Friday, August 21, 2009

Time to Say Goodbye

We are so very sad to leave our new friends, it is somewhat easier knowing that we will be back. We have met some amazing people. We were very sad to have to say goodbye to our Spanish teachers this morning. Walking down the street we want to take it all and somehow keep it fresh in our memory until we return. This has been a profound experience for both of us. We are somewhat daunted by the prospect of learning a new language but also encouraged by what we have learned so far. This is a beautiful and a frustrating country, both very livable and difficult at the same time. The people are wonderful and are in such need. We have been very welcomed. We are also looking forward to seeing our friends and family at home and ready to dig in and begin preparing for this move.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

People of Guatemala

We haven’t talked much about the people here. They are relatively poor and very hard working. They have mostly had a very difficult life. There was civil war here for 30 years that just ended in 1996. The government has been very repressive(with the help of the US government). People here remain optimistic despite the many obstacles they face daily. Life is not easy, although people smile easily. The Guatemalans are a gregarious people and very friendly. The Mayan people are probably the poorest and have the least access to health care and education. We are only able to talk to people a little bit, but they are very tolerant of our broken Spanish.

The people seen at the clinic in Camanja are very poor and some have very serious health problems, some children have some significant birth defects that are preventable. One of the exciting things about this mission is that in addition to the medical teams coming down to help, there is a Guatemalan doctor at the clinic two days a week, so there is follow up care.

We don’t have many pictures of Guatemalans because it is rude to just take someone’s picture.

Yesterday we hit a bit of the higher end on the culture here in Pana. We went to an art gallery that had a showing of a new artists and quilts that went with the paintings. The people were interesting and the gallery full of odd collections of old wooden pieces collected by the owner’s father some of which were 300-400 years old. The owners have German and Guatemalan roots and have a very interesting and beautiful place to live.

We also enjoyed the evening with our neighbors and friends, Carey and Jay. The power went out so we sat outside and talked about living and working here. We asked many “how to” questions and talked a bit about a schedule for moving down.

Today we are off to the market to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. We will also be working on our Spanish homework.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yesterday was Wayne's 60th birthday. At school, everyone sang happy birthday in Spanish. We shared some treats and then after class we traveled to Santa Cruz via launcha. We had a long hard walk up from the lake to town. We were rewarded with fantastic views of the lake and the volcanoes. It was a difficult walk but Janet made it all the way. We had dinner with our friends Jay and Carey and our new friend from Germany, Sabrina. We ate at a great restaurant and returned home for some fantastic chocolate cake.
We even made some real headway on our decision process. Janet committed to making the move happen. She decided that this was something that she really wanted to do. Wayne has been committed, not to an institution but to an idea, but has been waiting to hear from Janet once she had some experience here. So we are on to the next level of planning for next summer. All in All it was a birthday to remember!
Today was more of the same. School and then off by launcha all the way accorss the lake to Santiago Atitlan. We went to a special house just out of town, via pickup, to see the Mayan diety Maximón. He is a combination of Christianity and Mayan Gods. He is wooden all dressed up in hats and ties, smoking a cigar. Maximón or San Simón is in a small house with a statue of Jesus and some of the saints, there are mayans sitting there drinking beer and collecting money. Mayans bring money, or candles asking for good luck. He is moved once a year to a new house during holy week. It is an odd combination of pagan and christian symbols.
We visited the local church and the memorial to all those who died as part of the conflict that lasted some some thirty years but had a major affect on this town for over ten years ending in 1990.
We then did a little shopping in town. By the end of the day we were really tired! Tomorrow we have class in the afternoon and no activities, thank goodness.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Digs

Yesterday we moved. Oh my goodness we think we have died and gone to heaven. This is a very pleasant place with so much room we don’t know what to do with it, and very comfortable. It will be a lot easier to study here. We went to the market this morning and loaded up on vegetables and fruit. Janet washed it all in a Clorox solution so it should be safe to eat. We had dinner with Jay and Carey last night (the people we would be replacing) just across the courtyard. Theirs is a tiny place but very livable. We are having our first day of rest since we arrived. I don’t think we knew how tired we were. Wayne’s 60th birthday is Tuesday, Janet is trying to learn to sing Happy Birthday in Spanish, since she can’t sing in English this will be a challenge.

Pictures include our new place, a Tuk-Tuk (anywhere in Pana for $.60) this is how we moved our stuff, Janet's classroom, and one of the many beautiful flowers. Buying flowers is inexpensive. Four bunches for less than a dollar.

