Monthly Archives: December 2013

Mi Final Despedida

Well. Here I am again in the airport. Arrived at my gate hours before my flight because everyone suggested leaving early due to possible Christmas traffic. It almost feels like dejavú. I was way too early for my flight here as well.

But here I am. Only 2 days before Christmas. Nearly a week after when I was supposed to be here. And 5.5 months after arriving in this beloved country. It almost doesn’t feel real. I can’t begin to describe the feeling I feel right now. Perhaps the week of being sick damaged some brain cells, but it’s almost like I was able to shut my brain off. I feel numb.

The last few days that I was here were surreal, like it wasn’t supposed to happen (well, it wasn’t. I got sick. But I’m almost sort of glad I did because I think I needed that last bit of time to pull myself together to leave. I don’t think that I was ready last Wednesday). The majority were spent in a bed in a hotel room watching TV or movies, being so well-taken care of by Galleta, who I can’t thank enough for everything that he’s done that last few days. Last night, we spent our last night in Rainbow Café, listening to Kenny and Edgar for the last time. I hadn’t been in a long time to listen to them, nor to eat in Rainbow, so it made for a very nice closing to my trip. Ended where I started, but as a completely new person.

last time listening to "Kenny & Friends" (one day they'll come up with a better name)

last time listening to “Kenny & Friends” (one day they’ll come up with a better name)

i'll miss these goobers

i’ll miss these goobers

And that I am. As I sat here in the airport finishing out my journal before starting my blog, a guy approached me to see if I would be willing to participate in a survey. I assumed it was more a survey about the airport, but after we got past the typical “what’s your age?” “what country are you from?” questions, I was hit with ones that I wasn’t prepared to answer.

What was the best thing you liked about Guatemala? (where do I start?)
What was the worst thing you saw? (cheaters, racism, judgement, and trash)
Why did you come here? (Learn Spanish)
What do you see in the future for Guatemala? (Change)
Will you come back? (Of course)

It’s by the grace of God or my lack of sleep that the flood gates didn’t open in front of this poor guy. I have already let the tears out once today saying bye to Galleta in the entrance of the airport. You wouldn’t think such a vulgar phrase as “SOS LA MERA VERGA” could make you tear up so much, but it pretty much means you’re the best person ever and well, he’s the mera verga for taking care of me through his birthday and dropping me off at the airport and helping me with everything. That was definitely my hardest of goodbyes. I tried to see Willy today, but he was stuck in orientation, and I decided it was for the better because neither of us are good at goodbyes and that would have sent me in a fit of tears as well. Can’t ruin my make-up now, right? (Whatever, mascara is going to be all over my face by the time I get off the plane in the States).

the hardest of all goodbyes...

the hardest of all goodbyes…

So what do I do with this post now? I never thought this day would come. I really. I can’t believe how quickly six months passed by. I can’t believe I was here in Guatemala. I can’t believe any of what just happened. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

I remember my first post sitting in the airport in Atlanta, trying to distract myself from the fear of leaving my country. I remember waiting in line at security, nearly calling my mom to come back and get me because I didn’t want to do it anymore. A trip that I decided on “de repente” as they say here, I had found, booked, and bought my trip within less than two weeks of deciding to do it. What possessed me? I’ll never know. But whatever it was, I owe it a big thank you.

Nah, I’m joking. I know what it was, it just sounds way better in writing if you act dramatic and don’t get all religious on people. But, I have no other person that I can thank more than God, the only one who knows how to make sense of my life. The only one that knew that I was actually capable of doing this. The little spark that kept me going forward, even though I was scared out of my mind.

And here I am at the end of my show, viewing the results. I think I still have a lot to think about, as I still don’t even know where to begin in writing this. I’m just shocked that the trip is already over. Shocked that I did it. Shocked that I met so many good people and so many bad people in the same place. Shocked that I learned Spanish enough to communicate pretty damn well. Shocked that I got sick so often in the beginning of my trip, but never came home. Shocked that I rode in the door of a chicken bus whipping around curvy roads. Shocked that 6 months has already passed by. Shocked that I’ve ridden in countless pick-up trucks, sitting on the edge. Shocked that I’ve ridden motorcycles without a helmet. Shocked that I road-tripped solo through a land unknown. Shocked that I learned how to dance a little Salsa. Shocked that I climbed the second highest volcano in Guatemala. Shocked that I was even IN Guatemala. Shocked that I worked for free and made art of recycles and loved it. Shocked that I organized a fundraising party. In a foreign country. Shocked that I made friendships that feel like second family. Shocked that I have another place in the world that I can call home.

A bittersweet emptiness fills me as I sit here, watching my plane pull up. Shocked that I am here in the airport. Excited to see my friends in the States and my family, but torn apart to leave my other family behind. But, it has to be done.

Just. I don’t know who I am anymore. What happened to the girl that got made fun of in middle school, who had no self-esteem, who, as much as she dreamed and dreamed, always felt defeated at some point and never felt like she could be anything in the world?

Shocked. There’s just no other word. I’m shocked. People think I’m beautiful here. And I have put on more weight and gotten more acne than I had before I left! People still judge me, but I have so many people that look up to me. So many. I guess what needs to be learned is you have to learn who to pay attention to. People are always going to judge you and talk bad about you, but you gotta keep a go. Who am I? I’m happy. I’ve changed for the better. It’s amazing.

