Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Roxy and Carrie's Ultimate "Vacation"

Time for a vacation wrap-up!

At one point during our trip, Roxy said, “I think this is the least relaxing vacation I’ve ever had,” and she was probably right. In between the kayaking, 5-hour hiking, rope-swinging, and profuse sweating, we didn’t exactly have a lot of down time. It was an adventure though!

Here’s the story in photos:

After a shuttle mix-up (a.k.a. Guatemalan transportation never comes when they say they will) which meant Roxy and I spent three hours catching up on a curb outside the airport after her flight arrived (you’re not allowed to actually go inside the Guatemala City airport and wait…weird), we made it back to NPH! We spent the weekend visiting Antigua and running around doing crazy Quinceañera preparations, and then I stayed up late packing after the Quinceañeras so we could head out Monday morning!

At Quinceañeras!

To officially kick off vacation on Monday we took, in order: a chicken bus, another chicken bus, a cab, a six-hour Pullman bus, a short walk, a boat, and another boat. Yeah, we were traveling all day. But, we made it to our hostel – Finca Tatin along the Rio Dulce (only accessible by boat)!

Boat from Livingston to the hostel
Rio Dulce is located in eastern Guatemala. Giant Lake Izabal turns into Rio Dulce, which flows into the Caribbean. Rio Dulce runs through tons of nature preserves, and a trip down the river is considered one of the most beautiful sights in the country. The Caribbean side of Guatemala also has a funky, beachy, super-distinctive flair. It’s definitely different than where we live. I loved visiting the area!

Our hostel right on the water!

Amazing rope swing!

A self-proclaimed “jungle hostel,” Finca Tatin wasn’t kidding. We slept under mosquito nets, walked 10 minutes through the jungle to get to the bathrooms, brushed our teeth over a bayou, shared the place with lots of critters, and spent every minute in 1,000% humidity, approximately. Pretty crazy.
Lovely mosquito-net-covered beds.

We spent our first day kayaking forever to this bizarre hot spring right alongside the river, and we spent our second day hiking for five hours from our hostel to the town of Livingston (a town right on the Caribbean and only accessible by foot or boat, no roads). We were literally hiking through uncharted jungle territory – our guide was machete-ing the path into existence as we walked, hah. By the end of the five hours, we were covered in rain, sweat, and lots of mud, but it was beautiful! Such an amazing trek! :)

HOT hot springs!

Hike begins!

Look out point during the hike.

Desperate for shade hahaha.

By Thursday, it was time to head to our second stop, Semuc Champey! We took a beautiful 45-minute boat ride down the river to the actual town of Rio Dulce, and from there we hopped a 6-hour ride in the cab of a pick-up truck on a gravel road. The entire six hours. Gravel road. Ay Dios. It was one of the most uncomfortable drives I’ve ever taken through Guatemala, but thankfully, it was the most beautiful too. Literally breathtaking.

We spent our last day lounging by the gorgeous pools in Semuc (it was my second visit….just too amazing to not go back), and on Saturday we headed back to NPH (but not before we stopped in Antigua for some souvenir shopping and to experience the Banoffee Pie at Rainbow Café)!

Phew! Exhausted from reading?! Just imagine how dead (and dirty) we were by Saturday night. Laundry and a hot shower had never been so exciting.

I’m now spending this week recovering from vacation hehe, and miss you already, Roxy!

Waltz Video!

A hundred years later, I am finally able to upload the video of the waltz from Quinceañeras!

The girls and guys did such a great job, and it looked even more awesome awesome awesome with the girls' beautiful gowns and the boys dressed up with roses pinned to their shirts. We were so proud!

So, enjoy the video! I was spastically throwing the camera at Roxy, so she was having to run around a little bit during filming. Sorry about that.

I spent so much time and energy and fun on this waltz since about March. Now what do I do with myself?

The Quinceañera Waltz! from Carrie Daut on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dear Friends

Dear friends,

I came back from vacation to find an inbox full of "just wanted to say hi" and "I haven't forgotten about you" and "haven't heard from you in a bit" and "talk to you when you're back on Gchat!" and "here's my life update" and "should we start planning next year's summer vacation?" and "was it really two whole years ago that this listserv started?" emails.

