Thursday, February 24, 2011

On a mission to learn Spanish

We started Spanish lessons on Monday.  Our teacher's name is Julio - Jed calls him Mr. Hood-ee-o. Jack is learning very fast and Chris and I are not as fast as Jack.  Jon...well he's been sick so he hasn't learned anything yet.  Of course this cannot go off without  a hitch - our hitch has been Jon and Jed getting a stomach bug and throwing up.  The best part was last night when we realized we were out of running water AFTER Jed threw up on got it all over himself and me as well.  Thankfully we brought a case of baby wipes with us.  The way water works here is that the municipality turns on the water supply every morning between 6-8am.  Our home has a tank on the roof and a cistern underground.  Our water is pumped into these and that is the water we have for the day.  Not everyone has a tank though.  Some people use plastic barrels, buckets, or whatever they have.  Although we have only been here a little over 2 weeks, I have never noticed the water coming on at night, only in the morning.  Well guess what?  The water came on last night at 10pm!!!  (Thank you God).  I think someone, somewhere was praying for us.  So whoever you are - thank you for your prayers and thank you God for bringing us water!! 
Rafaela and wood fire

Her old bed

Her new bed


Some great guys

Men's team, Rafaela, her family & new home
Her old house and old sink

Last week a men's team was here so the boys and I packed up and went to live with the Schmidt's for the week.  It was a great week for us and for the men that came.  They did some great things but the one I want to tell you about has to do with an elderly lady named Rafaela.  She lived alone in a dingy shack in the remote village of Tablon.  I met her one year ago when I was visiting  here and her situation really broke my heart.  I remember her telling us how scared she was to live alone.   Her "house" was made out of old sheets of tin and the ceiling was covered in soot from her wood burning fire - very dark and dirty.  I didn't know this but she lived near a soccer field and the balls would constantly hit her "house" making a loud noise and Rafaela would just sit and cry.  Not anymore!  The team built her a new tin home (with a skylight) on some property near her family members.  She got a new bed and a kitchen too.  How cool is that!  I can't imagine how she must feel sleeping in her new bed inside a bright and quiet new home.  I am thanking God that He put her on the hearts of the men here and blessed her with a new home.  I can't wait to go visit her.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One Week

Inside home of family of 7

Small stove inside
Dirty pila (sink)

Bed with dirty toys and covered in flies

Holly and Jed

We've been here a whole week!! The first couple of days were good, the next couple of days reality set in a little and the last few days we have been settling in.  It will take some getting used to being strangers in a foreign land and the shock of poverty.  The poverty we saw today was unbelievable.  It begs the question "How can people live like this??"  Our team (Johnson/Schmidt/Steed) set out to visit two 12X12 families in Magdelana (the village we live in).  We looked like a parade of gringos as we walked through the village.  It's kinda funny because I am not someone who likes attention drawn to myself and that's all I get when walking down the street here.  Anyway, we got to the first family's home which is almost done. (Photos of outside stove and room for family of 7).  They're a sweet family and their current house sits on a small piece of land with huge avocado trees.  They sell the avocados and the father sells firewood for income.  He travels up the mountain with his oldest son and a horse to collect wood to sell in the village.  They live in a shack and are so greatful to God for blessing them with a concrete home.  They never dreamed they would ever have a home like they are getting.  Their poverty was pretty "normal" for what I have seen so far but the second family we visited really disturbed me.  They are a young couple with an 18 month old and a baby on the way. They live in a "room" that is the size of a full size bed and a small space for a "stove" and a few belongings (photos of bed, dirty pila and inside stove).   It is a room added onto a small shack that a couple of other family members live in. It was absolutely filthy and was infested with flies, outside around the pila and inside covering the bed - a dirty stuffed bear hangs from the roof for the baby to play with.   I can't imagine trying to sleep with flies all around.  The mom said something about the baby being sick alot and I didn't know what to think.  Part of me wanted to clean things up and maybe teach the mom how to be sanitary and get rid of those flies but you just can't walk into someone's  home and take over.  I wonder what makes people "ok" with living like that.  Another shock for me was the remains on the roof of a mountain cat they caught and ate.  That did not sit well with the cat lovers in our family.  We have alot to learn about poverty.  If everything works out, they will get a new home and maybe there will be an opportunity to share some housekeeping skills this young mom.