I’m flattered by all the love I’ve received here. All the respect I’ve been given. I’m just a person just like anyone else. I was made fun of. I’ve been hurt. I never thought I’d be something special for anybody, but here I am leaving a trail of broken hearts over my departure (don’t worry, mine is broken too). Someone who had little self-esteem for the majority of her life who always listened too much to the negative has changed her life. But I’m not special. I’m just like anyone else. The past does not define who you are and the future holds a precious gift as long as you are willing to let go of your fears and fight for it. I did it. I did this crazy trip to Guatemala. I learned Spanish. I did what I came to do and more. So I guess what I learned the most out of anything in this trip is….

¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡TU PUEDES, MI AMORRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guess I’m not leaving

We raised 2000Q!!!!!!!!!

That’s like raising $2000 in the States. But not only that, we had a ton of people that were interested in the Asociación afterwards. Las Vibras wants to have another fundraiser and says that we will raise double next time. A lot of guys wanted more of the recycled chairs that we brought and I would say a handful of people wanted to come visit the project and see what else they could get involved in.

Success? I’d say so.

I was so glad that party was over with though and was so ready to take a break, but the work was not over unfortunately. Because we had so many prizes, we were unable to announce all of them in the raffle, so Friday I spent my day in Vibras texting people to let them know that they won and waiting on them to come pick up their prizes and any artwork we sold.

Later that day, I went off to Dueñas to be there for the money counting. I thought this was the end of work and that I could enjoy my last few days here with Galleta, but we were informed there would be a break dancing party in the Asociación that night. So we had to get up Saturday morning and make a few trophies and take aways for them and then had to head to Antigua to fix one of the lamps that sold (someone knocked it over).

By the time we finished everything in Antigua, we had to go to a Christmas party in Kafka to meet a few people that were interested in the project and give out thank you cards. Daniel joined us since he is one of the founders of the project. Fortunately, it did not take too long because Galleta and I were exhausted, so afterwards we headed back to Dueñas and slept.

Sunday we finally got to rest a little and hang around and watch some movies all day. I feel like we did some kind of work that day, but I can’t remember, so maybe we did actually have a day of rest. I think I slept good that night, finally.

Monday, we had more work to do. Daniel brought the thank you letters and while Galleta cleaned up the workshop, I made sure they were properly enveloped before we both headed to Antigua. Actually, I didn’t end up working that day. I sent Galleta to do the thank-you notes while I got a little packing done. I thought I would be helping him out, but by the time I got finished, he had pretty much finished all but 6 or so places and it started to drizzle and I only had an hour before I had to go see Willy for the last time.

So we decided to save the remaining letters for another day and I went to buy a Christmas present for Geovanny and Geovanna and then headed to meet Willy. I quickly came to find out that Willy has already begun his job as a field-manager and is no longer a teacher so now he works until 7 pm instead of 6. So Galleta and I waited around an hour for him to get off, only for him to remind me that he has English classes at 7 so we wouldn’t be able to meet after all. I took a picture with him and gave him a hug and tried to think positive, but I felt that this was goodbye and left with tears in my eyes.

ay willy! :(

ay willy! :(

I distracted myself from crying over dinner by showing Galleta a bunch of photos on my phone. Then, it was back to Dueñas again for the night. I thought we would get a good night’s sleep that night because the kids were supposed to be gone, but apparently monday was not their last day there like we had been told. Tuesday was just wierd. I think I was in zombie mode about leaving the next day. The kids didn’t want me to leave, even though I’ve barely done anything with them aside from greet them when they get there (as I am usually working in the recycles) and I just wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I just wanted to sit in the back and be sad.

Then, to my great surprise, Galleta yelled for me and said someone was looking for me and I walked out and THERE WAS WILLY!! I freaked out with excitement so glad I would get to see him again before I left and found out that he is the new field manager for THIS PROJECT! He was taking over Colin’s position and tuesday was his first day to check out the project. How perfect is that? Willy was wanting to be involved in helping at the fiesta, but had too much to do in order to help, but he wanted to come visit the project at some point to see what it was all about. And now he’s the field manager there, which means he’ll be checking in on them and helping them out!! My favorite people have been united here! How exciting of news this was for me.

At some point, I did get the chance to sit down in the back with Galleta and cry about leaving. But it lasted all of two minutes when all of the sudden, I looked up and saw a snake crawling around on the ceiling. Faustina had escaped!!! (She is their pet snake) So that turned into an adventure of getting her down and back in the box that she was in.

someone isn't happy!

someone isn’t happy!

right before pooping on me

right before pooping on me

I ended up with a nice streak of snake poop on my clothes. That’s one way to end my final day in the Asociación, I thought. Oliver couldn’t stop laughing and telling me how lucky I am because how many volunteers can go home and say they got pooped on by a snake? I didn’t find it too funny, but I was at least glad I had a change of clothes!

Then, we all enjoyed our last coffee together, took a picture, and said our goodbyes and Galleta and I headed off to the bus for Antigua. I dropped him off at my friend’s house where we would be staying that night because he wanted to come with me to the airport to say goodbye, but I had to go home to Isolina’s first to enjoy my goodbye dinner and give the kids their Christmas presents and finish packing.

love these kids! but julio and danny were missing for the group photo!

love these kids! but julio and danny were missing for the group photo!

never thought i'd see the day that it would be my goodbye party...

never thought i’d see the day that it would be my goodbye party…

family picture!

family picture!

