Friday, September 27, 2013


Luke's six-month birthday is coming up in a few days and while I realize we are extremely baised, he seems to get cuter every day!  Here a few recent photos of our little sweetie-pie.

Let's see -- what's Luke doing right now?
He loves to stand and do jumps (with assistance)
He's happily eating some rice cereal
He smiles and laugh/screams a lot
He's close to crawling -- getting onto his hands and knees and then not sure what to do next, just rocks back and forth
He slept thru until 5:45 am yesterday - wow! What a treat that was! First time I've slept that "late" since before he was born
He says "mama" a lot. I don't think he knows what it means, but it's still pretty cute
No teeth yet
He is generally happy outside, exploring new places

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lake Atitlan Villages: Santiago

After all the crazy events of last week, we decided that we needed an outing over the weekend to get our minds on something else.  Emily, who teaches at AMA with Jason invited us to join her on an adventure across the lake.  We were happy to have company and since she's bilingual that took all the stress out of our trip :)

We took the publico boat (which means you pay 25 Quetzals one-way; about $3. Native people pay only 10 Q) and joined about 20 others in a journey across the lake, to a village situated on a lagoon located between two  volcanoes.  
As is typical for the season, it rained on our way over, but then as we arrived, it cleared up and the sun was shining for a little while. Gorgeous! If you're claustrophobic, this boat ride in the rain would not be for you as tarps come down to cover all the windows. 

We meandered off the main drag and came upon more typical homes .... cinder block, tin and sometimes a piece of plywood.

These guys amaze me! One -- how beautiful is that huge pack of avacadoes???  Two, how crazy is it that they have the full weight of their pack on their forehead!!?!!?

Down at another, small dock ... the typical boats for the area.  These remind me of an original version of the paddle boards that are so popular in the US now.  Usually we see men standing in these, paddling around the edges of the lake.  We got to watch two men struggle to get under their large packs of wood ... once again with the weight from the entire pack strapped to their foreheads.  Crazy!  And, how do you like the woman balancing her washtub on her head?  This is how everything is carried here.  Today, I saw a woman with a sack of potatoes draped over her head.  I've wanted to try to learn this skill, but don't want the locals to think I'm mocking them ...

The main dock was so beautiful as we prepared to leave.  Boats only run until 4:30 or 5:00, so unless you want to spend the night, you make sure you're back with plenty of time to spare!

One last picture before taking our boat back to Pana.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meet Jason's Class

He has two more students who come in just for his ESL period in the afternoon and has been told he'll have a few more joining his class in November when the Guatemalan school year ends.  So far, these kiddos are keeping him VERY busy every single minute of the day.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Not To Wear ... in a flood

On Monday I quickly learned that the ankle length skirt with very stretchy waistband that I'd put on in the morning was a big fashion no-no when needing to cross a swiftly moving river of water.  
The water instantly grabbed at the bottom of the skirt, pulling it. Without a snug-fitting waistband, this meant the skirt started coming OFF. Just what I needed with everything else that was happening. So, now I had the baby, a backpack, a trader joe's bag (complete with computer cord dangling out of it) and a skirt that I was trying to keep from getting pulled off of me. Perfect :) 
Lesson learned, next time I'm in a flood I will definitely pick out a different ensemble. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Calle Xecumuc - Flood aftermath

Yesterday, as I took Luke out for his morning walk, my feet couldn't help but take me back to the flood area.  Jason was hoping to get off school early so we could go together and decide what to do with our stuff and possibly figure out where we should live, but I just couldn't help going to have a look ... as I got close my heart started pounding in my chest and my stomach felt sick thinking about what had happened.

The road looked pretty good, with most the boulders and loose asphalt moved to the side.  Our apartment building looked surprisingly good (it's the two story, with the red satellite dish). I was honestly just glad it was still there, so beyond that anything else was awesome!

From just past it - our building is on the left, our landlord's is on the right. The channel between the buildings is where the small waterfall stream usually runs.

The building and retaining wall seemed to be pretty good in spite of everything.

Our landlord's house did not fair as well since the flood waters were cutting across his lot, his whole house got undercut and is dangling over the edge.

