Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Feb. 11, 2014 (Day 5)

Began another beautiful day with our usual 7:00 a.m. Prayer & Reflection.  Breakfast this morning was very different.  We ate masa with herbs, masa rolls stuffed with tomato, vegetables and chicken and topped with cheese and onion, similar to a tamale, as it was cooked in corn husks.  A sweet bread, similar to a cookie, was on the side.  We’re really enjoying all the different local foods!

Our day ‘on the job’ was very fruitful.  Everyone works so hard!!  In addition to our RHPC group and the hired masons, volunteers from the town, men and women, helped out, too.  We’re a well-oiled machine!
Lunch was a tasty ‘stew’ of chicken, carrots and potatoes with pasta on the side.  Another lite lemonade drink and cantaloupe.  Oh yes, tortillas!

Finished work at 4:00, stopped for cold drinks, and were home and into the showers pronto (see, you do understand Spanish!).  Dinner was Italian style tonight:  spaghetti, bolognese sauce with vegetables and garlic bread—muy bueno!

Carol Malarky
Photos: Gabe Hopkins

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feb. 10, 2014 (Day 4)

7:00 a.m. Prayer & Reflection was followed by breakfast.  Marbila prepared a beautiful tray of local fruits, most of which we’ve never eaten before.  When you have to be told how to eat fruit, you know they’re different.  We were also served scrambled eggs, black beans, fried yucca, rolls, juice and coffee.  Marbila did all this while suffering from a seriously abscessed tooth.  Everyone tried to talk her into going to the dentist (Gary even offered to pay her dentist bill), but she would not do it.  Candace explained there is a belief in Guatemala, if you have a tooth pulled, you must spend four days in bed.  Marbila just would not go; she felt the need to be here for us.

Arrived at our work site by 9:00 and quickly divided into our work groups.  We were overjoyed to find the community members lugged a whole lot of cinder blocks up the hill, to the worksite yesterday (our day of rest).  This saved a ton of heavy work for us!  Worked hard all morning with a brief break for snacks.  Around 1:00, we broke for lunch, which was a repeat of Saturday’s dinner.  Just as good the second time!  We drank a rice drink, which was very lite and refreshing.  Didn’t taste a thing like rice.  Chased it with a banana.   

Kids were once again at the site but not quite as many.  They’re always looking for a photo or treat.  We enjoy accommodating them!  They are such sweet, beautiful children, oozing personality.
Wrapped up about 4:00 today, having made great progress.  Like the Phoenix, the walls are rising! Cannot say enough about how hard everyone works.  I, personally, am very impressed with the variety of work Vickie and Candace can do.  They can hang with the guys for sure.  Then there’s Cindy who is a master block splitter and chiseler---all done with a machete.  Thank heavens we have our men who are doing the extremely heavy work------and when you consider their ages (Gabe not included), it’s even more impressive!  Piled in the truck and stopped for ice cream before heading home.  Did we enjoy this!

Earlier dinner tonight.  Marbila prepared stuffed mini squash filled with a tomato, vegetable and cheese mixture.  Several had seconds; the rest of us wanted to but were too full.  Accompanying the squash were sausage, salsa, and did I say tortillas?

Candace took us to see a local spoon maker cooperative tonight.  These gentlemen hand make beautiful spoons and other kitchen implements.  They carve them out of coffee, ebony and other local woods with a machete and another smaller tool, then coat them with beeswax.  These men started and organization to benefit a local homeless woman they found sleeping in the street.  With their profits, they bought a plot of land and built a house for her and continue to support her.  All of us bought some beautiful pieces.  Candace is all about helping people who help others.  That is why she takes us to these special places.

A quick stop on the way home (by foot tonight) for another ice cream (for a few of us), some lively conversation in our hotel salon and to bed.

Buenas noches!
Carol Malarky
Photos: Gabe Hopkins

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feb. 9, 2014 (Day 3)

Began our day with Daily Prayer & Reflection led by Rev. Ted.  An almost ‘American’ breakfast followed of banana pancakes, pineapple, papaya and the usual delicious coffee and juice.  Honey replaced syrup.  Ted mentioned this was his favorite meal!

Today, the Sabbath, is a well adhered to day in Guatemala---a day of rest except for the vendors at the expansive market extending all around the streets in town.  Market would be like going to the grocery store for us, but with limited refrigeration, the people must shop often.  Our hotel hostess, Marbila, accompanied us today, and she and Candace educated us on some of the food not indigenous to the States.  Guatemala’s fruits and vegetables were much larger than ours.  A little disconcerting for me were all the raw fish, seafood and meat lying out in the open air, usually with someone swatting the insects vying for sustenance.  Add to that the many dogs everywhere hoping to find a scrap or two.  In addition to food, you could buy clothes, toiletries, household products, live chickens and on and on.  Marbila bought some fruits and vegetables, which she later incorporated into our meals.

