She had a horribly poor life and left home at 16, married at 17, went to school to become a teacher all the way pining for a child. She finally left him and couldn't divorce due to high cost, and took up with a friend of his with whom she became pregnant. I am not saying what she did is right AT ALL, I just know that pining pain, and her intense desire which certainly made it easier to take up with this man and become pregnant. She miscarried the week after I came home, had 2 d/c, and developed asherman's syndrome so intense she can never have children now. I think of her all the time, and send her support and gifts from time to time.

My sis talked me into hiking Volcan Pacaya with her which took all day long. I had just had a serious surgery and was hiking for hours? What a trouper, right? It was an unbelievable experience though, and very difficult and extremely grueling. We climbed to the top and my legs were shaking like crazy, you could feel the earth move under your feet and steam escaping. About a month ago after the horrible sink hole and mudslides in Guatemala, this dang thing errupted!!!! I could've killed sis when I saw that on the news!!

In August I took the 2 hour long Praxis test (75% oral, 25% written) and sweated bullets for a month waiting for the results. I was totally sure I had failed, beyond a shadow of a doubt and was very upset. I don't know if the person grading my test was drunk or my guardian angel moved his hand over the wrong questions, but by the grace of God I passed, and am now certified to teach pre k - 12 grade! Es un milagro!

The videos are of a rooster that started crowing daily around 3!, riding in the Guatemala cab called a tuk-tuk, and the volcano hike.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mother Teresa's relics coming to Memphis!!!!

The Missionaries of Charity camp is Monday through Thursday, and after a full week of 100 + degrees with heat index of 110 or more, I am offically exhausted and welcomed the break today. The house has no air conditioning and the field trips are in a non a/c school bus which makes for some very hot bodies, especially when the girls wanna lie across your body on the seat to take a nap on the way back to the Sister's house to have lunch. Sadly as much as these children want you to hold them, sit in your lap, hug you, and you likewise to them, we have to be careful in our contact with them due to recent abuses in the Catholic Church. It totally sickens me that our world and our faith has to be burdened with this. We had to read a form and some had to watch a video (I had already watched before my job at our Catholic School). One of the volunteers told us how the Sisters had gone to various homes in the surrounding area to invite the children to the camp. One family was immediately against the invitation and said, "Are you Catholic?" The Sisters replied, and the door was slammed in their precious and holy faces.

I came home Tuesday after the field trip and immediately took a nap, didn't even change clothes. When I awoke 2 hours later (!) my tee and sports bra were still wet, this heat is stinkin oppressive, I tell ya. We are supposed to be getting a cool front coming through this weekend (just in time for DH's bday bbq Saturday night!) and I welcome the thought of it. This heat is literally unbearable.

Today Sew and I went to her parish for daily mass at noon where there was blessing of Our Lady of Mount Carmel scapulars and distribution of them. I LOVE LOVE her church!! Her priest during prayers of the faithful prayed a petition for all husbands and wives in their marriages, and for all women who are having a difficult time having a baby or becoming pregnant. I immediately got teary, and Sew asked if I was okay. She said he has never included that prayer before at his masses, what a divine intervention from Our Lady of Mount Carmel??!!!We went to lunch and she ordered an appetizer that would've filled up an infant so we left in search of more for her crazy pregnant self. I bout killed us crossing lanes to get to Chik fil a, we get in line, and she changes her mind and wanted Starbucks! Crazy pregnancy cravings, I told her I felt like the husband in Lady in the Tramp when he gets sent our for all kinds of wierd concoctions!

So....exciting news!! Blessed Mother Teresa's relics will be here next Thursday and Friday at 3 different parishes for 3 different masses in various parts of the city. My former beloved pastor is lucky to be at one of the parishes that is fortunate enough to obtain these relics for a short period of time. There will be bone fragments, hair, and her sandals. I told Sew I am going to rub those sandals raw and she said she is going to rub her adrenals all over them! Seriously though, this is such an awesome opportunity, and I can't wait to go to the mass and be a part of this celebration. It is even more special that my dear friend and priest will be a part of it at his new church as well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mississionaries of Charity Summer Camp

After one of my last meetings with our beloved (and transferred now) priest, I received some very important advice. It was after my confession and counseling on how to deal with my anger, disappointment, and depression after the 3rd m/c. He is the most wonderful priest on the planet: completely selfless, humble, devout, I can't say enough wonderful things about him, and he gives the best advice and counsel in all things. He told me to be very careful of "navel gazing", or being so wrapped up and consumed in your own problems that you constantly are gazing to yourself instead of others. By spending time with others and helping others with 'their' problems, you start to worry about your own less, and in the process feel better mentally and emotionally by helping others as well. He encouraged me to find a charity or positive organization to focus some attention on to help curb my navel gazing.

At first I thought about Birthright, which is an organization aimed to help pregnant women find resources, help, counsel, and dissuade them from abortion. I thought to myself now THIS would definitely be selfless of my with my problems, but also would continue my navel gazing. So I decided to volunteer at the North Memphis Mississionaries of Charity. They have a summer camp for the poorest of the poor in which they have Bible class, movies and arts and crafts, singing, sports, singing, and field trips 2 x a week. I went to the volunteer meeting a few weeks ago and had decided to only help once or twice a week. I thought I may be pregnant and would be feeling sickly so I assumed I wouldn't be able to help much. I also thought it would be stressful and I am trying my darndest to relax and enjoy my summer break. Well after my first day, I knew I would want to come back more and more and more.

