Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekly Story Update 4

A few more now!

Kermes: An Afternoon Spent Playing Games with "Spoons" - At the first Kermes (or carnival) of the year, the entire NPH Guatemala home enjoyed a series of games involving "spoons."

Día del Cariño - Valentine's Day with the NPH Guatemala family.

Section Spotlight: Jerusalén - Each month we'll introduce you to one of NPHG's sections of children. This month, meet the girls of Jerusalén.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beautiful Bougainvillea

In addition to the lush green grass, the perfect-everyday blue skies, and the majestic volcanoes, we also have lots of bougainvillea plants at NPH that make this place so gorgeous. They even line the pathway down to the volunteer houses, which I love. :)

The other day, a few girls from my section ripped a huge chunk off of a bougainvillea plant and gave it to me as a present. I loved the flowers...but was slightly nervous they nearly killed the plant. Oops. :/

Bougainvillea is one of the most common tropical plants found in the highlands region of Guatemala, and after a quick Google, I discovered that it's because our area of the country has the perfect conditions for bougainvillea to thrive. Bougainvillea loves hot days and cool nights (which we definitely water bottle anyone?) and needs plenty of rain (which we will definitely get when the rainy season arrives later this spring and stays around for six months...hmm).

So while bougainvillea daintily decorates the streets of  nearby Antigua (take a peek at Vines Romantically Spill Over the Colonial Walls of Antigua Guatemala from Antigua's blog), NPH lucked out too! How nice! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Family Projects...and Gringas

Today's blog has two points:

1. To tell you about Proyectos Familiares (Family Projects), and
2. To tell you about gringas -- the white female foreigners like me and the food you can buy in the street.

I apologize in advance that it might be a little scattered.

Pues si (so anyway),

One. Yesterday after work I had my first Proyecto Familiar. Each volunteer is required to do two Proyectos Familiares each month, and I was a little nervous beforehand. During a Proyecto Familiar, you are assigned to a family of kids at NPH -- a biological family of children here. The idea is that for two hours, you hang out with the family of kids and do some kind of activity. They like walking to Parramos, taking the bus and visiting Chimaltenango, making pizza, making cake, really making any kind of food, playing games, and watching movies. Proyectos exist because on most days, kids are either with their section or with their class in school all day long. They could theoretically go days and days without ever seeing their older brother, younger sister, or cousin (especially if someone is in high school and therefore living 20 minutes away in Chimal). Proyectos are time for biological families to spend time with one another. For volunteers, the benefit is to get to know a group of kids you don't already know.

For yesterday's proyecto, Celeste (old volunteer -- we new volunteers did our first proyecto with an old volunteer just to see how things work) and I hung out with two boys from the oldest section at NPH: Jorge (16) and Viktor (15). They were SUPER shy at literally wouldn't say a word, which was hilarious...but then they opened up. We walked to Parramos, sat and ate at a street vendor, came back to NPH, and then played four rounds of some intense fusbol (which Celeste and I lost all four embarrassing). Though it was sort of awkward at first (a. I didn't know them, b. my Spanish still isn't awesome, c. they were shy), it ended up being so fun! I also realized that it was the first time I had spent time with just a few kids. We are usually around at least 20 (more like 100) at a time, so spending one-on-one time with a pair of brothers was actually really really nice. Overall, great Proyecto Familiar! My next one is Saturday, and I'm on my own with a family of four. Let's hope it goes okay!

And Two. On our trip to Parramos, we ate gringas for dinner. This sounds funny at first, because "gringo" or "gringa" (for women) is also the slang term used throughout Central America to denote foreigners, usually people from the United States. It doesn't normally carry a negative meaning, but I guess it depends on tone. I've been referred to as a gringa about a thousand times already, and it's no big deal. However, a "gringa" is also a type of food that you can buy from street vendors. They are technically Mexican cuisine: seasoned meat cooked souvlaki style (roasted vertically and shaved off) mixed with cheese and placed in a tortilla, heated over a griddle and served with lots of different sauces (avocado, chile, onions, etc.). I'd heard some of the other volunteers talk about gringas before, but I'd never eaten one before yesterday.

