Cornfields and School Supplies

Last week, my friend, Annalisa, invited me to go with her to distribute school supplies for her organization, Eduacion con Esperanza. I jumped at the chance, of course. It was just a short, overnight trip, but I was excited to A) check out her project, B) travel a little bit and C) hang out with her.

We left on Sunday afternoon with our backpacks and a bag of supplies that hadn’t gone up with a friend the day before. I haven’t traveled longer distances on a chicken bus in many years now, so it brought back memories, climbing aboard the bus and wedging myself into the tight seats. All part of the adventure!

On the first day, we arrived at Pujijil II and were picked up by Manuel, the project leader in Solola (yep, back to the lake!). We headed to interview one of three families in a rural area where we had to walk quite a ways through cornfields. That wasn’t a problem, but the terrain was up and down. Despite living on the side of a volcano, I’m not used to hiking up and down and up and down!

After about 20 minutes, it became obvious to me that my legs weren’t going to hold out much longer. They were on the verge of collapsing and my eyesight was pretty much narrowed to directly in front of me. After passing a couple of houses with rather aggressive dogs (nothing like a bunch of snarling dogs to make those legs work!), I stopped to rest, waving everyone else on. Of course, they waited for me, but it was getting late and I didn’t want to hold everyone up.

Once we reached the top of the hill we were climbing, the guide, a local woman, pointed out the house. It was downhill and then back up again. I told them I’d stay put and wait. So I sat down, accompanied by Edgar, Manuel’s teenaged son, and we talked chickens and corn and education while we waited. It was incredibly beautiful up there, with the cornfields stretching down around us, no sounds but the occasional distant shout of a child floating up the hill and the chortling of the chickens scratching around us.

When everyone returned, we headed back to the truck. Manuel was nice enough to take pity on me and bring the truck closer so I didn’t have to walk up the last hill, which, quite frankly, may have been the death of me.

We saw two other families (thankfully much closer to the road) and headed to Manuel’s house in Solola to have dinner with his family and sort school supplies. He has four sons and a daughter, all really neat kids. His wife made a huge amount of tortillas to go with the chicken soup she served us and later left the remaining tortillas on the wood stove to crisp when she went up to bed. I had to laugh when the kids came bouncing back down the stairs and gobbled up the crispy tortillas around 10 pm. That is EXACTLY what Dorian would do!

In the morning, this was the view that met us. Amazing!

volcano

We met up with the women in Annalisa’s project. The meeting place was at the top of a steep path and I once again struggled up it, my legs not fully recovered. Word of my weak legs had preceded me, I realized, when everyone was chuckling at me as I finally made it up. Our guide from the day before was animatedly telling the story of how I’d stumbled my way up the hills the day before.

Annalisa and Manuel began to sort out the supplies and give them to the women while the children played. I particularly liked this one idea . . . a Pepsi box turned into a swing!

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School supplies distributed, we were ready to head home, but first, I had to use the bathroom. When I asked where it was, one of the women called out, “Half a kilometer!” and they all started laughing again. Well, it wasn’t half a kilometer, but it was down a steep path! I made it safely there and back and we were ready to jump on the bus and go home to where the boys were eagerly awaiting my return.

It was a fun trip. I have to admit that I miss traveling like I used to do, so this was a great way to get out for a bit, even just for a one night trip. Though, in the future, I will be making more trips to the area, because I’ll be working as a translator for some upcoming tours!

New School Year and Next Steps in Health

Today was our first day back at school. Hard to believe the boys are in grades 4 and 5 now, with Dominic doing a mixture of preschool and kindergarten work. Seems like they were just getting started last year! But no, now we are entering the world of higher math, where Irving will be called upon more often, and writing reports and doing crazy science experiments.

We started off slowly, with just a few pages or a simple activity in each subject. Dominic was thrilled to start school and worked diligently, writing out his answers in his book and eagerly taking everything in. Funny to think how his schooling will be different because he has much older brothers!

The older boys are learning about hoaxes and will later move on to Guatemala’s history. We plan to take a few small field trips this year and the kids are pretty excited about that idea.

On the health front, I’m done my treatment, which was nearly as bad as the infection. I took the last antibiotic yesterday and I’m feeling much better. In fact, yesterday, I even spent the morning climbing stairs and walking around the hospital on a tour, something that would have been completely impossible for me a week ago. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

The next step is to see the doctor in a week or so, to get checked out. I’m going to have to do some tests to see if any permanent damage was done from the infection going untreated for so long, then we’ll get a plan in place to get my immune system back on track. So far, so good!

