26 March 2011

Mango Season!

This blog is dedicated to Brodie Pearson, who stood by me this summer and monitored my health as I faced (and conquered!) my childhood mango allergy.

It's mango season here, and let me tell you- Guatemalans do NOT mess around with their mangoes! There are big ones, small ones, green orange and red ones, "micos," "verdes," "rojos" -- it's amazing! I love mangoes! Thank God we found out I'm not still allergic!

Loads of ladies sell them on the streets cut into nice little baggies or on popsicle sticks (too nervous to try to eat those ones...) for Q5 ($.60) -- pretty much the best Q5 you can spend. Sometimes, my host mom will just hand me 1 or 2 as part of my lunch... which is kind of a bummer because the sad thing about mangoes is they're a little tricky to actually eat-- You really have to work for it.

Here´s my step-by-step guide...
First, you wash the mango, because apparently the sticky stuff on the skin can be very allergic-reaction-causing. Also, gross- Wash your fruit.
Then, you peel the mango. Peeling is also tricky because the inside fruit is super slippery. This step is usually my biggest pitfall.
Next, I like to cut the fruit into strips or chunks or pieces or whatever I can manage without dropping the slippery mango... Being careful to avoid the huge pit in the middle.
Finally, you enjoy your mango. Mmmm.
Lastly, suck all of the fruit off of the pit. Make sure to get all sorts of stringy stuff in your teeth.

If you're willing to invest the time, these fresh mangoes will NOT let you down-- but I would definitely recommend preparing them in private if you're still a newbie- because, speaking for myself, it's not pretty.

Have a good weekend friends, and Buen Provecho!
bendiciones, juli

21 March 2011

Feliz Día Internacional de la Tortilla !

Ode to the Tortilla, so corny and round,
I've been so much happier since you I found.
You accompany every meal, helping me scoop,
And I do mean EVERY meal- even with soup!
If a fork or a spoon are nowhere to in sight,
I won't be afraid, no I won't get a fright;
I know you will help me to eat every last bite.

My only complaint, yes my one only gripe
Is why it's so hard to make you look right.
I clap and I clap over the hot griddle plate,
Trying my hardest a flat circle to make.
But only to find, with my greatest gringa effort,
a little corny blob that looks more like a jeffert. (??)

So an ode to you, Corn Tortilla, on this your special day,
Thanks for making meals yummier, in your very special way.

19 March 2011

Real Problems

Phew. Finally a few days to catch my breath after 4 fun and exhausting weeks of traveling.

After FiP trip #1 in Jalapa, I left the very next morning to accompany a Cedepca trip- 2 days in Guate and then 5 in good old Xela. The trip was put together by an ex-YAV (Guatemala 2003-2004) who formed a group of Guatemalan women from all over the country into a theater company of sorts to give them a place to express themselves and share their stories. They get together each year with about 6 women from Winchester, VA, who pay their ways and their boarding for the week-long retreat. During the week, we also got to visit the health post in a rural aldea oustide of Xela (Pachaj, where I did a week of language school) and give two info sessions and teach women how to do breast exams. It was a really cool week, and also really eye-opening, mainly because of one of the Guatemalan women, Petrona.

Petrona and her 8year old daughter, Petronila came all the way from Northern Guatemala to be with us for the week- a journey I´m told took 24 hours by foot, boat, and bus-- all expenses paid by the Winchester ladies, or else I´m sure she could have never come. She and her daughter are native kekchí speakers (in fact, her daughter doesn´t speak Spanish) and are from a very small village near Lake Izabal in Petén. They´re really tiny ladies with really huge hearts.

One night, Jenny split us up into 2 groups to share stories. The prompt was to tell a time when we experienced hunger, or helped a friend who was experiencing hunger. Petrona offered to go first, and shared the following story (which I translated).

About 15 years ago, when she had only 5 kids, her husband got a job. When he got this job, though, he started to drink. Every night, instead of coming home to his wife and 5 children, he went to the bar and drank away his money. When Petrona asked and begged him not to spend their money this way, he would hit her. The family literally did not have food. Not just a low-stocked fridge and pantry full of food they didn´t feel like eating- literally nothing to eat. Finally, even though she had 5 kids to take care of, Petrona had to take matters into her own hands because they were eating nothing but a few corn tortillas each day. So Petrona started carrying water from the water source to people´s houses for Q.25 each way. That´s about the equivalent of US $.03 per journey-- I didn´t have the heart to ask how far it was, or how many trips she could make each day... But I´m pretty sure it didn´t amount to much. Somehow she maintained her family this way for nine years. Nine years.

Apparently after 9 years, her husband stopped drinking, or things got better, or something... but little Petrona definitely gave me a Real Problems moment. There at that table, she was willing to trust us -essentially strangers- enough to share these dark times with us. Us, women from a different country and a different context. Women who had never experienced hunger, and most likely never will. Petrona shared her Real Problems and let us soak them in and learn from them. That´s what real mission partnership looks like. Yes, the Winchester ladies paid for her to come and eat for a week which was really generous, but Petrona gave us all something way more valuable without even realizing it.

Lord, thank You for women who are bold enough to be vulnerable.
bendiciones, juli

¨The world is hungry for goodness and recognizes it when it sees it... When we glimpse it in people we applaud them for it. We long to be a little like them. Through them we let the world´s pain into our hearts, and we find compassion.¨
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

11 March 2011

Faith in Practice Trip #1

Well world, here's the next update from my very very busy 4 weeks...

The day after getting back from Belize, I went on my 1st Faith in Practice trip to Jalapa in Eastern Guatemala. It was a really great trip where we saw almost 2,000 patients in 4 days.

