Sunday, July 25, 2010
After lunch, los chiquitos watched Lady and the Tramp while the older ones watched Soccer Buddy and High School Musical 3. I helped Seno' with the popcorn and learned that consume de pollo makes popcorn almost edible for me. After a dinner of more vegetables and less meat, the older girls were given permission to watch the ultimate gift. What a touching story!
So, it was a fairly uneventful day, yet wonderful with the children as always. Tomorrow afternoon, Anya and I will be going to the monastery. I am not quite sure when we will be getting back, but I think the earliest will be Sunday morning. With that being said, it is obvious I will have no computer access for the next week up at Lavra Mambre. I will take my little journal with me to keep notes so I can record my experience here when I return to the hogar and my computer. I am anticipating the peace and tranquility at the monastery, as well as the scorpions, daily prayer, and apparently delicious duck eggs. I have never stayed in a monastery before, so I look forward to observing the monastic life and participating in this community for a week or so.
Check back in a week! Nos vemos pronto y Dios les bendiga!
Yesterday, I had a really bad headache, which is rare for me. I thought that would be the worst of it. This morning, however, during a 6:30am bathroom run, I notice my skin looks very irritated on my legs. At first I just thought a mosquito got the best of me, but then as I examined other parts of my body, I realized it was more severe than just a pesky insect. I took a shower, thinking perhaps it would help soothes the irritated skin. A few hours with no change and no idea what this was, I seek help. As I was looking for Jesse the nurse, I run into the kids doing their chores. They were so concerned for me, it was so sweet. They thought I had an allergic reaction to the pig we ate Thursday for lunch. Apparently, even some of the children have this suprise reaction sometimes. We find Erica (because Jesse went home) who immediately calls the doctor. He gives me some allergy medication that I need to take 3xs a day for the next 3 days, some calamine lotion, and orders to not expose myself to sunlight. So here I am trapped in my humble quarters (at least I have internet!) until further notice with oatmeal, pills, and plenty of water.
There is talk of the possibility of spending a few days at the monastery at the end of this week (the kids start school next week). It has been something I am looking forward to since I was invited. Of course, I cannot go without being fully healed, so I am not taking any chances.
I was allowed to leave my room for vigil this evening. It was lovely to be back in the church together. Madre's mini sermon today was very touching. She talked about how there have been more ambulances and sirens in the streets, and bad news in the papers. How 16,000 people die a year here in the city. How the death penalty doesn't solve anything. How there are so many criminals, most being bad men. How women and children are abused. How we cannot lose hope...we need to pray for Guatemala and its people. We must be attentive in church and prayer, not only for our sake, but for our neighbors'.
After dinner, I caught up with a few girls who went to the parks the other day. They were telling me about la montana rusa (roller coaster translates to russian mountain in spanish, cool huh?) and how they would stay in the pool at the hotel past their bedtime. It sounds like they had a lot of fun (and a lot of junk food), but I am glad they are all back safe and sound.
Friday, July 23, 2010
I played lots of games this morning. Monica, another volunteer, some of the girls, and I played some intense fooseball. After what seemed like 100 rounds, I played Monopoly-tourist edition, memory, and their version of connect 4 (all of which I was humbly defeated). It is amazing how creative these children are. We played with foam letters that are intended to be used for arts and crafts. We played this sort of bananagrams with it. Then because we couldn't find an "L" one of the girls gave me an "R" because I have an r in my name haha.
I have been spending a lot of time with a little boy who is diagnosed with a disease (perhaps cerebral palsy--thanks to Emily Eisenberg to scratching her brain 'til she helped me remember. TE QUIERO MUCHO) that affects his brain as well as his mobility. God bless him, the doctors didn't expect him to ever walk, but lo and behold, the kid gets around! So many miracles take place at the hogar! It has been interesting learning his language so to speak. If you put your hand out to him, he will take it, and sometimes squeeze, giving his fingers a break from always being twisted together. He has such a heart-warming smile that just makes me melt (of course never on cue with a camera), when you play with him. He may not play and speak like the other children, but he is a child of God who loves and deserves to be just as loved as all the rest. Here is a picture of him and missionary Gina from the day we went to the hot pools. He had a great time!
Anya and John, relatives of my parish priest and matushka back home in Stroudsburg, arrived last night. They will be here with me until the end of the summer. Anya has been here several times before, and has a good repoire with the nuns and the children. It was great to see the kids smother their old friend in hugs and kisses.