One of the fringe benefits of being so sick is that I lost quite a bit of weight. I doubt it will stay off, but you never know!

 

What a Way to Start the New Year

Well, 15 days in and 2016 is already a doozy of a year. No sooner had we celebrated the new year, when I started to feel . . . not-so-great. I figured it was a normal issue that would resolve itself in a few days, but when it didn’t and I started getting chills and was in intense pain all day long, we thought it might be time to see a doctor.

My doctor wasn’t available, so we went to see one that was recommended by my sister-in-law. He quickly dismissed me with “your pain is caused by your weight, plus you’re old, so you can’t expect your body to work the same way anymore.” Um, okay. I’m 36, didn’t realize that was falling apart age . . . He sent me home with a prescription for Vitamin E and painkillers.

Well, I was still feeling pretty sick. The pains spread up my stomach and I was vomiting, too. We saw a second doctor, who told me that I probably had a form of endometriosis. He seconded the Vitamin E and painkillers/anti-inflammatories.

Unfortunately, nothing was getting better. I was in constant pain and so worn out that I could barely stand for more than a few minutes. The boys were wonderful during this period. Dante cooked most of the meals for the family and Dorian kept Dominic entertained. Irving was here, of course, but he didn’t have to do too much apart from supervise, plus he was running into town to try and find something to help me.

Finally, my doctor was available on Monday and we went. He took a quick look at me and listened to the story and was able to rule out the whole uterine lining business and found points of infection in my ears, throat, lungs, GI tract, kidneys, etc. So, basically, a massive, multi-system infection that had been allowed to go on far too long. He started me on antibiotics and told me to come back when I was done to work on rebuilding my poor, shattered immune system.

So, this means that so far, I’ve spent the year sleeping, in extreme pain or waiting for a doctor. Pretty sure the rest of the year will go better.

 

Blended Holidays

One of the things I love about Guatemala is the fact that everyone celebrates hard here. Life isn’t easy for most people, but they don’t let that stop them from dancing in the streets when there’s a convite or setting off firecrackers to ring in the new year, show pride in a parade or simply celebrate someone’s birth.

While bombas, or firecrackers, are heard throughout the year, the last week of December is particularly rife with them.

The bombas are just as much of our Christmas and New Year’s traditions as my more Canadian takes on the holidays. It’s been years of figuring out exactly how to blend our two cultures to create holiday traditions that are perfect for our particular family.

fireworks

Children squeal as they light volcancitos and dance away to watch the shower of sparks fly up, older kids set off the little boxes that shoot whistling fire darts into the sky and even babies clap their hands in glee when their parents light the sticks that shoot balls of glowing flames in ever-increasing arcs. It’s part of life here and, I have to admit, a fun part.

The older boys are now at the age that they want to light their own firecrackers, so we’ve selected the safer options for them, stressing the need to be careful and safety techniques. Dominic helps, standing off to the side and yelling advice like, “GET BACK!” or “Careful! You could die!”

Here are a few of our other mixed up traditions:

Guatemalan                                                                    Canadian

Eating tamales at midnight on the 24th                           Turkey dinner on the 25th

Exchanging gifts at midnight                                           Opening PJs on the 24th

Opening gifts on the 25th

Setting off firecrackers for New Year                              Watching movies and eating

Hugging everyone at midnight                                         Making New Year’s resolutions

Something I never really thought about when we started our family, was the fact that so many traditions would be so deeply ingrained in both of us. While Irving tends not to worry too much about holidays (he leaves that to me), he has specific things that he feels ought to be observed.

He would never have Christmas without his bombas to set off, for example. And it just isn’t Christmas without tamales and hot chocolate at midnight. For me, the turkey dinner is a must! And setting out a buffet for New Year’s Eve is something my mother still does and did every year that I can remember, so I feel that it’s a vital part of the holiday. Sometimes, it’s hard to understand the importance of a holiday tradition when you haven’t grown up with it, but we both have worked to make it happen for our sons.

New Year's Eve spread

This year, we were rewarded by the boys’ anticipation of most of our traditions. It was awesome to hear them talking as we decorated the tree, explaining Polar Express night to Dominic and recalling past years. They were excited about the New Year’s Eve buffet and bombas long before Christmas even came along.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

 

Welcoming 2016!

catnapHard to believe another year has passed by so quickly. It’s been a doozy, but we made it! And quite frankly, despite a large number of setbacks in life throughout 2015, I think we’ve actually come out the other side better for it all.

