I have transferred my “Yippeekiyay” blog to this new website location. You will still find all of the same information from my original blog here on the Guatemala page.
Those of you that are new to this site – the following is an account of my two-month long volunteer water and sanitation project in Guatemala. I have copied over the original text and inserted some of the photos.
Saturday, Feb 7
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27
All my worries about getting all the supplies to Guatemala disappeared when I weighed in at only 3lbs over my (2 bag) 140lbs limit! I was prepared and had my father standing next to me with an empty duffle bag so I could remove a few toys and some fabric. I am so happy that I am able to bring down more supplies for Carol!
On the flight, I chatted with the older man sitting next to me and found out he was with a group heading to a site next to Chiquimulilla called San Antonito to check on phase two of their water purification project. How crazy is that? That group was probably the only others heading down to Chiquimulilla (where I was going) to work on a water project (like I was) on a little homestead just north (I think it was north) of where I was planning on working. I asked if I could stop by their site sometime to check out how they were designing their water systems. From what he told me, they have a lot more out in San Antonito then we will in San Antonio. The houses are real block while San Antonio is corrugated sheet metal, bambo and tarp. I plan on visiting the site early in the week to gather as much information as possible.
On the way from Guatemala City to Chiquimulilla, we saw two of the volcano’s “puffing” – first time I ever saw the smoke coming out of the volcanoes. It was pretty cool. I forgot how beautiful the scenery was once outside of Guatemala City.
I went to church in the evening – although I do not understand the language, I can sometimes pick out a few words and a bible reference so I can follow along the verses. On our way back from church, the main road was blocked because they were pulling a truck out of a ravine – I walked over and looked at the drop – about 50’ or so. Quite a drop off the side of the road! I didn’t look in the truck – it didn’t look good from the outside. We took a side street that required 4-wheel drive and some elbow grease (the elbow grease came in the form of literally moving some rocks out of the way by hand – luckily for Carol and I, we were following Erik and Ricardo so they did all the dirty work)
Well, not much more on the first day – I’ll be sleeping in my own room in a nice little bunk bed. There are four beds in the room (two bunks) which means there is a bed for me, one empty, one for my suitcase and one for the little gecko that occupied the room before I got there
Sunday, Feb 8
I do not think I will write everyday, but I am going to try!
Today is Sunday. I didn’t sleep well last night, but the first night is always the hardest. I used headphones to block the banging cause by the wind. I thanked God for the invention of iPod and headphones, while I also prayed I wasn’t blowing out my eardrums!
We went to Erik’s church today. He used a whiteboard and wrote out the bible verses to make it easier for us “gringos” to follow the sermon. He taught on standing strong in Christ and to expect hardships.
Erik and his wife, Olga, are the co-founders of Operation Jabez along with Carol (the woman I am staying with). They are a really cool couple and Olga will be teaching me Spanish while I am here. During the service, I got to hold the cutest little 3yr old named, Summer. Summer is the great-granddaughter of a missionary couple who spend a few months at a time in Guatemala and the rest of their time in Kentucky. I found out this morning that the husband, Bob, is an electrician and all-around builder. I know God has him here to help out in San Antonio! The family followed Carol and I out to San Antonio today and Bob and I walked the site and talked to the locals. He seems to be on board for the project. He is an older man – late 60’s which means he just has all those years of experience to offer The site looks good. There is more of a change in slope then what I thought and we located a good spot to discharge the water. The town has one deep well which the locals say is “clean.” It also has 4 shallow wells which are “dirty.” I am going to the health center in Guaza where they have reports on the conditions of San Antonio – I hope the report includes ground water tests. I will know better by the end of this week exactly how much material we can obtain on the site conditions. I am really excited!
some of the men I work with at the site
Some things to pray for besides the typical “safety & wisdom” would be “skin that doesn’t taste so good to bugs” – oh man – I was eaten alive in San Antonio during the site investigation.
I am pretty spoiled since I get to live in a real block house while I am staying here in Guatemala. There is no AC, but the air circulation at night is pretty good. I had half of a warm shower this evening. Only half because the water shut off half way through
I tried Skype today with my family – it was great being able to video conference with them and show them around the house and the view I have from the roof. If any of you don’t have Skype – just download it – it’s free! My Skype name is caitlin.terry
Talk to you later guys!
Monday, Feb 9
Banana Pancakes with Almond Butter served as a very filling breakfast this morning. I am going to really expand my menu while down here! Morning devotions were spent on the roof – oh man, it’s so cool to spend quiet time in the morning sunshine, nice breeze and a clear view of the mountains. I’ll have to post some pictures soon of the house I am living in and the view from the roof. I read through more of Matthew this morning and noted the following verses: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden?. ….In the same way, let your light shine before all men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 14, 16. Keeping in mind that the work I am doing here should glorify God isn’t too hard, but making sure it is perceived that way is a little more difficult. It’s not like I can wear a tee-shirt saying “I’m digging ditches cause Jesus loves you!” I hope throughout my time working with the residents of San Antonio, I can properly express God’s love for them. Carol and I tried to complete orientation today, but as I quickly learned – Guatemalans operate on a completely different time table then North Americans. We had so many people just wander in to the house today to chat. It was cool and all, but at the same time limited how much we could get through the “Do’s & Don’ts” of living here. I will have to get used to the laidback flow. Most of you know I’m pretty schedule orientated!
Once we finished with our morning visitors we went to the bank to exchange money and to the market to get a few things I forgot to bring down. I have a cell phone now – to call from the States, you have to dial: 011-502-4-518-2539.
In the afternoon, I met with Erik, Olga, Clarita and Carol to discuss the steps we need to take in getting San Antonio’s water project started. Clarita teaches English in her father’s school here – I am going to help her in the evenings starting next week. Since there is no electricity in San Antonio, my work day will end with the sun, so I will be free in the evenings to help teach English. I am really excited to be able to work in all these different areas. Back to San Antonio – I will not be able to get information about the water contaminates until next week – we have an appointment with the health center on Tuesday (7 days from now). So, I contacted Bob and we’re going to survey the location for laying the discharge pipe down on Wednesday. I would have wanted to get started right away on it tomorrow, but Bob and his wife are going into the City (Guatemala City) for shopping. Getting normal things done here like grocery shopping and laundry take all day. We did some laundry today, but didn’t get through much of it. So anyway, tomorrow seems like it will be a pretty open day. I will try to actually posts these journal entries online tomorrow and spend most of the day studying Spanish and preparing for the survey on Wednesday.
Tuesday, Feb 10
Perspective. It’s all about how you see things – whether through pessimism or optimism, eh? Back in December, San Antonio had a flash fire that burned through the dry brush around the town. Neither the houses nor the crop field burned. As Bob and I were walking the site on Sunday, Bob noted that the fire took care of getting rid of the snakes for us. At the moment, I just agreed that it was great because I was afraid of snakes and we also knew a bite from a rattle snake here would mean losing our limb or just plain dying. Yesterday, I was thinking about how I am more dependent on God out here and how He is taking care of things in ways I never even considered. Really – who is going to pray “God, please burn out the snakes and save the houses so we can construct without fear” – I didn’t. It’s pretty cool. So, my perspective on the fire changed from “oh, poor town had a brush fire” to “wow, God burned out the snakes!”
As I continue to journal I will be mentioning names, so here is a little legend so you know who’s who.
Carol: Co-Founder of Operation Jabez, Jersey Girl, Full-time missionary in Guatemala for 8 years, Part-time for 4 years prior. She is the woman I am staying with and the one who is my primary contact for getting down here and getting involved with San Antonio.
Erik & Olga: Co-founders of Operation Jabez, Guatemalan couple, Erik is the principle and a teacher at a public school and pastor of a church here. Olga runs a little store they own, helps interpret for Carol and does all the additional activities of being a Pastor’s wife. They are the top networkers here and have all the contacts necessarily for working in San Antonio.
Clarita: Member of the Operation Jabez team, interpreter, Guatemalan girl a wee bit older then me who teaches English in her father’s school. Clarita assists Carol by interpreting for the different programs Carol operates from her house. I will be working in the English school with Clarita in the evenings starting next week.
Irsa: Carol’s cook. Cooking (like most other ordinary things that would be easy in the States) takes forever here, so Irsa serves as a cook for breakfast and lunch. She has been working for Carol for 8 years so she knows many “American” dishes and is very observant on whether you are eating what she cooks or not.
Bob & Maria Cling: Missionary couple from Kentucky who will be here until March 29th. Maria has a children’s ministry here and Bob assists with whatever handyman tasks are needed in the school. They are here with their great-granddaughter, Summer, whom they have adopted. Bob will be helping me at San Antonio.
Grant & Roger: I do not know how involved they will be in San Antonio, but both are from Canada and are working at Fe Viva (a school, orphanage, church compound). They are only here for another week or so, but they may be coming out to San Antonio and could give me a little advice as they are both farmers/welders/handymen. Grant was a cool encourager the first day I met him – he heard about the big plans for San Antonio and also about the parts that seemed difficult and he reminded Carol and I that God made the heavens and the earth, how hard will a little water systems be for Him?
Dan & Gerber: Dan is an engineer from the States and Gerber is a Guatemalan teacher. Both work under Mission Impact. One of their outreaches is providing water filters in the highlands (northern Guatemala). I hope to get their help with the filtration of San Antonio (if necessary).
New Food of the Day: Chicken Leg …lol…eating new food is harder then washing clothes with a bucket and a brush!
Love you and miss you!
Wednesday, Feb 11
This was a crazy-cool day! This morning started with a drive out to San Antonito with Clarita & Bob. The only thing I knew about San Antonito was the information I gathered from the guy (Ernie) sitting next to me on the plane. I knew it was down the dirt road right outside of Chiqui, block houses, an elevated water tank and a clinic. Well…it took us about 2 hours driving on really rocky small roads, asking people walking by and only going the wrong way once to find the place. No one was working there from the team on the plane. The leader of the town was present so he showed us the water tank, deep well and latrines. He also said they were going to add Clorox tabs to their water to clean it up. He directed us to look for a guy named Raul back in Chiqui, at the Catholic Church, for information regarding how to have the water tested. It was a hot long morning, but very profitable as we were able to see and take note of what we would like to accomplish in San Antonio and also get a contact for water testing. So, next step is finding Raul. We go back home for lunch and talk to Erik & Olga. Erik knows someone who may have Raul’s phone number. Good. I figured we’d wait for him to make contact for us. After lunch, Carol, Hope and I decide to check out the new hotel outside of town to see if the American team that I met on the plane was staying there. Yes, I felt very much like a weird stalker because all I knew about the guy was his first name and that he was staying at the “new” hotel in Chiqui. We talked to the women at the front desk and she informed us that the American’s had just left earlier to head back to the States. Since it was a beautiful hotel (with real green grass!) we headed to check out the pool and patio area. A man walked over to us because he overheard us speaking English and was happy to hear a familiar language. Turns out he is a priest (on sabbatical) whose Church in the States is associated with the Catholic Church in Chiqui. He knew Raul! While I was standing there, he made an appointment for me to meet with Raul tomorrow morning to discuss the water contaminates found in San Antonito and hopefully give me containers to gather samples of the well water in San Antonio for testing. Talk about an amazing series of events.
Seemed like every person I have talked to somehow is either helping with the problem at hand or leading me to others who can do it. Divine intervention would be a good title for every odd encounter I’ve had over these first 5 days 🙂 I’d have to give God all the credit for designing the odd pattern in which I have gone from point A to point B to point C…etc.
My plan for tomorrow is to meet with Raul in the morning and head out to San Antonio to finally get some survey in during the afternoon. I hope we can get the materials for construction next week and finally break ground for this project!
Oh – more good news! I finally got in touch with Dan (engineer who works on filter projects in Guatemala) and we’re going to meet at the end of Feb to discuss the water issues with San Antonio. By that time I should have tests results back for the well water in San Antonio.
Finally, I am meeting up with a friend of mine from Jersey, Lauren, on Friday! I will be hitching a ride to Antigua with Carol & Olga and meeting up with Lauren for lunch 🙂
Thursday, Feb 12
I woke up around 6am this morning to enjoy the sunrise and prepare for the breakfast. Once a month, Carol and a couple from the House of Refuge (Karla & Steve), provide breakfast for local prostitutes. It is a time for them to have a good meal, get out for an hour, sing, listen to the bible and pray. We crowded the little house with 16 women from the brothel and a team of girls who are here on a mission’s trip from Canada. It was very cool to be able to serve the women breakfast and just show them love that they don’t get often. Carol also offers sewing lessons to them – which serves a skill they can use to get a different type of job. So far, Carol has one woman come twice a week for sewing who is a former prostitute. After breakfast, Clarita and I went to our meeting with Raul. It went very well! Raul gave us copies of the water analysis from San Antonito and gave us the process in which we have to follow to get our own water analysis for San Antonio. We also set up another appointment for Monday where I will meet with the man in charge of the latrines. He will provide us with the drawings for the latrines. Raul has also offered us his service in going out to San Antonio to teach the people how to properly operate and maintain the latrines so that they are truly non-contaminating. I still have an afternoon of measuring and survey ahead of me, but since I had some free time, I figured I’d just post an update now.