And it made my entire week. That's all. :)




So today is day two of having no power from about dinnertime the night before until around 9 a.m. (Why? We have no idea.) Since Sunday, we've been eating dinner in the dark and then going crazy trying to amuse ourselves by candlelight until an acceptable bedtime hour (let's say, oh, 8:30 p.m. sounds acceptable).

At NPH, when the power goes, the water goes too, so we've also had buckets and bowls and pitchers of water sitting around the house for us to use. Which also means.....

Yep, it's gross, but since Sunday, no one has showered.

Uh huh. Always looking (and smelling) our best here at NPH Guatemala.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Quinceañera Celebration!

You and I both have been waiting forever for this: the Quinceañera Celebration! After months of date talk, dress talk, cake talk, waltz talk, and lots of waltz practicing, Sunday, June 20th arrived, and everything was unbelievably gorgeous. I think it's seriously been my favorite NPH day so far. :)

The girls were beautiful, and to an outsider it looked like NPH Guatemala had turned into a Disney princess convention for the day. Their dresses were gorgeous, their hair and makeup was gorgeous, and they were toting around gorgeous bouquets of flowers. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Everything.

The girls spent the morning (allllll morning) getting ready and having their photos taken (the local paper even stopped by), and then at 4 p.m. the entire NPH fam came together to kick things off. The evening's events included a mass, the waltz, the presentation of the girls, the traditional toast, a fancy dinner (with the girls and their dates sitting at a long table in the front of the comedor -- looking and acting like royalty haha), a delicious and several-tiered cake, and then an all-out going-crazy disco.

(Note: Some of us volunteers may or may not have been in the middle of that sweaty, teenager-filled, mosh pit of a crazy disco. Oh school dances, how I miss you.)

Everything about the Quinceañera celebration was perfect -- and so much fun. Gchat/email/call me if you want me to blab on forever about it, but for now, just love these pics.

P.S. A waltz blog post is coming soon. :)

Me and Rocio

Pretty hair!

With Conchita

With Juana

The boys

Comedor all decorated!

Brother and sister Hermelindo and Irma :)

Thania and Conchita

Juana and Irma from my section

The volunteers

Waltz photo!

Me and Katie!

I'm Back! And Feliz Aniversario to Me!

Hello! I'm back online, and I know I have tons of stuff to catch you all up on. It's going to be a long day (or few days) of uploading photos, videos, and blog posts using some of the worst internet on the planet. Please bear with me.

And one thing you missed: my 6-month NPH anniversary! June 19th marked exactly six months since I left the good ol' USA. Six months. Can you believe it?

The passing of the 6-month mark means two things here: 1) I'm no longer "new" and 2) I better hold on to my seat. Everyone says that the second half of your year flies faster than you could ever imagine.

So, salud! Here's to six months. :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nos Vemos!

Roxy is on a plane right now! I'm leaving work in an hour to meet her at the airport! We have a fun-filled week of Quinceañeras and vacationing up ahead! There's just too much excitement going on right now!

I'll be back in the blogosphere in a week and a half, so until then, nos vemos!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup Madness Continues

Everyone's going a little bit crazy now that the World Cup is in full swing.

The inhabitants of my house almost cried when some kids stole our color-copy game schedule and we had to rely on the pocket-size one somebody got for free at Subway.

People have regularly been waking up and coming down to our house to watch 5:30 a.m. games on low volume while the rest of the house is still sleeping.

And Ellen had items specially-shipped from The Netherlands so she could properly deck out the front of her house -- please see photo above -- (and if you think that's crazy, you should see the inside of her room).

Ay, ay, ay. Locos.

As for me, I still haven't picked a team to win. I think I'll cheat and wait to see who makes it past the first round before I decide. :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Busy Busy Busy!

I have tons of writing to do at work this week, we have Quinceañera practice every day, and I'm trying to put together vacation plans for me and Roxy for next week! Things are busy around here!

