Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Ending of a Year and the Start of the Next (Day 437)

(Admittedly, not one of my better titles.)

Here I sit on New Year's Eve posting an update from the frigid north of my parents' house.  Due to a various number of factors, it was decided to spend the holidays in the States this year.  I head back to Guatemala on January 11th.

Today marks the completion of my first calendar year in Guatemala, and in just a few days, we'll mark the one-year anniversary of my work in the department (their version of "state") of Sacatepequez.  I have learned a lot in the past year: how to navigate Antigua, how to speak Spanish fluently, how to ride the bus all by myself (to Antigua, Ciudad Vieja, Santiago Zamora, and San Antonio), the cost of bread, how to make friends, how to drive a motorcycle, how to run my own home, and how to teach English (I think).  There's still a lot I have left to learn including cooking Guatemalan cuisine, telling off men, finding a good housemate, taking care of a chicken, and raising more support in the States as--since the debacle with the hogar--I have relied almost completely on my grandfather's church, small as they are.

Not every battle is an uphill one.  There are some things I take to more easily than others.  I believe that learning to cook Guatemalan food and raising my chicken will be the easier of my list of five things.  But I struggle with asking people for money, getting along with people who don't have the same logic-directed mentality that I do, and hurting feelings.  So, my prayer wishlist for myself for the next year contains all these things.  Thanks for your continued love and support.  Happy New Year (and a belated Merry Christmas)!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

God's Puzzle Coming Together Little by Little (Day 424)

It's amazing watching God slide all the pieces into place.  What happened last night was a puzzle at least 4.5 years in the making, but even with how I write, I'm not sure I can articulate exactly what happened using my normal writing style.  Sorry.

Who (major characters):
Annalisa--yours truly
Christina--A friend I worked with during my first two mission trips to Guatemala (2007 and 2008) who needed to do an internship in a foreign country and is currently staying at my house while she does said internship here in Guatemala
Mama Conny--A woman who lives in San Antonio where I live and works at Caoba Farms in Antigua...where Christina is doing her internship

Mama Conny has cervical cancer.  She needs to have a hysterectomy.  She found someone who can do it for Q5,000 (about $650).  She earns about Q60/day (according to Christina) and works 6 days/week.  (Although, based on my own calculations, I think she makes closer to Q90/day.)  She plans on losing her job based on the minimum 8 week recovery time.  So, this woman has been saving up her money for months to have this surgery to be saved from cancer with the expectation that she will be unemployed afterwards.

God sliding pieces:
Christina struck up a friendship with most of the people at the farm.  Conny invited us to dinner the other night.  Christina invited Conny and her youngest daughter for tea and bread last night.  I happened to be in the house but hiding out because I wasn't feeling well.  (I've got a sore throat and other fun symptoms of the dry season.)  However, I overhead the word matriz.  Now, I've been helping out Henry and Children of the Americas enough already that I know that word when I hear it.  I'm a massage therapist, not a gynecologist, but this is a word I recognize in Spanish.  I didn't hear all of the problem (as it is listed above), just that she had plans to get this surgery but was saving money for it.  I came out of hiding and asked some questions about when she was planning on having it done.  Where?  How?  Henry told me to be on the lookout for anyone who needed help.  Conny definitely qualifies.  I got online to send him a message and ask about details, and he was here online.  Mama Conny will be going to Zacapa in January to receive a free hysterectomy by some of the top doctors in the United States.

Yay God. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Safe and Sound (Day 415)

This is just a quick update to let you know that I have returned safe and sound from Caserio El Paraiso.  I've been spending the last few days busy with other things and today I worked on editing some of the film I shot to have English subtitles.  Tomorrow I will likely post a much larger entry about the place, but I still have a lot of research to do and will likely travel back to the caserio (hamlet or country house...that gives you an idea of how small these "villages" are) once more before I head back to the States.

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Please Help Us" (Day 408)

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet the parents of the young man--Edgar--who sells me cat food in the market.  His parents, Camilo and Cristina, as well as the rest of his family are from Casario el Paraiso in the department of Solala.  Because I am operating under the title of "missionary," his parents, who are pastors, thought that I might know more missionaries to help out their ever-growing ring of villages with needs.  In all fairness, I believe this couple could be called "missionaries" in their own country, their own department, their own village.

And I do know missionaries, but most of them are already doing some sort of mission where they are and aren't really looking to expand to other locations (just because it's hard to be in two places at once).  So, we got out into the parking lot of the market to have a chat away from the prying ears of the market. (Interestingly, one of my current English students saw me and asked me today all about the people I was with in the market.  So much for privacy, huh?)  They told me about the conditions of the people in their area and told me what their dreams were for these people.  I finally had to stop them and ask some specific questions.

