Thursday, August 26, 2010

See Ya in September!

Blogs have been slacking, but I've been busy!

Dad arrives in Guatemala TOMORROW, and then it's off on vacation! We'll visit Antigua and I'll show him around NPH, then we head up north to the jungle and Mayan ruins of Tikal, and then we'll finish the week at lovely Lake Atitlan.

I'll be back at work on Labor Day (not that I keep much track of American holidays anymore), so see ya then!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Becoming Mom-Like

I can remember a very specific conversation several years back with my dad. I think I'd just finished chewing out my younger brother, and Dad and I decided -- me just as on board as he was -- that I wasn't a very compassionate caregiver type of person. "A career like nursing -- definitely not up your alley." Agreed.

So I find it funny, and weird, and terrifying, that now, on a regular basis, I catch myself feeling really Mom-like around my section of girls at NPH. Who ever, in a million years, would have thought I'd be saying this. Certainly not Dad or me.

But it's happening.

I feel like a Mom when I hug them even when they don't want me to. I feel like a Mom when I look down and realize they're lying in my lap and I'm playing with their hair. I feel like a Mom when I get really disappointed at them for getting in trouble. I feel like a Mom when I hope they always stay 13 and never get boyfriends. And, I feel like a Mom when the earth quakes or the lights go out or the kitchen smells like it's on fire and the first person I think about getting to safety isn't myself anymore.

I kind of came to NPH Guatemala hoping I'd develop some qualities I knew I didn't exactly have in me. And while I wouldn't say a full-on miracle has occurred (still could never be a nurse, still guaranteed to yell at my brother from time to time), I would say that "Mom-like" definitely sounds like progress.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Story Update 20

Self-Esteem Workshops - An important new program headed by our Orientación (life skills/school counseling) Department addresses pequeños' personal development.

Proyecto Familiar -  A volunteer initiative to create one-on-one time for families of siblings and cousins within the NPHG home.

I’ve Been Waiting All Week for This Meal

Hah, this blog post will not be what you’re expecting.

I’ve been waiting all week for dinner to be black beans, platanos, and cream. Not kidding.

NPH International is making a picture book about “a day in the life” of each NPH home; it’s a really cute idea. When it’s finished, the kids from each house will be able to learn about the food, culture, favorite activities, etc. of their peers in the other NPH countries.

I’ve already interviewed Fidelia to represent Guatemala’s “day in the life” info, but now I’m busy gathering photos of things she mentioned. Soccer ball: check. Picture of her and her sisters: check. Scenic photo of the volcanoes surrounding NPHG: check. Her favorite dinner of black beans, platanos, and cream: no check. Why is it that they can serve us beans every meal for every day for a week straight, yet not serve a single bean when I really need it?!

Anyway, I finally got my photo last night! The girls thought I was crazy as I tried my best to style the plate and snap a few shots, but oh well. Dinner photo: check!

It’s the Miss NPH Guatemala Pageant!

It’s been a busy week of activities here, phew. To celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the NPHG school, yesterday marked the annual Miss NPH Guatemala Pageant!

Twenty girls competed this year, representing each class in the school, and they participated in a sportswear round, an evening wear round, and an interview round. For the girls, it was a chance to get all dolled up, strut their stuff, and show everyone what they’ve got. For the rest of us, it was a chance to scream and cheer and hoot and holler as if we were at a Final Four championship game.

They crowned a “Niña de NPH” and “Niña de Deportes (Sports) NPH” from the primary school, and a “Señorita de NPH” and “Señorita de Deportes NPH” from the middle school. Ericka took home the day’s top honor – Señorita de NPH, and since she borrowed my cowboy boots to wear for the sportswear category, I take some responsibility for the win. Oh, obviously just kidding. :)

Estefania shows off her soccer moves.

Some karate for the sportswear category!

Juana's grand entrance!

And the crowd goes wild. :)

Abner and Jazmin make 6th grade's entrance.

Conchita works the crowd.

Outgoing winners Rocio, Pilar, and Yesenia

Audience shot

Photo with Juana!

Glendy's interview. Awwww.

Fatima introduces herself.

Ericka selects her interview question.

Pilar passes her crown to Ericka -- the new Señorita de NPH!

The winners!

 And the girls gather outside. (Lourdes seems to be missing!)

Remembering Padre Wasson, Part 2

Every year on the anniversary of the death of Padre Wasson, each section of kids spends the day doing community service outside of the home. Some kids go machete down overgrown lawns, other clean local houses, and some visit nursing homes. My girls distributed clothing and food to families in nearby Parramos, and I headed out with them last Sunday.

It’s a fun experience to spend time with them outside of NPH’s walls, and it’s crazy to watch them grow up right before your eyes as they take control – knocking on doors, introducing themselves, and commenting on how dire these people’s living situations are. Setting loose a bunch of preteens is also bound to be an adventure, to say the least. :)

Fording the river, no big deal.

