A Travellerspoint blog

House Blessing

and Earth Lodge

This morning we went to the building site for the house blessing with the family. Another amazing experience. This family was so fantastic! Our team stood in the little one room house with the family in a circle and said the Our Father with them. The father spoke to us through our translator and thanked us graciously for our work on their home. They were so grateful we gave our time and worked for free. They thanked us up and down and said that God will watch over us. It brought tears to our eyes. They have so little compared to us, but they are so thankful for everything they do have. I felt kind of bad that they were thanking us when we have so incredibly much compared to them. I wish we could give them so much more. They are a wonderful family. We got some pictures with all of them in front of the house. I will treasure that forever.

This afternoon, we were transported up the mountain (no hiking this time!) to a place called the Earth Lodge. It's composed of a tree cabin and a tree house and some A Frames. We drew cards for the one tree house, but I didn't get it. Dang! The tree cabin is also extremely cool, but I didn't draw the right card for that one either. Double Dang! It has a tree right through the middle of it with one wall literally made all of windows overlooking the mountain and Antigua below. My travelmate Becky and I ended up with a VERY cozy (as in really really small) A frame cabin. I can live with that. Tomorrow morning, we eat breakfast and then hike down the mountain back into Antigua. We'll have some free time in the afternoon and then our final team dinner. I have the earliest flight out of Guatemala City on Sunday, so they will be transporting me at about 5 a.m. or possibly earlier. Ouch! I'm excited to get back home and see everyone, but I will really miss Guatemala. The experiences I have had here have been incredible. I know I will be doing more work in a place like this or even back in Guatemala in the future. Thanks for reading my blog again!
Kristin

Posted by Kristinh 16:26 Comments (3)

Social Work Visit

Today was another great day working with Common Hope. In the morning, I was connected with a social worker to go out into a village for a few surprise home visits. Wow, that was a unique experience. My social worker's name was Domingo. He spoke no English at all. Again, I'm so glad that I am able to communicate a bit in Spanish. We were dropped off at the top of this big huge hill in a remote little village named Hermano Pedro. We then walked up another few dirt paths to the homes. He knocked on their rickety tin dorrs held together with little pieces of metal. The first home was exactly like the one we built yesterday. It was one of the first ones built 13 years ago. In the tiny space, there were 3 twin beds, a double bed and a dresser thingy. It was jam packed with dirty blankets, sheets, clothes etc. I asked Domingo how many people live there and he said 6. It was quite sad the poverty they live in. They cook on an open fire outside their little one bedroom home. Our hospitality person at Common Hope said that respiratory issues are a big problem in these communities due to breathing in all that smoke all the time. They also have stove-building projects to provide stoves that vent outside the homes and keep the fumes away from their faces. They do have some electricity, but no plumbing or anything like that. At this visit, Domingo asked the mother about all her children and about school. It is a requirement that the children are attending school in order to maintain their affiliation with Common Hope. One of her daughters (15 year old) has run off with a boy and is living somewhere with him. Common Hope will do what they can to track her down.

The second home we visited was very similar in the level of living, but the home was a little bigger and it wasn't quite as dirty. This family has a mother, father, 7 children and 2 nephews living there. They basically only have 2 rooms. All these homes were up a dirt path into the mountainside. It is amazing the way some people live in this world. Domingo reminded the family that they need to contact him if there are any health issues, economic, social issues etc. that come up. He does a great job with these families. The services that Common Hope provides are a great asset to the communities surrounding Antigua.

Finally, in the afternoon, half of us worked on building wall panels back at Common Hope. That involved pounding quite a few nails and drilling some holes. We worked on that for about 3 hours. Tomorrow we are going back to the house we built yesterday and doing a house blessing ceremony with the family. We will present them with 2 bags of food and a few little items for the kids. I can't wait for that! Then it's off to the Earth Lodge for a night and the next day we'lll hike back into Antigua. I leave super early on Saturday for my 7 am flight home. I can't believe how fast this trip has gone. We have been very busy and active the entire time which makes the time fly by. I heard there was no snow day for Moundsview! Sorry people!
Until next time, Kristin

Posted by Kristinh 17:23 Comments (2)

House Building

Common Hope

We built an entire one room house in just one day today. It was such a great day! The walls were already prem-made out of concrete sheet rock and wood. We put up all the walls, 2 windows and a door. Then we put on a roof made of tin. It´s not fancy by any means, but it is far better than what this family is living in currently. My favorite part of the day was hanging around with the 3 little girls who will be living in the house. I have enough Spanish that I was able to talk with them for quite a while. They are adorable! The family that will move into this house is made up of 8 children and 2 adults. They also have 4 dogs. They will all live/sleep in this one bedroom house that is about 15 feet by 10 feet. Wow! Once again, I realize how fortunate we are back in the States! The people here are so friendly and grateful for everything they have. The children are friendly and happy: smiling and curious. The children that I met were Ana (11), Wendy (9), Hector (12) and Sofia (7). They are learning English in school and showed me how they can count and say a few things like "What is your name? and "How are you?" and the days of the week.

Tomorrow we will be laying the foundation for another house out in a different village. We will also be working at Common Hope (the charity organization we are working with) to build the pre-made walls. On Friday, we will officially present the house we built to the family. I´m looking forward to the next couple days. I really enjoyed today alot! I may have to come back here and teach English or something. I love the kids. They are too cute!

Guatemala is really a special place. While many people live in such poverty, their culture is rich. Children run around and play. The lifestyle here is much slower than back in the US. People are not in such a hustle and bustle to get one place and another. I could get very used to this.

