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Guatemala - day two

Sunday morning in Guatemala we awoke early since we were now in a time zone two hours behind our own in New England.  It happened to be the Vernal Equinox, so we got a good view of the full moon setting over the lake.  Early morning is a great time to wander down to Lake Atitlan and see all the activity which disappears once the sun comes up on our side of the lake.

We wandered around the grounds of the hotel and admired the almost tropical foliage that we found.

Nate picked us up around 9:30 and took us out to the Children's Home to meet all the kids.  We also hadn't met Dave, Deborah's husband and the new director of the home.  Deborah is Nate's wife Lizzie's sister, and she and Dave took over running it from the girls' parents Tom and Susan.  So you can see that this home is a real family affair and a work of love.

We were immediately greeted by Isai, Jhostin, Jeamy, and Saul (shown above).  Normally they would be busy with school work, but it was Sunday and a day of rest (their church service wasn't until evening).  They wanted to take us out to see the tree where a pair of green toucans are making a nest.  We didn't see the birds until later in the week, but the kids wanted to know all about the animals that we have living around us in New England.  I think they might have been a bit disappointed that there was nothing more exotic to report than racoons and skunks!

 Mike plays life guard

Maria and Lucia watch the little ones in the shallow end

Most of the kids decided to go swimming, so we tagged along to meet more of them: Rosa, Vidalia, Angelito, Lucia, Maria, and the house volunteer Kimber.

When lunchtime came, I helped Lizzie get it ready and then helped Yelsi clean up afterwards.  Yelsi is the only "kid" left from when Tom and Susan were running the home.  She is now 17 and just about to graduate her final year of school.  She wants to go get training to become a flight attendant in the future.

Nate gave us a tour of the house and showed us how the function of different rooms has changed.  I had brought down some dresses that belonged to our daughter Dani when she was younger, along with some pretty tops that I thought the older girls might like, and we passed them out to Maria, Lucia, Jeamy, and Yelsi.  Then we finally met the rest of the kids, the babies and toddler who had been sleeping at lunch time.  I'll have some pictures of them next time...they're adorable!

We left for church around 5:30.  Nate and Lizzie started up a children's service for the local Tzanchaj church, which had just basically been overrun by children before they came.  The church is a nice building, and is quite crowded for Sunday service.  The children's area is only partway under a lean-to on the side of the building.  It's all dirt, and Nate said that you could just only try to imagine what it's like during the rainy season!   To set up, people started unstacking and setting out these teeny little plastic chairs, no bigger than the ones that preschools use.  There were about 60 of them, and every single chair was filled by the time the hoards of village kids had crowded in!  Everyone up to about age 10 actually fit in those chairs!  Older than that, the kids go to the regular service except for a few older boys and girls who are helpers.

It was a wild and woolly time!

For about an hour, the sound was deafening as the band music and singing from inside the church dueled with recorded music that Nate played outside for the kids to sing to!   They have a story, games, memory verses, and a Bible lesson over the next hour.  Lizzie does the teaching, and it finally came to me that she was not just teaching the Bible story, but she was also giving them a Spanish lesson at the same time.  Most of the children speak only Tzutujil, the local Mayan language, with only a bit of Spanish that they've learned in school.

I'm not sure how much the kids learned that evening, because they just couldn't stop staring at Mike and me!  Mike is a giant to them, and they had never seen anyone with red hair before, according to one of the boys.  Nate introduced us to packs of them afterward...they all wanted to be our new best friends, so the feeling was very friendly all evening long, even with all the staring :-)  

Copyright 2011 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Cyndi, this just tugs my heart strings. Your photos and the details are so similar to where we live (on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico)- down to the orphanages and flora.

Orphanages are a good thing of course. The need for them is not.

How did you communicate? We've learned passable Spanish, but the Huichol Indians here speak their native language which is Nahuatl.

Again similar to your experience.

Cyndi L said…
With the kids at the orphanage, they all know Spanish (now) and some English. The ones who've been there the longest are totally fluent in both. The newest kids are halting but willing to try. Deb, Nate and Lizzie are all fluent, and Dave is learning.

The village kids? We *didn't* communicate with them! We just smiled and nodded a lot :-) Nate spoke to them for us a little bit, but mostly we just all grinned at each other while they chattered.

For background on the kids that I haven't included here (warning...some of it is pretty gruesome), the orphanage has a website here: Blog