Estrella passes out food to kiddos. 

The girls. 

The cow we had to run from. 

They were very into taking photos. 

Estrella helps this little guy into some new pants.

Sindy playing with baby. 

Fording the river...again.

Me and Marta

Hi, Irma!

 Hi, girls! :)

Climbing trees with Saribel.

Remembering Padre Wasson, Part 1

This past Monday, nine NPH houses around the world celebrated the 4th anniversary of the death of William Bryce Wasson – a guy from Arizona who had a plan, which didn’t work out, which would then go on to change his life, my life, and as of 2010, the lives of over 16,000 children.

William Wasson was the founder of NPH, creating this organization in 1954, and his story is a good one.

He grew up in Arizona, graduated college, made a plan to join the priesthood. Then after years of studying for it, the U.S. denied him ordination based on a thyroid deficiency – talk about getting the short end of the stick. When it seemed like his world was over, his mom suggested he take a break and spend some time in a foreign country – how about Mexico? So, he did.

After falling in love with the place, he decided to stay in Mexico. He was ordained in the city of Cuernavaca and was given his own church. A few months later, when a poor local boy was arrested for stealing money from the church’s poor box, Wasson asked the police to drop the charges and give him custody of the boy instead. Relieved, the police did, and a week later they called up Wasson one more time: “Would you like 8 more boys?” And practically overnight, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos was born.

For nearly 30 years, Mexico’s NPH house grew and grew, while fundraising offices popped up all around the globe. In the 80’s, Wasson saw a chance to expand NPH in places it was needed throughout the hemisphere, so homes in Honduras (1985), Haiti (1988), Nicaragua (1995), Guatemala (1996), El Salvador (1999), the Dominican Republic (2002), Peru (2004), and Bolivia (2005) came to life. When he died in 2006, Wasson left behind a total of 16,200 children who had grown up in an NPH home, and today, right now, at any moment in time, more than 3,000 children are being raised by NPH.

Wasson became a true father to every child living in every single one of these homes, and I have never heard of a person so revered. To ask the NPH Guatemala kids and my co-workers (one of which, an ex-pequeño, named his son Bryce after Wasson) what it was like “to be here in the days of Padre Wasson,” they universally describe a man who is part father, part saint, and part Superman. Such a person doesn’t even seem real.

During his life, Wasson became internationally renowned for his work with children, and an up-and-coming magazine (you might have heard of it) entitled People featured him in a 1975 issue, years before he’d even taken NPH global. However, I’d be willing to bet he’d never planned on all this fame, on all this traveling from country to country, and on all these thousands upon thousands of kids in his life. Yeah, I’d say he definitely had other plans.

And that’s what’s so comforting about his story. At a moment in my life when p-l-a-n often resembles a dirty four-letter word (read: I’m in my 20s, the economy sucks, and the multitude of choices available to my generation means we constantly worry whether we’re picking the right one), it’s nice to know that sometimes life doesn’t care so much about your plan.

Sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t, but you never really have any clue what might be around the corner. I guess you just make decisions along the way that make you feel fulfilled (maybe it’s move to Mexico, maybe it’s move to Guatemala), and you see where you end up. Don’t freak out people, I’m not saying I ever want 16,000 kids during my lifetime; I’m just saying that plan or no plan, we’ll figure it out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beating Me At My Own Game

Last month, I blogged about a too-cute moment in which I taught Irma how to pin her hair halfway up.

Well, she's now a pro at the look. Sharon alerted me via text a few weekends ago that "Irma wore her hair to mass just like you taught her!" and now I hardly see that girl with her hair any other way. The best (slash most pathetic) part? After only a few weeks of trying it out, she pulls it off way better than I do. I mean, look how cute that is!  

Any Food That's Not Rice and Beans...

...makes us really REALLY excited.

 Yummmm homemade pizza.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The July/August Magazine Is Out!

July and August got a little crazy between Leti's and my vacationing, so we doubled up this issue of X-PRES-ARTE. The kids did another awesome job with this one, so check it out! Happy reading!

Revista Julio/Agosto 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Story Update 19

Making Music - A look at the NPH Guatemala orquestina (concert band) and their upcoming tour to the United States.

Tío Enmanual - Hermano Mayor and Tío (Caretaker)

If You're Feeling Generous

Well, this is embarrassing.

Through this lovely blogosphere, I'm sending all you loyal readers a request for a little bit of help.

For several years, the NPH Guatemala International Volunteer Team has attended a Volunteer Workshop every October. For three days, all the volunteers come together to discuss the NPH Guatemala volunteer experience.

