Saturday, October 26, 2013

Birthdays and Dancing Cats and Mice

My oldest turned three this week.
Happy Birthday Ellie Grace!
It was a quick three years ago we were meeting our long-awaited baby girl for the first time. 
I'm so thankful for my sweet daughter who we waited for for so long. She challenges me and surprises me every day. Everyone has always said how much she looks like me, from the moment she was born. Not only are her physical characteristics a mini-mi at times, there are so many things that she seems to get from me too (for better or for worse).
She's stubborn and strong-willed. She feels her emotions strongly, something that has always been true about me. She's decisive and smart and a very quick-learner. She's creative and loving and sweet.
 There's nothing like giving your child a bike for her birthday to make you feel old and to realize how fast time flies with children.
 It was fun to have my mom and her husband here for Ellie's birthday. They got to experience a birthday party at the girls' school: Dora pinata, pizza, cupcakes, and chaos.
 Before her party the kids at school had one last rehearsal for their year-end closing program. It was fun to watch Ellie dance and participate. For the previous few performances at school, she's had some stage fright in front of all the parents and we haven't seen her participate much. 
(For a video of this rehearsal, click HERE).
During the performance, our little mouse cowgirl did great! She was supposed to be dancing with all the boys but they all just stood there. 
She tried her best to get them to dance. We were so proud of her for participating and not crying!
And then there were these three little cats from the nursery. 
She usually cries to the point of immobility when she gets on stage and sees me but this time was able to stay on stage for the whole song (I gave in and let her have her pacifier for the sanity of us all).
She even applauded at the end.
Ellie's best friend at school.
 My little mouse cowgirl and gatito (little cat).

Ellie officially "graduated" from her class and will move up to the next age bracket when school begins again in January. Hazel graduated from the "cuna" (literally, crib, but used here as nursery).
In 6 months here in Guatemala they both have changed so much already. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dia Del Nino

The first day of October is National Kids Day in Guatemala, and the month celebrates children. There are parties and treats and toys and sweets.

We were traveling on October 1st so the girls missed out on the festivities at their school. Fortunately, our church had a celebration the following Sunday so we were able to experience a bit of the partying.
My girls waiting for church to start.
During the service Michael found himself playing with the kids in the back of the sanctuary to keep them quiet. 
The kids were excused from the service and went to a special story time that the youth had planned.

Super Proud Mama Moment: The storyteller was asking the kids to think of things of each color that God has made.  During "white" the kids shared things like clouds and snow, all in Spanish, of course. Suddenly, Ellie raised her hand and proudly contributed: "leche!" (milk!) Everyone started clapping, I think partly because the little gringa girl obviously understood enough of the conversation to participate. It amazes me how she is understanding more Spanish every day.
They drew on walls.
They practiced singing and playing instruments and performed in front of the congregation at the end of the service.
After the service, the real party started.
No fiesta would be complete without a pinata. 
Better yet, two pinatas. 
The spoils of pinata #2.
Of course, there had to be life-size Pinocchio and Friends, which my girls were NOT exited about.
Pizza for the kids and chocolate fondue.
The girls each received a bag of little toys and a big bouncy ball.

Feliz Dia Del Nino!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Coming up

We're leaving this morning for Nebaj, a community up in the Guatemalan highlands. It should take us 6-8 hours to get there in our 16-passenger van.

We're traveling with our bosses from Costa Rica, two of our MCC workers, and two youth from Nebaj. This means I am mentally preparing for Spanish for the next three days. This is all after two days of workshops with about 40 people from our partner organizations. Also all in Spanish.
A couple of our partners talking about their work near Santiago Atitlan
This has been a few of the busiest weeks we've had since we arrived in Guatemala. We've been working weekends and late nights and running ragged. We can't wait to slow down.

