Archive for July, 2015

Antigua nostalgia

Friday, July 31st, 2015

During my trip to Guatemala with Olivia this summer, I felt very nostalgic for our earliest days together, when I moved to Antigua and we lived in a small house to wait for her adoption paperwork to be finalized. We were first getting to know each other then, and many of those days weren’t easy.

I remembered the hours we passed playing at Antigua’s Mickey D’s, wandering through the markets, and admiring the artwork painted on the sides of local buses. I also remembered the care shown to Olivia by our dear Guatemalan friend Yoly, who babysat during the afternoon hours I studied Spanish.

As I watched Olivia navigate her life in Guatemala this June–confident, happy, independent–I thought, How far we have come. ~














Choco Museo

Friday, July 17th, 2015

This week, we went to the Choco Museo on Antigua’s Fourth Calle to watch a demonstration on chocolate, from cocao bean to market shelf. Our English-speaking guide, Pablo, captivated our group of six Guatemalan-born kids with hands-on activities and tales of the bean. After two hours, we each took home the fruits of our labor–a personal cache of artisan chocolate. Beyond. Beyond! ~



The Bunk Bed Project

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

A few years ago, American adoptive mom Tamara Hillstrom, founder of the Guatemalan orphanage El Amor de Patricia, visited a farm close to the El Amor orphanage, where she noticed that the farm’s caretakers slept on straw mats in barn stalls designed for animals. This wasn’t the first time Hillstrom had observed families in such dire circumstances: In her work for El Amor, she had visited homes where many poor parents and children slept on twigs or pallets or cinder blocks, or on nothing at all. “How can anyone function after a night like that?” Hillstrom wondered. “Doesn’t everyone deserve a comfortable sleep?”

Thus, the Bunk Bed Project was born. The concept is simple: raise funds from the American adoption community and other interested donors, use the funds to build bunk beds in Guatemala, and deliver the beds to families in need. Since the project’s inception, more than 1,200 bunk beds have been installed throughout Guatemala.

Yesterday, Mateo and I helped deliver and build bunk beds for two families.  The beds we installed, like every bunk built through the Project, are given in memory of Gabby Lewis, a child adopted from Guatemala who died too young.

I rarely ever promote nonprofit organizations, but if you’re looking for a service opportunity especially meaningful for children, consider the Bunk Bed Project. Sweet dreams. ~



The road to Comalapa

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

The road into Comalapa is lined with murals on both sides. If you can, get out of whatever vehicle you are driving in, and walk the length of the pictures to view them from start to finish. The images depict the history of the Mayan people of Guatemala: from the bucolic pre-Conquest days, to the arrival of the Spanish and the subjugation of the native peoples, to the 36-year armed conflict that ended with the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. The final paintings show the future of the new Guatemala: dreaming of education and opportunity and envisioning clean, running water straight from the spigot.

The murals bring Guatemala’s complicated and fascinating history alive. I was overwhelmed by the pictures’ impact and power.


Birth family reunion stories on the radio

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

A friend sent me this link to a PRI radio show by adoptive mom Laurie Stern about the growing practice of searching for birth mothers in Guatemala:  “For adopted Guatemalans, a searcher will look for birth moms. But sometimes the reunions are fraught.”

I listened with my two kids, ages 13 and 10, and they sat still throughout. The story that affected them most was that of “Marta,” who was relinquished at 6 and adopted at 8, and who reunited with her birth mother at 15. During the reunion lunch, Marta didn’t want to sit next to her birth mother, and her birth mother didn’t reach out to speak to Marta. My children felt the birth mother should have reached out to Marta, simply because she is the adult, but they understood both sides. “Nobody knows what to do,” said one. It’s hard to imagine a more emotional scene.

I admire the maturity shown by Laurie Stern’s son, who seems at peace with himself and his identity, because he understands where he comes from, and has made sense of his history.

I recommend listening to this PRI piece because it does not make reunion seem simple. And trust me, it isn’t.


Santiago Atitlan

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

We took a boat to Santiago Atitlan with adoptive family friends who had never been there. Friday is market day, and the town was filled with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meats, and dried fish. The design of Santiago’s huipil features embroidered birds, and my friend, an ardent bird-watcher, bought one. Some men in the town continue to wear traje, which you can see in one of the pictures.

We also visited the church, where Oklahoma missionary Father Stan Rother was pastor for many years before he was shot in the head and killed in July 1981 during Guatemala’s armed conflict. Plaques explaining the history of the conflict and its impact on Santiago and other villages line the church’s back walls.

Father Rother’s heart and blood are buried in a crypt and a large photo shows his image. Notice the word “Aplas” on the monument. That’s the name for “Francis” in the local dialect, Tzutujil. The people of Santiago had no word for Stanley so they called Father Rother  “Padre Aplas.”