Saturday, July 30, 2016

Final thoughts

The trip to Guatemala came at just the right time.  From the perspective of someone who visited years ago among a whirlwind of the final steps in the process of bringing Grace home, it was nice to return to see it again in a less stressful way.  For Grace, it answered some questions about where she came from and, hopefully, started to help her build a sense of pride in the place of her birth.

We met some great people. We did a lot of fun things. We saw some beautiful places and we were reminded that despite the poverty in this country, the people are kind and welcoming.

I know we will return soon.  And, this time, it wont take 8+ years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

Finca Filadelfia and an adventure in the trees

Finca Filadelfia is a coffee plantation and resort in Antigua.  They offer tours of the plantation and coffee factory and horseback riding.  But, we went there in this vehicle... ZIPLINE through the trees and over a canyon with a view of one of the volcanoes.

The plantation seemed to be on the outskirts of Antigua as it took about 15 minutes to get here from our hotel. Then, we drove up, up, up a winding road to get to the top where our adventure began.

Ziplining has been on my "bucket list" for a long time but I was probably the most nervous about going.  Kyle had been before.  Grace is a daredevil.  Nana? I am not sure what she was thinking.  But we all did it!

There was a series of 8 cable lines.  The first one was very short - you could see the platform on the other side.

They got longer and longer until the one that was over the canyon.  They said that one was about 800 feet long and we were supposed to turn our body around to see the view.  The guide went with Grace on this one since she was not heavy enough to get all the way across on her own.

Here's Grace flying through the trees:

And Nana running and leaping off the platform:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The crocodile

Jade is one of Guatemala's natural resources.  We met a man in Parque Central on day who was selling jade jewelry.  He showed us this piece he had and pointed out the color variation from dark to light.

When we walked over to the jade museum we learned that jade found in Guatemala comes in a variety of colors and shades - white, lavender, green, and black. The Mayans attached meaning to each color. White is for children, lavender for love, and black for strength.

They also looked up our Mayan astrological symbols. I am a rabbit. Kyle is a woodpecker. And Nana is a monkey.  Grace's astrological sign is called "Imox" (/ee-mosh/) - the crocodile.

The crocodile symbolizes beginnings.  Crocodiles are clever, creative, assertive, and full of energy. Crocodiles are likely to be the first to initiate new projects, make changes, or take a stand. They have outstanding protective instincts and make great caretakers.

Photos were taken at Frida's Mexican restaurant, named after the artist Frida Kahlo.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

To market, to market...

There never seems to be enough time to explore the Guatemalan handicrafts markets. The colors of the weaving, paintings, jewelry, and wood carvings rival that of any markets in the world.

No matter where you go in Antigua and Panajachel, people are on every corner trying to sell their items for a "good price".

You are supposed to bargain, but, truly, the first price they offer is so good by US standards, it feels "wrong" to try to bargain the seller down!

We were thoughtful and careful about the items we selected like this Umbro soccer jacket and backpack for Grace.  The jacket would easily cost $30-40 at home.  We paid $7.

I prefer the street markets like this one at El Carmen (which is only open on the weekends) because you can feel the energy of the city while you shop.  Sometimes the stores and indoor markets can seem dark and hot - not the greatest for spending money!

Next time we go to Guatemala we are going to rent a house or apartment so we can live more like the locals.  But, I am pretty sure we won't be buying chickens! Looking at them is enough!

These girls can "shop 'til they drop".  We all certainly helped the Guatemalan economy.

Nana bought this necklace in Guatemala - it has coffee beans mixed in with the beads!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Niños con Benedición

On our first full day in Guatemala we had the unique experience of being welcomed into the home of Lesbi and Tino Chavez in the town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, about 20 minutes away from Antigua.

Like most of the homes we saw in Guatemala, it was very simple on the outside. There was nothing on the door to indicate what you would find inside. Driving and walking down the streets you wonder what lies beyond the doors and colorful walls - if there are hidden garden courtyards (which is the case for most of the restaurants and hotels, and, probably the homes of wealthier families) and what the kitchens and bedrooms look like.

Lesbi and Tino live modestly. Their home is larger than most as it serves as a daycare for about 20 children before and after school so their parents can work. They help the children with homework and teach them traditional songs and dances. The children perform for visiting tour groups to earn money for school, books, uniforms, and to bring home to help supplement their family income.

Lesbi and Victor (our guide)
On the day of our visit, after we all spent money on their textiles, our guide said that the families would go out and buy corn and other food that night thanks to our purchases.

Inside, once our eyes adjusted to the darker atmosphere, we could see dirt floors on the first level in a big open room, an open fire for cooking, and a big sink with running water where toothbrushes were labeled and lined up for the children.

Beyond that, there was an open courtyard that let light in and steps leading to the rest of the house which was under construction with cinderblocks and concrete. We were told that they are raising money to expand the daycare to a community center and construction was on hold until they had enough to continue the next phase. 

We were invited to sit on small stools set in a semi-circle as the children each came out and introduced themselves and told us what region of Guatemala their outfit was from. Some did this in English and some spoke in Spanish. 

The older children played marimba music while the others danced. Eventually, they had us all dancing with them!

Grace and Izzy
We all learned how to make tortillas - a staple in the Guatemalan diet. Three times a day, tortillas are made fresh by grounding corn and then patting the dough into small round circles. Grace was the first child to jump right in and give it a try. After, we enjoyed them with black bean paste and some hot sauce.  Yum! I kind of want one now...

One really special part of our visit was when the Niños children dressed our children in traditional huipiles (blouses) and cortes (skirts). They braided with a long weaved ribbon that we ended up buying to take home with us. Grace said she felt very special and that this was a great memory. 

All the "American" kids were dressed up in some beautiful examples of Guatemalan weaving. After a while, you couldn't tell who were the children growing up in Guatemala and who were the ones who are growing up in the United States!
Ana and Grace
Rosa, Luis, Ana, and Grace
Grace with one of the girls from  Niños con Bendición

Grace smiled so much during this visit! Everything fit with the things she loves - music, dancing, dressing up, cooking - and now, Guatemala!

You can learn more about Niños con Bendición at