I hope you all are doing awesome!
Prayer requests: The donor for the construction material has pulled out. We are still going ahead with the project and just praying that God provides the money we need. If you would like to donate something (even like 10 bucks would rock!) please send a check to PO Box 2615 , Philadelphia, PA 19130. Make the check out to Operation Jabez and include a note with it to give the $ to “Caitlin” and/ or “San Antonio.” At the end of the year, Carol will mail out tax receipts for income tax deductions
Friday, Feb 13
We went to Antigua today! On our way from parking the car to the fountain where we were meeting friends, we stopped in a little store that has American imports. Guess what I found?! Soy Milk! How cool is that? Better still, this little store had a wee bakery section and they had bagels! I know there are no bagels in Chiqui and I was sure there weren’t any in all of Guatemala, but we found them! I just ate one for dinner – yum! In the center of town, we split up and I had lunch with Lauren! Lauren is a missionary from NJ and even though we probably only live 30 minutes from each other in Jersey, we waited until we were all the way in Guatemala to finally have lunch. It was great! I am going back to Antigua for the weekend at the end of February – Lauren and I will be able to spend even more time hanging out then. After lunch, we went to a “museum” on the unique textiles of the Mayan people. It wasn’t more then a couple small rooms and displays, but it was very educational. The Mayan women wove their shirts with such detail that some of them took months to complete. Each tribe had its own unique pattern. When a woman was engaged to be married, she would spend many months weaving a headpiece for her future mother-in-law. At the wedding, the woman would present her mother-in-law with the gift and it was inspected by all the guests. The better the headpiece, the more favor they would give to the young bride-to-be. I thank God I was not born into the Mayan culture… my gift would be such a wreck that the guests would riot and stop the wedding!!! On our way through Guazacapan today we passed a funeral procession. Here in Guatemala, it is customary for all the friends and family to walk from the deceased person’s house all the way to the cemetery. They carry the casket the entire way (I imagine the bearers of the casket rotate, but I am not sure). This particular procession only had to walk a couple kilometers. There appeared to be hundred’s of people in the procession. I have been reading the book of Matthew for daily devotions and I came across my favorite series of verses from the book – Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I could not have come down here and taken on San Antonio alone. The stress, delays and other things that make me impatient would have burdened me and ruined this time here. I am still frustrated with things taking time, but I know God’s got bigger plans for San Antonio then I do and I have to just trust him. Those things that burden me – worry about finances, about design, about material – need to be in God’s hands. I have been very good at giving those worries away because as it says in Matthew 6:27 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” It’s hard not to stress, but so far so good. Every time I feel impatient I just remind myself that I can’t do much for San Antonio on my own.
Have a great night guys!
Saturday, Feb 14
Things I have learned during my first week in Guatemala:
1) Turning on your left blinker can mean two things. One, it means you are turning left. Two, it means you are telling the person behind you to pass you on your left. Enjoy trying to figure that out!
2) Motorcycles were not designed for just one or two people…not even three or four. A motorcycle is meant for an entire family – such as a father driving with a child on his lap, behind him is another child, behind the child is a mother holding a baby and behind the mother sits the last child.
3) There are no traffic police.
4) Traffic signs are merely suggestions.
5) You can pass. Heck, you can even pass a car passing a car (three abreast). Let’s make it even better. You can pass a car passing a car going around a curve!
6) “lefty losey, righty tighty” only applies to sometimes. One of our doors unlocks going left, while the other locks going left.
7) You don’t get tan; you just get dirtier every day.
8) Learn to love the gecko that lives in your room, he keeps the bugs away.
9) Roosters do not know that they are supposed to crow in the morning; they prefer crowing between 11pm-1am.
10) Geckos do not call out with a cute Australian accent- it sounds more like a squawk.
11) Justice is in the hands of the people.
12) Cashews are called “the devils fruit” because the cashew (which is the seed) actually grows on the outside of the fruit. Look up a picture on google, it’s really weird looking.
13) “Doing the laundry” means a lot more work then tossing clothes in and pushing a button.
14) No one ever told the road designers that a 33% slope was NOT a good idea on small side streets.
15) Who needs guide rails? Not us!
16) Green grass is a treat for the eyes.
17) Cops are afraid of robbers.
18) Flowers look just as beautiful growing out of an old can as they do growing out of a clay pot.
19) You don’t need channel 6 news team out here; everything travels quickly word of mouth.
20) Smoking (“puffing”) Volcanoes are safer then the ones that aren’t.
Tuesday, Feb 17
Close your eyes and…oh, wait – if you close your eyes you won’t be able to read this… Ok, just relax and feel the scenery unfold…you are sitting comfortably in cushy chair, it’s 10:30 pm and a soft breeze is keeping you pleasantly cool. The sky is dark but the stars are brilliant and the sounds of crickets and roosters fill the air … yes, roosters. Why? I don’t know why, but the dumb things crow all night. I knew living in a third-world country would be a cultural shock, I knew it would be dangerous, I knew it would be hard work, but I didn’t know it would turn me into a wannabe rooster killer! Haha. Ok, one more fun thing – does anyone know the reference of my website name? Yippeekiyay. Email me if you do – I’ll mail you a prize….a rooster. I am going to attempt to clear up some confusion. San Antonio is the rural homestead I am working in. San Antonito is the homestead I found out about while flying into Guatemala City. San Antonito is more advanced with an elevated water tank and non-contaminating latrines. San Antonito is also the site shown on my photos page where you can see the water tank, solar panels & Latrine.
The scope of the project for San Antonio was to provide the community with public non-contaminating latrines, 6 Pilas’ (for washing clothes), drainage pipe, 2 changing rooms for the women, and a roof over the Pilas’ & existing concrete wash basin. Before I arrived I made some contacts to see if providing a clean water system (filter for existing wells or some additive to clean the water) would be feasible and found that it was a possibility. One other important piece of background information is that the city of Guazacapan (of which San Antonio is apart of) told them that the city would not provide latrines or a water system because the people of San Antonio were not “stable.” Guazacapan said this because the developing homesteaders of San Antonio were not all sticking it out and families were coming and going on some plots of land. The people of San Antonio also do not have permanent houses and so it influenced the government to assume that since their houses were not made of block, then they would not be staying there long enough to develop the community. The health center of Guazacapan is the deciding factor on what type of support the community gets and before my arrival they were pretty much turning their back on San Antonio.
I really believed San Antonio needed an elevated water tank like San Antonito so we could centralize faucets flowing clean water from the deep well and also provide showers with running water instead of just changing rooms near the Pilas. This morning we had a 2 hour long meeting with the president of the San Antonio Committee (it’s like a ‘homeowners association’) and a couple masons from the town. We discussed what they were expecting and what we hoped to accomplish. It was a very tiring meeting – I think it was the language barrier that made it so tiring. Anyway, in the meeting, the president said that the health center in Guazacapan (whom we had an appointment with at 2pm today) had a plastic water tank set aside for San Antonio. We told the president that we wanted to raise the funds to build an elevated water tank platform for the community, but had to see what Guazacapan’s intentions were (even though we were doubtful that they would do anything). Prior to the 2pm meeting we were discussing how to get into the political realm of dealing with things here to get San Antonio noticed and cared for by Guazacapan. I was frustrated thinking that we would have to pursue that path, but understood that even if we provided an elevated tank and pipes out there, other governmental involvement would be necessary for San Antonio to grow (i.e. doctors to visit the town regularly). Anyway, the meeting finally started about 20 minutes late and we discussed latrine designs first (I have another meeting tomorrow morning for more latrine design discussion so I will save all that for the next post) and then move on to discussion about the water tank. We were informed today that Guazacapan was in fact going to construct the elevated water tank and hook up a couple central faucets. We asked specifics and at first they just said it would be complete by April 31 but then after further inquiry, they said that construction would start in a week or two. I am not as happy as I should be. I am wary of the quick change in plans and am not sure that they will follow through on their project statement. If I could just look at the glass half full I would see this as an amazing blessing from God because the cost of construction of the platform and replacing their broken pipe line (which was another discovery in this mornings meeting) would have been a lot. Also, if this does go through then it shows that San Antonio is finally going to get the attention it needs from the city. It is a lot to soak in. There has been so much going on – so much information gathering, meetings, plans and changes in plans that I am just exhausted. So…the water tank is still up in the air (pun intended for Melissa) but regardless, we are still starting Phase 1 of the construction tomorrow for the pilas and the drainage pipe. I am truly excited that we are finally starting construction tomorrow – according to the San Antonio committee president, everyone in the town wants to help out. They are really grateful for our assistance and just as anxious as we are to get started. This post was really long and all over the place, but hopefully you guys are not confused about the two towns (San Antonio & San Antonito) and you understand where the scope of the project is for me right now.
Have a great night. Don’t let the roaches bite!
Wednesday, Feb 18
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Man, I was weary yesterday. I finally went to bed wondering what the scope of San Antonio was really supposed to be. What work did God intend for me to complete while I was here and what work would I have to trust would be completed after I left. It turns out that my lack of trust in the Guazacapan’s health center statement of providing a tower and tank for San Antonio was appropriate. They were giving us a run-around. The health center is a part of the Guazacapan city services and they deal with sick people and also with water and sanitation needs for the community. Modesto, The committee president for San Antonio, is very persistent in visiting the city hall and the health center to try to provide for his town’s needs. Yesterday, after meeting with us and going over design, Modesto went to city hall and stood in line for a couple hours to talk to the Mayor (the Mayor is available to meet between 1-3pm Mon-Wed and usually has lines of people outside his office). Modesto finally got to talk to a delegate who told him that the city was not going to build the water tower they had promised until San Antonio had a water tank on-site. So, Modesto walked next door to the health center which had a medium-sized plastic water tank set aside for San Antonio and asked if they could bring it to the town. The health center told Modesto that they would not bring the tank over until a water tower was constructed. See the problem here? San Antonio was started 5 years ago. The people of the town have always been told “its coming” but the help never came. I am now entering into politics. Carol, Olga and I will go see the Mayor next week. He is familiar with the work of Operation Jabez and seems to like to impress “gringos.” People here are very proud of what they have – whether a little or a lot. The Mayor knows that Operation Jabez has been working in San Antonio (providing fruit trees, chickens and school supplies in the past). Our intentions are to tell him the work we have going on right now in the town and how we heard that the city water project was starting soon and we’re really excited to see it get built and to tie our showers into it. The expected response will be an immediate pressure to get the water project started rather then be shamed that the gringo’s are watching and the work is not being completed. This has happened in other small villages Operation Jabez has worked in – they usually get more attention from the government after the government realizes they are getting attention from an American group. It’s a cruddy system, but that’s how it works. If the Mayor doesn’t start the tower, then we’ll keep going up the line. We have one contact for a congressman here. My work is less labor intensive and more meetings, sketches and politics. So anyway, I feel better knowing the truth about the city water project and knowing what our next steps will be in assisting San Antonio.
My day started really early with another meeting at the health center for a new latrine design. This one supposedly works better in the sandy soil – which is what we’re working with in San Antonio. I am going to a site where they exist tomorrow morning before going back to San Antonio to check on the project progress. After that meeting, I went to San Antonio to get the project started and it had already begun! It was awesome! The people of the town are so excited and so willing to work. They already dug a shallon trench from the Tanque to the ravine. I made a couple of changes to their trench location and sketched a couple more pipe layouts before heading back to Chiqui.
I had a birthday lunch today with all the Guatemalan customs – such as multiple songs, fire crackers and getting my face shoved into the cake. After the lively celebration, I Skyped with my family a wee bit and then sketched out a better looking pipe layout for San Antonio. Finally, I went to teach English (I don’t think I mentioned teaching English with Clarita yet, but I started on Monday and work with intermediate students from 6-8pm). The students and Clarita and her dad (who owns the school) surprised me with another party with more cake and singing (but this time my face stayed far from the cake!). It was a really fun evening. The students are really fun and I thoroughly enjoy working with them every evening.
All in all today was a very good day. The celebrations were fun and the project construction is off to a good start. I must continue to remind myself that God’s plan for San Antonio is bigger and better then whatever I could come up with and I have to trust that the paths I am walking on are the right ones. I could never have anticipated how difficult this has been so far, but at the same time would not trade it for anything! I long to see the town prosper. I know I will be back to work on more phases in the future and someday San Antonio will flourish with crops, livestock, real homes and people who know they have been blessed by God.
