Attempting to be “adventurous…”

Standard

After spending a few days at “Casa on the Rock” it was time to leave on Thursday morning to head to our “second home” Esquipulas. Usually we take a bus from Guatemala City (the capital) to Esquipulas, but this time Kathy and I decided that we would like to be “adventurous” and rent a car. I guess that you could say that we have gotten more confident after being here a few times, and we knew that we would have a lot more freedom to get place to place without having to wait on public transportation. So we had someone drive us from the orphanage to Antigua, which is one of the biggest tourist spots in Guatemala. We got to the rental place and I guess we should’ve started getting a little concerned after the man that rented the car to us told us that it was VERY important that we have a map just of Guatemala City, so while Kathy was filling out paper work I walked several blocks to a place that I was told to go to see about buying a map of the capital. They unfortunately didn’t have one, so we decided that we would take the chance and hopefully get through Guatemala City without getting lost and we had also gotten directions from the person at the car rental place about how to get out of Antigua and then get through the capital, and after that we would be good because it is pretty much a straight stretch and we had a map of the country.
We probably should’ve taken the hint that our “adventure” would turn out to be an interesting one as we couldn’t even figure out how to get out of the city of Antigua, and part of the problem was that the man at the car rental place had told us the exact opposite way to go to get out of the city. We ended up at a dead end at some huge plantation, so we turned around trying to figure out what direction to go. I did have a map of Antigua, but I couldn’t even tell what direction to turn it because we didn’t even have an idea of which was North or South and most of the streets have street names but there is no sign saying what street it is…. We finally got out of there after looking like a bunch of crazy gringas and asking about 5 people for directions, I think that maybe 2 of the 5 people told us the correct way to go.
Finally, after an hour we get into the dreaded capital, as that was about the last place that we would want to drive. We were really proud of how well we were doing when we got into the city, they did have signs showing us which way to go. But then we got to a place where we weren’t exactly sure which way to go, we were going a little slow for the Guatemala traffic, so we ended up getting cut off by a motorcycle driver so we didn’t even have a choice of which way to go. And of course the way that we went was completely wrong. Again, we ran into the problem of not having street signs. So, we would stop and ask for directions and again we looked like the crazy gringas, we probably asked about 8 people for help. A lot of the directions didn’t make much sense at all, and you also have to remember that Kathy and I do know some spanish but we are both definitely not fluent. We ended up driving up and down through the city for over an hour, we stayed very calm considering we were getting more and more lost as time went on. We finally stopped at probably the 4th gas station and instead of asking the guy at the gas pump, Kathy went inside and asked the man in the store for help. We definitley lucked out at this point, because he was very willing to help us. He drew a good map for us to follow to get out of the capital and on the Pan American Highway which would take us to Esquipulas. In the end, his map worked out perfectly and we got out of the capital and we were FINALLY on our way to Esquipulas.
We had a really nice drive to Esquipulas. It is hard to explain how beautiful of a country Guatemala is, and pictures really don’t seem to do it justice. When we were driving you can see mountains everywhere surrounding you and it is so green, with different plants and flowers that we had never seen before. But even while looking at all of the beauty of Guatemala, you also can’t help but notice the extreme poverty of the country. There are different animals tied up along side the roads such as cows and horses so they can eat the grass in the ditches because most likely their owners can’t afford to feed them properly and you can see the bones on them sticking out. There are also several dogs that are skin and bones just running around. We also saw several people walking a long side the road, and we couldn’t help but think that this is their daily life walking to and from school or work. Several of the people that were walking had a huge load they were carrying such as a bundle of wood to take home to cook with or heat the house. There were even children walking with bundles of wood strapped on their backs, and I’m not talking about just a couple of sticks but huge bundles. One problem that we learned about last time we were in Guatemala is that several people including children have problems with getting hernias because of all the heavy labor they are constantly doing everyday. It is most defintely an eye opener to see some of the people and how their lives are and to realize how blessed I am for the life I have.
About 6 hours later we made it to Esquipulas and we decided to stay the night at a hotel, because we had gotten in to late to go and stay in the orphanage. We were so happy that we had made it there without getting lost again and we had a lot to look forward to because we couldn’t wait to see several people that we have met in the past year, whom we consider good friends.