They were delicious! The boys did fit in a joke when I asked what a gringa was, because they replied, "Um, you are!" (Thanks), but that didn't deter from the gringa experience at all. Soooo yummy. I can't believe I waited over two months to eat one. They are maybe sorta the Central American version of the Greek gyro, if that gives you any idea of how awesome they are. 

So, there you have it: Proyecto Familiares and gringas. Good times all around. And more good news: no earthquakes today, and tomorrow is Thursday already! Woo hoo! Til next time, nos vemos! :)

Viktor and Jorge

 Celeste, Viktor, Jorge and me after Celeste and I lost FOUR times in a row. Pathetic haha.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Earthquakes Today

I'd never felt an earthquake before moving to Guatemala, and I could definitely be okay if I never felt one again after my year here. If you've never experienced an earthquake, it's pretty hard to explain the sensation. With Guatemalan earthquakes, the whole room just sort of gently rocks. It completely freaks out your body and your sense of balance for at least the next few hours -- if not the rest of the day. It's like you go into hyper-paranoid mode, so with the slightest movement in the room or even blowing of the wind, your brain and stomach trick you into thinking it's another earthquake. Not so fun.

We've had two today, both small ones (5.6 and 5.4 magnitudes according to the news), but it's only noon. Let's hope those were the last of them.

One hit at about 9 a.m. our time, not long after people had come into the office for work. It lasted a little longer than people are used to, so we actually all evacuated the office and went outside. After only a minute or so, things were fine again though.

The other earthquake was earlier in the morning, around 5 a.m., while everyone in my house was still sleeping. Now that was a crazy experience -- being woken up by the house shaking as you're laying in your bed. I heard Leti, my roommate, awake on the other side of the room, so I starting asking, "Leti? Leti? Did you feel that???"

Since I was still half asleep, I didn't realize that I was mumbling to her in English (which she doesn't speak). She started yelling back at me in Spanish, "What? What??" and once I realized what language I was using, I switched back over to Spanish.

We cracked up about it later this morning while eating breakfast as she told me that, "All of sudden I see the mirrors moving on the wall and the whole house shaking. Then you start talking to me in some language I don't understand! For all I know, you could have been speaking in Devil's language! I thought it was the end of the world!!"


Not quite the end of the world, but definitely a crazy morning so far.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Would You Like to Go to Our Private Beach House for the Weekend?

Um, YES.

In our first few weeks at NPH, we met and made friends with some friends of friends of NPH -- one of those weird acquaintance connection kind of things. We've seen them a few times in the past few months, and this past weekend, Sam, Tressa, and I received an invite to tag along on a weekend to the beach.

It was described to us like this: "Our family has this house on the Pacific. It's on a private beach, and we can only access it by boat. We can go water skiing, hang out, and maybe even see whales if the timing is right. Wanna come?"

We would have been idiots to say no.

So, Friday night, Tressa, Sam and I hopped in our friend's car with no real idea of what we were in for. We met up with another car-full of friends and drove a couple hours to the beaches of Las Lisas, Guatemala. I didn't know at the time, but I've since done some Googling, and Las Lisas is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Guatemala.

Everything they told us was true too. When we got there, we parked the car, loaded all of our stuff into a small lancha (boat), and took a 20-minute boat ride to the house. The water glowed in the dark from the plankton the whales feed off of, and every single person in the boat -- Americans and Guatemalans -- spent the majority of the 20-minute ride with eyes fixed on the sky. I have never, ever, seen that many stars in my life.

The house was a simple but great beach house. It had a thatched roof, kitchen and common rooms, and 4 bedrooms. The rooms were only partially divided from one another by lattice windows, and they didn't have ceilings, just the thatched roof overhead. There were tons of windows and doors that we kept open the entire weekend, so the whole effect was constant beach breeze in and out of the house, day and night. At night, we fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. The bathroom was a separate building outside, and there was no fresh water anywhere in the house (minus the giant jug we brought with us). The shower and all the taps had salt water from the ocean. So, no one actually showered a real shower (since salt water showers just make you feel even more gross, eww), and let me say, brushing your teeth with salt water is not the most pleasant experience.