Thursday, Feb 19
This morning started with an 8am meeting in Guazacapan Ziola, a woman in charge of latrines for the health center. Ziola accompanied Clarita, Arnoldo (a mason from San Antonio) and me to Cincopalos to look at a lighter latrine design that is better for the sandy soil we have in San Antonio. Cincopalos is a very rural area -I know it’s not saying much since the location I am working in is rural, but this was so rural we finally found a house after driving for 30 min down dirt roads and then off-road for another 5 min. No one was home, but we went onto the property anyway because Ziola knew the house and knew it had a latrine provided by the health center. We walked to the back and found the latrine – looked like it had been sitting there for ages unused. The whole area had a tranquil creepy feeling to it. There were animals everywhere just wandering about such as a cow, pigs, chickens, turkey, dogs and cats…(side note: turkey’s are the ugliest creatures on earth, I bet they were used for inspiration when directors had to make movies with hideous aliens in them!) ok, back to the Cincopalos…we were measuring and taking pictures and talking about the way this particular non-contaminating latrine worked when I heard something behind me… this old dude was coming up slowly with a long machete in his hand. For a split second I thought of those backwoods scenes in movies where the dude comes out with a shotgun screaming to get off his property. It was all good though. The old dude (property owner) recognized Ziola and then proceeded to listen as she yelled at him for not using the latrine that was provided for him. Nothing else really went on in Cincopalos except for Clarita and me using Arnoldo as a shield when we had to walk through the crazy ugly gross turkeys who were making weird sounds like growling (I am so not exaggerating!) as they puffed their feathers at each other. Oh, speaking of gross- there was this unidentifiable 5” long thing that was a cross of a centipede, scorpion & goat. I have to post a picture so you can see it. It was hideous. I made the mistake of thinking it was dead (cause it didn’t move when I moved the rug or took the picture) so I left it in the bathroom and went to bed. The next morning I thought Carol had moved it since it was gone but turns out she didn’t…yeah, really. I have a centiorpionoat loose in the house!
Anyway, after Cincopalos, the four of us drove to San Antonio to inspect the progress (and drop of Arnoldo). Ziola walked the area with us and Clarita translated for me so we could discuss some of the things I was doing. She had a couple good suggestions and was overall pleased that we took notice of San Antonio and wanted to help. After discussing additional materials and some changes to the plan, I brought Ziola back to her office and headed home.
I helped with a children’s program in the late afternoon and then taught English in the evening. I really have a lot of fun in the English class. The three students are intermediate and very funny. We spend most of the time learning, but the rest of the time laughing. After class, Clarita, her father and I went to Erik & Olga’s house where Carol was having a bon fire. It was nice to spend time hanging out around the fire and playing with their three kids.
All in all it was a good productive day.
Tomorrow I will go back to work in San Antonio and then order the supplies for the Latrines.
Have a wonderful night!
Friday, Feb 20
Today was fantastic! I got out of the house early in the morning and picked up Hernan for a half-day at San Antonio. Hernan is my bodyguard. He stays with me when I go to San Antonio. I don’t have to be concerned about my safety while I am working in San Antonio, but I can not travel to San Antonio (down the long dirt roads) without Hernan or another male. It is just not safe for a young female. I really like working with him though. He is a contractor by trade and he understands a little English although he can not really speak it. We can communicate ok together.
I had a great time getting to spend a few hours working side-by-side with the locals. I carried buckets of water to wet down the ground where we were digging trenches, sifted sand and mixed concrete, split concrete blocks with a machete and chipped and dug away at the ground. I enjoyed being there and the guys enjoyed having me there to help. They are so excited about improving their town and so willing to help and to work hard. I enjoyed communicating with the little bit of Spanish I know and joking around a bit. They are all old fatherly types who made sure to remind me that I could not travel alone to San Antonio. In addition to the labor, I also spent time detailing the pipe layout and getting the final list of materials for the remainder of the project. I know my job here is more in supervision, design, materials, meeting, research and politics, but it felt so good to just labor in the production of something I knew was going to help people.
When I got home, Carol told me a pretty awesome story. Olga had decided to take her daughter to the health center to visit the dentist. The health center is a free service to the community, but Olga doesn’t usually use it because you have to wait a long time and they sometimes don’t even have the medicine you need. Anyway, Olga was talking to the Dentist and mentioned San Antonio. It turns out that he (the Dentist) is the driving force behind providing San Antonio with clean water. He has been persistent in pushing the health center and city hall to help (although to no avail). He was very excited to hear of the work we were doing and asked that we have a meeting on Monday morning to discuss the entire project. He also wants to go with us on Monday to meet with the Mayor. I believe that meeting was certainly designed by God. Olga doesn’t usually go there and she happens to meet to guy who is an inside supporter for San Antonio…pretty cool.
After grabbing a quick lunch, I spent about an hour doing my laundry…yes, it takes that long. No, I don’t really like it. No, my clothes are never really clean when finished. Yes, I miss our automatic clothes washers. Hahah, ok so here is another of my side note stories which will be titled “Cait vs the Cockroach” The cockroaches here in Chiqui are like King Kong sized roaches. They could eat the entire roach motel [that people put out in the states for their baby sized roaches] in one bite. Ok, so I was doing my laundry and pulling water from a bucket out of the Pila (a 4’ deep, 4’ wide square basin) and noticed a cockroach upside down in the water. I thought he was dead so I kept working. I dipped in again later for more water and noticed his little legs where kicking around. Now, I hate bugs – big gross bugs that are too crunchy to smush with your foot! But every time I had to get more water I saw the little guy and started to feel sorry for him. Really sorry for him. To the point where I actually scooped him out of the water and put him in a plant. Pathetic, eh? Hopefully he will tell the other Godzilla roaches that I am nice and they will leave the house.
Back to important stuff… We went to Don Benjamin’s today to order the rest of the construction material. Olga translated for me and Carol. Randy, the guy who takes orders and calls around to different suppliers for us when he doesn’t have what we need, is the owner’s son. He is a Christian and works with missionaries from Y.W.A.M. when they come to town. He told his sister-in-law about what Operation Jabez is doing in San Antonio and she said she was going to take photos of the town and see if a team of doctors from a mission in the States can come down to serve for a week. It is so cool how all this little interactions seem to lead to better things for San Antonio. It’s all about getting them on the map – getting them noticed so they can get the help they need. We are providing a lot, but there is much more that a town of people need to live healthy lives. I am really excited that she is going to take the initiative to work through her contacts to get doctors down here.
Finally, this evening I went to a church seminar that Carol was leading. I drove in with Olga and her daughter Vivi. I practice my Spanish with Vivi a lot and she is good at correcting me! Anyhow, I asked her in Spanish how she was doing and the only words I could understand from her response was “very good…God.” I asked Olga to translate and she said that Vivi responded with “Very good, by the grace of God.” Olga said it is a common response from Christians down here. I thought that was really insightful. It is so true and yet we forget it so often. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord. Our lives are good because God is being gracious. We don’t deserve what we get –it’s only by the grace of God. A common similar saying in the States is “Saved by the Grace of God” in other words, we can’t do anything for salvation – it is only because God loves us, that He sent His son to die for our sins. This all ties into a passage in Titus that I was reading this evening. “At one time we were foolish, disobedient, deceived…But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7.
Have a great night everyone.
Saturday, Feb 21
I have uploaded site photographs from San Antonio.I have two albums – one taken on Feb 19 and one taken today, Feb 21. You can see the amount of progress achieved over the course of those couple days. The images I shot this morning show more detail in how tasks are accomplished – such as digging with a machete, splitting cinderblocks with a machete, eating pineapple with a machete…I actually don’t have that picture cause I was too busy eating the pineapple! I take part in most of the activities shown, but none of the pictures are of me working…since I was the one shooting!
Oh – funny thing – I was out there for about an hour before Modesto came over with this huge wide-brim hideous straw hat with a red ribbon on it! I braced myself for what I knew was a kind gesture on his part…augh…he came right over and handed me the hat saying it would protect my face and neck. I had to accept. I am grateful he wanted to watch out for my sun soaking skin, but I had put on tons of sunblock already. I had to wear that thing the entire day! I am very happy no one was taking pictures of me working because then there would be proof of how ridiculous I looked out there!
It was another good day of work and when I got home, I only had a wee bit of laundry and a lot of time to catch up with my family (I love Skype & international calling cards!)
Bed sounds really sweet!
G’night every one!
Sunday, Feb 22
Oh geez. I am not going to sleep much tonight! A wind storm has been picking up today and the noise is pretty harsh. Hopefully, it doesn’t get too bad. A few days before I arrived, Santa Rosa (this department of Guatemala where I live) had a 4-day storm. If it continues to get worse tonight, it will shut the project down until the storm subsides and even then, there may be cleanup and other relief projects since San Antonio doesn’t have very sturdy houses. I was told that the “wind storms” (think hurricanes without rain) arrive during the transition time between dry and rainy season. That is not good either. Rainy season isn’t supposed to start until the beginning of May! I’m on like an every-5 minute reminder to myself that worrying isn’t going to help. We’ll just have to take it one day at a time and hopefully this all blows over (Pun intended, Meliss) quickly! Earlier today, I was out on-site to check the work that was accomplished yesterday afternoon and to help out with a children’s program Carol runs out in San Antonio. I am posting more pictures of the shower and pila areas. I am also posting pictures of the houses in town and the amazing view they have of the mountains. Tomorrow morning is a meeting first with the dentist (our insider from the health center pushing the leadership to help San Antonio) and then with the Mayor of Guazecapan. Please pray it all goes well! Lastly, this morning at church, Erik brought up a couple cool bible verses. I have a hard time concentrating since I don’t know enough Spanish to follow his message, but he writes the scripture verses on a white board so I am able to at least keep up in the reading. I seem to start with the verse he is highlighting and then get caught up in just reading the rest of the chapter. Anyway, I wanted to share an important series of verses. I am not going to start off at the beginning because I just want to highlight a couple things. “…we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11,12 Two parts stuck in my head from these verses – 1) “…every act prompted by your faith” and 2) “…so the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him…” 1) Personally, this entire trip has been acts prompted by faith. I have faith that I will be safe, that San Antonio will be aided, that my encounters will be guided, that my work here will be fruitful. It didn’t take much to commit to this trip – crazy as it sounded at first – because I felt prompted. I know this is where I should be right now and no matter what happens, I know for sure, that I am able to do some good work for the Glory of God. 2) It is so important that the name of God be glorified in all the work that I do. I try to be careful not to call this project “my project” even though I am spearheading it. This project isn’t Operation Jabez’s project even though they are the ones that have the contacts, connections and brought me down here. This project belongs to God. This project has to show the love of God to the people of San Antonio by the willingness we have to serve in even the dirtiest of circumstances. Showing love without expecting anything in return is a beautiful way to show God to every one – to reflect the love he has for us onto others. There are no “catches” to this water project – although Operation Jabez is a Christ-centered group, it’s not set up that only people who carry a bible can drink clean water (ridiculous as it sounds, some groups supply community aid with strings attached!). This pure water project will happen whether or not people come to see the love God has for them. God is gracious and he is providing a lot for the little town of San Antonio. I am merely a worker, reaping the benefits of being able to see first hand that a world of difference can be made in the lives of people you serve in love. Well, it is around 12:30am and I need to be up early for the meetings. I can pretty much find something good out of most problems, SO the good thing about all this awful wind is that I can not hear those stupid roosters. Maybe they all blew away!!! wahoo! 😛
Monday, Feb 23 (AM)
It’s obvious weather forecasting is not a strong point for Guatemala. I am sitting here at 4:30am listening to the howling wind banging everything around outside and the weather pages I found on Google say “sunny; light breeze 5-8mph.” I can’t even guess what the “light breezes” are coming through at, but they sound like big trucks roaring down the street.I’m happy Carol’s internet is via cell tower because I don’t think her old system would be functioning right now. Her old system was great though – she had an extremely long Ethernet cable that went from her computer, up the outside of her house to her roof, then across the street to the roof of Dr. Hime’s house where he supplied the internet access.
My first meeting of the morning starts in 3.5 hours. I hope the wind dies down by then so we can still go.
I don’t really have anything to write. I just wanted to share the wonderful forecasting abilities of this country 🙂
Talk to you all later
Monday, Feb 23 PM
All to do about nothing! The winds died down by mid-morning and haven’t picked up since. The work continued at San Antonio (I shoveled a lot today- the ditch progress is the slowest).The meeting with the Mayor went great! He is releasing the materials and they should arrive on-site either tomorrow or Wednesday. I should write in more detail, but the sleepless night I had last night is making it too hard to keep my eyes open.
