Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No pictures today, sorry

Hey everyone! So as always, this past week has been a little crazy. Unfortunately a kid in the orphanage we were doing art and english classes at got swine flu, so the place shut down for a week. Then the next day we found out that they decided to shut down all of the schools in the entire country for 16 days, which has dramatically affected our projects. So, in addition to trying to accomodate the new volunteers we have all been trying to rearrange our schedules, start new projects, and hop on other people´s projects in order to get our hours of work in each week.

Like Jen already described, our house is totally insane. It´s fun having all the new energy and ideas of the new volunteers, but it´s not so fun dealing with the many issues that come with living in a house of 16 girls and 2 guys.

As far as my projects go, I think I´m going to start teaching business classes. Maybe. On Friday me and Vic have to give a presentation to an organization we found yesterday and if they like us, they´ll work with HELP. If we completely butcher it (as I am very likely to do) then we´re cut and they won´t work with HELP again. So we´ll see how that goes.

I decided to start a list of things I will miss about Guatemala, that perhaps I will share on here. Here´s what I got right now:

1. Chocobananos (frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and should try it, they´re delicious!)
2. Chocofresas
3. Burritos at Elmer´s
4. 3 Mangoes for 5 quetz from Pablo (5 quetz=about 60 cents)
5. Squishing 13 people into the back of a truck and driving to villages at the top of mountains in the middle of nowhere on the bumpiest roads anyone could imagine
6. The crazy bum that lives in Chimal and laughs really loudly and creepily every time we walk by
7. Working with the indigenous women
8. Lencho´s!
9. Hearing ´80´s music that wasn´t even popular in the 80´s everywhere
10. Mimo cookies and empanadas!

Anyway, that´s all I´ve got for now. I love this place! Next time I´ll try to remember the cardreader so I can post pictures.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The first three days...

I have arrived in Guatemala, and what a whirlwind it has already been. I live in a house with 16 girls, 2 boys, and 3 bathrooms. As much as our living conditions stink (literally and figuratively), us new volunteers have been informed we are living quite luxuriously. A few weeks ago they didn´t have mattresses or warm water, and the toilets were plugged and leaking. It has been a little bit difficult for everyone to adjust to living and being with each other. After all, the people who came in May are the pioneers and have started the projects here and now we are jumping in trying to see where we fit and taking over what they started. But things are getting better. It was really good to see Steph. She´s picked up a lot of Spanish already which gives me hope at my own abilities!
The first day Sean and Melissa (our Country Directors) gave us a tour of Chimaltenango, the town we live in. We went to the bank, grabbed some food, went grocery shopping at Maxi Bodega, and took a chicken bus home (a chicken bus is simply a school bus painted in crazy colors, decorated with as many Religious symbols as possible, and plays extremely loud spanish music (the polka or circus sounding kind). We came back to our house and then had the chance to decide between several projects to attend. I went with Amber and Leah to a small school 10 minutes away where they teach Sex Ed to grades 4-6. We only needed to introduce ourselves to the children, which was quite the struggle considering the only spanish words I know are ¨comidas¨ and ¨baƱos¨. I wrote down a couple sentences in a notebook with Leah´s help and said them to the classes, except that for the first class I read them. I basically just said ¨Hello my name is Jennifer. I am from Canada. Today is my first day in Guatemala!¨The kids didn´t really care. They clapped hard for all of us, smiles and joked around. Most of them were just fascinated by our presence.
Yesterday was Friday, and on Fridays we try to do projects together as a group. Our group project yesterday was helping build a house through Habitat for Humanity in a tiny town called Santa Cruz. I spent the day mixing cement, pouring it into holes, tying rebar together, and cementing cinderblocks together. Oh and playing with a little boy named Atel who came out of no where and decided to help us. He was 5 and could probably mix the cement better than me. The villagers were very kind and would make conversation with us as they walked by.
Today was our free day. About 9 of us hiked a volcano called Pacaya. It was incredible! I felt like I was walking the path to Mordor half the time. We walked until there was no grass to walk on anymore, just volcanic rock which had been formed in only 2006. The best part was the gigantic hill which probably stretched about 4 blocks in length just covered in small volcanic rocks (they were very light and soft). We ran and jumped and rolled down the entire hill for about 5 minutes. It was like unto playing in sand dunes but cooler because it was huge and a volcano. Without our tour guide we never would have done it, nor eaten the delicious plants along the way. We didn´t actually make it to the top of the volcano because it emits poisonous gas and would have been impossible to climb anyway, but there was a hot pocket to its side which we climbed and saw a river of molten lava. It was very hot. Some people were even cooking tortillas, meat, and marshmallows on the rocks because they were so hot! It was a great day.
I love the people here. Everyone I have met is so very kind and generous. HELP has several partner organizations we work with, and several other contacts in the city which we trust with our lives. I am amazed by how kind and helpful they are and feel so blessed to know them now. I love how comfortable I feel saying hola to strangers walking down the street. Everyone smiles and are really easy going. I have yet to see someone get upset, which is surprising because if you saw the traffic here and the many times I´ve seen people almost get run over, you would think people would be really angry. But no, both the drivers and pedestrians just laugh with each other at the silly yet deathly traffic mistakes.
Tomorrow is church, and then hopefully some down time where I can finally sit down and soak in this Guatemala thing. I go to bed every night thinking What on earth am I doing here? I hope to find out soon. In the meantime, I miss you all and wish you well!

Love, Jen

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jen has arrived!

I have arrived safely to Guatemala! More to come later....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Picture Update

So, turns out uploading pictures takes forever so here are just a few of what´s been going on the last couple of weeks. The first picture is of me at the top of the 3rd highest volcano in central america! It was really windy and cold and completely surrounded by clouds so the view wasn´t all that great, but it was still really cool! Especially because it was the hardest hike ever so getting to the top felt really awesome. The next two are of the first day we made stoves, also my birthday!The next one is of Lake Atitlan, which as you can see is absolutely beautiful! The next two are of the ruins at Ix Im Che, and the last is a small group picture after we went horseback riding! Enjoy!