Roxy gets here Friday! In just two days!
Saturday we're exploring Antigua!
Sunday is Quinceañeras!
Monday, we take off for Rio Dulce!
Tuesday and Wednesday, we'll be kayaking, hiking, swimming, and enjoying our jungle hostel!
Thursday, we're off to Semuc Champey (for my second time)! Katie and Sarah -- two friends from NPH -- are meeting us there!
Friday in beautiful Semuc!
Saturday, we head back home.
Sunday, Roxy leaves and I work this year's second Día de Visitas at NPH.
Then it's basically July. HELLO.

I have an exciting next few weeks coming up!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dress-Fitting with the Quinceañeras

Quinceañera preparations are currently taking over my blog. Let that also be a reflection of my life at this moment -- albeit a fun one, hah. Only five days away! :)

Yesterday, I went with some of the quinceañera girls to get their dresses fitted! This year, thanks to a donor, the girls had their dresses custom made at a shop in nearby Itzapa. They were able to choose everything -- the color, the style, whether to get gloves and/or a jacket made along with it -- for truly one-of-a-kind dresses.

It was a really fun girls' afternoon out, and by the end of the day, Sharon and I were dying for our own custom made vestidos too. :) Check out the photos!

Irma's beautiful pink dress!

Reina with her dress-in-process. The final version will have tons of black adornments.

Maria standing on the table for her fitting haha.

Jackie and Jenny

Iris and Conchita

Jenny's dress is going to have a gorgeous train! (Which makes us nervous for the waltz!)

Looking adorable all gathered around the sewing room.


Me and Maria. Love her dress!

Looking through the catalog to pick out their tiaras!

The @

For almost six months, I've been totally confused as to why so many official memos and reports and emails that go out around this place had words like tí@s, niñ@s, and voluntari@s written on them.

Why are you people making so many typos with the @ symbol? How does that happen? So unprofessional.

Well, I just learned this week that they weren't typos. They were done on purpose.

The @ means "a or o." So, instead of typing out tías and tíos, niñas and niños, or voluntarias and voluntarios, they save themselves some time and use the handy @.

I feel like an idiot, hah.

Monday, June 14, 2010


On Friday, I went back to college.

Sort of.

On Friday, I visited a Guatemalan university.

Every month, our group of año de servicio kids (students in between middle and high school or in between high school and...the real world) takes an outing in order to learn more about post-NPH opportunities in work or school. This month, they're visiting a few universities across Guatemala, and on Friday, I had the pleasure of inviting myself along.

We visited the Antigua campus of La Universidad de Rafael Landívar. It's a private, Jesuit school in operation in Guatemala since 1961, and the Antigua location is one of its many satellite campuses.

After summer '08 working in the incredible William & Mary Office of Undergraduate Admission (Interns, I miss you guys!), I've become somewhat of a college admissions nerd. So, during Friday afternoon's admission presentation at Rafael Landívar, I think I was more into it than the kids were. Everything was just so different from the U.S. higher education system.

The thoughts that were running through my head were:

-There are four "schools," in the university, which seems pretty normal: the School of Political and Social Sciences, the School of Business and Economic Sciences, the School of Humanities, and the School of Health Sciences.

-There are only about a dozen majors though, and they're really limiting, which seems pretty weird: Social Work, Business Administration, Tourism, Math & Science Education, Early Childhood Education, Clinical Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, Nursing, Primary Care Nursing, and Occupational Therapy. Where are all the Government and English majors I knew in the liberal arts world?

-Did she just say that the only extracurricular activity available is the intramural soccer tournament the campuses sometimes hold? How boring.

-A tecnico degree takes about 2-3 years to complete. Sounds like an associate's degree. If you really want to be educated, you take 5 years to complete your licenciatura degree. It's the equivalent of a simple bachelor's degree in the States, but it's a huge deal here. Once you've finished your licenciatura, people at your workplace can stop using your name and start calling you "licenciada" or "licenciado." Not kidding.

-This room is falling apart. Ceiling tiles are missing, the floor has huge cracks in it, and these desks are horrible. It must be in worst shape than the most poorly-funded community college in the U.S. No wonder so few people go to university in this country. I would never want to spend 5 years in this classroom.