The sisters have mass at 7 before the campers arrive at 745 for breakfast. I cannot describe to you how much that mass touches my heart. I literally cried throughout the entire thing off and on, party "navel gazing" and partly at their sheer lack of desire of all things I desire materialistically and their intense love of the Lord. I can't wait to go back to mass next Monday and feel that supreme inner peace again, it is like a drug, I tell you! Mass consisted of two of the sisters (there are only 4 of them and 2 were outta town) 2 visiting Notre Dame students, and one mother and her two children who are staying at the sister's homeless women's shelter. It was in their chapel with no air conditioning and no kneelers or chairs. We enter in total silence and remove our shoes. It is simplistic but totally beautiful.

My class is "Little Flower" which consists of girls ages 5-7. There is a hispanic girl who I am so partial to :) 4 african american girls, and 2 caucasian girls. We start the day with breakfast for the children (many of whom haven't had nourishing food in awhile) then song practice - the kids totally love Fr. Abraham had many sons - then we have Bible lessons with the sisters, video of a saint, arts and crafts, sports, then distribute their lunches and they leave, most of them walking home in extreme heat. Speaking of extreme heat, the sister's house has no a/c, and Memphis is one of the most hot and humid places in the south. I start to complain and then look at the precious sisters in mile and mile of sari cloth with sweat beading at the lip and brow and immediately again quit navel gazing.

Yesterday we took a field trip after breakfast to a community center pool in a "not so safe" area, but I felt not one bit of fear with the children and the sisters. We loaded up in a old hot bus and sang songs the whole way there. None of these children are Catholic, so we help them with the sign of the cross and they repeat the prayers and try to sing along with us. Most of the older children know the songs after years of coming, but the little ones are still learning :) The pool was indoor luckily! but still steamy and my eyes were burning from the insane amount of chlorine. The kids had an awesome time, but the best memory I have is one of the sisters holding a small boy crying in the kiddie pool and she was sopping wet while she consoled him. Such a beautiful sight.

I want to share a beautiful prayer we volunteers pray together every morning before the camp begins:

Dear Lord, the great healer, I kneel before You since every perfect gift must come from you. I pray, give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift up a part of the burden of my suffering fellow men and a true realization of the priviledge that is mine. Take from my heart all guile and worldliness that with the simple faith of a child, I may rely of You. Amen SING: Be with us Mary along the way. Guide every step we take. Lead us to Jesus, your loving Son. Come with us Mary, come!

I can't wait to get back to the camp on Monday :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Family Vacation / Cycle update

Every year my whole family goes to the beach and stays in one house for a week. We have such an awesome time and look forward to it every year. Well, this year we rearranged our plans due to the oil spill. We rented a house in Norfork, Arkansas on the White River where we fished, cooked, swam (cold!), boated, tubed, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Since we didn't have a beach, we acted like the river bank was a beach. Bless the kids hearts, they defintely know how to make the most of all situations. The water was FREEZING COLD, but that didn't stop us from swimming off the bank in the back yard of the house - after a minute of two, your legs get numb and you can't feel anything!

The house had 5 rooms and was very very modern. No door, curtains, window treatments, nada. The main room where my parents slept had a gorgeous tub overlooking the river and after a bath, you had to jump out quickly and make sure no fishers were on the river - it was nuts. The pictures on the internet didn't do it justice. It was VERY nice, but not our style. I applaud my little sis who found it after searching for days for somewhere on short notice after the oil spill flubbed up our plans. My sis, her husband, DH and I had to share the bottom floor room with bunk beds since we are the only ones without children (yet again another tragedy with IF!)My SIL thought I would be needing to have our own room due to timing of my cycle and offered the apartment room with it's own bathroom, den, kitchen, etc for us. Bless her heart she was gonna crowd her 3 kids and DH in the bunks?? LOL, luckily that time has passed days before we left.

We all take turns cooking each night so we never go out to eat, that would be a feat in itself with 6 children under 11, 12 adults, etc. There was a movie theater that we all LOVED!!! especially my little niece GiGi, she was found there one day by herself, it was hilarious! And there was water, fishing, and good times to be had by all. DH had to leave on Tuesday and I got upset, I hate that because of his job, he never gets to spend the whole week on vacation. If we ever do have children, we will have to plan our vacays in the winter or early spring so he can stay the whole time.

In cycle news.... I started last Wednesday and was devastated. Per Sew, TCIE, and Ann, I started progesterone suppositories 3 days after ovulation. I have never used ovulation kits before and although I never got a dark as or darker than result, day 12 was ALMOST as dark and then they got lighter, so I am thinking I may have ovulated day 13 or 14. I have been doing acupuncture, teas, fertility yoga, eating more organically, ovulation testing, temperature charting, etc. and I am not pregnant. I was so upset, I can't imagine how upset some of you have been in the past month after month. But.for.some.reason. I really have a bad feeling this time around it is not going to be so easy like before. We'll see :(

My sister, oldest neice, and me in the freezing cold river! A balmy 45 degrees!

"the beach" LOL Can't we make the most of any situation?

GiGi in the theater by herself - my sister couldn't even get her attention for several minutes, she was in a trance!

the nephews fishing for trout

I braided all the little girls hair, how precious?!