Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ana's House

"And if our God is for us, who could ever stop us?"
-Chris Tomlin-

The view from Ana's house

Hard to believe that this time last week we had finished our four days of work on Ana's house.  Equipo A was working in a town called Cacao building a house for Ana and her family.  Ana's dad had lived in the states for a while and saved up money to come back to Guatemala.  He has a fairly big lot.  Currently it's just his house, which is fairly large, including indoor plumbing and a toilet.  Outside, they have a fenced area for chickens, ducks and geese.   We were building on the far side of the lot.  Ana has a twin sister, and the hope is that with Habitat, they may be able to build her a new house right next door.  Our project was out in the country, so not a lot of shops or traffic...I'm sure the lady who ran the small tienda across the street was happy to see us.   Our mason was Oscar.  Oscar has been building houses with Habitat for 8 years and has built over 80 houses.  His ayudantes (helpers) were Jose, Omar and the 10 gringos on our team.   On arrival the foundation and the first two levels of blocks had already been laid, so we got to do a lot of actual construction including: laying block, filling holes with cement, sealing all cracks with mortar, tying rebar and breaking holes into cinder blocks and u-blocks for the rebar.   We also carried a lot of blocks from the house to the build site.   Below are some of the pictures of our progress through the week.

Lauren applies mortar with skill
Wesley and Ashley put holes in cinder blocks
Oscar, our mason, works on the corners
   Meghan and Stephen sift sand
Me in the window
The guys on the cinder block couch
Lots of progress by day 4

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The World's Game

Working with a very international staff, the World Cup has been a topic of conversation for months.   During our trip to Guatemala, soccer continued to be popular.  Partially because the World Cup just started. In the Guatemala City airport, some of the kids ran right up to a rental car booth that had the game on and watched for a few minutes with the locals.    On Sunday the 13th, we stopped for a rest and ice cream stop en route to Salamá and what else would be showing on the flatscreen TV in the restaurant?  Soccer tends to be the "world's game" because it doesn't require a lot of equipment.   All you really need is a ball.  You'll see kids without shoes playing "football" in Latin America or Africa in open fields.  On Tuesday June 15 we rented out a small soccer field in Salamá, invited some of our local Habitat volunteers, broke into our work teams and played 5 minute tournaments.

On Saturday June 19 we visited Comalapa to help with a project with Aguas de Unidad. One of their water systems was located at a high school, and even though it was a Saturday, class was in session.   Some of our kids played a pick up game with the students there.  Needless to say....we got schooled.
Some of the students cheering their team on to victory!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Equipo A

I would like to introduce you to Equipo A / A Team / Team Awesome, my work group and small group in Guatemala.  Our senior leaders included Wes, Allie, and Meghan, and the team rounded out with Joel (of your cousin is better than my cousin fame), Hayley, Lauren, Peter, and Stephen.
Equipo A prepares for our first day of work 6.14.10

Equipo A at our magical lunch spot 6.14.10

Equipo A on the job 6.15.10

Equipo A at the Salamá Soccer Field 6.15.10

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Road to Salama

A new Spanish phrase for the day is "no tengo pena" or no worries.   It is like wrangling cats trying to get 60 people anywhere and out of the hotel, into busses with luggae roof racks, up the mountain, through a flat tire and into the pool at Lily's Inn in Salama.  
Today I also learned a new way to phrase things (in English)..."On a scale of 1 to 10 ______________ (example repsonse include "I so don't want to do this" or "This is awesome).   Halfway to Salama we stopped for a rest break.  Even better than the rest room?  Helado.  So happy that there was time on the drive for everyone to get some ice cream, including some of our highschool girls.     Shortly after our ice cream break, the van in front of us got a flat tire.  Being the industrious youth that they are, someone broke out their ipod speakers, and others started to juggle. 
   And we answered the question, how many people does it take to change a tire?  The answer: 5.  
We have a great setup here at Lily's Inn in Salama.  We have rented out the entire hotel and there are plenty of places to play, including multiple pools and a waterslide.   We had free time in the afternoon before our orientation with Habitat, and it was the first time that I've played Old Maid since I was a kid, much less in a foreign country. 
Another truth
No celebration in Guatemala is complete without cake and juice.
We had the welcome ceremony with our Habitat families around 3pm which included cake.  In order to be eligible for a Habitat House families must have land and a way to pay their mortgage.  Land is hard to come by in Guatemala.   Another impressive fact?  Guatemala builds the most houses through Habitat second only to the US.  Yay for Guate!   Tomorrow morning we meet our families and start the build.
(having a great time wish you were here)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

First Day in Guatemala

My alarm went off at 3am and now it's almost ten.  A busy day of travel and great start to my first mission trip with Wellshire.  It was very strange when one of the Habitat affiliates asked if I was a chaperone...not a word I usually use, but since I am one of 12 "responsible" adults, I guess it's accurate.   It's been over 4 months since I last left the US, so it was about time to go again.  This is also the last trip (sniff) on my current passport.   The passport that has stamps from all continents except Antartica.