20120619-183426.jpg

20120619-183550.jpg

20120619-183644.jpg

20120619-183818.jpg

Casa on the Rock

Standard

We arrived in Guatemala on Tuesday July 12 where we were picked up by an amazing couple, Mike and Dottie, from the USA. They took us to their orphanage, or better called a “home”called “Casa on the Rock” which was founded 24 years ago in a small village outside of Antigua. Mike and Dottie felt called to help the children in Guatemala over 24 years ago and they most definitely answered the call. They have done more than help, they have made a huge difference in several children’s lives over the years. We were amazed at the orphanage because they have 400 children living there, who are all very well taken care of because not only do they have the couple, whom all the children call “Mami and Papi,” but they also have an amazing staff that helps to take care of the children. A lot of the staff are actually children that were raised at “Casa on the Rock.”
While we were there we were amazed at the number of volunteers that they have coming in from the USA. We were fortunate enough to stay with a great group who was staying there for a week as volunteers. It was a group of 12 people from Knoxville, Tennessee from a church called Parkway Baptist Church. They made us feel like we were a part of their group, we felt as if we had known them a lot longer than the couple of days that we were actually around them. We learned a lot from them and how they get a group together from their church youth and some adults to come every year to volunteer. Another group that was there was from a Methodist church in Texas, they have had a group of adult women coming for 1 week each year for 10 years! A lot of the volunteers told us that the idea of coming for another week to volunteer is addicting.
I am so thankful that “Casa on the Rock” is there to help children in Guatemala. We heard several stories about how the children got there. I will share a few reasons of why the children are there, it is very upsetting and disturbing for some of the reasons that the children are there, but I feel that it is important to understand the reality of what some people go through in other places. Some of the children but definitely a minority of them are the “typical” kind of orphans where both of their parents are deceased. Most of the children have been abused or abandoned. Some of the children have been brought in by police after they were found in a dumpster as infants. Several of the children have been sexually abused, especially a lot of the girls, which they have more of at “Casa on the Rock.”
One story that really stands out to me is a story of a 13 year old boy. This boy is in the orphanage because he and his siblings watched their father kill their mother by slitting her throat and then he torched the house and walked out without saying anything. He too was abused, as you can still see scars on the tops of his head where his hair will not grow anymore. I apologize for telling this very disturbing story, but sadly it is the truth. Fortunately, this boy is now well taken care of and if you saw him you wouldn’t know that anything that horrible had ever happened to him. He is always smiling and wanting to give you a hug when you see him. Thank goodness for the care he is now getting.
At “Casa on the Rock” they really do work hard to help these children. They have several psychologists and social workers on staff most are volunteers, and a very good sponsorship program. They have an entire school, and if the children want to stay longer after they are 18 to go to the university they are allowed to stay and their university tuition is paid for. (One thing to realize is that most orphanages have the children leave when they are 18.) They really place a lot of emphasis on education, as this is the only way that the children will be able to break the cycle that they were born in to and in some cases be able to help their families.
We really learned a lot while we were at “Casa on the Rock,” which was the reason why we wanted to go there. We felt that since they had such a huge very well functioning orphanage with a great volunteer program and 24 years of experience that we could probably learn a thing or two from them and bring some of their ideas back to the orphanage “La Ciudad de la Felicidad,” which is the orphanage that we would like to help and has only been open for 4 years.

(I was asked not to put pictures of the children from the orphanage online, because of some of the court cases that some of the children are still involved in. So the picture here of the children is actually from “La Ciudad de la Felicidad” which I have permission to post.)

20120618-125031.jpg

20120618-125054.jpg

20120618-125043.jpg

20120618-125126.jpg

I’m leaving on a jet plane…

Standard

20120613-192719.jpg

I’m currently on the plane from Tulsa to Houston and going on about an hour of sleep. It’s always so hard for me to go to sleep when I know that the next morning I have to get up really early and go some where. It was obvious that I was lacking sleep when Kathy and I were walking around looking for our gate at the airport. I saw that my boarding pass said Gate E6, so first I walk to B6 not paying any attention to the letters on the boarding pass or the signs. We get there and there is no one there but our plane is going to leave in about 30 minutes. So we walk all the way back and start asking random people that work there if they knew where Gate E6 was. They tried to help us but said maybe it was a misprint because they only had A and B terminals. So after we asked about 3 people and Kathy and I had walked back and forth a couple of times, I decided to look at my boarding pass again and I realized that I’m looking at the one from Houston to Guatemala. The funny thing is that none of the workers noticed it either. Yep you could say that I’m a genius. 🙂 haha

I’m getting really excited about going to Guatemala, I was excited about going but I was also kind of sad that it was already time to go because I was enjoying the summer break spending time with my family. Now that I am on the plane and headed there I am getting very excited to spend the next 3 weeks there. The people there are amazing, they live so simply yet are happy and content. I feel very blessed that I have the opportunity to be around them and learn from them.

Today when we get to the airport we are being picked up by a married couple from the USA that started an orphanage called “Casa on the Rock” in Guatemala several years ago. I have never been there before, but we learned about it when we were on our way to Guatemala last March on the plane. There was a group of youth from Rogers, AR going there to volunteer for an alternative springbreak and they told us what a great place it was. We looked into it and decided that we should go visit so maybe we could learn from them and hopefully take that to the orphanage in Esquipulas (La Ciudad de la Felicidad), as “Casa on the Rock” is thriving. I heard that the orphanage has 400 kids, so this is going to be an interesting next couple of days.

(This was written on June 12 but I didn’t have Internet then.)

Heading south in a couple of days

Standard

Mayan Children at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala dancing

I am starting this blog to use instead of sending out the mass emails while I travel to Central America.  I am leaving this Tuesday (June 12) for Guatemala for 3 weeks and then I’m off to Costa Rica for 4 weeks.  Many of my friends have asked that I send emails again like I normally do but I thought this would be something new to try. 

I am going to Guatemala with my friend Kathy to again visit an orphanage called “La Ciudad de la Felicidad” which means “City of Happiness,” the orphanage is located in the city of Esquipulas which is on the border of Honduras and El Salvador.  We are going to continue to try to build a relationship with the people that run the orphanage as we would like this to be an opportunity for people who would maybe like to go there and volunteer one day.  We are also starting a Milk and Diaper fund to raise money to send to Guatemala every month, because the orphanage is struggling a lot with finances for milk and diapers.

After I leave Guatemala, I’m going back to Costa Rica for more language school.  I will be taking classes 5 days a week and earning college credit.  I think it’s a pretty good deal if you ask me! 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read this, if you are interested please follow me on here and when I post something new you will get an email saying that I have posted something.

God bless!