After dinner and packing, my friend Xavier called me and came in town to wish me goodbye! He even brought me a really cute purse/backpack to take home!

Then, it was off to Mihail’s house for the night.

Wednesday, I thought I’d be updating my blog from the airport, reflecting on everything that I’d learned in Guatemala and finishing out this blog series with my final goodbye Guatemala post.

Well, that changed rather quickly when I woke up to explosive-nearly-made-me-pass-out diarrhea (sorry for the too much information) at 4:00 in the morning. Followed later by nearly throwing up, but I was able to stop it by laying on the cold bathroom floor, where Galleta found me (how uncomfortable it is to be sick in a room with a bathroom that doesn’t have a freaking door!) and freaked out wondering if I was okay. By the time I woke up around 8 am, I didn’t find myself making it to the airport that day with the way I was feeling so I made some frantic phone calls and got everything settled as Galleta ran off to the store and the pharmacy for me.

I still have no idea what happened, but at noon, I was most certainly glad I cancelled my flight. I would have been in the airport at this point (as my flight was scheduled for 1:30), but instead I was in a frenzy of things coming out at both ends?? WHAT THE HELL? I wanted to stay in Guatemala, but not for this reason! So that’s basically where I’m at at this point. Instead of being a reflecting beautiful goodbye post, I am still in Guatemala, 2 days after I was supposed to be home. Not much has happened since Wednesday since I’ve been stuck in bed, but I do have to shout out to Galleta again, although he can’t read English, that I am so thankful that he came with me to Antigua because I don’t know what I would have done if I had been at Isolina’s because the bathroom is so far from my room and there’s no space to lay on the floor in the bathroom there. So I was in a good place when it happened.

On top of that, he’s stayed with me since Wednesday, running errands all day long whenever I need something and washed my clothes Wednesday and cleaned up the bathroom (well, I cleaned up the mess because obviously I couldn’t deal with myself if he had to see any of that, but he spring cleaned it), and helped me move to a hotel (we couldn’t stay at Mihail’s any longer because someone was moving in to that room) where I could have a private bathroom. He has only left my side to go get things that I’ve needed. And not only that, but yesterday was his birthday and he spent the whole day taking care of me still. I can’t express my gratitude for him. I’m too sick to think properly to make this an interesting blog post, but I am thankful thankful thankful that I have someone to take care of me! What a mess I’d be without him.

my lovely little caretaker, from a photoshoot I did of him the other day

my lovely little caretaker, from a photoshoot I did of him the other day

Even though there’s darkness, there is always light! What a blessing to have this guy in my life! Marcos from the Asociación ran into him the other day running errands and came by to check on me too. I love those guys too much. The best friends that I’ve made here yet. Thank God for them all!

So here I am, unexpectedly continuing the blog and stuck in Guatemala. I guess we’ll see what happens next! Everything always changes rapidly here, even up to my flight home (and I hadn’t been sick since the beginning of October either! QUE RARO!)

All You Need is Love

Well, sorry for the delay guys. I have been insanely busy. We’re talking barely-a-minute-to-breath busy, but it has all been worth it. It has all been worth it.

Things just kept falling together for the fundraising party that I threw. On Tuesday of last week, I showed up in Dueñas and Galleta had surprised me with all the artwork he’d been working on. He’d been there from 6 am that day working (I arrive around 3 pm) and I could tell that this fundraiser was getting him motivated into working again, which was beautiful to see.

Then, that night, I went back to Las Vibras to confirm that we were definitely on for the party and they said yes! We even confirmed the date that I wanted the most (the 12th of December, because the 17th is the day before I leave!) so I was more than excited, but that meant that I had exactly 9 days to pull this thing together. 9 days to plan a fundraising party and have it be successful. 9 stinking days.

I went home in a stress ball, overly excited that this was going to actually happen, but freaking out on how I was going to design a poster and get it printed and posted up around town in time to advertise something that was happening in 9 days. Sure, I’ve designed a thing or two before, but mainly for photography, not actually for a poster. But bam, for the most part it completely fell together as soon as I got started. WHAT?

Okay. Then Wednesday was still a pretty normal day. I was mostly waiting on confirmations about certain activities before I could finish the poster. But it wasn’t a normal day coming back from Dueñas cuz I got to ride on a four wheeler, helmetless, on the main road, with 2 other people. All of which, I am quite sure, are illegal in the States. God bless Guatemala.

yeah buddy!!

yeah buddy!!

Daniel was also talking to me that day and mentioning how thankful they are to have me there and that I am already a part of their family and they really appreciate all the help I have been doing and I had to tell him to stop telling me nice things because I was going to cry. I have more and more days here now where the littlest thing makes me cry because I don’t want to leave and all I wanted earlier in this trip was to make some lasting friendships and to be a part of something and really help somebody and being with this group from Dueñas has been exactly what I needed and apparently I have been exactly what they’ve needed and it all makes me so full of joy, I could just explode! And yeah, call the grammar police because that was definitely a run-on sentence.

My tandem with Willy was really special that day as well. I’m not really sure what got us on the subject, but I was talking about how important it is to forgive people (something I learned going to my counselor back in 2012 and something I’m continuing to learn) and he seemed so amazed at how quickly I was able to forgive the guys that hurt me so much in the beginning of my trip and still remain their friends and he was begging me to teach him how I do it. I don’t know how I do it. One day, I hope to be able to share whatever I do because I still don’t quite understand it, but I’m so thankful that I started seeing Ruth in 2012 because so much of my life has changed and continued to change since that year.

