Guatemala May 2009
May 15, 2009
Hi. Two days ago I spent about 25 minutes writing a message and when I sent it the computer lost internet. It has been harder to get access to the internet this time around so you may not get nearly as much email from me this year. We have had rain most afternoons and the internet goes in and out when the weather is like that.
Our group arrived on the 12th of May after a long day of traveling by plane and bus. I immediately felt at ease due to the familiarity of being here last year. Our team is working on two houses. One is in town and the other is about a 15 minute bus ride away. Both houses are in the beginning stages and we have done a lot of digging, concrete mixing (by hand), sand and gravel hauling, and punching holes in cinderblocks. Our work day starts with breakfast at 6 30 am and then to the work sites at 7. We start early to beat some of the heat. It gets very hot and sunny during the day and then most afternoons around 4 it has been thunder storming. We have all been tired by the end of the day and some are dealing with minor blisters and soreness.
The team in town goes to the restaurant (Angellos) for lunch and those at the out of town site have the lunch delivered to them. This is different than in the U.S. Here the owner of Angellos and his wife drive the food to the trail that goes to the house. Then they haul it by hand the half mile up the trail and up the mountain to the home site. They are huffing and puffing by the time they arrive. Today´s lunch was beans in a beef sauce with chunks of beef (like stew beef). To add to it we were given white rice with corn and home made tortillas. It was delicious!
Our team of students has become very close. In fact they are currently playing cards and laughing loudly. Each of them has been pushed out of their comfort zone in one way or another. They are experiencing good growth as am I.
Tomorrow (Saturday) we are working a half of a day (which is actually 3/4 a day since we start so early). Then we have time to hike to the top of a mountain with Mayan temple ruins and to visit a museum in town that is about the civil war that was here about 15 years ago. Sunday we go to Bio Topo Quatzal which is a National park. It is about 2 hours from here. Monday we return to work. It is hard to believe we only have 6 days left.
The people in town and everywhere have been very nice. We are stared at everywhere we go because we stick out like a sore thumb. People greet us with Buenos Dias and Hola and other greetings just as we do back to them. We do our best to communicate as some of us have great Spanish speaking ability and others not so good.
The town of Rabinal itself is very rural. It is build in a system of squares. There is a very large Catholic cathedral in the middle of the square right were the market is. The Cathedral is large but in poor repair. Everything is dirty. There is trash all over the street edges. This is due to poverty here and not much of a trash removal service. The people though are not dirty or filthy in anyway.
Last night we went to look for Ingrid, a woman whose family we built for last year. We had already looked for her twice with no luck. She runs a Taco Al Pastor stand in the market. Jennifer and she became close last time and they have exchanged letters. She was there last night and she and Jennifer were reunited and enjoyed visiting as Ingrid worked. Some of us sampled the tacos (which are nothing like what we call tacos) and they were delicious.
Well, there is much more I could tell you but it is late and we need to get up at 5:30 am. If I can write again I will. Thank you all who have supported us in prayer and financially. You are changing lives (ours and others) even if you are not here with us. We have all been blessed.
We love you.
We took a hike today after lunch, only a half day of work. We hiked to the top of a mountain that we can see from town, just left from the hotel. There was a small Mayan ruin at the top. They still use it for ceremonies. A big thunderstorm hit just before we reached the summit, and we all got really soaked and took shelter in the part that had a not too leaky roof. Then we hiked down after it mostly stopped raining. The little stream at the bottom that we crossed on stepping stones going up was almost waist deep going back. Then we stopped at a Mayan school that was having a Mothers Day celebration. They played us a couple songs on a marimba, pretty neat, and we learned how to thank them in the Mayan language.
Rabinal was the site of the worst massacare of the Guatemalan Civil War. It also has a central cathedral on the plaza that was built in the 1500s. Interesting.
Tomorrow we go to a national park for hiking and looking for the national bird.
On Saturday we worked a half day and then went to lunch. After lunch most of our group went on a hike up Mount Cajyoop (sp?) to a Achi temple ruin. Jen, Hannah, and I went to the small museum in town. It has only 2 rooms. One has artifacts of the region and the other is dedicated to those who died in the civil war masacre more than 10 years ago. It was very moving. During our visit to the museum the sky opened up and poured rain very heavily. We were concerned for our friends who were on the hike. Turns out that they were near the top when the rain came and took shelter in the temple ruins. They still got soaked but had quite an adventure.
Today was Sunday so we did not build houses. We did do some very exciting things. We went for a hike in a rain forest- one of Guatemala’s most beautiful national parks. We also hiked down into a GIGANTIC cave. It was amazing. In the evening, we went to visit with kids who are in the hospital because they are malnurished. The children stay there for 1 to 3 months to get better nutrition. They were very small. There was one girl Noah’s age (7) that is almost as small as Autumn (4). We brought them toys and held the babies and it made them happy. We played a lot and drew pictures with crayons. We also played with them in the small courtyard on some playground equipment. We plan to go back tomorrow between work and dinner.
Tomorrow after we work on houses, we are going to see our friend Ingrid in the house that we helped to build last year. She has lived in it with her family for over a year now and is very happy. The word they use to describe it here is ´bastante’ which means ENOUGH. We are pleased to see her so happy.