When we return from this trip we will have an actual Sunday at home together, and then my mom and her husband are arriving on Monday for a week's visit. We are so looking forward to some time with family and we are actually going to take a couple days off from work! Ellie is very excited to have two of her grandparents here to celebrate her third birthday.
Backpack invitations for Ellie's birthday party at school.
(The backpack from Dora the Explorer)

Hasta Luego!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Perquin, El Salvador

Perquin is a small community in the eastern part of El Salvador. During the civil war of the 80s and 90s this was a remote area with guerrilla fighting and home to an anti-war radio station. Today there is a Museum of the Revolution in town as well as a lot of art. There are large, bright, colorful murals painted all throughout the town. (I found some information and history about the murals here and here).

Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, we stayed in a beautiful hotel with cabins, a hotel, and a restaurant with delicious, homemade food.
The restaurant 
We had heard that an ex-MCCer owned the hotel but didn't know much more. 
When we arrived to the hotel a book was being advertised for sale written by the owner. We had a chance to interact with him some, and we also bought his book to add to our library (see his website here).

He was a mennonite from Delaware who came to Honduras on the border of El Salvador in the early 80s with MCC to work with refugees fleeing the war in ES. Throughout the course of the next several years he lived and worked in El Salvador (with other NGOs) and spent a lot of time in conflict zones. His book tells his experiences of working and living in the midst of an intense civil war. 

Eventually, he built this hotel to employ several local people and to remain in El Salvador. The hotel and the purchase of his book supports a local school in the area that has the highest poverty rate in the country. 
The view
The hotel is beautiful, clean, comfortable, and the food was delicious. They make all of the jams and sauces. We definitely plan to stay here whenever we need to visit this area.
The purpose of our trip was to deliver our worker to her host family as well as to visit the school that we partner with (and where she will be working for the year). On the way there we ran into a parade.
We enjoyed our visit to the school. There are several amazing stories surrounding this community. This mural pictures Father Roger, a Belgian priest who arrived to El Salvador before the war and stayed and lived and worked with the people alongside the fighting. He is connected to one of our partner organizations. He too, has a book, and I've been reading that to learn more about his experiences during the war. 
 Inside the school:
 Simple instructions for using the toilet and washing hands:
 "Cuantos anos tienen?" (How old are you?) 5!
 Pre-kinder students:
We spent some time in the central plaza of this sweet community. 

We continue to enjoy visiting each of the locations throughout El Salvador and Guatemala where MCC partners and works. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Smashed Onions and an Ant Hill (Our Trip to El Salvador)

Last weekend we traveled to El Salvador to deliver one of our new staff to her placement in the far eastern mountains of the country. First, we spent a day in San Salvador, the capital.
The main thing I learned is that I'm happy we live in Guatemala City.
The traffic was crazy.
Here's the middle of a 4-way stoplight. 
 We were stuck in this traffic jam in the middle of an intersection for several minutes. 
There was lots of honking involved.

 This lady wasn't happy with how close we got to her vegetable cart so she turned around and smashed an onion on our van. Then she turned around and ignored us.
Just a typical traffic jam, I'm sure.
 One of our happy little travelers. 
 After too much time stuck in traffic we tried to make the morning worth the hassle by visiting the central plaza of the capital where the national church and the National Palace is located. 
(Sound familiar?)
 Hazel just wanted to chase the birds.
 The church. 
 Waiting to charge our cell phones and making friends. 
 When we got to Perquin, another four hours outside of the capital, we stayed at a beautiful hotel, which I'll post about next, because there's an interesting MCC story there.
 The girls really enjoyed playing on the porch and particularly enjoyed this flower grassy area (in the picture).
One morning, while I was enjoying the hammocks on the porch, the girls were playing in this little grassy area. Suddenly, I heard screaming from Ellie.

She had kneeled down in the flower bed right in the middle of an ant's nest. 
She screamed, "Ants!" "They're biting me!", although at first I thought maybe she had been stung by bees. 

I saw there were ants crawling all over her legs so I scooped her up, ran to our room and straight to the shower, simultaneously trying to wipe whatever ants I could off her body.
I quickly stripped her down and made her stand in the shower while I tried to wipe off all the ants.
I had a couple of bites on my arms and feet and I have to admit that they did not feel good. They were pretty sharp bites.
 And this poor girl was covered. Mostly, her leg and her arm, but I imagine it wasn't comfortable.
Stay tuned for more of Perquin and El Salvador.