On a lighter note, we will begin Spanish lessons in a week.  That is something we are all excited about so we can communicate with the people around us.  It's tough not speaking the language.  Chris got the boys a TV to help them with their Spanish.  I almost cried when we found the Food Network in English.  Not that I can get very many of the ingredients to cook that good stuff but it was nice to hear our native tongue.

We are excited to be here and feel blessed to be a part of what God is doing for "the least of these."  We are looking forward to getting to know more of the 12X12 families and being able to pray for them as many of them desperately need it.  They aren't any different that we are, they just live in a different situation.  Thanks to each of you back in the States who pray for us, support us and are with us in spirit.  It means more than you will ever know. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Something Familiar

We've been here almost 7 days already and it's been a challenge.  In trying to adjust to life here we have all been on a quest to find something familiar.  Things familiar bring comfort and a sense of security.  There is very little familiar here.  A huge challenge for me was to go grocery shopping.  I knew I would miss my Publix but I had no idea how much.  I loved the manager.  I would ask him where something was and he would walk me to it - the man knows where every single thing is in that store.  It was no nice.  But here, the grocery store is a guaranteed mental and emotional breakdown all at once.  Some things look the same and are but some are not and it's hard to tell.  For example what I thought was half and half turned out to be sour cream.  The box said "Half Cream" and it came out looking like solid cream and tasted like cream and was ok in our coffee but it was sour cream which is not sour here.  I got plain yogart without azucar (sugar)  to make a sauce for meat but it turned out to be sweet anyway.  The bag of regular Doritos (same exact bag only in Spanish) set my mouth on fire.  It's kinda funny but not when you want things to be normal and familiar.  Not only do I need to find basic things but I also have to do the currency conversion (8:1) at the same time to make sure I am not paying too much for something.  There are a few "American" things here that are in English and are exactly the same like Kraft cheese but it costs more than twice what it would cost in the states.

Life here is raw and dirty not pretty and clean like in the US.  We saw a lady feeding some dogs raw chicken and passed by a butcher shop that had the head of a cow sitting on the counter. It's eyes were open, ears perked up and a man was petting it - not kidding!  It might not be long before our family is vegan.

Yesterday was good.  We spent the morning in Buena Vista and then went to a fast food restaurant for lunch in a nearby town.  When we got back 31 boxes of familar arrived to our door - our shipment from the US.  Last night everyone slept well with our pillows and blankets from home.  It is nice to have familiar things around the house.  It could not have come at a better time.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

We Are Here

We arrived safely yesterday and without any problems or delays.  Pete did great and went through customs without being quarantined or us having to pay any taxes (they told us he was too old - he's 7).  We had a very warm welcome from our friends here and our joy has returned.  It's so beautiful here and the weather is nice and cool. 
Today we are going to a celebration for one of the 12X12 houses build for an older couple.  We are excited about that.  Don't know what we will do the rest of the day but we have a lot of unpacking.  The belongings we shipped 2 weeks ago have arrived and will be delivered Tuesday so we can begin to get settled a little bit and the boys can resume school after a 2 month break - Yay!
We will update more later.  Thanks for all of your prayers!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

There are no words

I've started to blog several times in the last couple of weeks but trying to put it into words was hard.  I still cannot believe we are going - even as I sit in a hotel at the airport in Miami.  There are alot of people wearing shirts that say Jamaica and I kind of feel like we are going on vacation but not really.  It is a very strange time to say the least.  The last couple of weeks have been sad but the love poured out on us has been comforting.  We will miss every single person in our lives and appreciate all the love, help, and encouragement each of you have brought to us.
Tomorrow is the big day.  We fly out at 10:25am.  We are looking forward to arriving in Guatemala and getting a feel for what our purpose is again - it's been lost in all of our heartache these last few weeks.  The boys are excited to meet their new friends and Jed is looking forward to seeing what this Guatemala is that we have been talking about for so long.  The plane ride is a bonus too.
Stay tuned - our next update will be from Central America!