I look forward to Madre and the girls returning. I like it better when its loud inside and the walls are filled with laughter and chattter rather than focusing on the outside where you can hear every gun shot and honking horn. We haven't had any communal prayer either--just personal prayer in our individual rooms. I miss it. I miss getting up at 8am (I usually eat oatmeal in my room instead of a big breakfast of beans and rice) to the sound of the hammer against the semantron hailing us to the church. I miss the echoes of the children's communal thanks to God. I miss everything about it...and to think they have only been gone 3 days; what is it going to be like when I go back to Huntingdon where there is a service once a week! May God give me the strength when that time comes.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
5am before the sun or the roosters even stir, AmandaEve gets picked up by Charlie, a friend taxi driver. Father John, Stephan, and I bid her farewell at the gate, and return to our rooms for a few more winks of sleep. Before morning prayers, we said our goodbyes early to another team member. It was very eerie during morning service. The kids, even los chiquitos, knew that we would be 10 less in just a few hours.
After the final "Father Bless," the team lined up along the outside of the church. The children, age and height order facing the team did the same. This is where the different type of tren comes in: it was a train of tears, hugs and kisses. A few missionaries at the end handed out crosses (which they are still proudly wearing) and stickers. After the children dispersed, Madre Ivonne had the final meeting with the team, and gave them a tour of the mushroom clinic, and the older girls' living quarters. The team then acted like Saint Nicholas handing out little chocolate goodies to the staff as a gesture of thanks. I even shed a few tears when giving the despidas to some of the team members. I have heard some touching and inspiring stories and have shared in great conversation with the missionaries this past week. I was talking with one of the girls as we were sitting under the bells, watching the bus pull out of the hogar. She was in tears as well and told me that it is hard to hear them say that they will write, or return, because most never do. She said to me that at least I live in the US and could visit if I wanted. She doesn't have that option here in Guatemala. My heart broke a little more.
The little ones got a hold of the giant balloon Stephan brought for them. This game lasted about 5 minutes before they were too rough with the rubber, and it popped. Another reason for tears this morning.
After catching up on some well-needed rest, it was time for lunch. It was really weird how quiet the comedor was. Ivan, a volunteer and son of a good friend from Switzerland of Madre's, and myself were alone at the missionary table. We didn't talk much because we were both still in shock that we were 10 less. I did some office work, and then watched Sinbad the pirate with the little ones. When that ended, I took the children I have been tutoring for a little study time.
We had some free time before dinner. I played a very organized version of "house and school" where I was the mean maestra who gave too much homework. My students wanted to "soften my heart" so they prepared a suprise dinner of Pollo Campero and homemade tres leches cake (all invisible, pretend, etc.) for me. It was so incredible to see structure even in their playtime. When it was "time for school," the kids would automatically line up in height order. When I sent them in the corner for not doing the HW or misbehaving, through soft giggles, they obeyed. Imagine that!
After dinner, two of the preteens read to me. They were reading their favorite fairy tales, capurcita roja, and la princesa y la molina, etc. This was very valuable time, not only to obviously spend with the girls, but to see their levels of reading and comprehension. I cannot go into details about any specific child, but some are years behind where they should be. Thank God they came to the hogar when they did or it could be worse!
Wednesday, the older girls will be going to a water park (aprox 5 hrs away) until Friday. Talk about a full house to a ghost town!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Per usual, the first destination was the Jade factory. Before we even entered the factory, the group was exposed to Jorge’s professional Guatemalan parallel parking (both my dad last year and Father John call Jorge Andretti). The spot was certainly not meant for a 15 passenger van, but with a little local help (a man picked up a stranger’s motorcycle), and a few taps on the curve, we’re in! The picture does not do the experience any justice.
The team learned that Jade is not only from China but also on the fault line here in Guatemala as well. They learned that according to the Mayan calendar, the world will not come to an end in 2012. After purchases of bracelets and Orthodox crosses (especially made after so many teams have visited the factory), we headed to the park.