A: How many families are we talking about?
C&C: 5...10...probably 50.
A: How do you get from 5 to 50 so fast?
C&C: Well, it's about 5 families in each of the 10 communities. (They had been multiplying...not counting.)
A: So, what you're looking for is essentially a 2-step process.  First, you're looking for money to meet the immediate need of malnutrition...
C (hesitantly): Yes.
A: And second, you're looking for people to come in and teach these people skills that they can use to raise money?
C & C: Yes

They went on to tell me that they were the people everyone came to when they needed help: rides to the hospital--very far away--to deliver babies, stomach pain, etc.

A: There is no doctor.
E: No.
A: There is no dentist.
E: No.
A: Like...none at all?
E: No.  There is no one with training.

And, of course, I can go and teach massage therapy which is what I will likely do for at least one woman in each community.  (Praying!)  However, they need much more than that.  There is, however, a very big problem.

A: The people in the community...they only speak Kachiquel. (This was a statement/question which arose from the observation that even though both his mother and father could speak Spanish with me, they sometimes directed their response to their son in Kachiquel who would then tell me in Spanish.  It indicated that while they could speak Spanish, they were much more comfortable using a translator.)
E: Yes.
A: They don't speak Spanish?
E: There are some that understand Spanish mostly, but they only speak Kachiquel.

This presents an obvious problem.  Even if I can bring in Americans/foreigners to work with this village, the number of people who are fluent in both Kachiquel and English are very limited.  I know two (and I know of a third).  The number of professionals who speak both English and Spanish (and would want to take on something like this) is pretty limited as well.  Therefore, to train these people to either have a new skill or turn an existing skill into a business would be quite complicated:
The professional would explain something in English. Someone would translate that into Spanish.  Someone else would translate that into Kachiquel so that the person would hopefully understand.  If the trainee had a question, they would ask it in Kachiquel.  Someone else would translate that into Spanish.  Someone else would translate that into English, and the professional would answer what we hope is the question after a multi-lingual game of telephone.
To have someone who could translate from Kachiquel to English (and viceversa) would be incredibly useful in a situation like this as questions for clarification would not get lost in translation.

I currently have a vocabulary of about 20 words and phrases in Kachiquel.  Edgar's English is a bit better, but not by much.  (Spanish is a second language for both of us.)  So, for the next 18 days--until I fly to the United States--we are committing ourselves to learning the native language of each other.  (I will obviously not be fluent at the end of this time, but I certainly hope to be able to hold my own in idle chitchat.)  Furthermore, I will be traveling to Casario el Paraiso on Tuesday to meet with families in 5 different places, to discuss options, hopes, and dreams with them along with taking photos and cataloging some stories.

What I need from you:

  • Prayers of safe travel for Tuesday
  • Prayers for the people in this area
  • Prayers for volunteers from the States who are interested in committing time to teaching these people
  • Prayers for the language studies of Edgar and myself
  • Ideas and options for the people of this area
  • Use of whatever contacts you have to try to identify people who would/could commit time to teaching these people
  • Share.  Share this journal ( and share this journal entry.  Get the word out.

Man on the Bus: Day 408

(I'm already deciding that I'm not fond of blogspot.  I wrote this whole entry once already and blogspot lost it.  It just means that I'll have to take more precautions.)

Yesterday as we left San Antonio and headed for Antigua, there was a man on the bus who walked up to the front where the driver is.  He didn't walk like most of the rest of us walk; he was sort of dragging his legs and used his arms a lot to keep him upright.  I suppose he could have been drunk, but I think he more likely had some sort of motor problem.

Upon arriving at the front of the bus, he proceeded to block the stairway, talk to the driver, and mess with the instruments that he could reach...and even some that he couldn't really reach.  This bothered me.  I live in the highlands of Guatemala, 4000 feet above sea level.  It is one thing to put my life--on these mountainous windy roads--in the hands of two--the driver and his helper--burly Guatemalan men.  It was another to unwillingly have my life put in the hands of a man who lacks motor control should he suddenly grab and yank the steering wheel.  To be honest with you, I was scared.  To be further honest with you, I was hoping the driver would kick the man off the bus.

However, as we reached the entrance/exit to San Antonio, the driver stopped the bus and wrestled the man off, and we drove off, my feelings slightly changed.  To see the man laying there on the ground holding his knee, I wondered if the driver had even tried to explain the dangers that this man was putting us all in, that the man needed to sit down (as there were seats available).  I couldn't help but think that maybe the man wasn't treated fairly.

But I was glad that my life was back in the hands of people I more-or-less trusted.

Journal change

It's not so much a change as a backup, a spare copy.  Today I have had considerable trouble trying to get on livejournal, and in the interest of not losing at least my posts from Guatemala, I've decided to start blogging in two places when possible (and filling in the gaps later when not possible).  So, from here on out, I will try to maintain my previous blog at and this journal.  The format will be a little bit different with this blog and may be easier to read, but I'll leave that up to you to decide.