-Degrees can be "plan diario" or "plan fin de semana." Plan diario is like normal college -- you have classes during the day from Monday through Friday. Plan fin de semana means you attend classes on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you work during the week so that you can afford the school in the first place. In Guatemala, the plan fin de semana is the reality for most people.

-It's considered pretty expensive to attend university in Guatemala, but look at these numbers. I almost couldn't believe how cheap it was. At this private Jesuit university, for a 5-year licenciatura degree, for a full course load, your monthly bill is 535 Quetzales. That's about $67 per month. Let's be crazy and pretend the school year is year-round. $67 x 12 = $804 per year. Take the five years to get your licenciatura degree? $804 x 5 = $4,020 for a degree. Four thousand dollars for the equivalent of your bachelor's degree. That is insane.

Call me Dean Daut, but pretty interesting, right?

Watch the Quinceañera Update!

It's official. We're in the homestretch of quinceañera waltz pratices. We're in the final week, it's crunch time (this week we practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday), and the big day is only six days away.

Both of this weekend's pratices actually went really well! They know the entire dance from start to finish, they have all their formations down (with the help of lots of masking tape put down on the floor), and the girls know their entrances with their entregadores too. Plus, get this: the dance ends with the boys kneeling down and presenting the girls with roses. Too adorable.

Here's a video from Saturday, before we'd completely finished putting it all together. I can't wait to see the final product on Sunday!

Getting Close to the Big Quinceañera Day! from Carrie Daut on Vimeo.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Mundial Begins!

In case you've been living under a roca, newsflash: The World Cup, or Mundial, begins today!

Now, I gotta admit that I'm really not a soccer person. I don't play very gracefully (I blame Mom and Dad for never signing me up for a team against my will when I was five years old), and I've never followed professional teams in my life. Needless to say, I don't exactly fit in in Latin America, where fútbol is religion.

However, I have learned a few important soccer tenets from the kids here:

1. I should hate Mexico's team.
2. I should think Cristiano Ronaldo is hot.
3. And I should know all the words to K'naan and Shakira's World Cup songs -- which I do (Waka waka!).

I'm good to go!

Now, with the arrival of the World Cup, let me also introduce to the newest member of our house:

THAT'S RIGHT. We have a TV! Gracias a Celeste begging and pleading for us, the NPH house is letting the volunteers borrow a TV to watch all the games from the comfort of our own couch (at absurdly early hours of the 5 a.m.)!

And Celeste created some friendly rules too. :)

Tele exclusivamente para el Mundial 2010.
TV exclusively for the 2010 World Cup.

Silencio durante los partidos porfa.
Silence during the games please.

Si no sabes de fútbol, pregunta despúes del partido.
If you don't know anything about soccer, ask after the game.

Haha, woo Mundial! Waka Waka!

Story Update 13

Guatemala's High School Students Begin Internship Program - NPHG's high school students gain real-world experience with a part-time internship at the Casa San Andrés house.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thank Goodness for Glee

We've been keeping up all season, and last night, Sam and I watched the finale of Glee!

Our viewing session sounded a little something like this:

(Singing Don't Stop Believin')
"Omgggg I loooove Finn."
"I think the perfect man would be part Finn, part Puck, and part Mr. Schu."
(Singing Faithfully)
"Awwww, Sue."
"I seriously think the perfect man would be part Finn, part Puck, and part Mr. Schu."
"Oh my god, I'm seriously gonna cry."
(More crying)
"It's over...Now what to we do?"

I may be completely out of touch with most of U.S. pop culture right now, but thank GOODNESS for Glee. :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Unexpectedly Awesome Proyecto

In proyecto familiar, as in life, you win some and you lose some.

