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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!