Friday, March 28, 2014

Last Day in Paradise

Our last day in Guatemala started out the same as the rest of them: breakfast (pancakes and fruit with hibiscus juice) at 7 AM before loading onto our chosen transportation for the day. Today's mode was one of the El Faro trucks that was loaded with a huge stove. The stove was going to a school in a village that was a 45 minute to an hour drive away from El Faro so the children could have healthy meals without inhaling a ton of smoke. The ride was filled with bumps unlike any we had come across before, so we had to stop due to Dana getting a little motion sick. She was fine, though, and we continued on.

When we got to the school, there were no kids there despite it being a school day and time for school to be in session. It turns out that there was a football tournament in Puerto Barrios, so school in a village more than an hour away was off! The Guatemalan school system is weird. There were some young kids down the road who came to see what the silly Americans were doing at the school when there was no class. Thanks to Tony, we had some helicopter-type toys to give them, and the kids had so much fun. Two young girls took Lauren's phone and Bethany's camera and took at least a hundred photos on each device, including multiple selfies. While we were playing with the kids, Mr. Dean, Keith, and Luis installed the stove in the school's kitchen and soon we were on our merry way again, riding in the back of the truck again for an hour through bumpy roads.

After getting back to the camp, we had twenty minutes to regroup before meeting in the guys' room to sort through all the extra stuff we were leaving here at camp. Megan, the daughter of the camp's owner, helped us out along with her otter Lola. We got done pretty quickly, which left us with an hour before lunch to go swim and have fun. Lunch was beef, coleslaw, potatoes, and some homemade flatbread - really yummy. After lunch, we had even more free time; about three hours to have fun and enjoy our last day here.

Our final activity with El Faro was a boat ride on some waves to the public beach for another Kids Club. We brought a parachute and a beach ball in order to play with the kids, and helped them dance, complete puzzles, and make some crafts. We got back to El Faro around 5:30 after another "fun" boat ride, complete with me almost falling into the ocean as I tried to get out of the boat.

Dinner was at 7 tonight instead of 6:30 and was a cheeseburger and fries, the perfect food to get us back into the mood for the United States. After we all paid off our tabs at the store, we met at the conference room in the main office for our last team meeting. There was some El Faro merchandise available for us to purchase; I'm pretty sure we all bought an El Faro water bottle. Keith handed back our passports in order for us to fill out our forms for the border crossing before collecting them all again, and we were able to ask the adults anything we wanted. Our final meeting ended with some information about the flights and times we needed to make before we all said goodnight and went back to our rooms to pack. The mess that exploded into the girls room has finally been contained and shoved back into our suitcases. Our carry ons are ready, and the air conditioner is dripping water into two garbage cans as a soundtrack to our packing. We're all going to sleep well tonight, as well as on the bus ride to Honduras, the plane ride to Houston, the plane ride to Chicago, the bus ride back to Chesterton...

If you want to know about our flights tomorrow and/or keep track of any changes to them, click here for the flight to Houston and click here for the flight to Chicago. See you in less than 24 hours!

- Sereen

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jueves

Today was a "fun" day for our team. Every day so far has started with breakfast at 7am at then out at 8 to a different place to serve. Our trip coordinator set aside today as a "touristy" day. We still started at 7am but we left at 8 and took a 1 1/2 hour boat ride up a river to a natural hot springs in the jungle. We had a great time swimming below a waterfall and feeling the hot water wash over us. Some of us climbed up to the top of the waterfall to the source of the hot springs and had fun putting mud on our faces. The more adventurous folks (Cough cough Bethany, Lauren, and Keith) enjoyed falling into a hole hidden in a crevice under the waterfall. The entire area was absolutely stunning, and after our swim we got back on the boat to go to a restaurant for lunch. Most of the kids got cheeseburgers, but Lauren got a shrimp dish and Bethany got the topada, a whole crab and whole fish served in a coconut cream soup. She really enjoyed tearing apart the crab and playing with its pincers. (guess who's writing this post in third person). After lunch we got ice cream, then got back on the boat to head back to camp. The boat rides are always loads of fun, because the waves are so big that we just bounce across the top of them and go airborne sometimes. For the child like Bethany who has never been to an amusement park (not even Disney World!!), the boat rides definitely make up for the adrenaline rushes that are abound in amusement parks. When we got back to camp, we all just chillaxed until dinner. Tony and Lauren went swimming again. They are always in the water. I think they're slowly morphing into fish. I could've sworn I saw gills on Lauren the other day. It's crazy stuff man. Anywho, for dinner, we had a muy delicioso taco soup thing. Bethany of course was hungry again, (but no one else was) so she enjoyed cleaning the plates of the other team members. Who needs a dog when you have a Bethany? After dinner we had a little team rendezvous, where we heard the stories of two of the missionaries here, then played a round of hot seat. Now the hour is growing late, and the young'uns are crawling to bed. Bethany is slathered in aloe, Lauren is snoring, Sam is eating again, Dana is sharing a bed with a box of Cheezits, Sereen is relaxing in her fab 1D shirt, and Emily is showering. Merry Thursday to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Miercoles