There was a book fair going on. I had been looking for El Principito for a while now, and I finally found it at a little stand. I did not have any change, and was reluctant to break a 20 for a $3 book. Gina, one of the missionaries gave me $2 and told be to try to bargain the book down. The vender was not breaking, so this nice boy, I think about 17, gave the man 8 quetzales out of nowhere! Glory to God, there are good people everywhere. He and an Australian companion (I never caught either of their names) were in Antigua for an intensive Spanish course. They had been here for four days and had told me that they were mentally exhausted. We talked for a little bit, and I told them the best way to improve is to come to places like this park and talk with locals. When you immerse yourself in the culture, you are forced to speak the language. After I thanked the boy profusely, we parted and Gina and I reunited with the group. We stopped at a church called San Francisco which famous because Saint Pedro is buried there. San Pedro is the only saint from Guatemala. He cared for the poor of Guatemala City. There is an icon of him in the church vestibule here at the Hogar but it is not IN the church, because he was not Orthodox. When we visited the tomb, several people were speaking native languages to the holy brother, and offering him candles and prayer.
We then headed to lunch at a rustic Italian restaurant, where we were reunited with Madre and a few of the girls. The missionaries were very content with “real food” as they called it of pasta and garlic bread. I had pesto myself, but brought some of the Latino culture into it with horchata, a sweet rice milk beverage. Madre led a question answer session where the missionaries were free to ask anything about the structure or what have you at the hogar or monastery. After lunch, Father was delighted to treat everyone to ice cream. Including specialty sundaes, banana splits, and 3 layer cones dipped in chocolate, the bill came to be less than $22 for 14! Tell me when that would happen in the states.
We then departed for the private market. We spent about an hour bargaining and getting ripped off. Everyone left with bags, candy, and other little knickknacks. We then went to this swiss chocolate factory for the team to buy gifts for the staff. I had a few dark chocolate truffles and forgot I was in a third world country. Sometimes, different businesses here make you disregard the poverty outside.
The team leaves tomorrow. It will be weird after not being in the office for over a week, eating alone, and the children going back to their routine chores. May God bless their journey home.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
When Father Nick, my dad and I came to the hogar in December, we were blessed with the opportunity to visit the Lavra Mambre monestary. I feel doubly blessed to have had the chance to return to the beautiful grounds yesterday.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
After morning prayers, we had Christmas in July. The church in Chicago sent down more or less a pair of shoes for every child. It was great to see the shoe fit the personality of the child. Some were a little too big (2 year old Anna got a size 7 shoe..whoops). This is not the offical name, but it just felt like Christmas morning when all the children we receiving their shoes and trying them on and walking around. After trying them on, all the new squeaky shoes made their way from the church, to the morning activites.
It was the first time that I was outside of the hogar with the younger kids. It was quite an incredible experience, getting to see the adventure through their eyes. I was sitting with one of the 8yr old boys and we were counting how many motorcycles passed. He was also telling me to look at all the colors of the buildings, pink and green and yellow...Some of the other kids were trying to get the passing trucks to honk for us. We passed through a lot of marginalized towns to get to our destination of a country club style resort.
Once we got there, the kids immediately got their suits on, and didn't waste a minute outside the waters. I was a human jungle gym, with a minumum of 3 little ones hanging on me in various positions. It was a blast! There were 4 pools all varying in temperature, one being boiling hot water falling from a waterfall. Two had diving platforms. I spent a lot of time being a tiburon (shark), chasing the children around. A few of the missionaries were throwing them into the pool. Father John even had the little ones "walking on water." The kids were just so excited to show us what they could do, "Larisa, look at me, Larisa, watch this!" It was wonderful to see the kids embracing the experience. They were full of such life and joy.
Then we made our way to the infamous Pollo Campero (Country Chicken), which is the Guatemalan version of McDonalds. We filed into this back room, obviously prepared for our party of 40. There was also a giant play place. None of the kids stepped into it, until given permission, and neatly placing their shoes in the cubbies. It was incredible to see the discipline being practiced in public.
When lunch was served (500 legs of fried chicken, papas fritas, 10+ liters of soda), everyone didn't just dig in. They all patiently waited for prayer and permission. These are 4 yr olds I am talking about! I had a little one on either side of me, helping them with ketchup or what have you. I didn't eat my chicken down to the bone, but there really wasn't much meat left. One of the boys asked me if I was finished and he got every crumb and drop of ketchup off my plate. They have been taught not to waste anything, and they truly respect this. Dessert for the children were donuts, and the missionaries the choice of prepackaged flan, ice cream with chocolate sauce, or tres leches cake (guess which one I picked). Even though it was an unhealthy meal, this deep fried feast really satisfied the kids' need to get out and indulge a little. And not one failed to thank the missionaries for the pools and lunch.
