Monday, November 14, 2011

Jonathan's first birthday party (Day 392)

I once had to do this thing about strengths and weaknesses for a class.  We were supposed to make our own lists, and then we were supposed to ask a family member, a friend, and an acquaintance to make lists about us as well.  On my mother's lists--yes, both of them--she put the word "sensitive."  I suppose I am.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the 1st birthday party of a little boy.  He is the grandson of my ex-next-door neighbor.  (My ex-next-door neighbor is an amazing woman, by the way, but because of the economy, she had to go live with her daughter.)  Now, the boy's mother has four children.  Her husband vanished on the family about a year ago, maybe longer.  Anyway, I have worked hard to develop a good relationship with the family, especially Jonathan David (the baby).  At first, I was this scary white person, but after a while, I was the only one--besides his mother--who he wanted to spend time with.  The family started calling me his madrina which literally means "godmother."

So, last week, they invited me to his birthday party, and my ex-next-door neighbor/good friend, Donya Juana, told me (in Spanish), "Come here right after church. Don't even go to your house first."  Ideas: (a) They are excited about the party and church in Antigua goes a little late, (b) They are going to rob my house, (c) The party was actually for me at my house and they wanted some warning before I got there by sending me hiking up the side of the mountain first.  And, yes, the ideas actually came to me in that order.

So, I headed to Antigua early yesterday to buy a present for the boy before church.  It was a blue toy motorcycle, and I paid Q30 for it (all wrapped and with a bow).  Besides my bus fare home, it was the last of my money for quite a while.  But was it ever worth it...

When I got to the house, I found out it was the first present that the baby had ever received.  (His sisters would go to look for something else for him later that evening as they walked me home.) But what got to my sensitive side more than that was that the baby's mother didn't have any pictures of her son.  I had brought my camera, and she became very interested in this.  "How do you get the pictures off of the camera?"  She has pictures of all of her other children, but none of her baby boy.  When I think of some of the people I know who have monthly facebook albums of their kids as babies or when I even consider my own babyhood, I found this really striking.  I must have taken 20 pictures of little Jonathan yesterday as well as at least one good picture of each of his siblings.

Yesterday's mission job: photographer
And if there was any doubt in your mind, yes, the family is receiving pictures for Christmas.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Guatemalan Elections (Day 385)

This is my second post today.  Look for the other down below.

This post is actually a two part post as well.  The first part I wrote on September 12th or so and never posted.  The second part, I'm posting live-ish.

September 12
"Guatemala had its first round of presidential elections on September 11.  The idea of voting on a Sunday seemed quite odd to me at first, but I suppose it is when the most people have to opportunity to go to the polls.  There is no absentee voting, and people sometimes wait in line over 3 hours to vote.  Due to the number of political parties here in Guatemala, these were just the presidential primaries to narrow the vote down to two candidates, but for other offices (mayor, congressperson, and delegation to the Central American convention, among others), this was it.  Those of us who could not vote, prayed.  We prayed that the Guatemalan people would make the right choice for this country, that the polls would not be corrupted or compromised, and that no violence would break out.  But to be fair, perhaps the most wonderful part about elections is that the political ads stop."

Yesterday, we had the final elections here in Guatemala.  Again, those of us who could not vote prayed.  We prayed for safety, honesty, fairness.  And we prayed that God's will be done at the voting booths.  People held very serious concerns about both candidates.  They said that Otto Perez Molina was going to bring back the killing of Mayan people, and they said that Manuel Baldizon is receiving money from drug cartels and would do nothing to stop narcotrafficking in Guatemala.  An article I read said that with 96% of the votes counted, Otto Perez had 55% of the votes.  For further details, I'll provide the following link: (I would like to point out that the reporter's name is Perez.  I'm hoping it's just coincidence.)

A Perspective on Living in a Third-World Country (Day 385)

Just to let you know, there will be another post later today as well.

Someone asked me last night about my perspective on living in a third-world country, and to be quite frank with all of you, it's probably not the image most of you have in your head.  Yes, there is extreme economical places of the country.  However, there is also economical wealth.  A Guatemalan fellow who I went on a pair of dates with is currently on his family's annual trip to Disney World.  That's right...every year, the family (somewhere between 6 and 10 people) gets visas for the United States, buys plane tickets, and stays at Disney World (yes, Florida) for a week.  But it can be more subtle as well.

As told to D.D. last night: "I have a large metal double door to my house. That door leads to a corridor with the door on one end and a gap to my courtyard on the other, an 'exterior' wall on one side, and three rooms on the other side. Each room has a stained glass window and a door. The roof over the three rooms and the corridor is lamina, and I have red clay floors. I have running water, a heater in my shower (although, it's currently broken...should be fixed tomorrow), electricity, and drainage.
My next-door neighbor has two 'walls' of lamina around her property (one of block, the one she shares with me), and I'm not sure if she has a wall along the back of her property. Her floors are all dirt. The walls of her actual house are made of sticks as is her roof; rain regularly enters during the rainy season. She has electricity and cable TV."  I imagine she has running water as well, but I don't know that for a fact.

Now, that's here in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, a 30-minute bus ride (direct) from Antigua where all the tourists are.  We have water 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.  If you go 30-45 minutes north of Antigua to Santo Domingo Xenacoj (does not have a direct bus connection to Antigua), they do not have water 24 hours/day, 7days/week.  I believe they only have water in the mornings and for an hour in the evening, but I'd have to get that verified; I know it's not 24/7.

Up in villages near Coban--I couldn't even tell you how far from here that is, maybe a 6 hour drive in a private shuttle?--I met a girl who didn't wear pants to school because she didn't own any and the family couldn't afford any.  So, she went in a t-shirt and underpants.  I met a woman who cared for her three grandsons.  Every day, the family had a "soup" made of 3 beans and a grain of rice.  The woman gave each boy a bean with his "soup" and ate the piece of rice with hers.  Yes, I've personally met hunger here in San Antonio, but the idea of that sort of self-control when one has so little in their stomach is awe-inspiring.

"Now, in a week or two, I'll be heading out--well-chaperoned--to Zacapa. I'm not sure what conditions I'll find out there. However, the farther you get from the tourism centers, the more obvious the poverty becomes.  Yes, I live in a third-world country, but I have electricity, internet, running water, etc. If I had a TV, I might use cable TV (but I just don't watch much TV)."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Change (Day 380)

When I came to Guatemala, I was not a teacher.  When I came to Guatemala, I didn't speak Spanish all that well.  When I came to Guatemala, I was not entirely comfortable with the idea.  (However, I was sure that it was the direction for my life.)  When I came to Guatemala, I could count all my Guatemalan friends on one hand.

Besides being sure of the direction of my life, all that has changed.  I'm proud to be a survivor.  I certainly couldn't have done it without the support of all of you, and I certainly couldn't have done it without all the good people that God has put in my life down here.  I'm still not entirely the person I need to be, but I'm working on it.  Thanks for your confidence in me and your love for me and your faith in God.  (Or, for those of you who read this and aren't the least bit religious, thanks for believing I could make it this far.  I love you guys too. :) )