Thursday began my donation begging. I got to see Orlando and Miguel again and they ended up inviting me out for lunch. We went to Cafe Sky, which was the first time I had been there, and Miguel happened to know the owner so he found out for me that I could come the next day at 8 am sharp to talk to him and ask if he’d be willing to donate something for the fundraiser raffle. Yes, a raffle. It was fun eating with those guys and I am going to miss them a lot. Orlando moved to the city on short notice afterwards so I don’t think I will get to see him again, nor will he be able to make it to the party. Nor will I be able to get a video of me dancing salsa. :(

probably the last time I'll see those 2 guys this trip! :(

probably the last time I’ll see those 2 guys this trip! :(

I went to Dueñas like normal after lunch and finished another lamp shade. Galleta did not come that day, but I could not wait for him to see it. We make such a good team working back there because he doesn’t have the patience for some of the things I do (since when do I have patience? I suppose we just enjoy making different things) and I have no interest whatsoever in putting together the electrical parts of the lamp, so I always need him in order to finish my lamps. And I love when he likes something I’ve completed! Never would I have pictured myself working on artwork down here. I cursed art after graduating from college because I was so sick of the crazy, but this kind of art has me inspired.

Friday morning, bright and early, Emilee and I rose up and went to Cafe Sky at 8 am to ask for our very first raffle donation. And just like that, we walked home with 2 bottles of wine. I was so happy about this, but something bugged at me all day Friday until I got to Dueñas. I suppose I just needed a hug.

Some of my last days here, I haven’t been able to forget about the fact that I am leaving and I get really down. I had talked to David over skype the night before and he warned me how depressed I was going to be when I got back to the States because he did the same when he only went to the Dominican Republic for a month. I told him I was well aware of this, but I guess the thought stayed in my mind over night. I didn’t get much work done that day and just sat there crying and hugging on Galleta til the sad went away. But once that was all over, my butt kicked into high gear and I started prepping up for the fiesta.

After I quit crying, Oliver took me around to visit some of the families that attend their school that day. Perhaps a day that I had been crying was not a day to do that, but it was one of our only opportunities because they still had the borrowed four-wheeler to ride around on. We went to three families. All of which are extremely poor and I got to experience the real Guatemala.

The first family we went to lived in a hut made of tin panels that was just big enough for 2 full size beds and a table. 5 kids sleep in one bed and 3 people (2 adults and one kid) sleep in the other. There’s no electricity and I’m not sure I spotted a toilet, but surely there’s at least a shared one in the little community of “houses” they are in.

5 people sleep in that bed

5 people sleep in that bed

3 people sleep in that bed

3 people sleep in that bed

see the end of the bed from the last picture? this is the rest of the house.

see the end of the bed from the last picture? this is the rest of the house.

2 adults and 6 children live in this tiny little hut

2 adults and 6 children live in this tiny little hut

The second family we visited had a slightly nicer part tin part concrete room-of-a-house, but there daughter has down syndrome. Not only that, she has some kind of intestinal issue that causes her to throw up nearly 70% of what she eats. She needs a special kind of milk that the family can’t afford, but Asociación Vida tries to get her milk and vitamins when they have the money to do so. I had not seen this girl before, but they told me that a lot of the kids that are in their program don’t get to come often because they are too sickly. Yet, the Asociación still tries to keep them included in everything and help them out in whatever way they can. The beauty of this place continues to grow on me.

this is maria. she doesn't make it to the association much because of her so many health problems, but they still try to help her in every way that they can

this is maria. she doesn’t make it to the association much because of her so many health problems, but they still try to help her in every way that they can

The last house we visited had a t.v. and a stereo and was a little bigger, but it was still tiny and still made out of not-so-sturdy materials and still had a dirt floor. And still has kids that have issues. It seems almost rampant in this community. They have 50 kids that come to that school and they all have some kind of issue.

inside house number 3

inside house number 3

the kids in the middle of eating lunch

the kids in the middle of eating lunch

It made me so thankful for what I have in the States. And I felt like I had a great experience getting to see some other situations. It was good that I got all my crying out that morning though. And it was good I got my dose of hugs because my day only got better and I would have hated to ruin it with a bad mood!

Vibras called me after we returned back to the association and confirmed that they would like to donate 10% OF ALL FOOD AND DRINK SALES at the night of the party. WHAT? I just suggested it on a limb because they were looking to have some sort of drink offer for the night to get more people to come out, so I just mentioned it one night and awaited their answer so that I knew what to write on the poster about drink offers and they called and said not only would they donate 10% of drinks, but of food sales as well! I twirled in a happy dance of delight. Another thing coming together just like that.

We did find out that Ale Mendoza would be too busy to come to sing, but I knew it was still going to be a great event. Break dancing by the kids in the break dance program at the association, beer pong, open mic night, a raffle, and a museum of art? And nothing had to be paid so nothing could be lost. The event just got better and better.

I missed tandem time with Willy that night because my friend was supposed to come visit the project but never came, but I at least got the poster finished that night. Then I just had to wait on it to get approved before I could send it to the printer.

the final poster!

the final poster!

Saturday, it hit me that it had already been a month since Acatenango! Do you remember that crazy post? Can you believe it’s already been a month since I’ve met these guys and this awesome project? This last month literally flew by. I feel like I’ve blinked and it’s gone. And here I am, still walking around with my little buddy from the volcano. Who knew my pillow from Acatenango would end up being one of my favorite people on this entire trip and that we’d spend my entire last month here making art together. Life is so random.

