Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I´m 20!

Life is so crazy! I feel like I haven´t updated everyone in forever. Days feel like years, but the time still seems so go by fast. I don´t know how that works. Anyway, the past week has been so good! Last friday we went out to San Martin with the mayor and this lady named Adalilah. In the past they´ve worked a lot with Adalilah for doing adobe stoves because she has a lot of contacts and stuff. I don´t really know what her actual job is, she´s like a full-time socialite. The mayor has perfect teeth (no one here does) and a lot of bling. Anyway, we went to San Martin and met a lot of the women there, who seemed wonderful. The mayor started talking though and promised them 6 sewing machines and that we would come and teach them how to sew, which we never talked about. I don´t really know what that´s about, but whatever. Anyway, after they took us to this hot springs place that´s owned by the government. It´s kind of sad actually. there´s so much potential for beauty here, but I feel like a lot of it is just trashed. It really could be such a tropical paradise, and some parts are, but the river and the ravines are seriously covered with garbage, and a lot of the hillsides are completely bare because all of the trees have been cut down. It makes me kind of sad.

Anyway, on saturday we went to Lake Atitlan, which is gorgeous! It´s the place where the Mayans believe the universe was created. It´s surrounded by three huge volcanoes and a ton of little towns that all have their own character. We were going to hike one of the volcanoes but got there too late, so instead we went by boat around to a few different towns and bought some cool souvenirs.

Monday was our first day working on our art classes project! It´s really nice having most of our projects smoothed out. As of right now, I´m going to be teaching art classes and the Madre Hogar orphanage and playing soccer with the girls, working on adobe stoves, and possibly teaching ex ed. I´m not so sure how the teaching is going to go down at the moment with my lack of spanish skills, but I guess that´s the fun of Guatemala, right? Anyway, on monday we started the art classes. Just for background, the Madre Hogar orphanage is an catholic owned orphanage for kids born with HIV. There are 13 nuns that run everything, including teaching school, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc, so as it is they are pretty understaffed. Two girls from our group teach english classes while we teach art, and then in the afternoons a bunch of us get together to play soccer with the kids. During school, some other kids from the community come so the classes are a good mix or orphans and not orphans. It´s a lot of fun hanging out there, although still sad. The kids are wonderful, and pretty patient with me as I butcher their language. Hopefully it improves, but I´m excited about it!

So that brings me to Tuesday, which was my birthday! I have to say, it´s pretty close to the top for most favorite birthdays so far. It was our first day working on the stove project, so we headed out to San Martin to meet Adalilah. Except then she didn´t show up, which ended up being ok. There´s a BYU study abroad group that was supposed to go to mexico but instead came here because of the swine flu and the drug war that we´re taking around with us to some of our projects. 6 of them came to help out with the stoves, which was lots of fun! It was pretty funny though, because it made us all realize how used to this place we´ve become. On the way back from the stoves we got a ride all the way back in a truck. The entire ride is through the mountains and in the middle of the jungle. It´s awesome, it´s kind of like a real life Indiana Jones ride. Anyway, there was one point where we were squeezing through a semi-tight spot and everyone started freaking out about it, but we didn´t even think twice. You just have to learn to go along with it. So yeah, the villages were awesome and the women and kids were totally hilarious. Basically I spent the entire day squishing around mud with my feet and playing. When we got home there was a sign on the door that said I wasn´t allowed to come in until they told me I was allowed to. Sean came out and put a blindfold on me and then placed me in the middle of the patio and told me not to move. I could hear that everyone else was around me laughing, and I was a little scared. Suddenly a bunch of firecrackers went off about 3 feet away from me! It was awesome. Guatemalans really love their firecrackers. Every once in a while we´ll wake up at about 5 am to a bunch of gunshotlike sounds, but it´s just one of the neighbors´ birthdays they´re celebrating with firecrackers. After the wonderful firecracker surprise Veronica brought dinner and we had cake! But not before Melissa shoved some of it in my face. So yeah, good birthday!

Tonight one of the board members for Guillermo´s orphanage, who apparently was an orphan for 4 years of her life but somehow ended up graduating from BYU, is going to talk to us and share her story! I´m super excited about it. So anyway, life is good! I wish I had more time to tell more specific stories, but I guess that´ll have to wait unti I come home. I´ll try to post some pictures soon though. Anyway, hope everything´s going well at home!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I love this internet cafe! The guy at the front just started playing Betty Davis Eyes, and before it was Mr. Roboto. Sometimes Guatemala is so random. And by sometimes, I mean always. It´s so great.

