Sunday, June 14, 2015

Guatemalan Hospitality

When people ask us what we think Guatemalans are especially good at, we say--hospitality, hands down.  We have met people all over this country and everyone has always gone the extra mile to make us feel at home.  We have no doubt that if we showed up on anybody's doorstep in the middle of the night, they would take us in, make us a cup of hot coffee and mysteriously produce a couple of pieces of pan dulce (sweet bread) to munch on before inviting us to spend the night--even if it means stretched out on the floor.  The next morning there would be more hot coffee and bread and eggs or beans and/or tortillas shared between everyone.  No excuses about clutter, mismatched dishes, not enough food, no clean sheets, etc.  In fact one of the sayings around here is, "stay for dinner, we'll just add some more water to the pot of beans!" This level of hospitality is something we struggle with and hope to learn better the longer we are here.  It is what Jesus would want  in his people and is a skill/gift worth desiring.
This is one of the really fun parts of the MET program.  We get to take the students and place them in humble homes and watch as they are made to feel part of the family as well as honored guest.
Here are some shots from our second group of students.  As we drove out to the homes, they kept getting more and more excited seeing the adobe homes and corn fields sprinkled across the hillsides saying, "this looks so different from how I imagined."  It always is--and much better!
Titus, the self-described "chico guapo" (good-lookin' kid).  

Karly making her way into the FUN house--crazy kids live there!

Phil getting cozy. He says all of his beds her in Guatemala have had animal prints on the blankets--another one for the collection.

Jaime meeting his host dad, Jeronimo.  

April's room seems to be the social parlor.

Okay, so I cheated on Rachel's picture.  I forgot to get her's at her fancy spread, so we made her pose at April's house!

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:12-13


We are half way through our time with the MET students and time is flying by.  We joined up with the other half of the team from the Coast to meet at Lake Atitlan for a time of rest, sharing of stories and allaying each other's fears about the change in host families and work environment.  Each team spends half their time in the Highlands and the other half in the Boca Coasta region.  They share host families, so it is fun to hear them tell each other about how their time went and special life hacks that make for a smoother stay.  They are also full of stories about our patients and staff and how they were able to get involved in the work.
Our time at Lake Atitlan was started off with purchasing some yummy snack foods before taking a speedboat over to Santa Cruz La Laguna where we would stay the night.  Then we dropped off our stuff and hiked hillside trails about an hour and 15 minutes to the town of Tzununa to have lunch at Lomas de Tzununa.
Then after a quick boat ride back to the guest house we chilled for the afternoon and evening. The next day started off lazy and relaxing as we got ready to split up again for the next 2 1/2 weeks.
This is a pretty good team!
"they are so nice, they even let  me choose bread instead of tortillas for dinner"

"okay, so the permethrin thing doesn't do anything for the bedbugs, but if you make a dilute spray of  tea tree oil to use around your bed, you'll be set!"

Making our way across the lake.

I guess they needed to de-stress a little.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

El Mal de Mayo (May Sickness)

Giardia cysts and trophoblasts.  Foto credit: Fun With Microbiology at
So around here it is commonplace to see a spike in the diarrhea cases around May-early June.  It probably has a lot to do with the start of the rainy season and the (extra) contamination of the water sources and the uptick in fly populations; but really who knows where these things come from. When researching the phenomenon there is not much information about the predominant organisms--just the usual suspects of coliforms,  and possible Norwalk or Rotaviruses or cyclospora and other water-borne parasites like giardia and amoebas .  Despite having filtered water and trying to be careful with our produce, we have both manged to come down with some bugs. Kemmel had a fever for 4 days straight and then we both got hit with our old friend giardia.  Both the disease and the treatment are hard to weather, but we got through it and are finally back up to speed.
Our poor students have had similar maladies but also seem to be improving. In fact one of the students has been nicknamed "Gregardia".  Now they are convinced the medicine is what is making them sick--it is pretty bad.   Sometimes you get so down, thinking you will never feel normal again, and you start wishing you were a little kid so your mom can take care of you! We have been praying for God to heal us and also heal our missionary friends who struggle as well. We would appreciate you remembering us all in prayer.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Field Notes

Today we have our students over for some debriefing time and good ol' gringo food. They are full of stories from their time here so far, so we thought you would like to read their first-hand tellings.