Saturday we officially started the donation begging process. I was unable to get the posters sent off to the printer in time for us to hang them up that weekend, which stressed me out, but it all ended up being okay. We, instead, started walking around all of Antigua begging for donations to have in the raffle.

Galleta came to Antigua at around 1:00 that day and we walked and talked until about 7 pm that night. We went to about 35 places, I’d say and for the most part, I did all the talking (did I mention in Spanish?) and he would butt in when I got tongue tied or wasn’t sure how to answer a question. The majority of the places seemed interested to donate but we just had to come back again Monday to talk again. We had a break at some point in Luna de Miel (OH THE CREPES!!!) because I told him that he hadn’t lived until he tried a Luna Moka (crepe filled with chocolately mocha-y goodness piled with vanilla and mocha ice cream. now wonder I got fat here.).

you could get fat just looking at it

you could get fat just looking at it

After we finished, we headed off to Dueñas for another weekend and had fun hanging out and listening to music. Sunday we got up and got some more Reciclarte made. I finished a purse made out of chip bags and we finished up a couple more lamps as well. Then we took it easy and watched a few movies the rest of the evening because we knew we had another big day of walking ahead of us the next day.

Monday we got up at 7 am, left Dueñas to come back to Antigua and started again. The thing about Monday was that all the places that told us to came back told us to come back at different times…. So instead of working our way down one street and up another, we walked from one side of Antigua to the other back and forth back and forth all day long. It was rough. We had a break for breakfast in Rainbow Cafe, but never had lunch that day and we never finished until 6 pm that night. Pretty much 12 hours of walking. PHEW! You’re wondering why I didn’t have time for my blog?

But, we ended up with about 11 prizes in hand, with more promised to come, that day so it was well worth all of our work. We were beginning to realize that this party was really going to happen! The pieces just kept falling together!

Tuesday was another hard day of work for me. This time, I had to do it alone because Galleta was back in Dueñas and he needed to get some more recycled art ready anyways. I got started (walking around Antigua anyways, I am sure I started other things earlier) at around 11:00 that day and ended at about 9:00 that night. Emilee gave me a hand for a few hours and then split up with me later to go to a few places with Sari. I also met with the guys at Vibras again to get more things planned out for the party and FINALLY got to pick up the posters. I wondered what on earth I was going to do with the posters arriving only 2 days before the party, but we managed to get them all hung up that day as well.

I walked home with 23 prizes in hand, with more promised to come, by the end of the night. And I was EXHAUSTED. And it still wasn’t over yet. But it was amazing. Some places I walked into wondering why the hell I was even trying a place like that and the ended up surprising me and just handing me a prize right away. There is no doubt that I had an extra hand upstairs rooting for me on this adventure.

Wednesday I was up at 7 am working on different things on the computer and running a few more errands in Antigua before I headed off to Dueñas to get some more art done around the usual time that I go. I did not actually get much done, but I did finish one piece of art that I had started. They had been working hard there so the guys already had a good bit of art done, so I felt a little more relaxed. I ended up laying down half of the time I was there, but I felt it was a well deserved hour or so break. I mean, every minute of my time for the past week has been devoted to this. Even when I came home at the end of 12 hours of walking around Antigua, I had more to do on my computer. I translated a description of their project to put on the tables at the party; I made the posters; I made up a list of prizes, a list of thank-you notes that need to be written; I made silent auction slips to put with the recycled art; the list goes on. No sleep til Brooklyn? (Er.. I mean, the fundraiser)

my flower made from a fan, glue, and chip bags... it sold in the party! :)

my flower made from a fan, glue, and chip bags

32 prizes in hand. Let’s do this.

Willy and I had one of our last tandem meetings that day, but I didn’t realize it until I got there. Because I obviously would not have been able to meet the day of the fundraiser and the rest of my days I’ll be helping with the after-party things that need to get done in Dueñas so I mentioned I wasn’t sure when I’d meet with him again and he got defensive because he hates goodbyes (me too) and it hit me that I’d been so busy that I hadn’t had a chance to stop and think about me being so close to goodbye and I walked home in tears.

Isolina also made banana bread in her new oven that day, without a recipe! It was so good! That’s the second thing she’s baked for us now and I am so happy to see her using her oven. It was such a blessing to be able to get that for her and be able to enjoy seeing her enjoy it! Thank you so much again to everyone who helped me buy it for her!

Emilee went to pick up a few more prizes that day for me as well and at the end of the night, we reached our goal of 40 prizes. I couldn’t believe it. The first day, Galleta and I were happy to receive 11 prizes, but we both thought that 40 was a little crazy, but it happened. It totally happened.

Thursday was game day. I was on a kick of delusion from lack of sleep at this point. I went to the last few places that talked to me before heading to Dueñas at around 9:30 to make sure we made all the donation boxes and everything ready to get brought over to Antigua. When I arrived, I headed straight for the pile of donated clothes and fell on my stomach. Galleta had left to go bring food and I needed him for the artwork, so I just slept and waited his arrival. When he arrived, I went into a fit of laughter and everyone was quite positive that I smoked something strong. Hahaha. Everyone thinks that when I am on my lack-of-sleep delusions and I almost wonder myself sometimes. But, it passed shortly after and we all got to work. Fortunately, everyone kicked in and helped that day so I got to relax a little more.