We talk about what we like, what we don't like, what works, what doesn't, and what we -- as outsiders bringing a different perspective -- think the house could do better. Some of the most fundamental programs in the house today have sprung from conversations during these yearly workshops. The idea for an NPHG student leadership group started this way, and so did the twice-monthly family projects we all complete. It's not time for us to whine about the food or the crappy internet; it's an opportunity to really sit down and discuss how we can keep NPH Guatemala moving forward as the world outside of our walls does too.

So, the request. Gracias to the continuing economic situation, we're poor, and the U.S. offices affiliated with NPH can no longer pay for American volunteers to attend this once-a-year workshop. Since American volunteers currently account for 15 of the 23 of us here in Guatemala, that means we're short some money.

So, if you're reading this and feeling generous, family, friends, and supporters of NPH volunteers can call a U.S. Friends of the Orphans office to donate money and guarantee the workshop happens again this year. Remember, Guatemala is cheap, so even $15 or $25 will make a big difference. You'll need to tell them you want to donate to NPH Guatemala's Project P-GUA-10048, Yearly Workshop for Volunteers.

My regional office is:
Friends of the Orphans
Southeast Region
Miami, FL
(305) 663-6211

Or the national office can be reached at:
Friends of the Orphans
National Office
Chicago, IL
(312) 386-7499

Muchísimas gracias to all who help out -- I'll buy ya a drink when I get back Stateside. :)

Due and Overdue

This morning for her English class homework, Pati was having to translate all kinds of payment letters and sales notices from English into Spanish, so we kept running into phrases like "your payment is due" or "your payment is overdue" or "your payment is 8 weeks overdue."

After being confused that the dictionary didn't have any exact translations, I kept trying to explain to her: "You know, when you are supposed to pay something by a certain date? Or you're supposed to return something by a certain date and then you don't? And then it's a problem because you were supposed to pay or return the thing earlier? You're late and it's bad? Because there was an important deadline that you didn't follow? You know?"

Pati just gave me a blank look and said, "I don't think we have a word for that in Guatemala."

And come to think of it, that really shouldn't surprise me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elise is Visiting!

Hey people! GUESS WHAT.


Elise, best study abroad friend from those four utopian months we spent in Athens, Greece, is making a trip to Guatemala in September!

I repeat, Elise, fellow lover of all things Greek, giant beans fanatic, weekly Melissouzer dinner hostess, Ciao chocolate croissants at all hours of the day enthusiast, “We might get deported for this” trip to Istanbul risk-taker, Prague soda explosion witness, Pink Palace survivor who lived to tell about it, and general travel buddy for life, is making a trip to Guatemala in September!!!!!

As I told her, I can’t wait to share my second big abroad experience with my closest friend from my first, so needless to say, I’m pumped! :D

 Athens -- before seeing Mamma Mia!

Budapest! You know you've found a good travel buddy when she'll agree to get her face painted with you.

 Istanbul! Where we fell in love with apple tea and avoided deportation. :)


Ok, I'm back! Vacation in Belize was super beautiful, super relaxing, and super...well, super perfect. I really don't even want to risk ruining it by making you read too much. Here's the deal:

After an exhausting 36 hours of getting ourselves there (bus, bus, cab, bus, a night in Puerto Barrios, boat, bus, boat) on less than top-shape transportation in Guatemala (bus broke down at one point – but the one that came to save us ended up being a double-decker with A/C and reclining leather seats?!?!?!?!), less than efficient transportation in Belize (every bus or boat that arrives in that country arrives about 15 minutes too late to catch the next one a.k.a. Sam and I did a lot waiting around at bus stations and ports), and one scary boat ride during a tropical storm (bad decision), we finally ARRIVED on Tobacco Caye! Granted, we were completely drenched from the crazy boat ride over, but WE MADE IT!

So, after a rainy first night and first early morning thanks to this…

Belize Welcomes Us from Carrie Daut on Vimeo.

…We spent the next 3 full days in PARADISE! Our stressful daily agenda consisted of: laying out, swimming, reading on the breezy front porch of our seaside cabana, eating when our hostel rang the bell to signal mealtime, laying out, swimming, and reading some more, attending Happy Hour on the beach, more meals, early bed. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Jealous? :)

So anyway, here are the gorgeous photos! Who’s up for a return trip with me?

Welcome to Tobacco Caye!

We got the most expensive cabana they have for the price of the cheapest room. They must have felt sorry for us when we stepped off the boat drenched in tropical storm.

My reading spot for the weekend.


Sam and me with our daring boat driver!

Piles and piles of shells everywhere.

So many conch shells on the island.

William & Mary chairs!
Yep, this is what the water looked like.

Did I mention the island is tiny -- only 5 acres big? You can walk the perimeter in 5 minutes.

Our new friend, 4 year-old Copeland.
Daily Snickers fix. Come on, it was vacation.
Getting tan and NOT burned!

SUCH amazing water!

I told Sam these underwater swimming shots would look awesome! :)
Super cute.