Love you all
Wednesday, Feb 25
Ok, so this is going to be kind of long because I haven’t written for a few days. Monday was soooo exhausting! We met with the dentist (Jose) that works in the Guazacapan Health Center and who is an advocate for assisting San Antonio. It is good to have someone there who is all for San Antonio because it’s the doctor (and primary leader) of the health center that could care less about the town (I wrote about him awhile ago – we had met with him and he misinformed us about what was going to be done in San Antonio). So, we met and updated Jose on the progress and then went to city hall with him for the meeting with the Mayor. Although we registered an appointment early, we still had to wait a couple hours to actually see the Mayor. It was tense, but ended up very well. He was impressed with the progress pictures I printed out and agreed to have the material for the water tower released to the town. He really cares about the little homestead, but since he is so busy we need to be persistent that he follows through with his promise. After the meetings, I went to work in San Antonio for a few hours and then rushed home to teach English. I will be posting pictures on the progress of San Antonio.
Tuesday was another busy day working in San Antonio. It is really hard communicating (since my Spanish is awful) and so I left San Antonio on Tuesday kind of frustrated and concerned that I was not getting the information communicated properly and that important details would be missed. I also taught an advanced English class solo this morning – it went really well.
Ok, so today. Today I went to San Antonio early and worked until noon. By noon, the materials promised by the Mayor had not arrived. The good news is that Jose (the dentist) stopped by and he promised to go to city hall and find out what the hold up was. He also took notes and measurements that we gave him for the pipeline we need to install from the well to the water tower. It was good having Jose there because he can speak some English so I was able to communicate some important details to the guys that were working. The ditch progress went really well today because they had a line of 15 guys chipping away with picks, rebar and shovels. I worked on the line for a couple hours (shoveling). It’s hard to explain why we’re burying pipe because they just don’t do that here. Their pipe is on the surface of only a couple inches below ground and then they wonder why it’s always broken. I like shoveling with them because it’s the least of the jobs and I want them to see that it means a lot.
Here is an updated scope of the project. It is growing and I am so happy! When I told Modesto the good news about the meeting with the Mayor, he commented that God was blessing San Antonio. I am glad he sees it that way!
The proposed site has one large Tanqui with six Pilas attached to it. Five are right-handed Pilas and one is a left-handed Pila. About 10ft from the Pilas are two showers made of concrete block with a concrete floor, drain and doors. About 5ft from the showers is where the water tower will be constructed. The Pilas and showers drain through a 4” pvc pipe that is approx. 600ft long. About 15ft from the Pilas down the pipe is a sediment trap (to collect dirt and stuff that might go down the drains). About 500ft down the pipeline is a sand filter to clean the water before it is released into a ravine. The pipe is buried with 2ft of cover. One non-contaminating latrine is located about 25ft from the pilas. The other latrine will be on the opposite side about 50ft away. The proposed water tower is going to be about 18ft high. When everything is complete, there will be water going from the tower to the Tanqui (for the Pilas), water going to the showers and a separate water faucet for the families to fill buckets for their houses. The deep well is a clean water source so we’re going to have to work hard to educate the people to drink from that source rather then the shallow contaminated wells that they have dug.
I hope in the future we will be able to provide water to all the houses through individual lines, but since the houses aren’t really situated yet, it will have to wait. The town is developing, but it still doesn’t have roads or much else so maybe by dry season next year it will be ready for more water improvements.
Education is our next big hurdle once the project construction is complete. The non-contaminating latrines and sediment trap will need maintenance. It’s also important that they get out of the habit of pulling their “drinking” water from the Tanqui and they use the water faucet instead.
Well, I have to go get ready for class. I am teaching solo tonight because Clarita is sick.
Take care, amigos!
Thursday, Feb 26
So, today was a wee bit different. A woman in San Antonio passed away this morning so [understandably] no one worked. Here, in the rural parts of Guate, when someone passes, the body stays at the house overnight and throughout the time from their passing until their body is moved for burial; people (friends, family) are staying at the deceased person’s house. The following morning, everyone walks to the cemetery – carry the body among them. Erik, Yanny and I brought over a bunch of chairs from Iglesia De Dios, a huge box of sweet rolls, lots of bags of sugar, cups and packets of coffee. We spent some time at the house with the family and then went over to the cemetery to bring water to the men preparing the grave. While I was in San Antonio I took some more progress shots of the work completed after I left yesterday. I will also upload pictures of the cemetery – I had to take pictures because I wouldn’t be able to describe the graves. Words that come to mind are beautiful and haunting. The array of colors and lace and stuff all over them made them very unique.
The site construction will not resume until Saturday. I was vacillating on going to Antigua this weekend (I’d have a ride since Carol, Hope & Nadine were going for a conference) because I wanted to work at the site tomorrow but now that they will not be working, I’m going to take the little 3 day vaca! I have been longing to climb one of the active volcanoes near Antigua since seeing it back in July so I am really excited to have the opportunity to finally climb it! I will also take advantage of the unique architecture in Antigua to get some photos everyone will enjoy (I know site photos of concrete and dirt aren’t the most exciting :-P).
I know there are wi-fi locations around Antigua so I’ll be in touch.
Friday, Saturday & Sunday (Antigua)
Overall it was a fabulously relaxing weekend. I spent a lot of time just wandering around the city – enjoying the sights, sounds and the time I had to find fun little things to do. I found a little room with a couple guys teaching Salsa so I kicked off my shoes and danced for an hour. It was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with my friend, Lauren, Friday night – very fun!
Saturday morning, I woke early to climb the volcano Picaya. I was a little naive thinking I could go hang over the edge of an active volcano’s crater. The hike was great, the view was awesome, but the volcano itself was a little disappointing. I only saw lava for a few moments and could not ascend high enough to get close to it. The slope was really unstable and I went as far as I could go – actually got stuck in an area where small movements were causing mini landslides. It’s hard to explain but the rock I was climbing towards the end was a bunch of lava rock that was just layered and unstable. The guide didn’t want to go as high as I went because there had been an accident with some climbers a couple days prior – I was being ‘safe’ though I didn’t push up higher when I realized how dangerous it really was.
After the volcano, I hung out with my friend, Gerber back in Antigua. I had my first hibiscus flower punch and also wandered around an old ruin (the only one I went to this weekend) of a place that used to house monks. I brought Gerber back to meet women from my hotel who were interested in hearing about his mission work to the pastors in Mayan villages. I met the women the night before and they were in Antigua for a week of Spanish before heading out on a medical mission. They were really nice and I was happy to know my neighbors since I was staying alone in the hotel. I was also happy to connect them to Gerber especially since one woman, Janet, was really interested in finding out how she could serve local pastors.
So…let’s see…after all that, I stayed up Saturday night to finish a book I started on Friday called “I’ll Cross the River.”
Sunday, I met up with Dan – who is an engineer working on water filter projects here in Guate. It was really good talking to him and getting advice on San Antonio and also advice on how to go about continuing education for the type of work.
That’s it for now folks – I’m sure I’ll be sharing more stories from this little vaca in person when I get home – it was a nice little break.
Monday, March 2
Today was a surprisingly difficult day. It should have been lovely as I was really excited to get back on-site after being away for three days, but I ended up getting sick last night and still felt not-so-good this morning when I left for work. On-site, I was mostly overwhelmed with the work moving along quickly and feeling like I was missing details. The latrine design has me slightly concerned although I am getting good advice from Dan – it’s now just a matter of applying all of that advice properly within the design. The Mayor still hasn’t sent the material he promised us last week. I made some phone calls and will have to follow-up tomorrow to see what’s up with all the delay. God is providing what we need via funding so far – it’s kind of funny because it seems like He only provides what we need at the moment we need it (like the manna). I received a list of the checks that were finally received from donors (thanks everyone!) and the amount we received was nearly the amount we have spent already on the project! I shouldn’t worry about the remaining amount we have to spend (to fix their broken water pipe) because God has been faithfully providing through people and I’m sure He will continue.
It’s my 23rd day here. I feel like there is still so much to do and the time is flying by! My prayer requests for this week are for strength, health and peace about the project. There is no reason for me to start over-analyzing, worrying or anything like that. I need to just keep researching design methods for what I am doing, get advice from people who have done it, find the materials needed, bug the Mayor for the water tower materials, properly construct it all and then (when it’s all done) have the biggest fiesta San Antonio has ever had!!!
Oh, also pray for the weather- the wind kicked up a lot today out on site and it’s blowing pretty strong here now.
Tuesday, March 3
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7) Boy, do I ever need to focus on that verse!
This morning in San Antonio was another hard day. We had to dig up some pipe because the pipe slope was not working with respect to the connection to the larger pipe. As parts of the project are getting closer to completion, they are getting harder to complete! I am struggling with doubt – doubt about my ability to complete what seems like an overwhelming project. When I focus on myself, I get insecure and worrisome. I am not trying to be modest – I know for a fact that this is too big for me. I am out there barely able to communicate with the men I work with – all alone – every day – leading in design concepts I have never studied (such as human waste composting for the non-contaminating latrines) and so if I think in terms of my own abilities I get stressed. The good news for me is that I am not the top project manager out here.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” Psalm 127:1-2.
I know God is building the project in San Antonio. I know it is a part of His plan for the town and I know that He will see it to completion. Just “knowing” of His promise is not enough though. I have to TRUST God’s promise – trust He will fulfill His plan for San Antonio regardless of whether or not I have the strength. I tend to always rely on my own abilities first, it’s only when I fail that I realize I need step back and make sure God is a part of the plan.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
It’s not “I can do everything!” BUT “I can do everything through HIM” oh, what an important concept to apply to our lives!
I just read another book on culture (trying to understand the different way of life down here) and I learned a lot about the two main culture generalizations; the “cold climate” and “warm climate.” The “cold climate” is “task oriented” and the “warm climate” is “relationship oriented.” North American’s (minus the deep south) are very task oriented – we get straight to the point and “time is money.” Central America is part of the “warm climate” where emphasis is not on the job at hand, but the people you are with. It has been difficult getting used to the casual schedule of Guatemalans. I am a minute-by-minute scheduler and getting used to this more casual existence has not been easy. I had a hard time getting used to the amount of time spent in a meeting on small talk – it seemed to take forever to actually talk about the project. With all of that said, I really think they have it right down here. Why should a task take priority over a person? In San Antonio, the project stopped for two days when the woman died. The guys left what they were working on immediately and went to help the family and then most went to prepare the gravesite. People here survive extreme poverty because they take care of each other. I think “warm climate” people just know how to love others so much more then we do. According to the verse below, it looks like “warm climate” folk are a step ahead of us workaholics from the North.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34,35)
On Thursday, a couple folks from NJ are coming for a quick delivery visit (sewing machines are the main item on the list) and to do some minor construction on an orphanage. I was able to slip in a few items that would be lovely to have down here for my last 3.5 weeks – top priority item was SnoCaps! (coke slushie would have been item #2 but I think a melted coke slushie defeats the purpose of a cool refreshing coke slushie on a hot hot day)
Well, that’s enough writing for tonight. It’s already 10:30pm here and I have to get prepared for work tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 4
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9My friend, Dan, from the States sent me a devotional this morning to encourage me and it was certainly refreshing. The verse above was the focus and the text was impressing upon the reader to persevere and be steadfast in faith in God. “The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end” is my focus. God has been amazingly sufficient throughout this project so far so trusting Him to complete it should not be difficult. Although, I still lose focus and get bogged down, the project is moving forward and toward its goal of completion before I leave at the end of March.
Work went well today – we got back on the “digging” track. The drainage pipe is being laid and so fine tuning the slope is necessary. I used the pick for awhile breaking apart the soil, but prefer digging. There are still details that I am not sure about yet, but I am reading and researching and so it will come together in the end. I am also persistently pursuing the city hall for the material they promised awhile ago for the tower. They keep saying “tomorrow” but when “tomorrow” comes they say “oh no, we will send it tomorrow.” That is frustrating. Monday is the last straw. If it’s not delivered by Monday, then I’m camping out at city hall until I get another meeting with the Mayor.
Lastly, a list of 10 more things I have learned living in Guatemala:
1) Cows have the right of way
2) Fences are located along the steep slopes of the volcano trail so tourists don’t fall off….unfortunately, those fences are made of barbed wire
3) Tang is surprisingly addicting
4) Honey is sold in old whisky bottles in the market
5) Bug bites build character
6) Machetes can be used for everything. Want to cut a cinderblock, use a machete! Want to slice a watermelon, use a machete! Broke a nail? Here, go ahead and use a machete! (ok, I lied about that last one)
7) “Public Radio” is a guy on a bike with a megaphone
8) It may look like chocolate, smell like chocolate, but it certainly doesn’t taste like [North American] chocolate!