Sometimes you prepare all week for a fancy proyecto with the kids, and then the day arrives and they just aren't having it. But then other days, you do zero prep, suggest a plan and throw up a prayer, and end up lucking out. Yesterday was one of the latter. :)

Last night, I had Proyecto Amistad (Friendship -- kids that don't have siblings here at NPHG get their share of volunteer project time too) with Huinter, Israel, and Ángel. You can tell me I need to grow up, but it can still be intimidating for me to have proyecto with three of the older boys (15-16 years old). One, they are older so they'll make fun of me. Two, they're boys, so they'll make fun of me. Good logic, right?

Anyway, they'd been begging me to take them to the movie theater. "Ok," I said. "We're going to the movie theater the English room." We walked to Parramos, bought gringas to go (the boys had never eaten one; how is that possible?), came back to NPH, and watched The Prestige on the big screen in the English classroom.

I loved every single second of it.

The boys were were such chatterboxes, haha. They talked the entire way to Parramos and back. They talked about gringas and my university and my job and Disneyworld and Disneyland and NASA and the world's biggest telescope and how much jobs pay in the U.S., and they practiced saying "Ken-tuck-y" over and over again. They also LOVED The Prestige. The four us went on and on about "I had no idea that was going to happen!" and "Now I understand what that one line meant!"

If they were making fun of me, I definitely didn't pick up on it, hah. And if they weren't having fun, I didn't pick up on that either. Chowing down on gringas, trying to decipher hidden meanings in a scene of The Prestige, I did it again: forgot where I was and could have sworn I was back in a dorm room watching good movies with good friends.

Win. :)

I Feel Important

I was informed the other day by a friend (Hi, Jess! She has her own blog now too!) that my blog was, in fact, freaking her out and beginning to depress her (I think this one was particularly scary to read). Not exactly the sentiments I'm shooting for when she's starting her year here at NPH Guatemala in July.

So, just in case anyone else out there is thinking that when I look back on this year I'll only see an año of frustrations, in which I was a completely disposable volunteer who wasn't really making much of a difference in anyone's life....well, please allow me to set the record straight. :)

I feel important here.

I've come to learn that it isn't necessarily hard to feel valuable here, but that feeling isn't going to be handed to me on a platter either. As volunteers, you have to be confident in yourself. You have to remind yourself what it is you're doing well, and you have to remind each other too. You have to focus on the small things and know that in the end, the small things are the big picture.

So who cares if these kids don't remember my name when I leave? Why stress about leaving a legacy when I can enjoy what I'm doing right now? After all, what's that saying, Jess? Something about "vivir en el momento," isn't it? :)

Right now, I feel important because:

I've doubled,  maybe tripled, the number of articles about NPH Guatemala that go up on our website. No, the kids never see those, but fundraisers and sponsors around the world now have double the information to use to market NPH and increase its support. Information makes the world go 'round.

I've helped create a monthly kid-produced magazine, and we've stayed consistent. Every month, we've distributed a new issue. In a place like NPH, simply holding up your end of the bargain can mean a lot to these kids.

I'm teaching a Quinceañera waltz and sharing in 15 teenage girls' ear-splitting excitement for it. Those girls might not remember my name in five years, but they will always remember their Quinceañera, and they will always remember how beautiful they felt during that dance.

I'm hanging out with my section of girls -- just me. I don't bring them games, I don't bake them cakes, and I don't buy them presents. Instead, they hear me answer their questions about how much I loved university and classes and how I don't currently have a boyfriend ("Why not?" "Because I don't need to have one all the time."). Maybe one of those comments will stick.

And I've made friends with incredible co-volunteers, learning from them every single day. Yeah, I know we're supposed to be here for the kids, but I say that's too narrow. Teaching and being taught by your housemates, co-workers, and new friends is something just as life-shaping, isn't it?

Now, if I can feel this good about myself, then the volunteers who actually have unlimited patience with the kids, who know all of them, and who actually work all day long with kids (instead of blogging all day from their cushy office chair), should have no trouble giving themselves a GIANT pat on the back. Housemates stalking my blog, go ahead and give yourself one right now.

So sure, sometimes it's easier to feel frustrated, and it's easier to just feel like one in a series of replaceable volunteers. But since when is taking the easy way out ever the best choice?