But the weekend was incredible. The house was on a peninsula about 10 miles away from the El Salvador border. If we walked out the front door of the house, we were on a gorgeous black sand beach along the Pacific. The water was so warm, and the waves were so perfect. We swam like crazy. If we walked out the back door of the house, we were on the Canal de Chiquimulilla, which looked like something out of the Amazon. We spent the entire weekend swimming in the ocean, tanning on the beach, water skiing on the canal, relaxing, playing cards, watching the sunset over the ocean and opposite the volcanoes, and just hanging out (sadly, we saw no whales). The weekend seemed to go on forever, and the three of us honestly couldn't believe we were really there.

Today, the weekend has caught up with us and we are exhausted and sore from sunburns and too much waterskiing. I've been basically worthless all day at work, but it was sooo worth it. The whole weekend reminded me of trips to Lake Cumberland -- if any of you Kentuckians are reading. It was two carloads of friends, in the middle of nowhere (even by Guatemala standards), a few bags of chips and some burgers, a case of beer, a deck of cards, sun, sand, and amazing water everywhere we looked.

This is the life.

The house.

Backyard patio/party area right on the beach. Amazing.

Welcome to Las Lisas!

And now to the backyard...

About to take a peek at the canal...

Backyard canal! To access the house, we took a boat along this for about 20 minutes, and the canal is also where we went water skiing!

Thatched roof of the house. Not sure why I thought this deserved a photo.

Sam, me and Tressa!

Sam and me, loving life on this Guatemalan beach. :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

February Birthday Celebrations

I work in the same office as the Padrinos department at NPH Guatemala (the department that organizes all the people around the world who act as "godparents" to the kids here), and after a few weeks on the job, I overheard that every month they host a birthday celebration for the kids at the mall in nearby Chimaltenango. Fun! I want to go!

So, I decided that the NPH Guatemala website definitely needed a story about these outings, which meant I needed to invite myself along one month. Woohoo! Being the Home Correspondent is starting to reveal its many extra perks. :)

Last night was the February birthday celebration, so off we went!

For the kids, it's practically a day-long event. Every child that has a birthday in February stopped by the Padrinos office during the morning to receive their bag of goodies (candy, cookies, popcorn, juice, chips -- actually not too shabby) and their birthday money! Yep, money.

Birthday bags of goodies!

Being a padrino, or godparent, involves a monthly donation, and part of this goes to a pool of birthday money. Each child receives a little bit of money for their birthday, and the amount increases the older they get. Giving them their own cash is meant to teach some responsibility in spending and saving money. Some kids actually save a little bit, but I think most spend it all right away. In Guatemala or in any other country, kids will be kids. :)

So then, during the afternoon of the b-day day, all the kids headed off to the mall in Chimaltenango with a few chaperones so they could shop to their little hearts' content. Yesterday's purchases included: candy and snacks by all; new shirts and new shoes by the girls; and sunglasses, jeans, and hair gel (even the youngest ones just had to get some hair gel) for the boys.

Yonder and Cesar with Cesar's newly-purchased sunglasses.

Afterwards, everyone met up in the food court for one of the most exciting dinners ever -- McDonald's haha. We (yes, I got a free meal out of this too!) gorged ourselves on chicken sandwiches, fries, sodas, cake, and ice cream. Yum.

Fredy and Anita chowing down on their McDonald's. Fredy's chicken sandwich was practically as big as his head, so someone had to help him hold on to it while eating.

The group at the Pradera (mall) food court.

Birthday cake for February birthdays!

And a little playing in the arcade after dinner.

I know it doesn't sound like much, but for the kids, it's a big deal. Chimaltenango is a 20-minute bus ride away, and it's usually rare for them to even leave the campus of NPH. An evening for them in Chimaltenango is like a weeklong island vacation for us. I was super excited I got to tag along, and it was another chance to realize: they do a really good job here at NPH Guatemala of making kids feel like just that -- normal kids. :)

Weekly Story Update 3

Ok, so weekly is a lie. These aren't exactly weekly right now. I'm writing one or two articles every week, but our publishing system is pretty slow.

A New Language Class at NPH Guatemala - All NPH Guatemala students are now learning Kaqchikel, a dialect of the Mayan language family.

Pee-Ew! Donations Smell!

I just got to work for one last day before the weekend, and when Vilma and I opened the door to our office, we almost passed out. A pile of donations arrived in the office late yesterday, which means bags of donated (a.k.a. old, used, smelly) shoes have been festering overnight about 6 feet away from my desk. Pee-ewwwww. We immediately opened all the windows.