3:00, Galleta and I were headed off to Antigua to set up the art gallery in Las Vibras. Everything was set up and ready to go by 6:00 pm and it looked awesome. I felt so proud after getting all the art up and couldn’t believe it was happening. It felt like my own art gallery and I was proud of every single thing that was there. It has been so much fun working with Galleta on all this art and I honestly thought I would never make art again after graduating. Maybe because this art has so much more meaning to it than stupid concepts (I say stupid concepts, but if you think about it, this art kind of has a concept too hahaha), but I’ve loved it.

tire chairs, a door table, a coffee mug/trophy lamp, and my flower fan

tire chairs, a door table, a coffee mug/trophy lamp, and my flower fan

the exposition of our many lamps

the exposition of our many lamps

my lamp made out of cut out plastic tarp and a kaleidescope tube

my lamp made out of cut out plastic tarp and a kaleidescope tube

Galleta's hanging lamp from plastic bottles, Daniel's ukelele lamp, and my lamp from a trash can, some kind of fabric, and bottles/caps

Galleta’s hanging lamp from plastic bottles, Daniel’s ukelele lamp, and my lamp from a trash can, some kind of fabric, and bottles/caps

Galleta and I with our exposition (LOOK! I even got to wear an asociación vida polo shirt!)

Galleta and I with our exposition (LOOK! I even got to wear an asociación vida polo shirt!)

We ended up with 43 prizes for the raffle. 43! Not only did we reach our goal, but we passed it. God is too good.

The party was a huge success. In fact, we had too many prizes and had to end up announcing a lot of the winners on facebook because no one wants to sit and listen to names get called for an hour. I will be counting up the money with the guys later today to see how much money we raised, but I know based on the number of raffle tickets sold and the fact that we sold about 10 pieces of our art and the fact that 10% of all food and drink purchases was donated that it’s going to be a lot!

We had break dance with the kids from the program at Asociación Vida. This is part of the urban program to try to get kids out of trouble and put their energy into extracurricular activities. They performed so well. It was insane. My camera couldn’t keep up with all the moves unfortunately.

back flip

back flip

kick!

kick!

it's all much more exciting when you can see a video

it’s all much more exciting when you can see a video

We had open mic night and danced goofily and I sang my Tabaco Y Chanel one last time for my dearest of friends. Typing this last sentence just made me start crying. I had so many people cheering me on this time, I felt like a rockstar. Not a single one of my other friends outside this Dueñas group, aside from Mihail, Isolina and Maynor and (surprisingly) José came to this party, despite the fact that I said it may be the last chance to see me. So that’s that. And for that I am so glad I met these guys. I’m going to miss this group so much and I’m so glad I got to be a part of this before I left. I finally feel like I really did something awesome with my time here in Guatemala and they have made me feel like family. They ARE my family. Daniel was letting me know how much the appreciated everything at the party and went on a long rant in my ear that would have sent me to a flood of tears if I wasn’t stressed out working on the raffle. He is so grateful for everything I’ve done and says on all their behalf how much they are going to miss me and how incredibly sad they are that I have to leave.

my lovely friends taking their shot at open mic night

my lovely friends taking their shot at open mic night

dancing the night away

dancing the night away

my last chance to sing (and Isolina and Mynor finally got to hear)

my last chance to sing (and Isolina and Mynor finally got to hear)

I am the same. I want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me and how sad I am to leave. I wish I had the money to stay and hadn’t bought my plane tickets in advance. I feel like a big part of something extremely special here and the funny thing is that it doesn’t earn a dime. I’ve slept countless times on a hard floor with nothing more than a slender dirty ripped up foam mattress with some clothes on top. I’ve worked long hours, longer than any hours I’ve ever worked in my life in the states and not for a single penny. The only thing I’ve earned is love and the more I help them, the more I remember how important love is and how it is greater than any other gift you can receive in the world. Leaving behind a history and earning the love of a group of amazing guys that treats me like family is far greater than any amount of money that I could ever receive.

I am exhausted beyond belief. It was so much work putting this thing together, but I have never had so much fun in my whole life. I’m crazy for loving this, but every minute of work was so worth all the smiling faces in the party and worth seeing how excited the Vida workers were. I can’t count the number of compliments I received for the party. So many people loved it. Vibras wants to host another one. I will be helping in any way I can over the internet. A couple other people are interested in coming to visit the project to see what else they can do to help out and it’s all because this party came together. I was overwhelmed with love.

But I can’t take the credit. God’s hand was in this, there is no doubt. I never in my life would have thought a party such as that could have been put together in under 3 weeks when I first thought up the idea. But everything flowed so smoothly (imagine how much work it would have been if we kept running into problems! it wouldn’t have happened, that’s what!) that I have to say that it wasn’t my work that brought this party together, but something that God wanted to happen. Because if He wants it to happen, all the doors will open. And all the doors did open. And we walked through them and made this party happen!

There is still quite a bit of work left to be done. Now we have to make sure everyone picks up their prizes and that I post the photos on facebook (Yeah, I was running the photography at the event too! I’m SO pooped!) and we have to walk around and give out the thank you notes and go back to the places that seemed extra-interested so Daniel can talk to them and exchange more information.

I am getting sadder by the minute because I know Wednesday is going to be here before I know it. I’m so attached to Guatemala now that I’ve been willingly getting up early and giving myself headaches with lack of sleep just to get more time in my day. But I feel it in my heart that my work is not yet done here, but has only just begun. Don’t you worry, Guatemala, I’ll be back again one day.