I know most people fuss and whine about “new year resolutions” and reflecting on the old year, etc. and that is fine, but I happen to LOVE the fresh new start of a brand new, sparkling year and so, if you’re one of those people, you might want to skip this post. 😉

This is the first year that we haven’t had a single hospital visit for anyone in our immediate family! Woohoo! We have, however, made multiple ER runs with Melvin and Sofia.

2015 also marks the first year I left my kiddos and went out on my own for three nights. It went surprisingly well and we all enjoyed the little break from each other. And, this is the first year to see us as parents of a double digit preteen, since Dorian turned 10.

While it was a year of firsts, it was also a year of ends. The end of babies in our home. The end of the bakery. The end of more than a few relationships and friendships. That being said, there were also some new friends made and an old one reacquainted.

Truthfully, I feel like this has been a year of massive changes that weren’t necessarily visible from the outside. To me, it’s been months of becoming more self-aware and confident. My kids are at ages where they are more independent now and while I’d love to squash them to my side forever, I am learning to let go and let them spread their wings bit by bit as I watch, nervously, from the sidelines. But this has also freed me up to get more in touch with my real passions. And that is a good thing.

I’ve rediscovered my passion to help people Having a chance to go to the lake and work with Mayan Families and the Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic helped me reaffirm that goal and so far we’ve delivered about $200 worth of medicines and a lot of baby clothes to the local hospital to help them out. We plan to expand on that in the coming year.

Life has many stages and for both Irving and I, it feels like we’ve moved into a new stage right now. We watch his siblings planning for and waiting for new babies and we smile at each other, comfortable in the knowledge that we’re okay with not having any more babies. Our family is growing up and . . . it’s okay. Bittersweet, but good. We’ve reached a new stage in our relationship, too. We’re able to focus on each other a bit more now that the kids are older and that has made a big difference in how we relate to each other. Hard to believe that after nearly 13 years, we still have things to learn about each other, but we do!

The shift in confidence and self-worth hasn’t just affected me. Irving has been coming into his own as a carpenter, too. He’s sold several pieces that he’s built and has become more excited about creating for others. It’s pretty neat to see!

What does 2016 hold? Who knows? Things rarely go as planned. However, I intend to learn to cook and sew better, build up my writing business and work on a couple of new projects with a friend or two. It’s going to be a good year.

Are you looking forward to 2016?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Yes, I’m aware that I’m a tad late on the Merry Christmas part of this post, but things were crazy hectic over the holiday!

We like to prepare ahead of time for Christmas, so I buy stocking stuffers and gifts starting in January, when I see a good deal or anything that might not be available during Christmas. So I had most of those little gifts for the boys, plus we got them an Xbox when someone decided they didn’t want to bother moving their collection anymore and sold a massive amount of accessories, plus the original Xbox for a ridiculously low price. We jumped on it, months ago, so that was the big gift taken care of.

However, I wanted to make the kids their Christmas Eve jammies and some rice heating bags. I had a friend bring me the fabric from the US, which was perfect, but then I had to actually sew it. I’ve never done collars before and the first one I did turned out terribly!

In the end, I finished up the pajamas literally minutes before the boys headed to bed! I also made a little jacket for my niece, from fleece.

toddler jacket

rice bags

I also did the boys’ stockings, since Dominic had a baby stocking and was ready to move up to a full-size. Instead of replicating the ones I made for the older boys years ago, I just did new ones and they turned out fairly well! And hats for each kid!

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At midnight, we woke the boys up, but Dominic would just not wake up! So the big kids went out to burn bombas and I stayed in the house, in case Dominic did wake and freak out with all the noise. I needn’t have worried! He slept like a rock most of the night. So, when the kids were done with their firecrackers, they came in for hot chocolate and tamales. Melvin and his wife and Sofia 3 came over, too.

On Christmas Day, the kids opened their stockings and presents, then we had a huge dinner with 15 people on our patio! It was pretty amazing, though I was behind in finishing everything for the dinner. We had over a couple of my friends and one’s children, plus Melvin’s family and Gaby and her husband. It was a very fun afternoon, until we received word that my MIL was on her way home and everyone scattered in panic.

