Friday, October 8, 2010

a few photos of the fam

Tomorrow we leave Antigua to return to Minnesota. It's hard to believe it's that time already. Before we head on out, I wanted to write one last post from Guatemala about our host family.

We have been blessed here in Guatemala with an absolutely wonderful host family. Dad Hugo, mom Lourdes and sisters Daniela (10) and Ilse (7). We've spent a many night at the dinner table getting the girls in trouble by chatting with them -- and Tom endlessly teasing Ilse whose personality so resembles sister Sarah's -- when they should have been eating.

Tom instantaneously became a favorite of the girls and has been dubbed "pura tortilla" by Ilse for his white skin and his size. :) Such a kid at heart, Tom has been playing "escondido" (hide and seek) daily for the past few weeks. Where a man of his size is able to hide in our house I have no idea. Ilse has been hiding in the dryer for the past six rounds. And Tom pretends he has no idea where she is every time.

Our mom Lourdes is a fantastic cook and has so graciously put up with my vegetarianism for the past five weeks. And dad Hugo is one of the most sincere people I have met. He loves to learn and will chat about anything for hours and hours. It's been wonderful practice for both Tom and I.

We will miss them greatly and are already making plans to return for Daniela's quinceañera.

Our little sisters Daniela and Ilse.

Ilse, Daniela, mom Lourdes and I in the park.

Piggy back.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

volunteering in Guate

For the past three weeks Tommy and I have been volunteering with a wonderful organization here in Antigua called Nuestros Ahijados. It's "God's Child" in English. Our motive was three-fold -- practice Spanish, learn more about life in Guatemala and give back to the community we've called home from the past five weeks. I'm confident we accomplished all three.

Nuestro Ahijados' mission is to eliminate poverty through education. They have a number of services or focus areas including a homeless shelter, malnourished infant center, home construction, human trafficking and two schools. They do amazing work. Tommy and I volunteered at one of their schools, Centro Scheel, in the slums of Jocotenango (a city just outside of Antigua).

It was an incredibly eye-opening experience. Students in this elementary and middle school range from ages 6 - 28. Most have not been attending school regularly for various reasons and it wasn't uncommon to find a range of 5-7 years of age in one grade. The school is an affordable and, more importantly, safe option for the kids -- with two meals a day, a uniform, school supplies, a family social worker and more.

We were teachers assistants -- Tommy in a 1st grade classroom and I in 2nd grade one. It's been a loooong time since I've been in a classroom -- years, language and culture do not change a thing. With the school year ending on Oct. 15 the kids were expectantly rambunctious and rowdy -- excited for summer break.

We did our best to help teach -- in Spanish and in English -- reading, writing and 'rithmatic. I really should have stopped at writing -- I'm not so great with the math anymore. It didn't help that the students were studying measurements in the metric system -- a decimeter, what is that?! Inches I know.

It's amazing how trusting and loving children can be -- and how little time it takes from them to show it to you. It was hard to say goodbye to the kids today, despite the few short weeks we had with them.

Vista Hermosa neighborhood of Jocotenango where most of our students live.
Centro Scheel, which is named for the Scheel family that funds the school (and also owns a chain of sporting good stores in the Midwest.)
Some of my favorite students.
Tommy and his 1st grade class.
Not the greatest photo but so representative of my class. Can't sit still, can't keep hands to ourselves, and never stop talking, laughing and smiling. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

chiles rellenos à la Tom

Chef Tom wooed the ladies of the house yesterday with his cooking abilities. Tommy, who at the age of 11 wanted nothing more to than to be a chef when he was older, jumped at chance the to help our host mom cook chiles rellenos for lunch. Our house mom is a wonderful cook and her chiles rellenos are a house favorite. I announced my dislike of cooking and took photos instead.

Mixing the batter in which the stuffed peppers are dipped -- eggs yolks, salt and flour.

Digging out the insides of the peppers.
Stuffing the peppers with meat and such.
Stuffed peppers waiting to be dipped.

Peppers frying.
The final product.
Tommy will be cooking chiles rellenos for everyone back in the States -- we'll see how well he was paying attention...and understanding his directions in Spanish!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Huracán Mateo

It was one wet weekend in Antigua this past weekend as Huracán Mateo -- Hurricane Matthew -- blew through. Or rather sprinkled-with-an-occasional-downpour through. With Mateo in town, our plans to head out-of-town to Lago Atitlán (a lake surrounded by volcanoes just west of Antigua) changed. Guatemala and rain and mountains equals mudslides and shut down roads. Instead, we entertained ourselves well in Antigua up until Sunday afternoon when we ran out of things to say to each other.

We visited the open-air market on Saturday morning.

We wandered the city in the rain.

We checked out an old convent -- Las Capuchinas -- built by Spanish nuns in the 1700s and later destroyed in an earthquake. I'm standing in one of their bedrooms or "cells."
Las Capuchinas was incredible -- I'll post on this later.
I went to Sunday morning mass at Iglesia La Merced. I was excited to understand nearly all of the father's homily (in Spanish). It's important to balance materialism and spirituality. And I'm positive I heard more of the homily than the lady next to me filing her nails.

We spent Sunday afternoon studying in a cafe. And this is where when we ran out of things to talk about. Tommy's just about had it with my camera at this point.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Guatemala is one of the few countries in the world to harvest jade. I've never paid much attention to the precious stone before here -- where it's sold on practically every street corner. It didn't take long for me to decide I needed something jade.

We visited a jade factory of our host dad's friend, Julio. It's a small operation out of his mom's garage. Here comes my highly detailed and I'm sure quite accurate description of how jade is made. It absolutely fascinated me so I feel the need to share.

Julio's shop.

Julio mines most of his jade in the mountains of the Zacapa region of Guatemala. It comes to him looking like this. A pile of rocks, nothing too pretty. We actually watched Julio's mom's dog relieve himself on the pile, apparently mistaking it for nothing too valuable. Umm, is that how the rare yellow stones get their color?!

A pile of jade.

Using this machine, he cuts of slices of the rock. Then using a few other machines he cuts the slices into specific shapes, then carves and shapes it further with other big machines.

The chain saw thing-a-ma-gig.

He then shines the piece until the true color comes through. Jade comes in all sorts of colors from green to lilac to black to yellow to translucent to red.

Unshined on left, shined on right.

This piece was amazing. A medium green when holding it in your hand -- translucent in the light. Guatemala is famous for its green shades of green.

After hours and hours of trying on all of Julio's jewelry (and asking Tommy which one made my face look fatter) I made my purchase. I fell in love with this gray and lilac stone -- and the organic shape of it. And salesman Julio said it matched my eyes perfectly. Doesn't take much to talk me into anything, really.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

La Antigua bonita

A few of my favorite shots of Antigua so far.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hiking Volcan Pacaya

With my fear of dying in a volcanic eruption -- my body preserved in ash seated at the kitchen table with a loaf of bread and bowl of eggs like in Pompeii -- tucked away I climbed to the (almost) top of an active volcano! I've never felt so proud of myself.

Tom and I almost at the top of Volcan Pacaya. Since it erupted last at the end of May it was too dangerous to climb to the top.

Tom and I hiking up to the top -- Volcan de Fuego and Volcan de Acatenango in the background. It was an incredibly beautiful (and incredibly hard!) hike.

Hiking the last leg to the top -- notice the steam rising from the lava.
Tommy found his happy place. We almost left him there.