We went to 2 fairly rural villages (2 days in each) and took over a school / church. We had abotu 30 group members, half nurses and half doctors- including dentists, Ear Nose and Throat specialists, pediatricians, gynochologists, pharmacists, and general medicine.

So the day startd at 5 when we awoke because devotion was at 5:30, and breakfast at 6. At about 6:45 we'd drive for 1 hourish to the village. My job was to help triage patients in the morning (aka listen to their problem and tell them which doctor they'll see / which line they'll have to wait in), and then I translated for one of the gynos from about 10:30 on. Did I chose this? No. Did I see more than I ever wanted to see ever in my life? Why yes, yes I did. Did I have to ask uncomfortable questions in my 2nd language? Yep. Did I learn new vocabulary words? You better believe it. Did I hate it? Surprisingly, no-- it was cool to get to talk to so many women about their kids, familiy life, how they're planning their families now, etc... And I got to see some ultrasounds! ((And re-confirmed that I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be having babies any time soon....))

After patients were triaged, waited (usually for a LONG time), saw the doctor and got any blood/urine lab work done that was needed (I stayed faaar away from that table), they could go to the pharmacy that we broght with us for their medicine -- all free of charge.

Each day we finished about 4 in the afternoon, packed up a bit, and then headed back to the hotel to rest, rinse, and repeat the next day. It was definitely tiring, but great to get to know the group and cool to be able to serve Guatemalans in such a tangible way. Though I fear it kind of perpetuates the Santa Claus syndrome regarding people from the US, I'm so glad that I could be a part of the trip and look forward to the next FiP trip I'll take!

bendiciones, juli

06 March 2011

happy sabbath

This is the mural behind the altar in the first Presbyterian Church in Guatemala (Guatemala City, 1882)

God is love.

bendiciones, juli

04 March 2011

belize belize

Alright -- Finally time to blog about the second leg of the journey...

So, LEGALLY, we had to leave the country for 3 days to renew our Guatemalan visas... And since a lot of Central America is in an open-trade-agreement of some sort, our only two options were Mexico (scary) and Belize.

We chose Belize.

SO-- after a 5hour bus ride including a semi-legit border-crossing for the all-important passport stamp... We arrived to Belize City, and then took a 1hour ferry to Caye Caulker in the Caribbean. If you ever want evidence that God is an artist, just spend 3 days here. It was absolutely one of THE most beautiful places I have EVER been. Such an incredible blessing to be able to go! (Thanks, supporters!!)

Our stay on Caye Caulker was just really great- we got to relax, enjoy the beautiful turquoise ocean, ride bikes, lay on the beach, play beach volleyball (thank God I had so much experience on the WP team....), ride in boats, be semi-independent, play Yahtzee, speak English, get a little bit sun burnt (or a lot), and just enjoy each others' company. It was glorious.

One of the most interesting things about Belize is, even though its independence from Guatemala is relatively new (1981) [most Guatemalans still do not consider it an independent country], it was SUCH a different culture! The official language is English, but many also speak Spanish, and pretty much everyone speaks a Creole version of English (which I could not understand). The island where we were was also just really "Caribbean," lots of black people, lots of Bob Marley, lots of dreadlocks... All the cliches you can think of about Jamaican men are real here. It was really cool :)

Probably the highlight of the trip was all Tina's idea... She found a nice Rastafarian man named RasCreek with a pretty rainbow boat, and asked to take some pictures of it our 1st day. They got to talking, and he said that he did "cruises" in his boat with snorkeling. Since we wanted to do that, we agreed to go with RasCreek (though somewhat hesitantly...) and went the next afternoon.

We left at "12" (aka 12:45), and set off with 4 other passengers plus the 5 of us. Turns out RasCreek is a semi-bitter Rasta man who very much hates The Man, loves Bob Marley and prides himself on giving really "authentic" boat trips... Every time we saw anything of remote interest (a bird, some coral, a big wave), he'd say "That's included!!" - so we knew we were getting our money's worth. After about an hour of boating, we got to the reef, and he dropped anchor, and pretty much demanded that we get off the boat; we were in Sting Ray Alley... Most of us (including me!) got out to snorkel with and hold the (huge) sting rays and sharks. It was terrifying. No injuries reported.

After that, we tried to go to the Coral Gardens, but the water was too choppy, so he did some fishing to catch us lunch (it was around 3). He caught one fish and said we were ready to start lunch... So what does RasCreek make?? Oh, it was its own little Jesus Miracle: 5 loaves and 1 fish (for 10 people)... Plus 2 carrots and 2 plantains.
On his boat-grill. Though light, it turned out to be a really delicious meal.

At about 5:30, we got back to the shore and watched the sunset, and then Creek asked us if we wanted some chicken... We confusedly agreed, and he went to "go grab some." Little did we know that he would come back with an entire [frozen] chicken to cook on his tiny fire-grill. So we start grilling the chicken, we get to see the fluorescent glowing worms that come out in the water after dark (SO COOL!!), we see some sea horses, we have reggae jam session on his boat (seriously can't even make this up) and wait for the chicken to cook...

3 hours later, our other shipmates have abandoned the cause, we've been on the boat for 9 hours, and we're real stinking hungry. The chicken is still raw in some parts, but we pick at it enough to eat something and then tell dear RasCreek that we really must be going. He's sad (and quite intoxicated at this point), but we tell him that if we get our "second wind," we'd be back. Needless to say, we did not.

It was a truly "cultural experience," and I'm so glad that we did it!

After our 3 days, we took the ferry and the 5hour shuttle back to Guatemala, and then the 8hour night-bus back to Guate, and then a 1 hour shuttle back home to Antigua. It was a really really great time to relax and recharge for the 2nd half of our year.

Thanks so so much to our supporters who made it possible! Have a good week, world!
bendiciones, juli