9) If you want to “mail” a letter, follow these few simple steps: write the letter, put it in an envelope, walk to the intended recipient and hand it to them
10) You won’t make a good wife if you can’t kill and prepare your own chicken
Thursday, March 5
Today, I drove to the city with Erik, William & Lewis. I sat in the back of the van with Lewis and between my limited Spanish and an English/Spanish dictionary; we carried on a bit of a conversation. After small talk, we separated into different readings – I with “The Kite Runner” and Lewis with the English/Spanish dictionary. We stopped for lunch at McDonalds. That was weird. I forgot for a minute that I was in a different country as I looked at the menu. I was brought back to reality quickly though when I stubble over the word for “French Fries” receiving a blank stare from the girl taking my order.
It was good to finally get to the airport and see Catherine, Dorsey & Anni standing outside surrounded by many bags (one of which I knew held my Snocaps!). They brought many wonderful supplies for the school, orphanage, sewing program (including three machines and tools to fix the ones we have here) and toys for the children. I was excited to see what came in the suitcases once they arrived and among the regular supplies, Anni had managed to pack Ice Cream Jimmies (Sprinkles to those of you NOT from South Jersey) and a HUGE can of that chocolate shell stuff. She is going to buy ice cream for the kids at the orphanage tomorrow afternoon and make sundaes with them!
I was really happy to receive all the items my dad packed for me (i.e. Almond butter, Strawberry Jelly, Snocaps…etc). I will have a hard time making the candy last the next 20-some days though – I already polished off quite a bit of a box!
Driving to and from the city took most of the day so I didn’t go to San Antonio and I didn’t do much after dinner either. After unpacking all the bags and finishing laundry, I sat down to finish reading my book. I’ll post a picture of me with North American chocolate and of our flat tire (which delayed our trip only slightly).
I thank God today for safe travel and for chocolate!
Love you guys!
Friday, March 6
I arrived to San Antonio today already feeling as though I’d already worked 5 hours in the sun. Something about the intense heat and dry wind today just depleted my energy right from the beginning. The wind is awful out here. There is no cool breeze to relieve the heat, only a dry hot wind full of sand particles that just suck the moister right out of your body. I do not sweat on days like today – the dusty wind removes my sweat before it even has a chance to exit my pores. I greeted each of the workers this morning the same as every morning – with a hearty “Buenos Dias” (good morning) and a light handshake as within the Guatemala custom. I know a few of them by name and the rest I know by what I’ve nicknamed them in my head. Since there are sometimes 20 guys out here and not always the same ones I just know a few by characteristics or style – such as, “Tigo” who is always sporting the popular cell phone company logo hat and tee-shirt or “Scarecrow” whose smile and movements have a resemblance to the character from Wizard of Oz. I walked over to the trench with my shovel and jumped down to work next to “The Indian.” I do not mean any disrespect with the nickname I have given him – he actually demands much more respect as he seems to radiate a quiet confidence in his persona. The first time I saw him he was riding in on a horse – sitting tall and proud. It is not only his countenance but also his facial features that make him unusual compared to the other guys. As I settled in to work beside the Indian I was happy. I pulled my bandana up around my mouth and nose and started joining the rhythmic “clunk” of his pick with the not-so-rhythmic scrap of my shovel. My mind wandered as I worked. I thought about the fields they work so hard to maintain and yet produce only enough profit to put back into the crop. I thought about some of the kids whose light thin hair showed that they were not getting the nutrients they needed. My thoughts were interrupted when I heard the Indian’s pick stop and so I looked up. He motioned with his hand that I was to stop. He wanted to break apart the area I was working in. I stepped back and leaned against the side of the trench as he started working again. I liked working in silence. I liked that we could communicate with just a hand signal and not have to worry about tripping over Spanish words. The trench location I am in is really deep – almost up to my hips. The width of the trench is only that of the shovel so it makes adjusting very difficult. The Indian stops picking at my spot and moves down the trench and I get back to work. I don’t know how much longer I go because my mind is lost in thoughts but eventually he stops me again and motions that I get out of the trench. The wind is picking up and the dust is getting worse. He is going to pick more and wants me to take a break. He smiles gently and I smile back. I hope he can see the smile in my eyes because my mouth is still covered by my bandana. I gladly climb out and sit beside the trench out of the way of the dirt being kicked up by his pick. I wonder what else we can do to help San Antonio. I do not know anything about agricultural or animal farming…I wonder who does. Soon I jump back down in the trench and work for another hour or so. I’d like to work longer, but my energy is just gone. It was pulled right out of me by that nasty hot dry wind. I walk back over to the men working on the Pilas. I was told that some women from the town were washing their clothes on the new Pilas yesterday and gave the men some pointers for improving them. I am really happy about that. I was hoping to get some input from the women that would be using them daily. I go over to talk to Modesto about the construction material. I do not see any additional material on the site and I want to know if he has heard from City Hall. He smiles and tells me some of the material has arrived. I am so thrilled to hear that! He takes me over to the storage section of the school and shows me the material. He then directs me to one of the school rooms and there is the water tank! I did not even expect to see the tank until the tower was complete! I thump Modesto on the back and ask if he is happy – he replies with a big smile and a nod. Although my body is exhausted, my spirit is lifted by the first delivery of material from Guazacapan. The rest of the afternoon back in Chiqui was spent preparing for the evening and resting. The team (Anni, Dorsey & Catherine) worked at a local orphanage repairing sinks and toilets and building shelves all day. They met us at the house for dinner and they looked as tired as I felt. It is nice having them over – I enjoy the company of friends.
I gave an account of the project at Erik & Olga’s house in the evening. Olga & Erik invited their church over to the house and during the service I spoke about what God had been doing and how He had provided for the town of San Antonio. It was a blessing for the church to hear because they had planted the first seeds out there. They worked hard to help the town and still go out there every Sunday afternoon for a church service. They also provide food and support for the families when they can. If it wasn’t for Erik’s church, Operation Jabez would have never heard of San Antonio. I am happy to be able to share the progress of the project, happy to see Olga’s older girls, Vivi & Juli. Olga’s baby, Juvi, doesn’t like me. She is a mama’s girl. I play with the girls a little bit after the service but was mostly longing for my bed.
I plan on sleeping in tomorrow. We’re not leaving for San Antonio until 8:30 so I will get an extra hour of sleep. Wahooo!!!!
Saturday, March 7
I am recounting today’s activities as I sit in front of the TV for the first time since I have been here. Edwin & Wally are here while Anthony is helping Carol at a seminar tonight, so they put the TV on. The boys are teenagers so I watched part of a Spanish dubbed movie with The Rock in it and now they’re watching “No Country for Old Men.” I don’t think this movie will hold their interest long. It is a good movie, but slow. This morning we went to San Antonio with the team and handed out packages of food to all of the families. It was nice to be able to do something different for the town. It was also good because I got to spend time playing with the kids – an activity I really love! One man came over who had a sister in NJ. He said she spoke English and he wanted me to talk to her. We called her on my cell and he talked for only a moment before handing me the phone. I spent an awkward few minutes talking to her about the weather and the project in San Antonio.
I spent a couple hours totally relaxing today! I went to the pool at the team’s hotel and swam….oh it was awesome! I’ve been here for a month now and this was the first time I went swimming. The water even reminded me of the ocean at home – nice and cool and impossible to see my feet!
I do not have much else to talk about today. The morning in San Antonio was spent just enjoying the people of the town. I don’t have any work updates to announce since we didn’t really work, but I don’t mind. Sometimes you just need to relax and enjoy the people you are with.
Sunday, March 8
It felt good to sleep in until 7 again this morning. The team was arriving for breakfast at 8, so an hour was all I needed to wash my clothes and get ready for the day. After breakfast we all went to Erik’s church. Dorsey played the guitar and sang contemporary praise & worship for the service. It was nice to hear tunes I recognized even though I still didn’t know the Spanish lyrics. Clarita interpreted Erik’s message for us. He spoke on the importance of loving one another. “This is the message from the beginning: we should love one another” 1 John 3:11.
After church, we went home for lunch and then drove over to the ice cream store. Anni bought two 5-Gallon buckets of ice cream for the orphanage. It was so much fun preparing the ice cream sundaes for the kids and staff! We had vanilla & chocolate ice cream topped with the chocolate that hardens into a shell and rainbow & chocolate jimmies. The chocolate shell and jimmies were brought down from the States by the team. The kids loved it!
The orphanage is guarded by high concrete walls, iron gates and an armed guard. Dorsey wanted a picture with the guard’s gun so he came up with the great idea of bribery! We walked over with a huge bowl of ice cream and through limited Spanish; Dorsey asked if we could hold the gun for pictures. The guard agreed and so we spent about 3 minutes playing with a loaded gun – I was pretty sure one of us would fire off a round by mistake!
I left the orphanage to go to San Antonio to help with the children’s program. The team (Dorsey, Catherine & Anni) stayed at the orphanage to fix two toilets and install more shelves. The children’s program went well. I just love being there so much. I love the kids, the adults, and the entire town.
I think I mentioned awhile ago that the guy we buy our construction material from worked with the local YWAM base and became interested in San Antonio when we told him what we were doing. He scheduled a big program for the kids for this afternoon (after our normal program). We didn’t have a chance to stay and watch but we did see them bring in two truck-loads of young adults and a sound system. They drove around the little town and announced the program and by the time we left it looked like most of the families had come over to watch. I am so excited other organizations are taking time to serve in San Antonio.
The team leaves tomorrow morning to spend a day in Antigua before heading back to NJ. We didn’t work much together (they were at the orphanage, I in San Antonio), but I’m still going to miss them!
As usual, I have posted pictures from the day’s events – enjoy.
Monday, March 9
This morning started out around 12am. I had only been asleep for an hour when I was woken up by dogs barking. All of them. Stray dogs are numerous here in Guatemala and I believe every single one was barking this morning. It only took a moment for me to wake enough to realize why they were barking. My bed was shaking. The feeling is hard to describe. It wasn’t frightening, but odd. It wasn’t just the bed shaking, the shake was much deeper. I knew it was an earthquake. It felt like it continued for some time which was more then enough for me to lay there and appreciate how cool the experience was. I was laying on a bed, supported by a floor, over a foundation of concrete, over layers of earth…layers of earth that were erupting with an energy that could not be contained any longer. I am sure these ramblings must sound silly to someone who lives with quakes as a common occurrence, but for me – this was my first so I soaked it all in. After I finished marveling at the complexity of God’s design for the earth, I prayed a quick thank you for safety and then settled back to sleep.
The sun was shining into my room by 7:00am – usually I am up by 6 or earlier, but today I wouldn’t be leaving the house until 8:15am. I was staying here through breakfast so I could say goodbye to the team. Having them around was really enjoyable and I am sorry to see them head back to the States.
After breakfast I hugged everyone goodbye and then headed to Taxisco to pick up Hernan. Hernan is my driving companion. He sits “shotgun” while I drive to San Antonio. Out here, in the rural areas, sitting “shotgun” is a literal task. I do not have to pick up my second companion today, Yanny, because he is unavailable. It is not a big deal to me, I think having two guys is a little excessive and I plan on taking the Taxisco route today to San Antonio which is safer then the other.
As I drove, I thought about how I take the scenery out here for granted. It is so beautiful and I rarely take the time to soak it in as I am focused on getting to the job site. When I first cross over the main road on my way to San Antonio I can look out over the fields and watch them roll into blue oblivion. The ocean is beyond the fields, but it is never quite clear enough to depict the ocean from the blue sky. I continue driving and pass through small towns with a school and two speed bumps. Each town with a school has two speed bumps – except for one town with just one speed bump. I have to remember where the speed bumps are because they are hard to see and I’ve flown over them more then once. I have to be observant in driving here. There is too much risk so even though I take note of the beautiful landscape I keep my mind to driving and watching. I turn off the main road onto a small dirt road which will take me back to San Antonio. This road is bumpy but usually free of other vehicles so I can relax a little more. There isn’t much to look at in this vicinity; the grass is dead and the atmosphere is arid like a desert. It is not this vicinity that I look though. The volcanoes stretching up in the distance are my focus. I don’t understand how I can sometimes drive by here without being completely stunned by the beauty of the volcanoes. Sometime they are “puffing” little white clouds of smoke. Just as I considered the complexity of the earthquake this morning, I am in awe again, this time at these living, fire-breathing mountains. I know the amount of destruction that a lava spewing volcano can cause but I still imagine, as I drive by, how breathtaking it would be to see one of those four explode with fury at the very moment I am looking at them. I focus back on the road as I feel slightly guilty for even imagining something like that happening. About ten minutes later I make a couple more turns and arrive at the gate for San Antonio. I remind myself that I need to post some pictures of the town from the road. It looks like a few shacks in the middle of dead terrain. It is a wonder to me how they don’t completely fall down with the slightest bit of wind. Although structurally weak, they are strong in their declaration of hope. These houses are the beginnings for most families that wouldn’t stand a chance of having a place to call their own. The houses represent hard work, pride and love. There is little to make of them, but they are beautiful nonetheless. The flowers in old cans and the “clean” dirt floors demonstrate a pride in what they own.
