Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why I shouldn't blog on days like today

I'm home with Hazel again. This was her a week ago, feverish and mellow and sleeping in my arms the whole morning. 
Today she has a cold and seemed miserable this morning, so we skipped swim lessons and stayed home from "school." It's getting frustrating how often someone in this family is sick, and my youngest seems to get it the worst of us all.

My blogging has been sporadic lately. I feel jumbled. I want to write and process and update, but I can't seem to sit down and do it. I lack the ability to put fingers to keyboard and write about what I really want to, except to write about why I can't write, which isn't even original as I've done it before, here. Instead, Michael and I have been watching a lot of Netflix until much too late at night.

And so, I present:

Things I Don't Have Energy To Write About*

*In blog or email** or my go-to-when-all-else-fails journal mode of writing

**I also can't seem to get the energy to email anyone even though I feel like I'm out of touch with everyone I know and will be for the next 5 years
  • Setting into life in Guatemala
  • Balancing work and home and family
  • Feeling good about my Spanish some moments and other times feeling like I can't communicate or understand anyone
  • The (mis)adventures of being an overly impatient mom
  • Missing family and friends and community
  • The mom I was with one child versus two
  • Christmas? It's almost December already? and my lack of feeling festive during what's normally my absolutely favorite time of year
  • I promise there really are things I'm thankful for
  • Why I Shouldn't Write a Blog Post When I'm Feeling Blah (Check.)

Since I don't have a lot of people to talk to about these, theoretically I could blog about them, hang my words out there for whomever to read, mostly, so I can process verbally my life. Instead, I just wrote a nice and neat list. Progress.

And now it's time for random pictures of my girls because I do realize it is Thanksgiving in America even if today feels like any average day here in Guatemala City, and I am very thankful for these silly, life-giving, precious girls:
Our very own Doc McStuffins
These moments
My shoes
Also my shoes
When this girl is hungry, nothing is going to stop her, not even a banana peel.
Thankfulness in the midst of feeling blah.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"The Most Beautiful Lake in the World"

When my mom was here in October we wanted to visit Lake Atitlan, a few hours from Guatemala City. We have an MCC worker there working with a partner organization. We didn't visit them this trip but plan to in a few weeks. 
 Our first stop was Panajachel, a town on one side of the lake where we had heard about a local coffee roaster and cafe called Crossroads Cafe. It was totally worth it! The coffee was absolutely delicious. We bought several bags of beans. The beans are bought from local farmers and the family roasts them and sells them. We're happy we found a great place to buy local coffee. Now we just need excuses to come to this part of the lake to buy beans. 
The family let us peak behind closed doors and see their coffee roasting area.
Yes, we're from the Pacific Northwest. 
Yes, we're coffee nerds.
 In Santiago Atitlan we had to visit the local church, said to be the oldest in Guatemala, built in the 1500s. There is a monument for people who died in the civil war, as well as a memorial for an American priest named Stanley Rother who was murdered in 1981. 
 Each cross lists a name of someone who died. 
 Santiago Atitlan is known for its beautiful handcrafts and bright colors. Besides walking, the best mode of transportation is the "tuk-tuk."
 Each region in Guatemala has specific designs or colors specific to that area. In this area, intricate embroidered birds are a big part of the culture and identity, as well as bright purples. Many women wear these as part of their traditional dress.
 Everywhere we go we get lots of looks and gawks. Most people ask if our girls are twins.
 People aren't used to seeing double strollers. 
Also, these girls are pretty cute.
 Shopping and bartering.
 The beautiful Lake Atitlan, on our hotel property.

Quick facts about Lake Atitlan:
  • The deepest lake in Central America, at 1,120 feet (340 meters).
  • It's surrounded by three volcanoes. 
  • It's an endoheric lake, meaning it doesn't flow into the sea.
  • Some famous travel writer named Aldous Huxley called it the "most beautiful lake in the world."
  • The lake is surrounded by villages of indigenous Mayans.
  • Hurricane Stan in 2005 caused many mudslides and damage around the lake, killing 1,400 and leaving 5,000 homeless.
  • Because of damage from Hurricane Stan, most of the nearby villages' sewage now dumps into the lake.

 Waiting for our boat ride to go across the lake.
 We didn't go in these boats.
 Our captain.
 Arriving to explore another town on the lake. The water has risen more than ten feet in the last several years and many houses or restaurants on the edge of the lake are now partially submerged. 
 Tourist photo op.
 We went to the market and found these grapes from Visalia, California, not too far from where we lived in Fresno. The vendor wasn't nearly as excited about this as we were.
 Market day goods.

There are bushes of coffee beans all along the side of the road. 

 We took a tuk-tuk up the mountain to get another tourist view. 

What a beautiful place. We feel pretty lucky that visiting here regularly is part of our job. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nebaj, Guatemala (Western Highlands)

About a month ago we traveled to the western highlands of Guatemala to visit one of our partners where we have a couple working with women and youth from one of the local indigenous groups.
It's fun to stop at many of the stands on the side of the road selling things.

 It was a good time to buy local apples...
 ...and try new fruit.
 We took our van with a bunch of youth (youth are usually defined as younger than 30 and unmarried) to one of the sites where our workers lead workshops and youth events.
 It's always a guess to see how many people can cram into a micro-bus.
 The event started with a warm-up game where groups tried to steal the "flag" hanging from a member of another group.
 Watching from the sidelines. These two are only a few weeks apart.
 The children love to pick up Hazel everywhere we go.
She's not the biggest fan. 
 While the youth were meeting, Ellie wanted to play outside with the young kids who were on a recess from the school nearby. Ellie wanted to play soccer with them but every time she came out they immediately stopped and refused to play. 
Instead, they just stared. 
The large group of kids were surrounding us so much that we were feeling trampled. It was a bit frustrating so I taught them some games. The first one was, "run all the way over to that tree, run around it, and come back." 
(Kids running back from the tree, pictured above)

Hazel seemed to be fine with all her "shadows" following her everywhere, as long as they didn't pick her up.
Ellie, on the other hand, was a bit more overwhelmed. Finally, she figured out a strategy: pretend to be asleep on the ground. This group of girls thought this was funny and would try to pick her up and move her around. Ellie went with it and just stayed limp, smirking in her "sleep."
An impromptu game of soccer after the youth activity.
These kids were all fascinated by Hazel, although she had just stood up and moved right before this picture was taken, so it looks like these kids were interested in me. But it was all Hazel.
And then, the walk back to the van.

One thing I didn't mention was what happened during the youth workshop. I was in and out a bit since I was keeping the girls occupied, but part of the discussion I heard began with the group brainstorming toys they played with as a kid. Eventually it turned into a discussion about why many of the women were raised that it was not appropriate for them to play soccer, which continued into a discussion about gender equality issues. It was a great activity to give the women space to voice their opinions, and for the men to think about their role in reinforcing gender inequality. In these indigenous communities women often have no rights, have very low self-esteem, and the male-dominated culture reinforces these.