I hope all my readers had a terrific holiday and enjoy the new year.

Dorian Turns 10

I can’t believe my son has been around for a whole decade. Where did the time go?!

Dorian’s requests were simple this year. He wanted a can of whipped cream, but didn’t think it was available here, and a Geometry Dash cake. Pretty easy, right? Well, it was, until I burned the cake! He suggested I cut off the burned part, which I did. Then I iced the whole thing, thinking icing would be easier than fondant for such a basic design. Boy, was I wrong!

The completed cake looked . . . iffy. It was dry and not that tasty, but we survived. I’d added sprinkles to the inside of the cake, so it looked pretty, at least.

Fortunately, the rest of the day was much more of a success! We got Dorian his can of whipped cream and he was thrilled! Everyone had to have a mouthful, of course.

He also received a BeanBoozled game, which is pretty much the weirdest thing I can imagine. The kids have watched countless YouTube videos on this game and loved it. So, I got a friend to bring me one from the US. Basically, this game is full of jellybeans in various colors, but there are good and bad flavors. When you eat a green one, for example, it might be lime or it could be grass clippings. Brown is either dog food or chocolate pudding. Buttered popcorn or barf (yes, there is actually a barf jellybean. EW!). Needless to say, they had a BLAST playing this game. I didn’t dare touch it.

They also got giant LEGO figures to play with, from Star Wars. Then we packed up and headed to our favorite park, Florencia, for a cookout and some playtime. We took along my brother-in-law, his wife Alejandra and their daughter Sofia 3. Everyone enjoyed eating churrasco and the kids ran around like crazy in the forest and on the playground until they were thoroughly worn out.

Dorian is 10. And he’s VERY happy about it.

Bad Blogger

Once again, I’ve fallen woefully behind in my blogging. I think I need a proper schedule to stay on top of things.

It’s already December and we’ve started in on the festivities. The tree is up and the kids are enjoying the advent calendar that I made a few years back. We still have more decorating to do, but we’re working on adding more fun crafts each day.

November went by in a blur, with the trip to the lake, the craziness that followed (I came back with giardia, my friend and blog reader had dengue), then working on finishing up the pitch challenge I was taking, which turned out to be a bit of a mess, as they changed the deadline three times. We also had a couple of donation trips to the hospital, which I need to get the photos up for (they’re on a memory card that has been temporarily misplaced, along with some other photos). I have also been petsitting for a friend and with the American Thanksgiving, there was also a lot to bake and sell, but things are finally settling down a bit.

Over the past week, we’ve seen a number of incidents in Antigua and area, as well. Two, possibly three, bus drivers have been shot recently, which is pretty much unheard of in this particular area. It’s resulted in all public transport being halted from Santa Maria de Jesus and San Juan del Obispo. Then, while Irving was in the market the other day with the boys, a man from our town threw himself under a bus and killed himself. Fortunately, Irving managed to get the kids away from the place before they saw anything.

So, things have been rather busy around here. Between all the happenings and work, I’m keeping nicely occupied. 😉

Six Additions

Those who know me fairly well know that I’m a back-to-the-land kinda girl at heart. I’m not ready to live 100% off the grid, but I do want to grow my own food and be more self-sufficient. That’s easier said than done when living on a tiny bit of land that is mostly house!

However, a couple of weeks ago, we took a giant leap forward in this regard. We got six chicks that will grow up to be laying hens.

Chickens

I’ve wanted chickens for years, but Irving was a little iffy on the whole idea. We had super limited space and he was worried they’d stink. But I had something on him this time, since he brought home three rabbits for the boys recently! When I found the chicks in the market, I told him that we needed to take some home and he was going to have to build an enclosure that very afternoon. He reluctantly agreed, I purchased my chickens and off we went.

Irving quickly rigged up a chicken run and we were in business! Dominic loves to sit on a chair and watch the chicks peck around in the dirt. He says, “This is the best movie ever!”

Apparently Macroft agrees, since he sits for hours outside the fence watching the chicks, too!

Macroft and the chickens

These little girls have grown quickly and started to fly the coop pretty fast! After we had one go missing (she decided to visit the neighbors for the afternoon), I had to go ahead and clip their wings. That was nervewracking, but they didn’t seem to mind too much, especially since they had lots of snuggles first and food after.

More on the Panajachel trip coming. I’ve been a bad blogger since I’m rushing to finish up my Pitch Challenge and getting several projects off the ground!