I drive by the houses and wave to the families I pass en route to the center of town. Once there, I park the car and Hernan and I greet all the men working. The men have been digging the new ditch needed for the pipe running from the well to the water tank. It looks good so far. I gather up a couple shovels and a wheelbarrow and head down to the location of our sand filter. It is not a sand filter yet – right now it’s a huge hole full of water. Hernan and I work on it for about two hours. We dumped dirt in, dug mud out – it was just a huge dirty mess. During the work, sweat was dripping into my eyes and I didn’t even care. I recalled how awful it was on those few hot windy days we had where I couldn’t even sweat so I was grateful for even the burning in my eyes. Finally in the end, we removed most of the water and decide to let it dry out until tomorrow. I was vacillating on whether or not to continue with that particular design idea because I knew we’d need a lot of sand and the soil we were digging up at 3’ was more like clay. I have been praying about that filter for over a week because I am not sure if it is necessary. I went back to the other side of the project where all the guys were digging and pulled Modesto aside. He came over to look at the hole and talk about the filter. When I say “talk”, I mean a confusing struggle with words for both of us. My limited Spanish mixed with his limited English. We always seem to figure it out though and soon I found myself following him to the dry ravine. Modesto showed me that certain parts of the dry bed were sandy soil. Perfect sand for the filter! Relief flooded over me. Here was my answer to whether or not I should continue with the sand filter. We concluded that tomorrow morning; buckets would be brought down here and sand transported to the filter. After going over other parts of the project, such as rebar cages and trench locations, I finally called it a day and left the job site. I have never arrived home so dirty. I left my shoes outside. It didn’t matter much because my socks were also caked with dried mud. Every exposed bit of my skin was covered in dried mud. I didn’t mind so much. Don’t they do mud things at spa’s? I was just giving my skin a “spa treatment” I told myself.
The rest of the afternoon and evening don’t call for much detail. I ran bank errands with Carol, sorted out money she was leaving for me for San Antonio, washed clothes and then taught English. I look forward to the few weeks I have remaining here. I have been exposed to the awesome grace, love and provisions of God. Being able to experience first-hand what He is doing in San Antonio has been incredible. Most importantly though is that the people of the town see that it is God at work for them. I believe some of them truly understand that and I hope at the end of my trip, every single guy who has worked beside me will understand as well.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:1
Tuesday, March 10
***Happy Birthday Helene***
I picked up Erik’s truck this morning to take out the San Antonio. I don’t like driving his truck as much as Carol’s suv because his clutch is much more difficult. As far as I know, all the vehicles here are manual, which is fine with me. I missed my turn for Guazacapan and had to turn down a small road for what should have been a quick k-turn. It wasn’t quick at all! The road was narrow so I didn’t have much room to start the K-turn. Then, the truck rolled forward as I tried to put it in reverse. Great. So now, I am stalled, blocking the entire small road, with my front wheels in a small concrete ditch. I start fumbling with Erik’s cd player because I want to shut off his music (at least I can keep some people from noticing if I don’t have the music playing, right?). I ended up first making it much louder before finally finding out how to lower the volume. People have been riding by on bikes or walking behind the truck. Luckily, no other cars have come by. I can not get the truck into reverse. I don’t know why. Nerves possibly made me rush and so I kept messing up. I finally get it into reverse but when I try to go back I stall (the tires are still in the little ditch). To make it even better, a truck is now waiting patiently for me to figure out how to drive. I’m prayer harder now. I’m so embarrassed. It takes a few more tries (which seem like eternity) before I get it out of the ditch and then I am able to finish the turn and give a small embarrassed wave to the truck that waited for me. Great way to start the morning! Thank goodness, I didn’t have any other silly car drama as I drove to San Antonio.
Today I worked on the sand filter. I don’t know if we can even call it that because it has been so completely modified to fit the conditions, but for lack of a better name I will continue to refer to it as the sand filter. I dug out sand from the ravine and carried it up and over to the filter. Big contractor size buckets. I took a break from carrying buckets of sand and went over to carry large rocks. Yeah, some break. Haha, seriously though, I really love every minute of it even though its strenuous work. Cruz, Arnoldo, Hernan, and Barefoot (another nickname for a guy whose name I do not know) came over to work on the filter. They joined in carrying buckets of sand and large and small rocks to complete the filter. We spent a couple hours on the filter and then a couple hours leveling, gluing and covering the pipe. I’d say by tomorrow afternoon we should have the discharge run from the Pila’s to the ravine finished.
I am excited about the progress! I know the project will be over soon and I will be flying back to NJ which brings about mixed emotions. I miss my family and friends, but I have also made myself a home here. There are many more improvements for San Antonio and although I haven’t even left yet, I am already thinking about when I can return.
The rest of my day was typical – laundry (which is currently being rained upon), errands and teaching English. Clarita is going to stay here at the house with me while Carol is back in NJ. I am going to make it a point to take off some time from work (when I can) so we can hang out and have some fun.
Quick Prayer Requests: Sharing God’s love with the people I interact with, Project Safety, Project Construction, Swollen Foot (don’t ask me what I did, but the top of my foot has been swollen for about 4 days now)
Quick Praises: Modesto (community president) seems to have changed – hope is in his heart and grows as we continue to improve San Antonio, Project is running smoothly, Bug bites are not so bad anymore (I narrowly escaped a swarming ant attack today….think “Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull….jk I don’t know if ant’s swarm…they kind of just crawl quickly and bite), safety, snocaps (sent by my dad)
Love ya guys!
Wednesday, March 11
We’re just short one pipe length before we can completely finish the drainage pipe. Almost done! They finished sealing it yesterday so we ran water through it to test it out before covering it with the soil. I stood excited by the end of the pipe as I heard the water gurgle through…but nothing came out. I started to get really nervous but could not think about where the problem could be…then suddenly a rush of water came out…along with a HUGE frog. Whew. I was relieved. We’re planning on putting a little metal flap at the end of the pipe once we’re finished to keep frogs and other critters out. I brought over one of the latrine toilet pieces today (they finally arrived from Guatemala City). Arnoldo was working on the latrine when I left at 5:15 – he only had a little more then an hour of light left so it probably won’t be complete by tomorrow, but it will be close.
I’m beat, so this is quick.
Have a great night!
Thursday, March 12
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
I feel like the presence of our project in San Antonio is spurring others to assist with the physical, spiritual and educational needs of the town. For example, my numerous visits to Don Benjamin’s (purchasing all the construction material for the project) has lead Randy (the manager) to get involved with assisting San Antonio. He has already sent a local YWAM group out to bring food door – to – door and had a large children/teenager’s program this past Sunday. Soon he will be helping with the school. I prayed about what my responsibilities would be with the school roof. It had blown off in parts over the weeks I have been here. I knew my project was expanding, but didn’t think I could add in fixing the school roof, so I talked to Randy about it. I told him that the roof had blown off in parts and they could really use some aid, but I honestly didn’t think God had it on my project scope. Randy said that he would arrange for groups to go out there and work on the building. That moment was a good growth experience for me. I am quick to stretch myself further then I should, further then I am supposed too. Normally, I would take on every problem, but here – well, here I know I just can not. There are more problems then I can handle. This is a perfect place for me to learn how to focus what I should burden myself with and what I should not. My heart wants to serve and help everyone, but my problem is that I only end up getting really down about what I ultimately can not fix. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) It is hard to explain unless you can relate to a personal relationship with Jesus. God has a plan for every person, but it is our responsibility to seek it. I know I need to be constantly reading the bible, praying and seeking wise counsel – especially since I come up with some pretty crazy plans on my own. This trip has been an amazing blessing and learning experience. I have learned a lot as an engineer – solving problems with limited material and resources. But more importantly, I have seen how an existence completely and totally relying on God’s provision within His will is where I want to be.
Today, the car was at the mechanics and I thought I would be unable to reach San Antonio, but this morning when I was adding a pipe to my order at Don Benjamin’s, Randy offered me a ride on the truck with the construction material. The guys in San Antonio were certainly surprised to see me jump out of that truck! I only had to be there long enough to check the latrine and give Arnoldo a list of things needed to complete the latrine construction.
I will be off from work tomorrow. Mini-vaca! Clarita and I are going to the beach. I actually live very close to the beach but it is not easy to get there. No 9th street bridge here in Guate – just a boat, a long canal, and then a pick-up truck to finally get to the ocean. It’s worth it though. I was there one day back in July and it was very nice. Very relaxing.
Besides my short trip to San Antonio, I took the microbus to Guazacapan to visit Olga for some Spanish lessons, laundry (I know I write that a lot, but you have no idea how long it takes to do laundry down here!), picked up Leanie’s birthday present in town (can’t wait to give it to her!), taught English at Ceiso and attempted to plant flowers for Carol. Give me a shovel and I can dig a 3’ ditch for hundreds of feet, but do not give me little hand shovel thingy and ask me to plant a flower… dude, who knew I’d make such a huge mess! I only planted three of the ten or so she left in the garden for me. I kept muttering ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’, but that didn’t seem to help the wilting muddy plants. Jk. Those that worked with me know how well I am with plants…I can only keep cactuses alive.
Ok, that ends my evening. Have a great night everyone!
Friday, March 13
Today was a sweet break. I took off from working in San Antonio for a day at the beach. Clarita and I drove until the road ended at the water, took a little boat down the canal, then jumped in a pick-up (aka “Taxi” and then arrived at Don Carlos Hotel – the beach! The weather was perfect – beautiful empty beach and warm water.
After we got back, we wandered around town looking for a dvd. You can’t rent here in Chiqui, so we looked for a vendor. I found out the first time I was here that they don’t sell “real” dvds. So, as I upload pictures to the site, I am watching a bootleg copy of Seven Pounds. Also, these bootlegs come with multiple movies per dvd so I will be watching “Marley & Me” afterwards.
This was a great break and I am now refreshed and ready to get back to a full day of work tomorrow!
Enjoy your night.
Saturday, March 14
I was up early and at Don Benjamin’s construction material store before they were even open. I had to exchange a couple pipe fittings and buy a machete. Every person in that store knows me by now – from the managers down to the kids who load the concrete. I even have three official work tee-shirts that one of the manager’s gave me the day I hitched a ride to San Antonio in the delivery truck.
So, after picking up the parts, I picked Hernan up and headed out to San Antonio. By the time we arrived, the roof over the Pilas was nearly complete and women were already busy at work washing dishes and clothes in the new pilas. It’s so exciting to see them in use. After checking the latrine, I grabbed the last pipe for the drainage run and Hernan, Nickson and I sealed and buried it. After that, we joined the long line of guys finishing up the pressure pipe run. I have a new least favorite biter – the ant. Or should I say, the hundreds of ants I spent trying to avoid today! Swarms of tiny ants burrow in the dirt we had piled beside the ditches. I spent most of the day shoveling the dirt to cover the pipes and with that, spent most of the day brushing ants off my legs. They’re bites leave itchy little red bumps which are distracting me as I try to type… scratch….type…scratch….type.
I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I have been taking pictures of the children and families for the past couple weeks to give out. I printed most of them out yesterday at the Quikphoto in Chiqui and brought them to the families today. They loved them! From their reactions, my assumption that they do not have pictures of themselves or their children seemed to prove true. I asked that they make sure to tell the rest of the families to come by this week so I can get pictures finished before I leave. I had a couple more families come by today before I left, which was good. I only know about 25 or so of the families in the town. There are a total of about 50. I hope I can get everyone finished before I leave! We finished working close to 2pm and after kicking a soccer ball around a bit with the kids, I packed up and headed back to Taxisco with Hernan.
On our way, Hernan asked me to stop the car and he jumped out with my machete and a plastic bag. He came back a few minutes later with a bag full of bark. He said it was a medicinal treatment for his brother’s new baby – the baby has some sort of bumps or rash (I couldn’t understand exactly what he was explaining) – and this bark soaked in water would help.
After getting back to Chiqui, I went back to Don Benjamin’s to purchase a few more missing parts. I went home, showered and headed back out to walk uptown to get more photos printed. I passed by the circus in town. It is a traveling circus – comes by once a year. It looks like a sad crew. They had monkeys tied under the trailer…all day. PETA would be all over that in the States, eh? I almost want to attend it with the same curiosity that makes you want to pour salt a slug just to see what happens. You know you won’t enjoy it but something really makes you want to see what it’s like. I will attach pictures of the outside of the tent.