Yesterday we had the whole family over for lunch just before church.  We began the morning by killing 3 roosters (which I am eternally grateful for because they crow at 3am religiously).  For lunch we had a chicken stew.  As I sat down, they eagerly followed me with 3 bowls.  The first? Chicken breast, chicken leg, wiskill, carrots, and potatoes.  The second had chicken broth, noodles, potatoes, carrots, and wiskill, and the third was filled with about 15 tamalitos (which are little tamales without anything but the corn dough stuff).  I knew that I would not be able to eat all of that so I took the chicken leg and put it in the soup and set it aside.  I started in on the chicken breast and happened upon the wishbone.  I proceeded to ask if anyone knew what it was, followed by lot of blank stares.  After explaining what the wishbone was, the uncle decided he would indulge in my "crazy American tradition." He won...  I decided to use this opportunity to get my bowl of soup off on someone else.  After all was said and done, I told him that it was also an American tradition that whoever wins "gets" to eat another plate.  He immediately caught on to my scheme.  We then flipped a coin to see who had to eat the soup.  He won, so I told him that a 2-time winner was required to eat the soup... And that, ladies and gentlemen is how to get out of eating something in a culture where it is not socially appropriate to deny food.  Thank the Lord for the wishbone!

Also, cultural differences between church in Guatemala and the US:

A. Men and women do not intermix... There is a side for men and a side for women.
B. There is an old man who walks around with a stick and pokes people that are sleeping.
C. You never know whose hand to shake and whose cheek to kiss.  Its always a surprise.
D. People leave in the middle of the sermon to go get snacks at the nearest convenience store.
E. Communion is taken out of shot glasses carried by a muffin tin.

This week I was really sick to my stomach (I think I accidentally overdosed on my antibiotic!), and my family was really worried about me.  My "mom" and "dad" called Dr. Lisa and walked to 2 stores for nausea medicine.  When it wasn't there, my dad drove to the pharmacy in a town close by, while my mom and sister-in-law brought a cup of hot water to my room.  My mom ended up falling asleep on my bed, and my sister-in-law teased about her snoring.  It felt so nice to have a family here to take care of me while I was sick, and in the morning they said "Gracias a Dios", which reminded me to thank God that I felt better.

Living in the highlands has been heaps different than coastal life. Even simple tasks like going to the bathroom now require much more thought than I anticipated. I was walking toward the out-house for the first time at my new family's house, and when I opened the gate to walk down the "stairs" I was greeted by a hoard of poultry. I finally made my way through all of the chickens and turkeys and thought I would be safe once I locked myself inside the stall. Unfortunately, there is a 1 1/2 foot gap between the door and the ground where two large turkeys thought they were welcome. I started kicking at them, thinking that they would run off. Lesson learned-- never kick a turkey. They furiously began pecking at my legs and feet, and tried to completely come in the stall with me while making a terrifying sound that I hope to never hear again! I was starting to think that I was going to lose the battle, when I heard all of the other chickens start running away. My 50-something year old Tia Josefa came charging down the hill carrying a large stick, yelling in Ki'che, and proceeded to beat the attack turkeys away from my door. When I came out of the stall, she was bent over laughing and helped me get back to safety. I've definitely been humbled in a lot of ways during the MET program, but there is nothing like having to have an older lady stand outside your bathroom door every time you go to put you  in your place.

I've also learned that things are not always as they appear. A Health Talents worker took Heath and I to a traditional Guatemalan restaurant for lunch two days ago. I decided to play it safe, and try the duck soup. Well, now I know that there is a large difference between "caldo de pato" (duck soup) and "caldo de pata." My food came out, and it was a bowl of broth with an animal hoof inside of it. Apparently, "pata" is not a female duck-- it is a cow foot. I tried to eat it, but the consistency was somewhere between rubber cement and a sinus infection. I got a couple bites down and tried to clean my hands, but they were so sticky that the napkin wouldn't come off. And now I've learned another valuable lesson about language acquisition.