I will announce in my next blog post what we ended up earning at the party, but even if we didn’t earn much, the point is that there name is out there now and more people want to participate, so the seed has been planted and the growth has just begun! Best of luck to my Dueñas crew. May God bless all the hard work you do with abundant harvest of progress! PLANTING HOPE… HARVESTING PROGRESS!!!!

long live Asociación Vida!

long live Asociación Vida!

Asociación Vida Has Taken Over My Vida

It’s already December. I remember thinking when I got here that December would never come, but it has come and oh too quickly. I’m finally really getting into what I wanted to do on this trip and I don’t have enough time to finish it. I’m getting to experience the real Guatemala.

Wednesday, when I arrived at the project in Dueñas, Galleta didn’t meet me like he said he would. I wondered what the heck happened and when I finally was able to get in touch by telephone, he said he probably wouldn’t be coming that day because Julio’s uncle died and he would have to go to the funeral (or wake). But then he changed his mind and came and not only did he come, but I got invited to go to the funeral along with Emilee and Sari.

I felt uncomfortable because I was not wearing nice clothes, nor were they particularly dark, but after Galleta convinced me that it was okay and Daniel informed me that we were all going, including the kids, I felt better. So off we went, marching down the streets with a line of special needs kids, singing “Alguien robó pan de la casa de San Juan” and walked to the outskirts of Dueñas where the houses changed from the concrete walls with the barred up windows that look similar to Antigua to sticks with tin roofs. Yep. I went to a funeral in a house that was just a roof.

And just after Willy had described the funeral and wake process to me the other day! How ironic. But this collection of tin-roofed houses was full of people who all welcomed us in and we just sat there for about 30 minutes or so, were served bread and coffee, and then left. So I guess it was more the wake instead of the actual funeral. But the houses. The houses were the biggest shocker of all. I wish I could have taken a photo, but I felt that it would have been rude under the circumstances.

So I got to experience a double whammy. The poor poor parts of Guatemala and the way the handle someone’s death. I have to say it’s definitely different because the people that were serving the food were the people who lost someone and all I could think the whole time was “Ya’ll need to be sitting down and we need to be serving YOU food!” Cultural differences, I suppose.

Thursday, I heard that Galleta wouldn’t be coming to work that day because he rode his bike to Jocotenango and someone stole his bike. So he was going to walk all the way back to Dueñas (Jocotenango is about 20 minutes by bus to Antigua and Antigua is another 20 or so to Dueñas) and thought he may not arrive in time. I thought he was crazy so I rescued his butt and told him to just walk to Antigua and then ride the bus to Dueñas with us so that’s what he did and we went and got some lunch together and had a fun day before work. That was nice to be able to eat out with someone on Thanksgiving. Sure, we had chicken and fries instead of turkey and mashed potatoes, but hey whatever.

Then, like a nutjob, I thought of a really nice idea when we were working, as if I don’t already have enough to do before I leave Antigua. I thought how cool it would be to decorate the association for Christmas using recycles and surprise them and I told my idea to Galleta and he agreed that it would be cool and decided to help me over the weekend.

Thursday night, Emilee, Eidree (our other housemate), and I went out to get pie to celebrate Thanksgiving. Willy has never experienced Thanksgiving before so, since it was around the time of our tandem meeting, I invited him to join us and practice his English. So we all went out to Cafe Condessa and had some pumpkin (or another kind) pie and hot chocolate and passed around the table what we were thankful for. I think Willy really enjoyed it and loved the concept of the holiday. It made me really want to bring all my friends here to the States to introduce them to how we do things there. It’s amazing how much one culture can be completely different from another.

pie buddies!

pie buddies!

That’s when my miracle happened. So, the reason I am super busy is because my crazy head decided that since I wanted to have a party to see my friends before I leave, I might as well make it a fundraiser for the association. Because the other fundraiser that they had recently didn’t raise much of anything once they paid off the location and the DJ and the drinks. I knew that in order to have a successful thing, no money should be spent on the fundraiser. So I thought, I bet I could plan a fundraiser, but I only have a few weeks. I wasn’t sure if it would be possible to find a location and get it all thought out, but Thursday night was my sign to go forward with my idea.

Thursday, after pie, we were all talking (Mihail joined us) and I was explaining my ideas about having the fundraiser and that I was thinking about starting with Rainbow Café. Mihail said that I needed somewhere way more fun than Rainbow and I said my only other thought was Las Vibras because I had met one of the owners at some point. I did not really think Las Vibras would work because I never really went to the Open Mic Nights when he invited me. But when Emilee agreed that Las Vibras is really fun, I said “Well they’re not open during the day. Let’s just go right now!”

So off we went to Vibras. And when we arrived, we were asked if we were looking for seating and we said no but that we were looking for the owner. And guess what? The guy asking us if we were looking for seating was one of the owners! I told him kindly I was interested in having a fundraiser hosted there and I’d like a minute of his time and I asked what day would be good to meet with him and have a chat….

And he said “Right now! Let’s go to the back!” So I explained the project and explained I’d like to have a fundraiser before I leave and bam. They were interested! Just like that! So I knew at that point that I was making a good choice and this thing is meant to happen and I am so excited. Best Thanksgiving ever.