We toured the town, including a stop at the cemetery---very different from ours, with mostly crudely constructed mausoleums.  There were many mounds of dirt for those who couldn't afford a mausoleum.  Standing in the center of the cemetery was a beautiful mausoleum, the burial site for Father Gregory for whom San Gregorio is named, and two other prominent Priests.  A brief stop to buy some souvenirs and back to our hotel for a short rest before noon lunch.  Marbila prepared a dish called pache, which was mashed potatoes mixed with salsa surrounding a piece of chicken, wrapped in local leaves and cooked.  A special treat of chocolate covered bananas topped off the meal.

Our afternoon trip took us to the CafĂ© Tzampetey Coffee Cooperative for a tour and detailed explanation of the coffee making process.  Candace has been supporting this business by importing their coffee to Kansas City.  We even saw her next partial shipment being held under lock and key.  For a sample, go to the Broadway Cafe in KC.  Before departing, we bought bags of coffee to take home with us.  We thanked the President and General Manager for our tour and the handmade bracelets they gave us and were on our way home, stopping at two scenic overlooks for photo opts.

After a two-hour break, we gathered for an Educational Meeting with Dennis Evans, a local educator, originally from England, who has devoted the last 22 years to promoting education in San Lucas Toliman.  It was an hour of enlightenment in understanding how the school system works in Guatemala.

Our usual devotion was followed by another delicious dinner.  We ate pork chops and fresh green beans from the market today accompanied by a tomato based sauce.  Did I mention tortillas?
Today was truly a cultural experience.

Buensas noches!
Carol Malarky
Photos: Gabe Hopkins

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Feb. 8, 2014 (Day 2)

No wake-up alarms needed----if it’s not roosters crowing it’s fireworks at dawn!  Daily Prayer and Reflection led by Rev. Ted.

A delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, black beans, fresh pineapple, guacamole, chips, tortillas, juice and coffee followed.  After a brief money exchange, handled by Candace, we were packing ourselves into our open-bed truck and heading for the hills of San Gregorio.  Our l/2 hour jaunt was better than any amusement park ride I've experienced.

A balloon-decorated street and fireworks greeted us upon our arrival along with the grateful adults and children.  We began our introduction to the community with a meeting of the locals in their newly-built community building (salon).  Candace translated as Ted spoke, and then a representative of the local government of San Gregorio spoke to us followed by two of the local ladies who were instrumental in starting this project.  Gabe began his day of photos with Polaroid shots of the kids, which absolutely fascinated them.  It began a day of non-stop photo requests by the kids, and Gabe quickly became the Pied Piper of San Gregorio.  After a group photo was taken, we headed uphill to our work site.  After introductions, we split into groups, each with a different mason to lead us.  The monumental task began of carrying ‘a ton’ of cinder blocks up the hill to the foundation site.  Amazing the loads our guys carried on their backs!  The gals carried their fare share, just not as many at a time.  A number of us got our crack at wielding machetes (actually chiseling the blocks), and this was an unbelievable task.  The local labor laid the blocks in cement as fast as we could supply them.  Around 1:00, we broke for lunch (Chow Mein, tortillas, juice and watermelon) prepared for us by our hotel hosts.  An hour later, we returned to our work and finished our day of toil about 4:00 (whew!).  Stopped for cola and snacks at a local establishment before heading home for a much-needed shower. 

Candace took us on a short walking tour of our village before dinner.  Once again, Jack led our devotion before dinner.  Tonight it was pasta and a tasty tomato and beef dish which resembled spaghetti sauce.  Tortillas accompany every meal.  After our meal, we shared thoughts of our day together.  Think everyone will sleep well tonight!

Buenas noches!

Carol Malarky

Photos: Gabe Hopkins

Friday, February 7, 2014

Feb. 7, 2014 (Day 1)

Editor's note:  This is the first of the blog entries from our latest group of travelers from Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church.  Due to technical issues we weren't able to post until they had already returned but wanted to make sure everyone was able to see what great work the group did down in San Lucas!  

After a brief delay of our departure from Kansas City, we arrived in Houston with a quick turn-around time for our next flight.  A few were lucky to grab a quick bite while at least one of us didn't have time to get her Bon Voyage frappuccino.
Flight landed on time in Guatemala City.  Thanks to our fearless leader, Candace, all went smoothly clearing Customs, and before we knew it, we were loading ourselves and our luggage into a Toyota van and heading for San Lucas Toliman.  Saying the ride was thrilling is truly an understatement.  Guatemala is perpetual rush-hour traffic with narrow roads, fearless drivers, many bikers, way too many trucks and pedestrians everywhere!  Made one halfway stop for the four “P’s”---petrol, potty, plantains and purified water.  Encountered one brief traffic delay, many roadside police and chicken buses as we wound our way through small impoverished villages, pineapples, people and pungent odors.  Many sugar cane fields and a coffee plantation later we arrived at our destination around 6:30 p.m., thanks to our wonderful driver, Julio.  One person suggested we should take a picture of him “down by the school yard” upon completion of our project.

After checking into our hotel, we met our gracious hosts who prepared a delicious dinner of grilled chicken, rice, salsa and tortillas for us.  We finished just in time to catch a glimpse of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  Time for bed.  Up and out early tomorrow.

Buenas noches!
Carol Malarky
Photos: Gabe Hopkins