We only have a couple of days of work left and then we will go to Antigua for a couple of days before we come home.
As always, thank you for your prayers and email. We have been blessed and changed from our experiences here. We have made many good friends whom we will never forget.
This is my third and final email before we come home.
Last night we went to the town market and ate tacos al pastor from Ingríd´s stand. They were delicious. Jen and I stayed late to visit with her as long as we could. We don´t know if we will ever see her again or for a long time at least.
Today we worked our last day on the home sites. We spend all day pounding holes in cinderblocks so the masons could use them for the houses. One house has the walls being constructed where the other house was not that far along yet. We also spent a long time telling jokes, stories, and socializing with the families.
Tonight we are going to our closing ceremony dinner with the families and masons. I am sure it will be memorable and emotional.
Tomorrow we head to Antiqua for some site seeing and shopping. Some of us are planning to hike a volcano. It will be fun but I am sure it will be a strange transition to go from being practically a local in a rural Guatemala town to being an instant tourist in a tourist driven town. I´m kinda of dreading it in a way.
The trip has been a huge blessing to us all and one that we will never forget. We have taken thousands of photos amonst us and have shot nearly 3 hours of video that we will edit down to a home made documentary. I hope you get a chance to see it when it is finished.
Well it is time to go to dinner now and celebrate the work we have done and the friends we have made. Hasta Luego.
March 2009 Mission Trip to New Orleans
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Sunday, March 1, 2009
We congregated at Cullowhee UMC/Wesley Foundation around 4:00pm and by 5:15am we were loaded in a 15 passenger van and the CUMC bus. The trip was pretty uneventful until we driving through Tuscaloosa, Alabama and it began to snow. It snowed and snowed and snowed. I began to wonder if we were going to have to stop and get hotel rooms because the roads were getting bad. After several hours of cautious driving, the snow let up and we were able to get back on our desired pace. As we got closer we noticed a field off the side of the interstate where thousands of FEMA trailers were parked and deemed unusable due to formaldehyde somehow contaminating them. What a shame. They were just sitting there for years unusable.
We arrived at Aurora United Methodist Church in New Orleans around 5:00pm Central time. We unloaded and shortly after went out to a local dinner called “Applebee’s.” You’ve probably never heard of it but it was pretty good (I’m just kidding, I know you know what Applebee’s is). After that, we were back to the church and off to bed to get ready for our first day of work.
Monday March 2, 2009
Hey my name is Corey Benfield, a sophomore at Western Carolina University. This was my first experience down to New Orleans and a widespread tragic disaster. So when we were driving to the worksites, it was just overwhelming of how much to take in from all the damage that is still here from four years ago. It just really changed who I am as a person of coming down here and seeing how much LOVE many Americans have in this darken world. God has called us to share His gospel and be Christ-like and be a light in this world that is in complete darkness of sin.
When we got to the worksite we just started working right off the bat and helped everyone out with the project that one group was on. We just had a great first day working for this stranger that we are showing love to and it just made my day just giving me the experience of helping the less fortunate out and the people that has been effected by Katrina. Then when we were eating lunch (PB&J’s) and the homeowner drives up in the driveway. Jay and I just walk over to where she was and she just came out of the place where she was with a smile, a big smile. Her name was Janice and she was probably the nicest and most loving person I have met, besides my grandma and mom. She also offered to take us out to eat for lunch and was just talking to us for a while and was just so full of life and just full of love. She seemed like the queen of the street and the light in the neighborhood. After that we got back to work and had a productive rest of the day.
When we got back to the church we had an awesome dinner and the Bible study/Devotion. In the devotion it was just so much love and happiness of the day that was felt during the time of devotion. God has placed all of us here for a reason because our calling this week is to share our love and be a light in a community that really needs a light shone and really needs God’s hand placed on it. This day was a great start to an amazing Spring Break of LOVE. Janice is AMAZING!!!!! If you read this Janice Wesley Foundation of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina LOVES YOU SO MUCH YOU ARE A BLESSING TO US!!!!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
This is the best trip ever, period.
I wanted to start with that since that’s how I feel. I had a little bit more time this morning than yesterday morning to eat breakfast. It was really good food. We left about 9:10 A.M. this morning; it was fairly easy on the highway. We had to put some bathroom tiles at our site, I had to mix some more cement today. I did that yesterday too but we didn’t use it. Then we had the most delicious food in New Orleans. Janice, very nice lady from here, took us to a local restaurant where I had my white beans and rice with fried chicken. It was awesome. I think everyone enjoyed their lunch.
After lunch, we got back to our site and decided to but some doors up since we were done with the tiles. We started to cut the door frames, but them up. Manning was putting some baseboard in the closed room, Alicia was helping him. Carol and I helped David to do the doors thing; it was really educational to me personally. I learned many things. I had the opportunity to enjoy few days with great friends, and meet new ones. Like Marin and Stephanie, share some stories, worship, love each other, and help other people just because it makes us happy.
There is one more thing I’m going to learn probably tonight or maybe later on. It is the Scrabble game. I think Alicia is going to teach me, or maybe Stephanie or Jennifer. I think that’s all I have for tonight.
God bless us all.