When we got back, we all examined our sun burned faces and backs. We were all so exhausted. I thought that would be the end of the night, but Madre gave a blessing to watch Invictus, the Mandela-Rugby movie. It was a great time. One of the missionaries brought popcorn, so we pulled the little microwave out of my room and prepared that for the older girls. It was a really moving movie, and the girls' thrist for knowledge was amazing. I know a little about Mandela so it was nice to be able to share that with them. The actual world cup in the movie was intense. We were all holding hands and biting our nails, hoping South Africa would pull through. I won't ruin the ending. It was a day full of highs. We had beautiful weather for the pools, which we weren't expecting according to the weatherman. I felt the love of all the children in so many ways. I got to know some of the older girls better than I did. I even had a nice conversation with Erika, who just does so much for the hogar. It was a blessed day.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
It was also quite a miracle that the octopus Paul was right all season, down to the finals! BUT the bigger miracle was Madre's blessing to let the kids listen to Shakira (over and over and over...I am not exagerating). Instead of eating in the comedor, we had a futbol party and set up all the food in front of the big screen. We had Dominoes Pizza, the Guate-version of a hot dog with everything on it (ketchup, mayo, mustard, guacamole, cilantro, salt and pepper), salad, soda and ice cream! It was a kid's feast! After Spain won (Horray!!!), we had a huge aprox 4 hr dance party, with only 4 songs (the approved Africa Shakira song, the official FIFA song, One Day, & Viva Africa). It was a lot of fun! To wind the kids down, we watched Free Willy 1 (to go with Free Willy 4 from last week).
This is out of order, but it was wonderful to have Divine Liturgy with Father John and Deacon Mark. Another milagro (miracle) was how well the Liturgy came together, despite the language barrier. It was a beautiful service, and it was especially nice to meet some of the Orthodox community from around the area.
So, we will have a full day tomorrow of swimming, eating lots of chicken and papas fritas, and hopefully not too much traffic. I can't wait! Hasta luego!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Speaking of knots, here is a human knot!
Monday, July 5, 2010
After church yesterday, we went to the park. It was a beautiful sunny day (bad for picture taking though...see I'm learning!) and it was a lot of fun. It was neat to see the park filled with such a variety of people. And I have to admit, being in Latin America for the majority of this year, I have been very aware of my surroundings, so I was looking for homeless people. I really didn't see any! I am not saying there are none, but I was suprised not to see any beggars in such a location. There were families, owners taking their dogs for walks (or sometimes the other way around), novios, skate boarders, and lots of bikes--lots sporting their favorite teams (there were a lot of Argentinas and Espanas out there). We ended with waters and icecream at a place called Pops (can't get away from the english anywhere you go).
Saturday, July 3, 2010
We went to Antigua last Saturday for a photoshoot. We left pretty early in the morning so there was less conflict with the sun, affecting the saturation of the photo (like that? thats photo talk haha!) Mr. Russell taught us some techniques and tips to get better shots. I have a few decent ones. Antigua is a very old town with lots of natural beauty. We visisted some old homes, parks and even met some pretty talented Macaws! The girls were all tired out by the end of the day, so Mr. Russell suggested the mall. Of course, this woke the girls right up. I am not a big fan of crowded manmade structures that sell lots of junk inside, but there were a few presentations happening. There were bongo players in the music store and futbol dancers in the sports outlet. We had dinner in this aquarium type restaurant, and all the waiters were dressed in their favorite team's jersey. (At this point, Argentina still had a chance.) It was a great day, and Madre had a full day to herself.
At the end of the week, the girls presented Mr. Russell, and his grandson Grant, with some hommade gifts. They made him an eagle carved from the scroll saw. He was really impressed that the girls made it from techniques he taught them. I really enjoyed seeing the interaction between him and the girls. Even 9yr old Grant had a good time. Now that he is gone, the schedule is kind of back to normal. I'm back in the office doing some work for Madre Ivonne, and the girls do chores in the morning and usually have the rest of the day off.
It was also Madre Iness' birthday this week. We had a pooh bear cake and 3 candles (representing the holy trinity). The older girls made a puzzle of Jesus and the children on the scroll saw, and presented this to her as well.
Oh here is something exciting. See that? Bones, brains, and all! The monestary raises tilapia, it is just prepared a little differently than in the states. The little rib bones are tricky, but I have finally mastered the art of eating this beast.