We love donations, but next time, include Febreeze!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I've Joined the Reggaeton Bandwagon

When I arrived at NPH, the first thing my section of super music-savvy 12 to 15 year-old girls wanted to know about me was "Who are your favorite singers!?!?"

After I gave up trying to explain what country music was and who some girl named Taylor Swift is, I decided to let them tell me their favorite singers and songs to see if I knew them. We could reach common ground on people like Rihanna, Shakira, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z (which they pronounce "high-zeta" becaust that's how it looks in Spanish phonetics hahahahaha), but then they would always stump me at the same spot: reggaeton.

Speedy reggaeton history lesson: Became popular among Latin American youth in the late 90s; is a mix of basically everything -- reggae, salsa, meringue, Latin pop, electronica, and Spanish rap; 2004 was its big crossover year into the U.S. (remember the song Gasolina, anyone?).

Back to the story...

"Do you like reggaeton? We love reggaeton! What are your favorite reggaeton songs?"

"Um, I don't think I really know anything about reggaeton."

Silent stares.

And who could really blame them? If you live in Guatemala and don't know reggaeton, you must be living under a rock. The chicken buses blast reggaeton jams from their suped-up sound systems, it's the only type of music the crazy dancehalls in Antigua play, and you can't walk five meters (I was about to say five feet, but I'm trying to be authentic and use the metric system now) down a street in Guatemala without passing someone blaring reggaeton from their portable radio. 

So, I have spent the past few weeks educating myself on Guatemala's reggaeton hits (or at least...trying). Thank you internet at work, thank you YouTube that sometimes works, and thank you Grooveshark for your awesome collection of reggaeton playlists. Oh, and thank you juke boxes in tiny local bars that cost one quetzal per song. I am soooo up-to-date on my reggaeton songs now.

And you know what, I LOVE IT. The music is just so good! Sometimes I catch myself awkwardly dancing at my desk while listening to music, and I don't remember the last time I had an English-language song stuck in my head. It's always Spanish now. Yes, this is it. I have completely converted to a lover of reggaeton. There's just something about it that gets under your skin. I can't wait to start adding songs to my iPod.

And now for your entertainment, a list of some of my current favorites (some reggaeton, some more Latin/Spanish pop). Some are brand new, and some are uncool-ly old, but I'm working on catching up. When you're bored, check out these YouTube links.

P.S. Parents be warned, I never said reggaeton was squeaky clean. View music videos at your own caution haha.

Ave María by David Bisbal

Pose by Daddy Yankee

Obsession by Aventura

Escapar (you know it as Escape) by Enrique Iglesias

Te Ves Fatal by El Trono de Mexico

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Today Was Carnaval!

For those of you in the States, today is Mardi Gras! That means that today is Carnaval in Guatemala! NPH Guatemala celebrated with a costume contest (check out these costumes!) and a giant confetti fight -- picture hundreds of people running around the basketball courts with confetti in hand, loving nothing more than to clobber everyone else with the paper bits. Fun fun. :)

Costumes included mermaids, Flintstones, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, princesses, monsters, and all kinds of other crazy get-ups.

Picapica! Confetti!

La Familia -- the other one

At NPH, the word "family" is thrown around a lot. The kids are in touch with their biological families, when they enter NPH they join a new family, the group of volunteers becomes a family of a bunch of people all going through this same crazy experience.

I knew to expect all of this, but I didn't expect that we'd extend the word "familia" much outside of NPH, and I definitely didn't expect to extend the term to the local watering hole in our tiny town. But, this is a year of surprises, so here we are. There is one restaurant in Parramos, and it doubles as a bar. I don't know the real name of it (I think it's Don something?), because we simply call it "La Familia."

La Familia is a small restaurant with a wooden bar, plastic tables and chairs, and a cooler of help-yourself beer and sodas in the corner. There are two types of beer (that pretty much goes for the entire country), or you can buy a bottle of rum and a plate of limes to mix with your soda haha.  There's a bottle opener tied to the bar and a semi-functioning bathroom in the back. A local family owns and runs the place, and their two young girls are always running around the tables with us. Sometimes, their adorable newborn kitten is also in tow. So cute. There's also a jukebox with all the best Latin and reggaeton hits, so we're all remembering just how awesome jukeboxes are, and you don't pay for anything up front. You help yourself to drinks or food all night long, and there's just this honor code that you pay in one big sum when you leave.