The verse that is on our shirts and water bottles is "Ustedes deben amarse unos a otros como yo los he amado." The translation (loosely) Love one another as I have loved you.   It's a very fitting statement for our trip.    Today I learned that even teenage boys love Sky Mall magazine in airplanes.   Also, that our highlighter yellow / chartreuse t-shirts make it really easy to spot our group in the airport.   I think I like it better than the "God's Gang" buttons I used to wear on mission trips in junior high. 

We are staying at the Biltmore Express hotel in Guatemala City, just for tonight.  The weather has alternated between drizzle and downpour.    We had a great worship service in an atrium area that connects our more modest hotel with the swanky Westin Camino Real.   After Bible study and a quick nap, we split for dinner.  The group I went with enjoyed tasty treats at tacoconteno.  Choriqueso for my entree, limonada to drink and a fruit and cream stuffed chimichanga for dessert.   Also the biggest pinatas I have ever seen. 
First day of fun, done!  8 more to go.   Hasta luego!

worship service in hotel atrium

Que rico!  Dinner at tacocontento

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Countdown to Guatemala

There are very few things that make me happier than preparing for and going on vacation.  Saturday morning at "o'dark thirty" (as Dad would say) we are meeting at DIA to go on our next adventure.   Fifty highschool youth and twelve intrepid sponsors will head for Salamá via a tight connection in Houston to Guatemala City.  After a night in the city we will go by bus up into the mountains to work with Habitat for most of the week and then head to Antigua for the last 2 days. 

In other news:
Sunday morning I rode in the Elephant Rock cycling festival for the first time.  We rode the "third century" (34 miles).   It was hot and hilly and good practice for the Bike MS, especially since my vacation will take up the last two weekends before the MS.    After recovering with a shower and a nap, we wrapped up the day with the first City Park Jazz concert of the season.   An even better discovery?  The Denver Cupcake Truck

So the summer fun count continues with #9 Elephant Rock, #10 Jazz in the Park with Cupcakes, and #11 Heather's birthday celebration last night at Dave & Busters. 

Today my sister got a new phone, the Droid, and is choosing the trial and error method of figuring things out rather than looking at the manual.  The most profound statement: "I found the weather in Aurora but I can't hang up my phone!"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Downtown Denver Adventures

Today was the trifecta of free activities in downtown Denver (not including food, of course).   Our first stop was the Denver Chalk Art Festival which was amazing.  The closest thing I can compare it to is cross stitch, where you break down a complicated picture into little grids and get to it....or that chalk picture I did of a tiger in elementary school, following the same grid idea.  Brilliant colors.  I need to spend more time on Larimer Square.   There was a fun shop called Posh that had the best selection of cards for every occasion imaginable.   Also a book called Booze Cakes that may have to join my collection....everything I've ever baked with alcohol has been delicious. 

Second stop was the People's Fair in Civic Center Park.   A general excuse to be out in the sun, listen to music and eat food on a stick.   I opted for chicken on a stick as my entree.   But it has nothing on our dessert.  I was thinking I would get a funnel cake, a traditional fair treat, best enjoyed by more than 1 person no more than 3 times in one year.  But then we saw the sign.  Apple Swirl Thing.  A spiral cut apple on a skewer fried and then topped with cinnamon, powdered sugar and caramel.    Funnel cakes may always be second place.  
Every city festival brings out a wide swath of humanity.  Today I saw more tattoos than I can remember.  It also makes me wonder who decides at what time people    can start taking off their shirts...

Then we remembered that the first Saturday of each month is free day at the Denver Art Museum!  The DAM is conveniently located right next to the park, so culture and AC were within close reach.  Even better, is that when it's free day, you feel "free" to pick and choose what you want to see and not to cram it all in as you might when paying $10.   So we got into the spirit of Western, European and Asian art, including a furniture gallery where people had actually written commentary and drawn pictures of the various chairs.  We made our own guesses of which chairs looked suitable for time-outs, the kids table, your least favorite guest, or a good book.   I was suprised with the amount of activities for kids, including I-spy and bingo.   In the Nepal/Tibet section there was a tapestry of the 10 Inauspicious Sins.   Sadly there was no explanation, and I couldn't determine the sins on my own and google isn't helping much either. 

So, I can add the following to my summer list:
#6 The Denver Chalk Art Festival
#7 Apple Spiral Thing
#8 Free Day at the DAM

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Happiness Project

I am currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Today I am enjoying chapter May which is "Be Serious about Play."   The book is great and I'm intrigued by the idea of a person who considers themselves happy (like I do) pursuing small things that might make one even happier.   In the section on "Find More Fun" the author adds comments that were posted on her blog about the sadness of a happiness project, when you realize that there are things you don't like, even if you want to like them or think that they would be fun (for others).  Is this where I admit that I'd rather be out to dinner with friends than at a club with friends?

One of the blog posts featured in the book made me smile on the train this morning...."I don't remember the exact date, but I remember the incident very clearly.  One dawned on me:  I can DO ANYTHING I want, but I can't DO EVERYTHING I want.  Life changing."

Very true.


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