Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Caribbean Culture in Guatemala: Livingston

We traveled to Livingston with our MCC team for a relaxing team retreat. It's a town on the Caribbean Sea that we could only reach by boat, so we took a boat up the Rio Dulce to get there.
It was a beautiful 80-minute boat ride.
 On our first full day, we took a boat to visit 7 Altars, a set of secluded waterfalls that we trekked up a river to find.
 Michael and some of the staff decided to jump into the pools below.
 The girls enjoyed watching.
 Then we took the boat to "Playa Blanca" (White Beach) to relax and enjoy the sand and water.
 Hazel and Ellie loved every second of it. 
Ellie swam and swam. And swam.
And swam some more.

Our team seemed to enjoy the setting too.
 The next day we went to a local Garifuna organization to learn a bit about their food and culture. We took a cooking class to make a traditional Garifuna meal.

Quick history lesson: The Garifuna people are descended from West Africa but live primarily in Central America (Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras) with a huge population that has resettled in New York City and other major US cities. They have a distinct culture, language, and history, and are well-known for their music and dance.
 Freshly caught Red Snapper fish, ready to be filleted. 
 A couple of our staff preparing the fish. 
 Ellie helped shred the coconuts, while Hazel entertained us with some drums made from turtle shells.
 A lesson in how to cut open a coconut, using a gigantic machete. 
 Though Michael isn't a huge fan of seafood, especially shrimp, he spent the afternoon peeling shrimp.
 Ellie found a friend, of course. 
The final product: a delicious coconut milk-based soup with shrimp-based dumplings...
...and coconut milk rice with fried red snapper. It was a fantastic meal.

The rest of our retreat we spent enjoying each other's company.
 Ellie played Minnie Mouse dominoes with three of our male staff.
Have I mentioned how blessed we are that our staff are so sweet with our girls? It's pretty awesome.
We swam. A lot.

We had a great trip, relaxing and bonding as a team. We also said farewell to two of our 1-year workers who left last week to return to their homes in Canada. 
On the way home from Livingston, we stopped as some Mayan ruins.

I'm impressed with the diversity that can be found within Guatemala. A diversity of cultures, climates, beaches, mountains, indigenous groups, languages, and food. It's a beautiful place to live and explore. Who wants to come visit? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Honduras and Hazel's 2nd Birthday

It's been a whirlwind month full of travel and activities.

We traveled to Nebaj, in the highlands, to visit a partner and two of our workers. It's about a 7 hour drive.

A few days later we traveled 9 hours by bus to Honduras for a week of meetings with our bosses and reps from Nicaragua and Honduras. It was a good week to connect, and the girls always have a blast with the kids of the reps from Nicaragua. We are very sad that this was our last meeting with them before them move back to the States. I don't know what Ellie will do without them in future meetings.
During our trip, the girls had their first sleepover. Michael was "dad of the year," and facilitated the sleepover with 4 girls. They had a blast, and now Ellie wants to have all her friends over for sleepovers.

After Honduras we celebrated Hazel's 2nd birthday with a little party at our house.
The kids decorated sugar cookies. I think it was a first for many of her friends.
There may have been licking involved.
We played "cake walk," unintentionally introducing it to our Guatemalan friends. 
It's practically unheard of to have a birthday part without a piñata. In fact, birthday parties are often just called, "piñatas."
This was Hazel's first time willing to hit the piñata alone, or at all. Normally she has a lot of fear. Actually, when it came around to her turn again, she changed her mind and preferred to watch.
The scramble for the candy!
Hazel's amiga wanted to help her blow out her candles.
My happy birthday girl.
Two days later, a quick 3-day trip to El Salvador to pick up one of our one-year workers who ended her time with us. Then Michael went to Lake Atitlan to pick up our other one-year worker. Let's just say Michael has put a lot of hours behind the wheel over the last month.

A few days later, we went on a team retreat to Livingstone, on the Caribbean Sea, near Belize (next blog will be pictures of our awesome trip). We are happy to be home and back into somewhat of a routine for the next few weeks. Deep breath.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big Sister Hazel

The thought to write a blogpost has fluttered across my mind over the last several weeks. I've been absent.

But then I decide I'm too tired. Or uninspired. Or nauseous. Or hungry.

I think they are good excuses. I'm 14 weeks pregnant today, which means I'm officially entering the 2nd trimester. The nausea is supposed to stop. With Ellie, it did stop around now. With Hazel, it lingered a few more weeks.

Either way, this pregnancy has felt a bit different. The nausea seems stronger and more constant than it did with the girls. I feel more tired (although my husband doesn't think I "seem" more tired than I did with the other two pregnancies, so maybe it's my imagination.)

There are always a variety of emotions that come along with a pregnancy. Obviously, gratitude, because I'm acutely aware of the difficulty for so many of my family and friends to get pregnant. It's a downright miracle just to get a positive pregnancy test. Then of course, due to our own experience miscarrying at 10 weeks several years ago, getting through the first trimester is a momentous hurdle. And then the rest of the pregnancy remains.

There have been thoughts like, "we are going to be outnumbered!" and "can you imagine if we have another girl? 3 girls equals a lot of drama!" and "I can't remember what it's like to have a newborn."

We are thrilled to be having a baby. We will have a chapin or chapina (guatemalan) baby, which is fun. Both of the girls were born in the same hospital and delivered by the same doctor in Fresno, so this entire pregnancy and birth process will be different. I'm curious about the differences between American culture and here. I've already had two ultrasounds and this baby is healthy, and from the mouth of my doctor, "perfect." We are blessed and thankful. And I'm hungry.