In the two months we've been going to La Familia pretty regularly (they have THE most delicious hamburgers), I've only seen other people there maybe twice. Almost every time we go, we have the place to ourselves. It really is like we're part of the family.

Last night, we went out to celebrate a volunteer's return from a 3-week vacation back to the States, and when we arrived at La Familia, we discovered that they had decorated the entire restaurant for Valentine's Day. Dozens of paper hearts hung from the ceiling, and when we looked up, the hearts had our names on them! It was the cutest thing ever.

This is definitely the smallest town I have ever lived in or will probably ever live in. Sometimes we hate that there's no real grocery store or coffee shop, but other times (like nights at La Familia), you have to just love it. :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Weekend Away! (and the sunburn to prove it)

So let's see, I think I have officially been in Guatemala for over eight weeks, and six of them have been at NPH. During those six weeks, I have not had a chance to take a single full weekend to travel. That's right folks, I have been in the same place for six weeks straight. Definitely not like me.

But this weekend, I got back on travel track!

I know the experience of this year involves a lot of things. Some of them are making a home at NPH and learning to slow down just a little bit (and actually being in one place for 13 months). But another huge part of it for me is travel and trips -- I'm talking serious adventures. Come on, I only live once.

So while my first two months contained a lot of transitions, lanugage-learning, and just generally getting a grip on this thing we're now calling life here, this weekend marked the return of always-on-the-go Carrie, and it's good to be back. :)

Destination: Panajachel, on Lake Atitlan (some say, the most beautiful lake in the world)

Friday morning, NPH celebrated Día del Cariño, or Valentine's Day, by canceling classes and hosting a school-wide party! There were hilarious dance-offs, serenades, and poetry readings from kids, and the school building was covered in paper hearts and cards.

Weekend travel buddy Cheryl and I took our one free Friday afternoon a month and headed out of town after the Día del Cariño celebrations. Not before, however, I took time to get a really cool sunburn on the back of my left shoulder. Boatneck shirts and camera case straps do not go well together in places where the sun is this strong. Awesome.

A few hours later, a few chicken buses later, and only a few U.S. dollars later, we arrived in Panajachel! Nicknamed "Gringotenango" for the number of foreigners who end up there, Pana was the place to head if you were a hippie in the 1960s. Since then, the hippie waves have died down (only a little bit), and the town has remained absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful cobblestone streets hug the water, and the town looks out across the lake at the volcanoes of Lake Atitlan. The restaurant selection is also incredible -- a huge perk.

It was the perfect relaxing, lakeside weekend. We ate like kings, spent an entire day laying by the pool, took advantage of our cable TV to get back in touch with the world and watch some Olympics, and slept like 14 hours each night. Ahhhh. So nice.

So here's a little photo tour of the trip to Pana. I apologize that a lot of the pictures are of food...or cleaned plates...but hey, it's an accurate representation of the weekend. Enjoy!

Welcome to our funky, but very nice hotel. It looks like something you would find in California during the 1970s. I especially liked these giant sliding glass doors into all the rooms -- and the bright yellow!

Faux fireplace in the room hahaha.

TV with cable!!! We probably wouldn't have cared too much, BUT it was the weekend of the Olympics. We just had to watch that Opening Ceremony. Strangely, we were getting tons of U.S. channels, but they were all from the Atlanta area. I'm very caught up on my local Atlanta news now.

Our absolutely amazing pool. We sat right there in those chairs for most of Saturday. My sunburn (in addition to my cool one from my shirt and camera strap) proves it.

Now out in Panajachel! Calle Santander, the main street of Pana.

Markets, markets, everywhere, selling lots of pretty things.

Gorgeous Pana along the water.

We were both incredibly intrigued and incredibly confused by the fake animals you see on the beach. We think they were trying to trap tourists into paying for a photo as they hopped off their tour boats. What a giant plastic horse and giant plastic lion have to do with Panajachel beats me.

And now for the food photos...

We ate 3 meals (one every day) at Guajimbo's, my new favorite restaurant in all of Guatemala. It's Uruguayan food, the portions are huge, it's delicious, and it's a great deal. Plus, the menu translations are hilarious. This chicken dish was really good, but mostly because it was "a tasty breast of a plump and obese chicken." HAHAHAHAHA.

