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.


  1. I thought those streets looked familiar. Beautiful pictures! We traveled to Antigua when we were in Guatemala visiting our son during his adoption process. Beautiful city--and colorful! I wish I could speak Spanish fluently. I could pretty much get myself to the bano and such but that was about it.

  2. I am in complete awe! I love that you had this experience and that you touched so many lives and vice versa. Life-changing. You are amazing!

  3. First, you know how impressed I am with you about the whole job thing. I’ve told you before that it impresses me to no end. You convinced someone you could do something (not an easy task) & they wouldn’t regret hiring you and then you did it just like you said you would. Learning a 2nd language well enough to pass the high school exam in such a short period of time? That’s a feat and it isn’t lost on me (and I rarely speak English well). What a steel magnolia you are!

    Second, I loved the pictures and description of your experiences there! (That makes me so sad about the kids dropping out of school to earn a wage.) What a lifetime experience to have.

    Check your videos. I got the tuk-tuk ride and some musicians, but I couldn’t get the 3rd short video to work. It might be me.

  4. Love it! I almost fell over when you told that story on how you learned spanish! That is a calling....Who does that?! I love it!

  5. Wow, that's an amazing story of how you learned Spanish. The trip sounds so interesting. It's so sad about the kids dropping out to earn money.

  6. Love the pictures!
    I must say that I totally admire you for learning espanol in such a short time! WOW!

  7. I just want to jump into those pictures with you. AMAZING! What a true blessing in your life:) I wish I knew Spanish. For some reason I feel as if that would be impossible for me! You are awesome!

  8. Damn, Victor is fine!