Hola. Como estas? Me llamo Bethany. Yo hablo un poco espanol. This is basically how I have been communicating here, but amazingly enough, it has worked wonders! People don't care that I pair "tu" with a "yo" ending, they just appreciate that I try. I really enjoy jugar with the little kids wherever we go. I pull faces and tell them "yo quiero el helada" and they laugh and tell me about themselves. I think I'll start by talking about the food. It is delicioso. Every meal we get homemade tortillas and some kind of juice. My favorite so far is the orchata, a ricey cinnamony sugary milky drink that tastes like an iced chai. I drink it and think of my mother sitting at home being totally jealous. There are also lots of delicious tropical fruits here. The nice thing about having team members who don't like cilantro or avocado or papaya or flan is that I get to eat theirs. Yay. Earlier today we visited the children's hospital in Puerto Barrias. It was an old bright blue building, basically a tool shed in comparison to the new Porter hospital. Everyone there was so friendly though. We started off by building a playground outside (or should I say they started off by building a playground outside). I played and talked to all the curious kiddies who came over to where we were. One little boy, Enrique, stayed with me the whole time we were out there. I was extremely surprised at the extent of our conversation. With only one year of Spanish under my belt, I was able to carry on conversation with him for a long time. I found out he loves FC Barcelona and wants to be a futbol star one day, he is seven years old, he loves coconut, and even has coconut ice cream at home. He taught me some words in spanish, and I taught him some english. He especially enjoyed taking pictures with my (brother's) camera (thanks James). After building the playset, we went inside to play with kids in the wards. We started in the boys 2 and older ward. I played with a little boy, Daniel, who broke his arm in an auto accident. There were kids with all sorts of problems there. It is the only public children's hospital in Guatemala. They even have a ward for malnourished kids. Overall, I have had an absolutely fabulous time this week, and I do not want to leave. Although I am currently red as a tomato and covered in a nasty heat rash and mosquito bites and other bites that ooze pus, I am not letting that bother me. I am having the time of my life, and helping people here overshadows all physical problems I'm dealing with. Plus, my sunburn is nothing compared to what some people here are dealing with. All I know is that I feel so alive when I meet these people who are so thankful and gracious and kind and still love God even though they live in terrible conditions. I honestly don't know how I'll be able to come back to the States after this, seeing everything that I have seen. English papers and math tests seem totally minute compared to poverty and homelessness and human trafficking and drug addictions and guerillas and gangs and disease. It's gonna be real hard. More pictures are up on the El Faro website under Chesterton High School if you want to check them out! https://www.facebook.com/elfarogt/photos/a.804228382938742.1073741906.115603891801198/804860956208818/?type=1&theater
Morning from El Faro! Just wanted to fill you in on a few more things that have been interesting in the last few days. Yesterday when we went to Livingston, we were told that it is a unique town in Guatemala. The inhabitants are mostly black and they said the town was founded centuries ago when a slave ship sunk off the shore and the people came ashore. That is just a history fact. Since we have been in the jungle all of our trip, it was the one place we could do a little shopping, so that was fun. Everyone got a little chance to do a bit of bartering since it is pretty well expected in this culture. Since we are not used to it, it felt uncomfortable but it was interesting. Also, it has been interesting to see all the different things El Faro camp does for the people of Guatemala. We have been able to visit and deliver food to the elderly and also help with dentistry. They also offer clean water filters and small smokeless stoves to help the people. Since many people here in the jungle still cook over an open fire in their homes, it hurts their lungs. These stoves take less wood and also give off little smoke except when you first start them. The stove cost about $66 US dollars but El Faro raises money so that if a family wants one they only have to pay $15. They want the family to have some investment, and they let them pay in installments if they want. They currently have a list of families that are waiting for stoves. Our group has talked about the possibility of taking on a project when we return of helping to raise money for some stoves for their stove project. We can see first hand how it helps the people. Today we are off to a children's hospital to do some painting, work on a playground, and play with children! We will write more later and let you know how it goes! :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day Numero Tres