Yummmm...breakfast at Guajimbo's. All this for about $3.50.

Bobby told me I HAD to go to El Horno, a bakery on Pana's main street. We went, and it was as amazing as he said. I forgot to take a photo until I had already inhaled my carrot cake, so this was all that was left.

We chose this restaurant for the view, and we learned our lesson. The service...not so good. I kid you not: we saw the girl leave and come back with the potatoes they used to make our order of french fries. We couldn't believe it; it took about 40 minutes for the fries. BUT, such a pretty view, right??

So fun, and I can't wait for the next weekend trip! I have a pretty serious "to visit" list now going too. :)  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's A Small Guatemala

My mom likes to say that stuff like this happens to me wherever I go, and when I studied abroad, it was a running joke that I had some weird connection (at the very least, a mutual Facebook friend) to almost every single person on our program. You can call me creepy, but I do tend to discover mutual friends, weird coincidences, or bump into people wherever I am in the city/country/world. So far, Guatemala is no exception.

1. Within my first few weeks here, Sara and Abby (two friends from William and Mary -- we all lived together in Unit G of the frats our sophomore year) happened to be in Guatemala for a week and a half. We met up for a fun-filled day in Antigua and couldn't believe how crazy it was that we were all randomly hanging out in Central America.

2. One of the girls I live with here at NPH, Leeah, is a fellow '09 grad. Earlier this week, we were discussing our other friends and acquaintances in this part of the world, and she mentioned that she had several friends from college (at Notre Dame) volunteering in Honduras right now. Wait, I have a cousin who graduated from Notre Dame and is now working in Honduras. Where are your friends working? Yep, you guessed it: Leeah's friends and my cousin Peter are all working at the same organization (Farm of the Child) on the beaches of Trujillo, Honduras. If either of us ever decides to brave the 22-hour bus ride from here to there, we now know we have a buddy.

3. In Birmingham, in the land of Southern Living and test kitchen tasting, I worked with the fabulous Jenn Barnes. It turns out that she went to school with a girl, Janine, at Northwestern who was also moving to Guatemala to work for a year. She put us in touch with each other, and Janine and I both live about 20 minutes outside of Antigua. So, we met up for dinner last night! Since we're not too far from each other, I'm sure we'll hang out again.

4. During dinner last night, we discovered that Janine also has a friend, Greg, who is teaching English in a small Guatemalan town. What's the town called? Parramos. Um, that's where we're living this year. As of today, some of the other volunteers and I are already in touch with Greg. He's not teaching here at the moment, but he'll be back in March. We're planning on meeting up. That's just crazy.

5. We all get annoyed with our 15 daily Facebook invites to events that aren't even in our current city (or country in this case), but the other day, taking a second to read one of those invitations actually paid off. The event was a fundraising event because, as I discovered, I have a friend from way back in high school, Mandy, who will be part of a service trip to Guatemala in late February/early March. The group will be several hours away from me for the majority of their trip, but they will be spending their last few days in Antigua. We have tentative plans to meet up. :)

6. And finally, Sam and I have a list of three or four William and Mary friends who might just end up in Guatemala over the next year (for reasons other than that they miss us dearly -- that, of course, is a given). :) We are only half-kidding when we say that the College might very well be taking over this country.

Here I was, thinking my year abroad would be isolating me from all friends and family back in the States, but I guess I was wrong haha. It's a small, small Guatemala.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spoons, Spoons, Spoons

This weekend, we played with spoons.

Every six weeks, all of the volunteers here at NPH Guatemala organize what's called a Kermes. Directly translated, it means fair or carnival. Here at NPH, it means a collection of whatever games, activities, food, or crafts we think that 350 kids from age infant to 20 would find fun. In reality, Kermes means two hours of pure chaos (but in a really really fun way).

Oh, and did I mention that Kermes has to have a theme?

The theme of this month's Kermes was "Spoons" or "Spuns!" as we wrote it on the flyers (because spelling it out in Spanish phonetics was cooler than using the actual Spanish word, "cucharas").

We set up about eight stations of games. Some involved variations of the card game Spoons while others literally used spoons. Kids were free to run around from game to game trying to win prizes, and boy did they run. They were nuts.