Oh man, who would have thought I’d gain weight living in a third-world country for 2 months?! I should have NEVER asked how to say “French bread” in Spanish! I picked some up today while walking home from town…and ate way more then I even needed! It’s not the same as home, but when you’re surrounded by tortillas all day, anything slightly resembling rolls is exciting!
As I am writing this blog, Clarita is watching a live show of a big Christian festival in Guatemala City this weekend. I have been just zoning out since it was in Spanish, but now there is an English speaking guy on it (with an interrupter). I am not familiar with him, but he is good. I am going to finish here.
Have a great night!
Monday, March 16
It doesn’t matter if you work in Vineland, Philly or San Antonio, Guatemala – a Monday is still a Monday.
Whew, I am glad today is almost over!
I arrived early on-site just to find out that the guys at Don Benjamin’s gave me adapters that were too big so I had to turn around and drive all the way back to Chiqui (45 min one-way over lots of ruts and bumps). After I returned to the site I was cutting a block at a particularly difficult angle and had almost made it all the way through before the block came apart. Later, as I was carrying buckets of sand for the latrine, I threw the large bucket onto my shoulder, and then lost my balance and it fell off my shoulder and dumped into my pile of stones. Finally, I was looking for my machete and not paying attention to where I was walking and stepped backwards into a newly covered trench (which had happen to have water dumped over it) and sank down until mud was over my ankle and into my shoe. That was all before noon.
I rushed around after I got back from San Antonio’s because I had a lot to get done before English class tonight. I took a tuk tuk to Don Benjamin’s because Randy gave me more money then I was supposed to have for a part I purchased, then when we finally figured it all out I owed him more then I had with me, so I had to grab a tuk tuk back home, get more money, go back to pay Randy, late for my next appointment but it didn’t matter because (and this happens often here) the woman I was meeting with was in Guatemala City (guess she forgot) and would not be back until tomorrow. I went to the photo store to have a bunch more prints made for the families in San Antonio. It took over an hour for everything to be printed. I fell asleep in the plastic chair I was waiting in. I dreamt I was waiting for some people to jump in the car so I could take them to San Antonio – the people in my dream were calling to me to wait…turns out, it was the photo guy calling to me to wake up! Lol. After that I spent the remainder of my money at the bakery (on rolls, of course) and headed home for a quick change and sandwich before English class. English class, like always, was fun although I was zoning out here and there – I guess my nap in the photo store wasn’t long enough!
Ok, that’s enough for me –I am ready to go to bed and get started on Tuesday – which by default has to better then Monday ; – P
Tues & Wed, March 17 & 18
I didn’t write yesterday, but I took site photos and will post them. For the most part, both days were just long tiring work days. I am feeling the push as my departure date gets closer and closer. A couple pictures from yesterday are of us picking rocks up from the “street.” We needed large rocks and didn’t have any more on site, so we got some sacks and drove down the dirt road until we found a good spot to stop. Little events like that make me laugh as I imagine doing something like that for a project back home! I don’t even know where I’d find a dirt road like this one to begin with. Anyway, today we needed large wide boards for the support forms. I arrived on site in the afternoon and was surprised that no one was working on the forms. I had asked if they had wood yesterday and I thought they said they did, so I was pretty bummed that the site was completely deserted. After poking around a bit – hoping to find some tools so we (Hernan, Yanny and I) could work – one of the men came riding up on his bike. Turns out, the workers were in the back (way back), slicing up a tree they had cut down. Only a few guys were working today so the day was spent chopping apart the tree and using horses and a donkey to transport the pieces. I had Erik’s truck today so I drove it as far as it could go and then we got out to walk the reminder. I had no idea San Antonio’s property stretched back so far – I felt like we were walking for a long time. I finally heard a chainsaw and shortly thereafter came up to the guys. They had found only one large tree on the property so I hope it’s enough to get the job done. It looks like they were getting the most out of it. I wasn’t feeling too well (still am not) so I didn’t participate in carrying the wood – it was heavy and floppy so it took three guys to trek back to the truck with it. I eventually got a horse to ride (along with Wilson).
I know this is short, but I am really just too tired to write much. Mostly just wanted to let you all know everything is still going strong.
Thursday, March 19
Work work work. Fast fast fast.
Today, I worked primarily on the Latrines while some guys cut the remaining planks for the forms and the other guys nailed the forms together. I don not think the tank will be up before I leave. It is doubtful. We haven’t had many guys working this week and there have been many little things taking longer then I anticipated. I am still pleased with the overall progress of the project, but slightly bummed that I won’t get to see it come to completion. I felt a lot better today so I worked hard. I needed sawdust for the latrines so I headed out to the back fields to find the guys cutting apart the tree. I originally headed out alone planning on carrying a couple sacks by myself all the way back, but Hernan caught up with me and helped. I am glad he did. I only carried one sack, he carried two and Wilson carried one on the horse. By the time we finally reached the corral, I was really grateful they were there to help!
I attempted to have Spanish ‘class’ today but it didn’t go so well. I figured I would return to the States fluent in Spanish, but I have not had time to focus on learning it. I know how to say the words I need for working – deep, more, less, concrete, sand, rocks, high, long, work, help, measure, shovel…etc. but, I do not know much else. Olga came over this afternoon and we crammed in an hour of study before the children’s program.
I am writing now before English class tonight. I know I will want to just go to bed as soon as I get home, so I figured I would send out the update early.
Tomorrow is a vacation day – this will be my second Friday off in a row and I am looking forward to it. Part of me wants to be on the job site, but my English class is treating me to a day-trip to Lake Atitlan. It is supposed to be beautiful – a lake surrounded by 7 volcanoes! We’re also going to some ruins on our way back. I am excited! One of the students drives a bus for a living, so he is picking us up at 5am tomorrow morning! I will take lots and lots of pictures!!!
Ok, guys – that’s it for now. Have a wonderful day!
Friday, March 20 – Atitlan!
*Happy Birthday Dave!!!!*
Oh, rise and shine!
I rolled over at 3:45am when the alarm on my cell started going off…it was really loud so I quickly stopped it and hoped Clarita, who was sleeping in the next room over, didn’t wake up. I was getting up early for a shower and to make sandwiches before our ride came at 5:00am.
Today was my day-trip with Ceiso (my English class). Oober excited, I quickly showered, packed and made 12 sandwiches for breakfast. No, not 12 all for me…although I’ve been known to house many pb&j’s at a time!
Clarita was ready a few minutes before 5am so we sat down for some watermelon and to talk about the day ahead of us. We were going to Lake Atitlan – a huge fresh water lake surrounded by 3 main volcanoes and about 4 others not-so-main (love my proper descriptions?!).
Sergio was driving us in his family’s microbus. A beep beep sounded a few minutes after 5am. Sergio & Luta were here! The microbus was really nice – much better then the ones used to taxi people back and forth between Chiqui & Guazacapan! One stop to pick up Rolando on the corner in town, then the last stop was to pick up Irsa in Guazacapan. Alfonzo was not going to be able to make it. He tried to get off from work, but had a special program at his school so he just couldn’t get out of it.
After 3 hours of driving – only stopping once for the bathroom and once to take pictures of the sunrise – we finally saw the lake! Oh, beautiful! It took us another hour of traveling around the winding roads above the lake (around the volcanoes) before we ended up our first town. My thoughts through the beginning of the trip around the lake were about how beautiful it was and how excited I was to hop on a boat while my thoughts towards the end were about how I wish Sergio would take the turns a little slower because my stomach was not enjoying them as much as he was! I was thankful he was a fast crazy driver because we made good time, but not thankful that the roads took such drastic turns (sometimes wrapping around 180 degrees) to travel around the edge of the volcanoes.
By the time we arrived in town, we had eaten 2 sandwiches each (one at 630am, one at 8am) so I was surprised when Sergio asked if we were ready for breakfast. My stomach wasn’t ready for anything but for the car to stop moving, but everyone else was eager for their 3rd breakfast so our first stop was a restaurant called [in English] Paris Paris. It was nice and quaint and I had a fruit salad and chamomile tea. I found out at that restaurant that I am not a fan of papaya. Oh gross! Sorry to all the papaya fans out there, but how can you eat that!? Maybe mine was rotten, but anyway, I quickly washed it down with tea and pineapple.
After breakfast we walked down to the lake and hired a boat to take us to the other towns around the lake. First stop, Atitlan, home of handmade Mayan jewelry, clothes and blankets and of Maximon (a famous Mayan idol). None of us had any desire to travel up to see Maximon. Any bit of intrigue I had quickly diminished when I went into an ancient Catholic church in Atitlan. I had heard that the Mayan religion had blended a lot with catholic churches that had been established many years ago. It is one thing to hear and another to see. As I entered I saw many figures along the walls of Christ, Mary and the Apostles. In addition, there were skulls, and “little black men” poking out from the figurines garments. I have heard that the spirits are called [English translated] “little black men” and are very real here in Mayan communities. It is hard for me to grasp a real understanding of the very real spirit world. I know it exists as spoken of in the bible, but being here, in areas where people operate in a spirit world [of which I don’t understand] is pretty freaky. People bring gifts to the idol, Maximon, of alcohol, cigarettes and money for good health, marriage and wealth in return. Some of the idols even have a hole in the mouth so the alcohol can be poured directly into the idol. Maximon seems to solidify its evilness by the very sacrifices it demands. When I first heard about it and saw pictures and small figurines of him, I thought it was funny. I thought it looked like some drunken man wandered into a small Mayan village back in the day and for some reason brought on a cult of worshippers that has lasted and grown over the years. But, after hearing and learning more about it – about the worship of the idol – it is just too real to be funny. I am not exaggerating – the church was probably beautiful when it was first constructed, but it feels evil inside now. Maybe it was the “little black men” figurines staring at me from the sides of the church or the feeling of creepiness I got from being in the town were Maximon began, but for whatever reason, I was really happy when we finally got back on the boat headed to Catalina.
I really enjoyed the boat rides – the view was so amazing – we actually traveled between two of the main volcanoes to get to Atitlan. Our captain told us the names of all the volcanoes, but I could not follow his rapid Spanish. Although I was with English students, they are in the low level intermediate so Spanish was the primary language of the day. They practiced English a little bit with me and in turn, I practiced Spanish with them. Our next town was Catalina and it was there that the students thought it would be good for me to dress in Mayan traditional clothes for pictures. I tried to not show how silly I felt when I smiled for the photos…it made them happy to share their cultural so it was fine. BUT, I looked ridiculous! I was certainly the tallest “Mayan” around!
It was so nice of them to give me this lovely day – they treated me to everything – 3rd breakfast, frozen treat, lunch, cake break (they eat a lot! I felt like we ate at every stop!).
Ok, so after lunch in Catalina, we got back on the boat for our return. As we were waiting for Rolando, the girls started putting life jackets on. Since they didn’t wear them on the other trips in the boat, I asked what was going on. Around 3:30pm every day brings wind – lots and lots of wind. The event is called “Xocomil,” the “wind that carries away sin.” The lake gets treacherous. Good timing for the “adrenaline junkie” in me because we were departing our little port right at 3:30pm. The captain said Xocomil had already started. We traveled along the edges of the lake so it didn’t get rough enough for it to be fun (for me) but the rest of the gang was screaming every time our boat flew into the air and rolled to the side. We made it safety to dock and then jumped in the microbus to our next stop – the ruins!
Driving here in Guatemala is insane and trying to sleep in the vehicles is hard – even for me! At one point I was able to “rest” by keeping one hand braced against the side to protect my head and the other braced on the seat in front of me to keep me falling off the seat. It was pretty funny. Everyone in the car was laughing as I tried multiply times to “get comfortable” and instead was thrown off my seat or into the side panel. Over these past 6ish weeks, I’ve experienced a lot of “close calls” with cars driving in our lane or vice verse. I believe yesterday was one of the closest I’ve been to a head-on. I was sitting up look ahead of me as we drove down a mountain. I saw the 18-wheeler in our lane and the line of cars he was attempting to pass. I looked to our shoulder and saw that there wasn’t much room for us. I felt as Sergio applied his breaks as I noted that the tractor-trailer didn’t appear to be trying to get back in his lane. I thought, “Wow, this is going to be a weird way to end my trip. I guess it won’t hurt though. Should I try to find a seatbelt? I hope someone recovers my camera so our families can see how much fun we had on the lake. Oh, they probably won’t get the pictures to the families. They’ll just keep the camera. Blast.” My second series of thoughts were “that was a ridiculous ‘last thought!’ you should be thinking of family and loved ones. Don’t they ‘see their lives pass before their eyes’ when they tell stories about last thoughts in movies? I guess this won’t be my last one then” then I laughed. Laughed at myself and my lame thoughts. I was still laughing as Sergio pulled over as far as possible and the tractor-trailer cut off vehicles in his lane – missing a head-on collision by literally a foot or two and missed swiping the sides by inches.