Hola from Guatemala! Lauren here. Today was our third day, and probably the longest one we've had. We started early, eating breakfast at 7 and catching a boat at 8 to a town called Livingston, where we set up a dentist office with two local dentists. People from the town registered previously for this service, which was provided at no charge to them. They were able to get any dental work done that they needed, and many of them had never been to a dentist before. In all, we had about 20 patients. All of us had different jobs today. Sereen, Mrs. Dean, Bethany, and I took turns being dental assistants, which consisted of holding tools and preparing syringes for the dentists to use. Emily and Sam sanitized all the instruments, and the rest played with local children while their parents were getting work done. We fell in love with one kid in particular, whose name was Barack Obama White. Despite the weird name, he was an adorable toddler, and played with us until we started to pack up. Being with these people today was such a moving experience. Even though these people were at the dentist, which is one of the worst things ever, they were so happy and gracious. One little girl that I met, who was the first patient that I assisted, had to get two teeth pulled. She was ten years old, and probably had 6 shots of novicaine in her gums, but she was all smiles regardless. When it came time to pull the teeth, she just held my hand, and although she did start crying, she was extremely happy in the end. She even let Bethany paint her face when she was waiting for her sister. Everyone else had this same mindset as well, regardless of how painful the work they had done was. In other news, we got to do some shopping and get ice cream once we were finished at the dentists'. Today was day three of swimming with the otter, which is always a blast. Bethany and I have a huge lead in the sunburn competition, which is just fabulous for us. Last night at church, Peter, the leader of the camp, called us "shrimp ladies" and said a special prayer for our skin. We've been laughing a lot and just having a wonderful time, but it's all going by too fast. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as great! Buenas noches! -Lauren

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hey everyone! Emily here to tell about our third day here! Today we had pretty normal food for us. For breakfast we had pancakes and mixed fruit (including papaya), for lunch we had chicken and rice with vegetables, and we ended the day with spaghetti and homemade bread with watermelon for dessert. We started the day off by going on the ropes course! It was a lot of tightrope-like things and there was a section with tire swings that you had to kind of swing across like a monkey! Sam was pretty much a goddess at the ropes course and put us all to shame! The rest of our day was similar to yesterday. We went to the villages and visited the final four houses and delivered supplies and planted Moringa trees, and we washed dishes after dinner again. We also went on the tour of the campground! It was interesting to here about the history of the camp and see the different places to go within the camp! All in all today was an interesting and adventurous day! If you want to see some pictures you can go to the El Faro Facebook page. I can't wait for tomorrow!

The link the facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/elfarogt

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23, 2014

Today was our first day of work, and what a day it was! We had breakfast at 7 AM and I tried the Guatemalan version of bananas. I didn't like them that much, but I tried them! After breakfast, we sorted through and separated all the supplies we brought for the elderly before loading the truck and heading to pick up some of the Moringa trees the camp has. Once we had separated the "good" trees from the "bad" trees, we all piled into the back of a truck for a very bumpy ride to the village outside of El Faro. It was like a roller coaster!

We visited 5 out of the 9 today, and at each house we visited, we planted 3 Moringa trees so that the people could use the trees for food and supplements. Visiting the elderly was such a strange experience for me. Their houses were no bigger than my living room, their beds were made from rope, and yet everyone was so joyful and happy. At the first house, there were three sick puppies. I made sure to hold and pet each one. The fourth house was my favorite, though. There was an old man lying on a bed outside of the house and he looked almost exactly like my dead grandfather. Seeing him was one of the highlights of my day; it made me feel as though my grandfather was saying hi.

After visiting the fifth house, we headed back to the camp for lunch and to regroup before continuing our day. Lauren and I went with Megan, one of the missionaries here, to take care of her river otter. The otter's name is Lola and she is about 7 months old. She loves to bite your fingers and toes; it's her way of saying hi. We then ate lunch, got changed into some fresh clothes, and filled up water balloons for our time with the Kids Club. Half of us stayed at camp and half of us went to the village of Santa Maria; I was in the group that went to the village. Lauren, Bethany, and I went to the school right on the beach and helped out with the Bible club that is run there every Sunday. We got to play with kids and talk to them, along with talking to some of the adults and volunteers.

After the Bible club, we came back to the camp for relaxation time and dinner. Megan had offered to let Lauren and I take Lola swimming in the ocean, so we did! We went swimming with a domesticated river otter in for a good hour. Lola loved to sneak up on us and attack our hands and feet and cling to us when we tried to move. I fell in love with Lola in that hour. Dinner tonight included some amazing donuts because of the Real Madrid win earlier today. (People came from the village to watch the game at the camp and their cheers wear audible from anywhere in camp.)

After dinner, we washed the dishes, and then Bethany and I sat down with some of the missionaries and we were talking about everything from Jordan to peanut butter to Nascar. We had a good conversation with them before heading to the chapel for our team meeting. There, we got to meet Naomi, Lenny, and their mother, missionaries from Chicago who had been at El Faro for almost a year. They talked to us about their experiences and what it was like making the switch. Keith then showed us videos on the Moringa trees and the medical team that had been here last week before discussing our plans for tomorrow. We all chatted a bit more via icebreaker cards Mr. Dean had and discovered more about each other. All in all, today was a great first day, and I can't wait for tomorrow.

-Sereen