On top of that, I got to see my friend Xavier the next day who I hadn’t seen in forever and who would be a great connection for this project to have. He is going to go talk to Ale Mendoza to see if he will be willing to sing at the benefit and he is also planning to maybe come visit the project this week and see if he could do something for it with one of his foundations! Puzzle pieces seem to be falling together so smoothly right now. It’s amazing me.

we kinda look similar here... maybe it's the italian in us

we kinda look similar here… maybe it’s the italian in us

Isolina and Maynor also visited the project on Friday because they were curious to see what it was all about. I had told them that I think they should start their own host family service aside from Maximo Nivel (because they charge way less than going through Maximo) and charge a little more and donate the extra towards the project so that more people are interested in coming to stay at the house because some of their money is going towards a good cause. And I think they are interested as well, but just don’t know quite yet how to go about doing it.

On top of all of that, I spoke with Willy that night about everything that was going on and how excited I was that things seem to be just falling together and he mentioned “I forgot! I have a friend who is a journalist, so if Ale Mendoza ends up being the singer, I can call up my journalist friend and have him cover the event.” Publicity for Ale Mendoza. Publicity for Las Vibras. Publicity for Asociación Vida. Bam.

I suppose I shouldn’t be talking about all of this yet since it hasn’t all exactly fallen into place, but just the brainstorming and the people interested in helping has been so exhilarating. Vibras was not only in on the idea, but also was giving me more ideas on how to earn money at the event. I guess I’m excited at this point because I at least know it’s happening and that there’s no money to be lost in doing it. Even if only 10 people came up and entered the raffle, they’d still be earning a little money. So I’m excited and I really believe everything is going to pull together.

Saturday, Galleta came to Antigua to walk around with me and shop for my presents for everyone in the States. We also had to go shopping for a Christmas tree and a few things we needed for the recycles workshop. It ended up taking all day so I never got a chance to take photos of Antigua (I am now kicking myself for not doing this earlier in my trip when I had way too much time on my hands) and off we went to Dueñas to work for the weekend.

assembling the tree

assembling the tree

We pretty much worked on the tree all weekend, with a break or two to watch a movie or play some guitar and sing (so much fun! I swear I sing better in Spanish than I do in English haha) and we got it finished Sunday night and put it up to surprise all the kids and workers the next day.

a string of golden bottle caps

a string of golden bottle caps

an upclose of some of the recycled ornaments

an upclose of some of the recycled ornaments

It turned out being pretty awesome! I was proud of us. Another accomplished moment. Another thing to make people smile.

best recycling team ever

best recycling team ever

Yesterday, we rested a lot, but also got started on some other art. We have a lot of recycle art to build if we are going to show it at the fundraiser. I am hoping we can get done. After Dueñas, I was on my way home to go meet Willy and I ran into KEVIN! What? I had not heard or seen from him in months and thought I was not going to get to see him again before the end of my trip. So that was a treat!

Oh and I forgot- sunday night, Oliver showed up in the association and was telling me a few stories about the association and what he used to do before working there and how rigged different donation programs are that say “Oh, if you buy this, this child gets a pair of shoes” and it’s true- they get a pair of shoes but they are used and old and dirty and they will send you a picture of a child with shoes, but it won’t necessarily be the child that received the shoes that you supposedly paid for. They have buildings of stocked up donated old shoes and clothes and they just pass out things like that instead. After the scamming that I’ve seen with Maximo, that made me even sicker. If you’re an organization like this, you should be giving away WAY more, not rigging the system so you can earn even more money, you greedy bastards.

Anyways, Oliver also informed me on more of Galleta’s story, which was really interesting to hear. Galleta used to be awful. Oliver was his teacher a few years before he came to the association and he said Galleta was a horrible student. Galleta, like he’d told me before, had also had a few years where he was into heavy drugs and stealing things and fighting people in the streets for money (you know, like chicken or dog fights, but with people. paid fights) and the association is who pulled him out of all of that and gave him a future.

When Daniel found him and told Oliver that he was coming to work at the association, Oliver almost didn’t want him because he’d been his teacher before and knew how bad this kid was. But they decided to take him in and see what he could do and he ended up changing his life around. They said they don’t know where he would be if they hadn’t taken him out of Antigua and given him a job at the association. Maybe in jail. Maybe dead. People in Dueñas used to fear him, but now they respect him on the streets and always shout his name when he walks by. Oliver said he is their inspiration because of how much he’s changed and how he’s ALWAYS there at the association working (without being paid, may I remind you) and he is one of the few people that shows up for every event that the association needs to run. And he is smart. It’s amazing to see him working and figuring things out in the recycle plant.

The story for me was beautiful, because not only are they trying to help the future of these kids who are rejected by society, but have given a future to some of their workers as well. On top of trying to change the environment with their recycling. It’s amazing.

To top it all off, Daniel, one of the owners, spends all his time there. I’ve been to his house and it is tiny. And he doesn’t have another job. The association is his life and he has a huge dream for it and he lost his wife and kids because he couldn’t support them because he doesn’t have a job outside of the association because he is so devoted to this dream. His mom still provides him with food because he doesn’t have time to earn his own money, but can you imagine working on something that doesn’t earn a dime? The devotion to this project amazes me. I really want to stick around and be a part of it and watch it grow. In just a few weeks, they have made me feel like part of their family and it hurts even more to leave than it was hurting before.

Something is going to happen with this place. I feel like it could be one of the biggest changes for Guatemala. And I want to be a part of it.

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