I´m spending this evening on my own, exploring around town, shopping for a few more things for people back home. I found a bagel shop that I am going to eat dinner and read for a while. Ahhhh, so relaxing! How will I ever get back into work next week? Conference week no less. It will be a challenge, but a worthwhile one. I heard more snow is coming. Wow, I´m missing all the blizzard fun back home. Oh well, I´ll get over it! Ha ha.
Take care.
Buenos Noches,
Kristin

Posted by Kristinh 16:45 Comments (2)

The City if Stairs

Well, I'm officialy exhausted. We hiked the City of Stairs today which was a 2 and a half hour hike up the mountainside. I have nicknamed Guatemala, "The City of Neverending Hills". We have biked and hiked up the longest, windiest, roads and paths that keep going on and on and on. Everytime we turned the bend, I was praying for the top, but it doesn't come! The hike, while challenging, was gorgeous. We were dropped by boat at a small village and then hiked up the steep stairs of the village into the countryside. Again, we had amazing views of Lake Atitlan the entire time. The views became better the higher we hoofed it up the mountain. Luckily, we stopped a few times so we all could catch our breath and enjoy the views. We hiked by Mayan farmers in the fields along the hills. We passed several Mayan women carrying huge bundles of firewood on their heads, wearing full Mayan dress and flip flops. It was humbling to think these people hike up and down these trails everyday with alot less gear than us AND huge loads on their heads! Going on a hike like this offered us a great opportunity to experience more rural, Mayan culture in Guatemala. I'm so glad we did it (even though my legs ache like crazy!).

Yesterday we hiked from our hotel on the lake to a town called Santa Cruz. I got to see a school yard full of Guatemalan children playing fruit basket mix-up. THey were so cute! Today is a mardi gras type holiday in Guatemala. As we were hiking, we came upon towns that were celebrating. All the kids were dressed up in costumes and dancing. It was sort of like Halloween in the states. They have these hollow eggs filled with confetti that people smash on each others heads. We had great fun with that one!

We are back in Antigua today after our hike and a 2 hour van ride. I opted out of the salsa lesson to rest and then walk around Antigua for some alone time. I found the market, which I almost got lost in. There are rows and rows and rows of stalls of colorful textiles and various items. It's easy to get completely turned around in that place. Venisha, I wish you were here to shop with me! It was a Thailand flashback, but with completely different things to buy. I kept myself in control. I'm saving up to buy lots and lots of Guatemalan coffee to bring back to the states. I didn't forget about the coffee you want Trace!

Well, I better head back to our hotel or my travel friends will think I got held up or kidnapped. We're actually eating Thai food tonight. Go figure! I'm ready for something other than Guatemalan food. I hope everyone is enjoying all the snow while it lasts!
Later, Kristin

Posted by Kristinh 15:46 Comments (3)

Lake Atitlan

City of Panajachel

We are now in Panajachel, a town right on beautiful Lake Atitlan. We are at an amazing hotel that you can only get to by boat. It's called Casa Del Mundo (house of the world). It's nestled up into the mountainside with views of the lake and surrounding volcanos. I'm sharing a room with a woman named Kirsten. Our room is the highest up you can possibly get at this hotel. I'm winded everytime I have to go back and get something from my room. I'm trying really hard to remember everything the first time. There are incredible views of the lake from every single room at this place. There are stone pathways with steps throughout within the trees and colorful flowers. This really is a paradise.

We went kayaking on the lake this morning. It was great! There has been quite a bit of wind since we've been here, so we stayed close to shore. The views from the lake were as amazing as from high up in my room. Everytime I think about what month it is, I get an enormous smile on my face. I must travel in February more often. It's surreal to think what the weather is back home. Sorry everybody!

The food is improving for me. We have eaten very well at this hotel. We ate a 4 course family style meal last night. The main course was a chicken shish kabob. Mmmm. Breakfast was a breakfast burrito with potatos. I got to choose my lunch today which I will eat in about an hour. I decided to go for the traditional Guatemalan cuisine special. Yesterday, we had lunch at a restaurant and sat out on a patio. Our table was right below an orange tree and next to an orchid tree. After lunch, we had some time to meander around the market in town. Tracy... I found Brandon another little beanie hat that will actually fit him! I picked one up for Ty too.

A little info about my travelmates...they are an interesting mix of people ranging from a yoga instructor/dance choreographer/doola (Meredith) to a medical device engineer (Mike H.). In between, there is a mortgage broker (Mike R.), a chemist (Becky), a realtor (John), a writer/journalist (Lynette), an attorny on sabbatical (Kirsten), a business student (Nikki), and finally our trip leader Jodi. She is the entrepeneur who started Play it Forward. If anyone is interested in checking out the website it's: pifadventures.com. I'm enjoying getting to know all these interesting and unique people. Our Guatemalan guides are Juan and Ritchie. They are great and keep everything safe and organized. Juan's dog, Ela (chocolate lab), has been with us at the lake. She rode on our kayak for a while this morning. Great dog! After the kayak, we jumped off a high ledge into the lake. This activity is becoming a trademark for all my trips. I think I have jumped off something high up into the water on my last 4 trips. Fun times!

I think that's all for now. We are off on a hike this afternoon along the top of the mountain along the lake. More amazing views. We'll be walking through some more little towns. We'll begin working on our house building project in 2 days. I'm really looking foward to that, being it is a completely new experience for me.
Until next time, adios amigos!! Kristin

Posted by Kristinh 09:25 Comments (4)

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