Inside, the building's entry way had been cleaned up and our apartment basically looked as it had when we originally saw it.

Further up the road where the water first jumped the banks of the stream --

Backhoes have been hard at work; clearing debris and trying to reinforce the banks so this doesn't happen again.

We still aren't sure what we will do, where we will live. For now, we have a place to stay for a few more days which is a huge blessing!  We are inquiring with locals and others on what they think about the safety of our building.  From what we gather, this is the first time anyone can remember that this has happened with this waterfall.  I'm a fan of statistics which would probably support that nothing like this would happen again here for a very long time.  I also spoke with a geologist who lives in the same building.  He is the man who helped me the day of the flood and he plans to continue to stay.  That seemed like a good sign, but ultimately I know we need to make a good decision for Luke and ourselves. Rainy season will last for six more weeks and we don't want to feel worried everytime it rains.  So, we'll see.  Please keep us in your prayers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Jason and I are fond of a verse from Proverbs which says something like 'in our hearts we make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps.' It is a good reminder to us that God is in control and that when things aren't going how we planned it may just mean that God is involved in our life, directing our steps.  Having God involved in our lives is ultimately a pretty awesome thing.

We had a very poignant reminder of this yesterday afternoon ...

We moved into our very cozy studio late Sunday afternoon and while Jason was at school yesterday, I worked on unpacking and finding a niche for all of our things.  I had been processing how my life has been all about downsizing ever since I joined Peace Corps seven years ago.  I feel like we are in a somewhat perpetual state of trying to trim down our belongings.  And while it is often difficult to let go of my possessions, I tend to actually feel better once I have done so.  I felt a sense of pride at being able to fit all of my clothes into two small drawers in our apartment's wardrobe...

Later on, in the midst of our usual afternoon rain storm there was a ferocious pounding on my door and a man yelling in Spanish, the only words I gathered were "here" and "now" -- at the same moment, I realized the lovely stream which ran right past our apartment building in a channel about 10 feet below the building had turned into a huge, angry mess and was flooding up over the edge of our balcony.  I yelled back to the man in English, "I need to go now!!??" and he confirmed, "Yes! Get out of here NOW!"

Then the adrenaline hit.  Luke was napping in his car seat, so I got him unstrapped and into a carrier pack; then in a panic looked around at what else I should grab -- diapers, a fleece coverall for Luke, an umbrella, computer, camera & phone. All haphazardly shoved into a backpack and Trader Joe's bag that still had unpacked groceries in it (no, there is not actually a trader joe's here).  None of our other stuff mattered.  In my panic, I could not locate my keys and just left the door ajar so that if the place didn't wash away, I could get back in.  As soon as I exited the building, I realized we were really in trouble. The road had become a river.  There was so much water coming from what is usually a beautiful waterfall that it was splitting around our building, pushing large boulders, hunks of asphalt and some small cars down the road.

Seeing me wading into the water with Luke and my bags, the man who had alerted me came back for me stating he hadn't known I had a baby. He took my bags and then helped me across the road/river to higher ground, passing me off to some friends who then helped me to a safer area which was covered from the rain.  I am so thankful to this man that I had never met before, but who took the time to help us.

Once I felt like we were in a relatively safe place, I contacted Jason at school -- pulling him out of an after-school tutoring session -- even though I knew there was nothing he could do, I just needed to talk to him and of course that's when the reality of what had happened really hit me.  I'm standing under an awning with about 15 Guatemalan men and two Spanish girls watching our plans get pushed down the road by a crazy amount of water.

We have no idea why something like this would happen less than 24 hours after moving into our new place -- we had felt very confidently that God had provided this place for us and this is where he was leading us to live.  We still had a few days left at our original apartment, but it had seemed like a good idea to move over the weekend when Jason was off work.  So much for good ideas :)

Jason's school administrator and co-workers have been incredibly supportive and we feel so blessed by all of them ... once the water's had receded one of them drove Jason to our place so he could come get me & Luke, then took us to the administrator's house while we figured out what we should do. We were invited by many people to come stay with them, but as we still had a few days left on our original apartment, we've come back here for now.  Other co-workers graciously hosted us for dinner last night since we had no food and lent us towels so I could get cleaned up after my impromptu river walk.  Accepting the help of others is always so completely humbling and we know it is good for us even though it is hard to accept.