Ruins!? Ohhh…well, not this time. Road closures made it impossible to reach the Mayan ruins, additional road closures also kept us from Chi Chi. We finally stopped for cake and coffee on a roadside restaurant in the late afternoon and then stopped in Antigua on our way home for a quick walk to loosen up and a bathroom break at McDonalds – which, unlike the States, has the cleanest bathrooms (note: when the bathroom has a real toilet and you don’t have to byotp – bring your own toilet paper – then you know it’s high class, baby!).
The day-trip finally ended at home – reaching our house by 9:30pm.
I know I wrote a lot, but I have many more stories of the fun day (i.e. peddlers called me “barbie” all day…guess someone from the States get’s pegged with that name whether or not they look like a supermodel – I certainly do not! Sergio also kept saying “Gringa Special” when he’d joke about us getting stuff cheaper or extra because I was the gringa with them and the captain wanted my time to be special)
All – in – all it was a lovely vacation day!
It is time for me to go to bed – G’night everyone – another special “Happy Birthday to Dave”
Ok, goodnight again!
Saturday, March 21
Today was a good work day – we got a lot done with mixing and pouring the concrete into the forms and the guys will be working tomorrow too.
We have a fiesta planned for Thursday – everyone (including the Mayor) should be in attendance. I will be speaking about the project at the event. It is not hard for me to speak at events here because I have an interpreter so I can sort of hide behind them (heehee).
I had a chance to talk to Dad, Helene, Dara, Russell, Sophia & Olivia on Skype today – which was really awesome!
That’s about it – I am still worn out from my lovely vaca day yesterday and mixing concrete today so I think I am going to put off laundry and errands until tomorrow and just read for the remainder of the evening.
Have a great evening!
Sunday, March 22
I didn’t sleep well last night. I was feeling sick after working yesterday so I guess it kind of stuck with me through the night. Just really worn out for the most part. This project is so close to being done and I think I am just mixed with excitement and stress and the final week is upon us. Usually the guys take off on Sunday. I am there on Sunday’s for the children’s program. I went today and no additional work had been completed since yesterday so I guess the guys decided not to work. The kids were cute and rowdy as usual. I walked around the town a bit and shot some video and took a couple pictures of houses to give you all a more well-rounded view of where I am working. That’s about it for today. I am hoping to shake this tired/blah feeling by tomorrow because I have a long work day ahead of me!
Monday, March 23
ok, so yesterday I was feeling “blah” – last night, I was feeling awful. I will spare details, but it was bad – I spent most of the night laying out under the stars because it was easier to roll over then run to the bathroom.
I feel better now. Just weak for the most part and some cramping is still present, but I was able to keep down water with limon (lime/lemon cross)
I uploaded some videos I shot yesterday in San Antonio. I am mostly following around this little girl – second to the youngest in an 8 kid family. She doesn’t get overly excited at anything so following her with the camera was easier then following other kids. I show her coloring during the kids program, walking to her house. I also show the kids playing a game like “duck duck goose” I hope these videos (along with the pictures posted yesterday) help you to see more of what life is like in San Antonio.
I am going to be sleeping most of today – I already had a good 2 hour nap
I hope you all are well and keep health in your prayers for me. I need to get back to the jobsite tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 24
I woke up a thousand times better this morning then yesterday morning! Thank God! I don’t think I ever prayed for health and healing as much as I did Sunday night! I was pretty sure Sunday night would end in an event worthy of a cheap tabloid “Girl, in Guatemala, births alien via self-performed c-section: alien born healthy, hired for traveling circus passing through town. Girl back to work as usual”
So, anyway, today was back to work as usual. The guys already had the rebar in place for the water tank platform, so I took a spot up top and helped pour the concrete with Cruz. Once the platform was done, we poured concrete for the floor on one side of the tanqui. I laid out the pipe fittings and made sure we had everything to set up the pipes tomorrow.
The dentist, Jose, stopped by and seemed really pleased with the progress of the tower. Jose is finishing up his local residency on April 30th so he is really happy to be able to see the town he has supported finally get help. Jose has been an amazing source of support from the “inside” helping us to secure the material from the city and the tank from the health center.
Lewis, who has bible studies twice a week in San Antonio, stopped by with a team of students from Canada. They were in San Antonio going door-to-door to let the people know a doctor would be setting up a clinic for tomorrow and to pray for them and hand out bibles if they wanted. It was funny because when Jose came over he mentioned seeing gringos and I didn’t believe him because I didn’t know a team was coming in. Sure enough, about an hour after Jose left, the gringo’s stopped by at the site. I was glad to see them – they talked with the guys for a bit and then asked them if they wanted to gather for prayer and they prayed for the men, the town, and the project. It was really good.
After I returned home I did my normal afternoon stuff – laundry, a trip to Don Benjamin’s to return unused supplies, another two hours at the photo store getting more prints for San Antonio, English class and lastly, sitting here writing about the day’s events.
Prayer requests: Continued safety and health. I have to speak at the fiesta on Thursday – please pray that my words are God’s words to the community.
Wednesday, March 25
Today was a very long work day, but it went very well! The tank is up in place, the pipes are up in place, the showers are finished minus doors (which will be completed tomorrow), the latrines are finished minus doors (again tomorrow, when I bring hinges back), and the pilas along with the new concrete floor beneath them are finished. It took a lot of work, it took a lot of “plan revisions” due to missing parts or parts used where they were not supposed to go, but in the end it all worked. We let just a wee bit of water flow into the tank and immediately out to check all the other pipes for the showers and the faucets. It was really excited to see it all finally come together!
Today, the group from Canada was back for a medical clinic day as well as clothes for the families and face painting for the children. I stopped by to check it out for a few minutes and it looked great! They had a lot of clothes laid out on tarps for the people to choose from and the kids all had great big smiles running around with their faces painted brightly. I didn’t have my camera at the time, but I sure wish I did – they looked so cute! The clinic looked good and busy too! They were handing out vitamins for children and stuff like Tylenol for the adults. My guys took turns leaving the site to get checked out at the clinic. I am really glad they did.
I finally finished working at 4pm today. 4pm is about the latest I will stay because I need to get home before dark. I got into Erik’s truck at 3:56pm (I checked my phone after getting in) and started the car…nothing. I tried to start it again…nothing. Tried the lights, horn, radio…nothing nothing nothing. Oh geez. One thing you should know is although I work with a bunch of guys, I certainly don’t trust them with a car – not all of them at least. Not everyone here drives. Actually, hardly anyone in San Antonio drives. So when 12 hands were fishing around in the engine I was pretty nervous. No jumper cables were available. I ran back over to the clinic, but after checking all the vehicles the team came in I still came out empty handed. I went back and we started pushing the car to attempt to pop the clutch. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as we pushed the truck back and forth. Imagine a camera stationed at one point, focusing on one section of the dirt road. In and out of the frame pass six dark Guatemalan men and one Gringa…back and forth. Like something I’m sure I’ve seen in an old episode of “The Monkees” when the tape is sped up a bit…although, I think in the Monkees the car starts and then rolls away …ours didn’t start. It took another hour of tinkering before a wire was used to transfer voltage to the battery and the truck came to life. Don’t ask me how it worked. I wasn’t even by the car at that point – I’m just happy they got it started! I made it home before dark, but was late for my final English class.
As my days in Guatemala are nearly gone, I’ve tried to reflect a bit on the experiences. Carol asked me to write a little piece for her newsletter explaining what the project has done for me. Here is my first draft:
When I left Newark Airport bound for Guatemala and a 2-month long engineering project, I know it was only through God’s power that the project would succeed. I just needed enough faith to step onto the plane as I followed the call God placed on my heart, and then He would take care of the rest. And He sure did! I have been blessed over these past two months to live a life solely dependent on God. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it. God brought people into my life here to help when I needed it. He provided funding for the project through family and friends back home. He provided good weather, good workers, and just enough time to complete it. When I struggled with self doubt, God’s word was sent via emails from friends back at home – sharing verses that eased my worried heart. When I felt overwhelmed, I rested on Philippians 4:6,7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When I left New Jersey, I prayed that I would be an example of 1 Peter 4:10-11 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” I want to highlight the last part of that verse. “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” I knew I wanted to serve and I also knew that I could not apart from the strength God would provide. I also knew that I wanted Jesus Christ to be praised through my service. Not knowing the language made it impossible to share the love of God through words, but my prayer is that they have seen the love of God through my actions.
Thursday, March 27
This evening was the celebration for San Antonio. It was a very official wonderful celebration with a ribbon cutting, ceremonial first shirt wash in the Pila and gifts. I was honored many times over, given a wonderful certificate signed by the Mayor of Guazacapan and a decorative plate with my name on it with some of the same writing from the certificate. I cut the ribbon at the pilas and I performed the first wash. I was washing a black shirt and when I finished I asked if it was ok, Olga joked that I did fine, but the shirt was supposed to be white. Jose, the dentist who has worked hard for the town and loves them as much as I do, was standing next to me as people were coming over thanking me. After a while, his only comment was “you don’t cry?” I guess I should have been shedding some tears of happiness…I was so happy and I was so sad. I am really going to miss everyone here. Miss the project – miss the love shared both ways.
I shared with the community through an interpreter at the event. Below is a copy of what I said. The grammar and spelling is all messed up I am sure –so just read it for content
Greet in Spanish:
Good afternoon friends! I am so pleased to be here – although it feels odd being here without my work boots and shovel! I am going to be sharing my testimony on how I ended up here two months ago and what this experience has done to shape my future. I will be speaking through my friend, Clarita, whom most of you have met already.
Last July, I came here with a team from NJ. I remember some of you from that event. We brought school supplies donated by teachers in NJ and I also brought along a couple big soccer balls and enough mini soccer balls for all the kids in the school. I only spent two afternoons here, but I was here long enough to see the strength, love and hardworking community that is San Antonio. I prayed to God at the end of my trip that if He wanted to use me for more ministry here, that I was ready. I wanted to serve and show God’s love in Guatemala, but I just didn’t know how or when.
In December I felt God’s calling to work as an engineer here in Guatemala. I planned on working with a team who could teach me about water filtration. I planned on coming here to learn, not to lead. But that wasn’t God’s plan. God’s plan was for me to come here, to San Antonio, and take on a project that, for a young engineer like me, was very overwhelming. I prayed a lot about it and I was sure it was God’s calling for me to be here. One series of the verses I kept reading was 1 Peter 4:10-11
10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
I want to highlight the last part of that verse. “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” I knew I wanted to serve and I also knew that I could not apart from the strength God would provide. I also knew that I wanted Jesus Christ to be praised through my service. Not knowing your language has made it impossible to share the love of God through words, but my prayer is that you saw the love of God through my actions. I absolutely loved working here with all of you. I know it was hard work – harder for you then for me! I bet you guys weren’t too happy when I learned how to say “mas profundo” in Spanish, eh? It is so important for you to walk away from this experience knowing that God cares for each one of you. As a whole, He has blessed the town with pilas, latrines, showers and an elevated tank, but individually He knows and loves each one of you. I felt God’s love through the whole experience even on days that I didn’t feel well or felt stressed about the project. When I felt like I could not do it, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t the one doing it, that God was. When I first arrived, we did not have any money for the project. We knew God intended for work to be done here, so we prayed about it and asked family and friends to consider donating and they did. God provided money for this project from people who will probably never be here – probably never meet you, but felt led to show their love by sending money. If I came here alone – without God’s provision – I would not have been able to do anything to help. I knew it was something I could not do apart from God. I had faith to step onto the airplane to come down here – faith that God would be a part of this project and guide me wherever I needed to go. He did that and so much more.
I have learned a lot from working with you guys. I have found that this is my passion – to serve – either with a design, project management or digging a trench with a shovel. Only God knows what is in my future, but like back in July, I am leaving here on Saturday praying to God that He will give me a chance to return –especially here – to my new home, San Antonio.
Friday, March 27
I woke up sad this morning. This was my last full day in Guatemala. I will be leaving tomorrow morning at 8am, flying out of the city a little after 1pm and landing in Newark around 8pm.
I wish I had an excellent closing paragraph to the story you all have been reading for the past two months. I wish I could condense it all into a memorable conclusion. I wish I could, but you guys know me – I’m just an engineer. We’re not even supposed to know how to spell, let alone create an impressive ending to an amazing adventure, right? Jk. [sorry to all those engineers that are more well-rounded then me!]
My emotions are all mixed up in a bittersweet mess. I can’t even think of stuff to write about. I will miss this adventure, but I am pretty sure another one will come up again soon.