The Solola Market - Last Week

Check out a few of the sights and sounds of the market at Solola.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mucho Espanol

We are spending most of our time at school or doing our tarea (homework). We are moving today to Phil’s apartment and are very excited about it. We will have comfortable chairs to sit in and enough hot water to take a shower. Also we will have a full sized bed so we won’t have to sleep on top of each other. We will miss our family, especially the little girls. We will have to cook our own food so we will be making a trip to the market to try out our bargaining skills to buy some vegetables. They have the most abundant fruits and vegetables here. We had a cooking class yesterday and the only student able to make decent tortillas was Wayne (better known in Pana as Guillermo). Hasta luego.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another Two Days

We were too busy yesterday to make it to the internet café. We took our first ride in the back of a pick up truck, conveniently they provide a bar down the middle to hold onto while you are standing in the back. It is definitely a thrill. (We will post a picture of such a truck someday.)We have another student who has joined us at the school from France. Now there are three of us. We visited a small pueblo and saw another weaving cooperative, it is amazing at how much work they put into their weaving and how little money they make for it. Yesterday we both sort of hit a wall as it pertains to Spanish, but today was a little better. The activity for today was climbing up and down the side of a small (?) mountain to find sites where Mayan rituals are completed. The picture of the candles is a site where a ritual was conducted perhaps one or two hours ago. They burn candles and smoke cigars, light fires and offer animal or food sacrifices offering prayers asking for specific favors. Toward the end Janet couldn’t handle the climb anymore so sat and waited while the others climbed down. They lucked out and actually saw a ritual being conducted. The view from the side of the mountain was unbelievable, as are many of the views around the lake. We explore the town of Pana a little more each day and offer prayers in thanks that we have not been run over by a truck or bus and that Janet can still walk.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Clinic Day

Pictures of the circus, our patio, our electric shower, and our casa.

Today we had our second day at the clinic. Wayne spent most of the time working with Dr. Freddy. He did vitals for incoming patients and then assisted in the exam room. We made referrals to the hospital in Solola and in Guatemala City. We also scheduled some surgeries for September when the next team arrives. Flu is here like everywhere. Tom drove again today and Jay was off with a medical team in Cunen. Driving places is a big deal, you have to navigate your way through crowded narrow streets or wind your way up the side of the mountain with many sharp turns. Janet got a few lessons in what she might have to deal with if we move here, it seems like a lot of responsibility. She visited an elementary school with the head teacher and director to ask if the preschool can participate in the annual independence day celebration. This is a big national holiday. It was recess time and all the kids crowded around the gringas, smiling and looking at us. Guatemala is a very sensual country there are always lots of sounds, dogs barking, the circus that has moved in next door for two weeks, music playing; and the colors are intense with many flowers and colorful dress of the women. the smells include burning charcol and cooking food and a little bit of sewer. Here in Pana the main street is lined with small stands with much weaving and clothing for sale. Also many Mayan women walking around with their wares balanced on their heads following you down the street. There are several that always approach Janet and want to know why hasn’t she bought anything from them yet. So far promising to buy another day works.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We had a great day off today. We really needed a little time to recharge. We got up early, and after breakfast headed for the lake. We took a launche to San Juan a 40 minute ride across the lake. We then headed for a women's weaving cooperative. This is a quiet small artist town with many murals on the buildings. We were greeted at the Co-op by a woman who helped start the organization many years ago. "She showed us the processes for the dyes from the flowers and vegetables to the final weave. She was quite interesting and even made an outfit for the President of Guatemala.
We then headed for San Pedro by Tuk-Tuk. The ride was great and the views awesome. We arrived at the market and then headed down tto the waterfront. Just outside of town we found a great cafe by the water where we had coffee and lunch a bit later after we enjoyed a great horseback ride. Then back to Pana by launche.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Mayan
Co-Op in

Natural dies and hand woven scarves made from bamboo

The market in Solola on Friday afternoon. Check out all the great produce and the buses.

Well life continues to be exciting. Riding these buses is probably not good for ones health but is sort of exciting. The market was very interesting. Many vendors don't want you to take pictures of their stuff. It is amazing what is for sale-shampoo, shoes, plastic toys all kinds of , pencils, meat, fruits and vegetables and of course Guatemalan weaving. The Mayan cooperative was amazing. They had very beautiful stuff, we didn't get to see the weaving but we did see them dying the bamboo yarn. We have been very lucky because the rain has held off for this week. Soon it will come and rain all afternoon so we are trying to see as much as possible while the weather is good. Our teachers are great but the work is hard. Back at the house where we stay we have one comfortable chair to sit in so we have to take turns sitting in it. Wayne loves the food. We walk everywhere and get in about 4 miles a day.