Anyway, I´m all better! It´s really great. The past week has been a rollercoaster! We´re starting to get everything ready for all of our projects. Last week was slightly discouraging with being sick and still not really knowing what to do, but by the end it started getting a lot better and I was getting really excited about everything. According to the plan we made this weekend, Krysta, Josie, Dana and I were going to go the the Mesoamericano school to teach english three days of the week. We got there today to meet with the Director and found out that there are two American volunteers coming on wednesday to teach full time. They said they still wanted us to come teach still, but we feel like our time would be of more use elsewhere so now that plan is scratched. Tonight we´re going to have to have a big meeting to refigure everything out, so wish us luck! We´re thinking now of teaching at this Catholic orphanage for kids with HIV. They have 50 kids and 13 nuns that run pretty much everything and I guess they are really stressed and need a lot of help teaching so they can do some of their other reponsibilities. Other than that, I think I´ll be working on adobe stoves and possibly teaching sex ed. in some of the small villages surrounding Chimaltenano. It´s really exciting and I think we´re all getting really anxious to start on our projects, even though it´s pretty intimidating and scary.

This weekend was a lot of fun! On saturday we woke up early to go to some Mayan ruins in Tecpan. They were beautiful! It was so nice to get away from the pollution and chaos and be able to wander around and explore. The only bad thing is that my camera dropped on one of the ruins and now the screen is broken, but it still takes pictures. It just can´t tell what exactly I´m taking a picture of, which might make it that much more exciting! After Tecpan we got to go to the Guatemala City temple with the ward we´re attending. Without going into too many details, I´ll just say it was a very eventful temple trip! Anyway, that´s what´s been going on! Adios!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I don´t really have much to say right now, but I´m not sure how often I´ll be able to update so I figure I´d better take advantage of being on a computer. Sunday was cool. We went to church where I didn´t understand anything, but I did get a Book of Mormon in spanish to help me study! The people are so wonderful and welcoming. Monday was a lot of fun, we met with a woman named Leti who is amazing and then went to this cool ranch/resort place with Lencho in the afternoon. It was super cool, we got to go horseback riding and on the zipline. It´s normally 30 quetz but because we are a bunch of white girls we got everything, including a game of paintball that´s normally 75 quetz for free! Oh the benefits. That night we met with an organization named SHARE, but halfway through I started getting a headache. That night I got super sick and yesterday I was pretty non-functional (is that a word?). I went to the doctor and found out I have some sort of virus, but I got some medication so hopefully I´ll start feeling better soon! I decided being sick in a foreign country where we can´t flush toilet paper down the toilet is probably one of the worst places ever to get sick. I´m starting to feel better though, and I think my fever is almost gone. Anyway, I´ve got to go. I hope everyone´s doing well!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Hey everyone, I´m here! I feel like i´ve been here forever, but it´s only been three days. We´ve done so much and been so busy. This place is awesome. I really love it here, although i do miss certain things about home. Like being able to walk down the street without twenty cars honking at you and having people constantly staring. Or being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet. Or being able to use the sink faucet to brush your teeth. Or not being constantly smelly. It´s all good though. I really like the people that I´m here with. We all seem to get along great.

Thursday we got to explore Chimaltenango. We had a little scavenger hunt through the city for a couple of hours. It´s definitely different than I pictured. The roads here are seriously insane. Pedestrians never have the right of way, so you really have to time when you cross the road and just run for it. It´s a little scary getting into the main streets because we have to cross the Pan American highway which is always pretty busy. It smells like exhaust ALL the time. Or smoke. The city just has a lot more commotion than I expected. We can´t seem to figure out people do all day, becuase it just seems like they are either wandering the streets or selling things. Oh well. They´re extremely nice people, minus the creepers. There´s not too too many of those though.

Yesterday was definitely one of the coolest days. In the morning we woke up to the Satan truck, as usual. Funny side story: there´s a ton of cars here with megaphones on top that will just blast advertisements through the streets as they drive down. One of our favorites is the Satan truck. It kind of sounds like a dying cow. It´s advertising for this place called ¨Zetegas¨or something, but over the megaphone it sounds like ¨Satanas,¨ which is Satan in spanish so we call it the Satan truck. It drives around in the morning and at night all the time when we´re trying to sleep. I think our name is quite fitting. Anyway, after getting woken up we went and got breakfast at the Paneria and got fruit at the market. Then a man named Eladio we plan to work with picked us up in his pickup to take us to a small village close by called Cerro Alto. The ride there was super fun, we all just piled in the back and tried to make ourselves comfortable while driving over gravel roads with the biggest potholes I´ve ever seen. Cerro Alto is beautiful. It´s on this mountian and from his house you could see two of the main volcanoes in Guatemala. Anyway, we talked with him about potential projects we can do with the surrounding villages and they all sound soo cool. He is such an awesome guy. He basically has devoted his life to serving his community and all without a profit. He´s been trying to get a team together to help him with some of his ideas so he´s super happy we´re here. While we were leaving this huge group of little girls that were coming home from school just swarmed us. They were so adorable! I wish I could speak to them better, but the nice thing about kids is that they are just happy if you say hello and smile to them.