Nope, instead, I prefer this: I feel important.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunday in the City for SATC

We finally did it! After waiting one horribly long week for the movie to make its way down to Guatemala, we finally went and saw Sex and the City 2 this weekend in the capital!

We made it an entire girls' day out, and boy did we stand out -- 8 of us made up our gaggle of gringas.

We woke up early, took the bus to Guatemala City, enjoyed food court food, saw the movie in its opening weekend for only 28 Q (less than $4!), ate in the food court again, and camioneta-ed our way back to NPH. Quite the successful day.

So now it's Monday morning, and yes, our lives feel complete after spending yesterday with Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, Miranda, and the gang. It was also nice to be in a movie theater for the first time in 6 months, hah.

Love from a different City,


Friday, June 4, 2010

Story Update 12

NPH Guatemala Serves As a Model for Fellow Organizations - NPHG recently hosted a conference at Casa San Andrés, meeting with volunteer organizations from across the country.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

One of my absolute favorite parts of our monthly magazine, X-PRES-ARTE, is the Escuch-Arte section. It's basically just a shout-out board -- and it's completely hilarious.

In the weeks before we put the magazine together, kids from throughout the house can write notes -- signed or anonymous -- and put them in the X-PRES-ARTE comment boxes we've set up around NPH.

Here are some of my favorites from this issue. Keep in mind that elementary and middle schoolers are writing this stuff haha.

De: Rivaldo y Jairon
Maria Jose, gracias por tu comida y gracias por venir a compartir con nosotros; nos gusta tanto tu comida que quisiéramos que nos dieran más.

From: Rivaldo and Jairon
Maria Jose (chef), thank you for your food and thank you for coming here to share with us. We like your food a lot and we would like for you to give us more.

Entrevista a Esmerelda:
¿Nombre completo?
¿De donde vienes?
-De Chimaltenango.
¿Quienes son tus amigas?
-Linda, Mariela, Ana, Felipe, Vilda, y Miguel
¿Tienes novio?
-No, ni lo pienso tener.

Interview with Esmerelda:
Full name?
Where are you from?
-From Chimaltenango.
Who are your friends?
-Linda, Mariela, Ana, Felipe, Vilda, and Miguel
Do you have a boyfriend?
-No, and I don't think I want to have one either.

Para: Jorge
De: ...
No te das cuenta de las personas que te aman, y para cuando te des cuenta de la persona especial que en verdad te valora ya será demasiado tarde y te arrepentirás.

For: Jorge
You don't realize that people love you, and when you do realize there is a special person that loves you, it will be too late and you will live to regret it.

Para: Yocaren
De: Anónimo
Las estrellas son astros que brillan con luz igual que ellas, tú, posees una luz especial que te permite iluminar todo lo que te rodea. Mira al cielo, hay millones de estrellas hermosas...

For: Yocaren
From: Anonymous
The stars are heavenly bodies that shine with their own light...and like them, you possess a special light that allows you to illuminate everything around you. Look at the sky, there are millions of beautiful stars...

Para: Dolman
De: Dania
Hola, ¿cómo estás? Espero que no te hayas enojado conmigo. Yo te quiero mucho. Mi ojo derecho, yo te quiero decir si quieres estar conmigo.

For: Dolman
From: Dania
Hi, how are you? I hope that you haven't been mad at me. I love you a lot. My right eye, I want you to say if you want to be with me.

June Magazine!

Time for another magazine! This is the third issue, and we're going strong. :)

Revista Junio 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June and a Mordida

Yesterday, while we welcomed the arrival of June 1 (AH!), we also welcomed the arrival of Leeah's birthday (WOO!).

At NPH Guatemala, there are a lot of birthday traditions, and most of them are actually less-than-pleasant for the birthday-er, but pretty entertaining for the audience. Here's one example:

The mordida. After you blow out the candles on your cake, and before you're actually allowed to eat it, you have to let everyone else pick up the cake and smash it into your face. It's tradition, so you're not getting out of it, but really, whose idea was this?

So here is Leeah, face first in a delicious, homemade carrot cake with homemade cream cheese icing -- all prepared by Katie, our house´s resident baker haha. Yum!