Once things settled down a little bit, the girls who were helping me & Luke started taking pictures and so I figured I should take a few also ...

The usual state of the waterfall ... it is fed higher up by a larger waterfall, but still, it looks pretty docile, right?

Part of what it became ...

Exuberantly happy to think we are safe --- (and perhaps a good advertisement for Baby Bjorn carriers, "getting you & your baby through floods")

The aftermath at our apartment building -- the water flooded our balconies, but since our apartment was up another few inches it did not actually flood inside.

We would appreciate your prayers ... we assume the building made it through the night, but we don't know if it's structurally sound now and even if it is, if we'll feel safe living there.  We still have about two months of rainy season left.  Please pray that God's direction will be clear for us.

Friday, September 13, 2013

International house hunting continues -- the real story

A few weeks ago, I posted about our housing options for our move here to Pana ... we utlimately decided to commit to a place for a month and do a little looking around here on the ground.  Boy are we glad we did!  We had the opportunity to ride around town with our real estate agent and take a look in-person at some of our options ...

The real story on #1 = it was a nice location, but felt removed from the city; the gated community really seemed way too upscale for where we are living; second, the entire place echoed like crazy! It was incredibly loud! I can't even imagine what it would have sounded like with Luke crying.

The real story on #2 = AWFUL location!!!  It is located above a mini-mart at a 24-hour service station, on a triangle shaped lot with the highway leading to Guatemala City on one side and one of Pana's main streets on the other.  (See photo below)  Inside was very spacious - the bedroom easily fit three double beds if you were really wanting to pack people in :)

Our agent also showed us one more option -- this very lovely studio right across the street from the lake.

It was very tempting with the great furnishings and location, but we were a little apprehensive about living in a studio with Luke and it was still 10% over our max budget, plus did not include any of the utilities.  Sooo ... the search continued.

After seeing these we did some hunting on our own and came across a location that was HALF of what our housing budget is and the price includes electricity & wifi! Even though it's a studio, we have decided to go for it!  For that price, we'll make it work.  At least for a while. We move on Sunday - pictures to follow (of course!)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lake Atitlan Villages: Santa Catarina

Jason and I have been looking forward to doing some exploring of the villages around our beautiful lake and on Sunday had decided to take a boat across the lake to one of the smaller and more traditional villages.  Jason won't get his first paycheck until the end of September however and after we did the math on the cost of the boat ride and other expenses, we decided to use our legs instead and head out to a nearby village accessible by road.  Free is our kind of exploration :)

Santa Catarina is just under two miles away from Pana and the road leading to it is spectacular.  Of course, walking up and down hills at 5,000 feet elevation turns any walk into a hike which was fine by us!

The village was sweet and not inundated by gringos which was nice for a change --

Jason LOVED the location of this soccer field -- we went and watched them play for a while ... they were using a basketball for their game!

Warning: I was playing with the "cross process" setting for these photos.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A little shakedown

Yesterday evening we experienced our first earthquake in Guatemala.  It was the first time Jason could remember feeling an earthquake.  We were sitting at our little table and things started rocking, I calmly said, we're having an earthquake, let's get in the door ... Jason grabbed the baby from his nap and we hung out in the door jamb for a bit.  A 6.5 magnitude earthquake was hitting less than 100 miles away. Halfway through, I had the realization that construction here is nothing like in the States and being in the door jamb probably wouldn't actually help at all in the event of a damage-causing quake.  Oops! I guess it was a good dry run (we had no damage) and next time we'll do our best to get outside or at least get ourselves underneath something sturdy.

image from here

Friday, September 6, 2013

This beautiful, crazy place - Panajachel

We've been here just about 3 weeks now and the time has flown by!  I am still finding new places in town and we have yet to explore the other villages on the lake.  Pana is known as the least beautiful of the villages, so we can't wait to hop on a boat and explore some of the real beauties across the lake.

Here's a mix of some of the things we've seen these past couple weeks...