Last but not least, we also used our Kermes funds to invest in a granizada (snow cone) maker! The granizadas were a ton of work (every volunteer house had to fill their freezer days before with bags of water to make ice, and Sarah and I hand-squeezed lemons until our hands stung), but it was totally worth it. The kids loved it, and now that the volunteers have our very own granizada maker, we can have margaritas every night!

(Just kidding...or am I?)

Normal game of Spoons with cards, but they had to grab their spoons from a bucket of soapy water.

The spoons obstacle course haha. They had to carry a ping pong ball on the spoon the entire time.

Trying to throw spoons through the holes for points. This one was hard!

Spoons with GIANT cards. This was pretty funny.

Hockey -- using spoons instead of hockey sticks.

And finally, the spoon catapult. One of my favorites.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Tour of My House! (It's About Time)

Ok, these are a little overdue, but you are finally getting a tour of my house here at NPH! I still need to give you a photo tour of the rest of NPH and maybe our town of Parramos, but this should hold you over for now. :)

And now for the tour...

(For real authenticity, just imagine me wearing a W&M tour guide t-shirt and walking backwards this whole time.)

Here we are walking down into the area for volunteer and visitor houses. Our houses are on NPH's property, but they are over in their own corner, and the kids are not allowed to go past the top of these stairs. Actually pretty gorgeous, right? It definitely looks a lot less orphanage and a lot more tropical resort.

My house! Casa 6! There are three houses for volunteers, and we happen to have the only one with a really ugly front yard. The other houses have green grass on both sides of the sidewalk, tables and benches out front, and hammocks too haha. Not sure how our house got the short end of the stick, but the inside is still awesome!

Oh, but before I let you inside, here is our pila out back. We don't have a kitchen sink, so for all dishwashing or handwashing clothes (we do have real washing machines though), you come out here. At first it was really weird to go outside to wash dishes after every meal. Now, it's just second nature.

And welcome!

Yes, that was a swing in the middle of the house that you saw in the photo above. Here is a close up shot. Who doesn't want a swing in the middle of the living room?! We love it.

And to your right, our dining room, kitchen, and sitting room.

Our lovely little stove.

Our organic trash. Yeah, sounds about as gross as it is. At NPH, we have to separate organic from non-organic trash. But, we can't put the organic stuff outside because the millions of free-roaming dogs will come and eat it. So, we have a bucket of organic garbage sitting in our kitchen. Absolutely disgusting at first, but just another thing you get used to haha.

And the rest of the kitchen (the fridge is off to the right). Note the absence of a sink, but the addition of our brand new coffee maker!

Just like the kids, each volunteer gets a locker for our stuff -- sort of your pseudo closet.

Our two bathrooms. Very exciting, I know. Fun fact though: NPH has a water purification system, so we can drink any of the water on NPH property. That means that water from these sinks, the showers, and the pila out back is safe. We're really lucky, because that is NOT the case in the rest of the country. Outside of NPH, we can never drink tap water, and we have to watch out for things like ice and raw vegetables.

Our bathroom area is a little bit more special than those in the other houses, however. Thanks to an old volunteer who used to live here, we have individual lights installed above our sinks! It's a big deal!

We also have these in all of our showers. See the wires? It takes the water coming in and uses electricity to heat it up. The result? We pretty much always have hot water in the showers. Definitely spoiled.

And now the room I share with Letizia (my roomie from Spain)! The girls before left us this pretty decoration on our door. Also, all the doors to our rooms automatically lock when they close. These doors are the same as our front doors and the same as EVERY single door at NPH. Needless to say, we've locked ourselves out many a time.

Woohoo! Our simple but cute room. :) I live over on the right side.

All of this hangs above my bed. :) I call it my photo nook haha. Here's a game: try to find yourself somewhere!

Or find yourself in a few more photos I have on our "bedside table" -- a board resting on two cinder blocks and a crate haha.

Our red tin roof (pretty soothing when it rains) and decorations from the girls before us.

And finally, Letizia documented (on our "bedside table") our first official day in our new house here at NPH! I'm Campanilla (Tinkerbell) and she is Winnie de Pooh (do I need to translate this one?) because when we went to make our beds, my bed came with Tinkerbell sheets, and hers came with a Winnie the Pooh blanket haha.

Home sweet home. :)