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.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mayan ruins in Tikal

We visited Tikal -- one of Guatemala's national parks. It's jungle and Mayan ruins. Absolutely incredible. The park has six ancient pyramids or temples. We hiked almost all of them. I don't think I've ever sweated so much or been so tired in my life (see third photo)!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dia de Independencia de Guatemala

September 15 is Independce Day in Guatemala. It´s tradition to start the celebration on it´s eve with a running of a torch -- La Antorcha. People across the country run with their tourches from one town to the next. Our school ran together from a little village atop Volcan de Auga (Volcano of Water) called Santa Maria de Jesus down to Antigua -- a jaunt of 10 kilometers. I put on my running shoes for the first time in Guatemala and did my best to look athletic. I almost made it the entire way, almost. Neither Tommy nor I fell, fainted or started our hair on fire -- a success!

My schoolmates and housemates before the run.

Tommy with the antorcha.
Me with the antorcha. (Wow, front on running photos are not attractive.)

We made it back to Antigua!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I´ve ditched the garden for a few weeks and am studying Spanish in Guatemala. I´ll be posting daily pictures of my adventures in this absolutely beautiful country.

A photo from my walk to school this morning. Volcan de Fuego (one of the three Volcans bordering the city of Antigua) was errupting. A perfect shot of what is Angtigua -- a volcano, a church, chicken buses (loud and crazy city buses) and a moto driving in between.

Monday, August 9, 2010

tu eres mi razón

You are my reason for gardening.

And you, too.

Serranos make everything better.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm in love

¡Bienvenidos al mundo sobrinito!

Charles "Charlie" Michael Roy
July 19, 2010
7lbs. 14.5 oz. and 20 in.

I'm one proud tia

Thursday, July 15, 2010

thursday fav

This find is something I found a few weeks ago. My new favorite cerveza. I originally bought it just for the stinkin' cute label. But the beer is amazingly tasty, too. I've graduated from my Mich Golden Light with a lime! I must be almost 30.

The beer is named for Stillwater and will soon be brewed there, too. It's local, it's spicy, it's for wanna-be farm girls (their Web site says so). It's perfect.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

my garden guru

I have a garden guru. His name is Uncle Duane. He lives in Dawson, Minnesota (it's waaaaay out west, a suburb of Montevideo) and, with my Aunt Betty, owns a chain of nurseries -- Heather Nursery and Floral. He's guru of growing.

He recently moved to the favorite uncle slot when I found out that he hitch-hiked his way down to Mexico City and back in the 70s. I never woulda thought we have so much in common and so much to talk about -- farming, food, Mexico, Monsanto.

That's one of my favorite parts of getting older -- sitting at the "big table" and getting to know in a whole new way the people that have always been in my life.

Meet Uncle Duane.

This is the only photo of him I could find -- he's on the right. Sarah, you look so happy to be hanging out with your uncles and dad at a bar.
Uncle Duane knows more about farming, flowers, soil, nutrients in our soil or not in our soil due to mass usage of chemicals and sustainable agriculture that anyone I know. Almost as much as Barbara Kingsolver and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." He's a huge advocate for restoring our soil and the essential nutrients that belong in it through sustainable practices.

He's conducted experiments testing nutrient levels in the soil and thus in vegetables when using a variety of agricultural techniques and products such as oxygenated water, buffalo mature and the latest -- Earth's Elements.

Earth Elements.

Earth's Elements is a biological soil amendment. It's comprised of all sorts of natural elements that put back into the soil the healthy bacteria and such that needs to be there. And what's been depleted with all of the chemicals and pesticides that we've become to view as necessary.

I can't even describe how bad it smells. Or how moldy it gets. But I've been assured it's supposed to do that. It's the healthy bacteria.

It has North Atlantic Kelp, Redmond Natural Mineral Conditioner, Diatomaceous and a lot of other things I can't pronounce or ever heard of. You side dress your plants with it twice a year. Below is dressing number one.

Gypsy peppers
I can't wait to see how much more beautiful my vegetables look than everyone else's because of Earth's Elements. Because that's it's purpose -- to help me do it better than everyone else.

Plug: If anyone wants their very own (smelly but effective) bag of Earth's Elements lemme know. I recommend it. And I've got the hook up.