Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guatemala - Day 2 - Friday the 18th

Before getting into the events of the day - I want to talk about a bit about Healing Waters and what they do. First of all, our experience traveling with them was top-notch! They did a fantastic job of arranging the schedule, the hotels, the meals and the transportation. Liz, from their Colorado office, Daniela, the in-country respresentative and Laura, an intern from Colorado, were all GREAT and we loved getting to know them. There were so gracious to help us work out getting to the orphanage and back. They had pre-paid cell phones we could use to call home and even insisted we take one as we traveled to Solola.
We learned that 95% of the water supply in Guatemala is contaminated. Even if the municipal water may be clean, by the time it travels through the infrastructure, it is contaminated coming into the homes. The solution is to buy bottled water from the stores (which is safe), or to buy water off of delivery trucks (not always safe). A 5-gallon jug in the stores costs $2 or about 15 quetzales. HW sells the same amount for about 50 cents or 4 quetzales. The systems which are built into the churches are donated by individuals, churches or businesses in the US. Of the 4 quetzales - 2 are used to cover the cost of maintaining the systems - 1 quetzal goes to cover the cost of HW adminitration and 1 quetzal is given back to the church. The churches are encouraged to use these funds to serve their communities. The pastor we talked with has used their funds to give scholarships to the Christian school that is housed in their church. They have also bought computers for local schools. HW currently has 19 systems in Guatemala. Normally they bring down teams for the inaguration of a system. We were the first team to come when they weren't doing a grand-opening, which is why they set up the service project at the elementary school.

Back to the day. Friday morning we had breakfast at the truly authentic Guatemalan restaurant named Bagel Barn! (note sarcasm here) I think it was the first time I have ever had black beans on a bagel though! Then we headed out to the school. We were able to jump right in where we had left off and knew a lot more what we needed to do this time!
I was able to help with a special project that took up most of my time there that day. HW bought a photo printer, and we took a digital picture of each of the students and teachers individually. Frames were purchased for each person and the kids each decorated their own. For many of the children, this was the first picture they had of themselves. (HW has also done this in the churches and provided free famiy pictures for the members!) It was SO much fun to work with the children on this project.

Chris was able to hang some basketball nets, and also helped with painting the lines on the basketball court and he helped paint the soccer (futbol) goals. Others finished the mural, the Mayan calendar and some more planting.

The school day starts at 7:30 and ends at 12:30. Right before the children left they did a ceremony to close out the week (they also do one on Monday morning to start the school-week). School in Guatemala runs from January to October. There are public schools but they are in VERY poor shape. Almost all the kids go to private schools, they are run by the communities and the tuition range varies greatly.
Here are pictures from the ceremony.

After that, we pumped up all the balls that our team had brought down. We were also able to present the teachers with our suitcase packed with supplies that were donated by Life Church. They were very excited about the supplies - just before we left the director of school came and when he saw all that was in the suitcase - he was also very excited! You can see the repainted basketball courts and the bright yellow soccer goals. Chris really enjoyed playing with the kids!

We had some lunch and then the rest of the team was heading to visit some ruins in Iximche. Chris and I took a taxi back to Antigua - did an hour of power-shopping in Antigua and then caught the shuttle to go to Lake Atitlan. What an amazing drive it was. I don't know if I can even describe it. For the first hour or so we drove through some smaller towns. The towns are so different from America. The streets are narrow and there are cars, vans, chicken buses, motorcycles, people on bikes, stray dogs and people walking seemingly all in the same space. It is fascinating to witness, and it doens't phase any of them to be sharing the same small place. The last hour or so was true mountain driving - hilly, curvy, bumpy - no houses or towns. The scenary is beautiful, lush and green. As we get close to Lake Atitlan it is starting to get dark. We see a few glimpses of the lake (surrounded by volcanos) as the sun is setting. By the time everyone else gets off the shuttle in the town of Panajachel it is dark and the night-life is hopping! Now it's just us and the Spanish-speaking driver and some written directions (not even an address) to Eagle's Nest in Solola. It's about a 15 minute drive and we do manage to find the place! It's about 8:00 when we get there - the orphanage is quiet and we meet the American couple that help there and get settled into our apartment. The orpahanage was built in 2004 - the other part of the property, which includes condos, a dining hall/conference center and cabanas that have been made into dormitories is a defunct time-share. It is up on a point, cliff, over-looking the lake. Our apartment has large windows that look over the lake and I can't wait to get up in the morning to see the view. There is a team of 26 people there from a church in Illinois. We meet a few of them and find out that breakfast is at 7:00am.
It was another amazing and fulfulling day!

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