After Eladio´s we went and got lunch and then made our way to the Guatemalan Children´s Project, an orphanage HELP has worked with before. It´s run by a man named Guillarmo, who is a 25-year-old return missionary. He is also one of the most awesome people I think I´ve ever met. He used to volunteer a lot at orphanages in Guatemala. One day the one he was working for got shut down by the government because they were doing illegal adoptions, and seven of the children he really loved got sent out to a bunch of different ones all around Guatemala. He wanted to take care of them, so he spent 7 months trying to locate all of them. He couldn´t legally take care of them unless he had his own orphanage, so he started the Guatemalan Children´s Project. He focuses a lot on reuniting families, because most of the children´s families are still alive. Ít´s been running for 3 years, and so far I think he´s had 52 kids go through, 32 of which have been reunited with their families. He´s super awesome, and he´s dating a girl from Calgary! I´m excited to meet her, but she´s out of town this week so it will have to wait.

Anyway, that night Guillarmo took us dancing in Antigua! At first I was nervous about dancing with a bunch of Guatemalans, but then I remembered that I´ve got shakes, ha ha! No, but it was super fun! This guy that owns the internet cafe we´re in, Lencho, almost came with us. He´s so awesome! He went to school in Chicago so he speaks really good english, which is nice. But anyway, dancing was a blast and now I can say I´ve been to a Guatemalan club!

So yeah, that´s pretty much what I´ve been up to. I think the hardest thing for me right now is not being able to speak the language, although I´ve been doing a lot better with understanding people. It´s just frustrating because I want to be able to connect with these people and communicate with them, but because I don´t speak their language I can´t ever really show my personality. I probably know the least spanish of everyone in the group. Everyone´s really great though and they always translate for me and make sure I know what´s going on. I plan on studying spanish at night time, so hopefully I´ll get a lot better! I think I will, because I´ve already gotten better. Anyway, I´m going to head out. I hope everyone´s doing well!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stephanie's Email

Stephanie emailed our family. This is what it said:

hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that I am alive and well! Also, this keyboard is kind of weird so sorry if some weird symbols pop up every once in a while. Anyway, I love it here already! last night me and one other girl got in before the rest of the group. My countr directors were waiting for us, but then we had to wait for everyone else to get there 2 hours later. Luckily for me however, the girl who I came with is half Guatemalan and her dad set up for one of their really good family friends to meet her at the airport and give her a phone and stuff. Turns out the girl forgot to pack sheets so he offered to lend some to her. Because i was there, I got to go with them to his house and drive around the city! It was so cool! the guy works for the government or something and her dad told her that he´s the only person she should trust. His house was incredible. It was on top of this mountain thing that had a perfect view of the city. The house itself was gorgeous. On the way back to the airport he made sure to drive past the temple so we also got to see that! The house we´re in is pretty cool...ish. The kids here are adorable, like kids always are. I´m getting really excited to start on the projects, but for the next day or two we´re mostly just getting aquainted with the area and with each other. There´s 12 of us here for the first wave--two guys and ten girls. The girls are split into three bedrooms on the top floor and the guys are on the main or bottom floor. We´re supposed to have two bathrooms on the top, but a couple of days ago one flooded so we only have one. It´s connected to the bedroom I´m sleeping in, which is kind of unfortunate because at night it took forever for everyone to get through. The beds are very uncomfortable. It´s like sleeping on a bunch of wooden boards with an inch of padding on top of it. My hip was digging into one of the beams last night, which was not very comfortable. I think I might buy a blanket here too because it actually gets a little chilly at night. Also, a pillow, because there aren´t any in the house. Anyway, I should probably go. We´re in an internet cafe and I´m at the tail end of people to use the computers and I don´t want to make them wait. So yeah, that´s what´s going on! Hope you´re all doing well, and I´ll try to email again soon!

Love, Steph

Monday, May 4, 2009


Welcome to our blog! We set this up as an easy way to keep in touch and so you can all check up on our adventures in the summer while we're gone. I (Steph) am leaving this Wednesday for Guatemala and am getting so excited! I think I finally have everything I need and am ready to just get out of here. Jen will be coming to join me in June, but until then I might be the only one posting. Anyway, enjoy the blog!