Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This week in Chimaltenango......

During the week we were busy at work with our projects. All of them are up and running now and are going well. It has been especially fun to visit the villages and make the adobe stoves with the women of the villages. One odd job this week that I really enjoyed was clearing off a corn field with a machete so that we can put the portable house of a senile old man there. After we layed down that corn we burned it to the ground and smoothed out the turf for a solid foundation. Then we had to assemble his house which was a pile of scrap metal with no instructions. But through some good detective work we did it. We´re going to finalize it this afternoon.

Well, all is well in our little green and pink house. Every night the street urchins come out and play some soccer with us in the street, and we've taught them how to pound the potato fist hand grenade style after a goal is scored. We are all happy and most everyone is healthy with the exception of Nicole who has had a recent bout with jungle fever.

We got the chance to go to the house of the Lord up in Guatemala city on saturday. That was nice, we also ran into the El Salvador team on the front lawn. There were many young men trying to catch the eye of our ladies and they kept asking me to try to hook them up with them.

Some of us went to a wild dance club in Antigua on saturday night. We were shaking our moneymakers like crazy and even earned some free clorets gum from the official Clorets dance team.

The mayor also invited us into his office to cut a little policy with him. Here is a picture of democrasy in action.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Projects and Pacaya

This week we have been getting the projects up and running. We have projects in the following areas so far:
· Adobe stoves: These are simple wood stoves that we make with clay. The stoves keep the heat enclosed so they use half the wood needed for an open stove. After teaching communities to build these stoves we come back and give a chimney to everyone who has built a stove. Many of the communities go from house to house helping each other build a stove. The chimney allows the smoke to escape, preventing smoke inhalation This is a pic of us and our first adobe stove that we built so everyone would know how to do it.

· Square foot gardens: The idea behind square foot gardens is to improve family nutrition by growing a variety of vegetables. Square foot gardens take up less water and land than traditional row gardening.
· ESL: We are helping teach in 2 schools right now and we will soon be starting evening English classes at church. Here is one of the schools we work at.

· Health: We have public health/nutrition/first aid classes that we teach in the communities. We also have a couple of pre-med/nursing students who volunteer at a hospital in the recovery center.
· Orphanages: We are currently only working in one orphanage right now. This orphanage’s mission is to prepare the families to take back their kids. (Most “orphans” have at least one parent alive and many have both parents) This orphanages works with the courts and parents so the kids can go home.
· Manual Labor: We have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity working on homes. We’ve learned to bind rebar together and mix cement – hard work. Soon we will be painting 8 classrooms at a school. Right now the walls are bare cement blocks.
· Business classes: We also teach business classes. This is an exciting area because many women’s groups get micro-credit loans and have a little business that they run out of their home. So we teach them basic business skills so they can improve their business.

The highlight of the week was probably hiking Volcano Pacaya. We got up at 3:30AM and drove to the sight so we could see the sun rise. The volcano was covered in mist and clouds as we started to climb. Walking over the lava fields you could feel the heat coming out of crevasses.

At the very top of the cone we could look in and mostly see sulfuric mist but we did get a glimpse of some glowing lava. It was a little scary because the volcano would rumble and burp.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Antigua, Garage Cafe y Mas

Everyone got in, including Creighton who spent a week in Mexico relaxing before coming to Guate, and we are all settling into this new environment. Today was the first day of real rain and Dan swears he saw a lightning bolt hit the cell phone tower.

We have all been eating out a lot because we haven’t found a good deal on a fridge yet. Our favorite place (or maybe just the closest to our house) is the “Garage CafĂ©” which is actually in someone’s garage. Great food. And at 15 quetzales per lunch you can’t beat it.

Genevieve and I cooked spaghetti for Luis and his family on the second to last night we stayed with him. Here’s a picture of me cutting onions with my snorkel mask (which was a graduation present from my mother-in-law) on to keep me from crying.

Our house is SA-WEET. We have a roof where we hold team meetings and everybody uses to get some fresh air in the mornings to help them wake up.

The view is pretty cool too.

We also got to head down to Antigua, which is just a half hour away. Here’s everyone waiting for our ride.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lessons learned

So the first lessons I learned in Guatemala are:

1. Don`t pay the bus driver when you first get on, you´ll look stupid. Just have a seat and someone will come by to get your money.

2. Why you say "buenos dias" on the phone, wait for the other person to answer. In the states we don´t do this, we just say: "hey how´s it going I have a question for you" but here they are going to say good morning back it you´ll be talking over them

3. The smell of mold is the same no matter what country you are in

4. Having your shoes get dirty is much better than your feet, lots of dog poo. I am really glad that I brought shoes. I thought I would be wearing my chacos day and night, but shoes are good.

5. The people we meet dress nice. The first day I was in a t shirt and felt under dressed. The collared shirts are great now for meetings

6. Hot bucket showers are better than cold regular showers