Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala’

Keep the faith.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

When I read the headline “Empowering Girls Through Education,” I thought, “OK! Education for girls in Nahuala, Guatemala! Count me in!” The project is sponsored by the international organization CARE, partnered by the personal-care products at Hain Celestial.

Today I must be feeling cynical, because after reading the article, instead of feeling optimistic, I felt my spirit deflate. Will this program really effect any permanent lasting change in the life of these young girls? Will anything?

Some days I wonder. Some days I believe nothing less than a 100% commitment by the leaders of Guatemala–not aid organizations, or corporate America, or any outsider–will change anything. And will that day ever come?

Be assured, my family supports multiple NGOs in Guatemala–which are all doing meaningful work! I subscribe to Mother Teresa’s philosophy: “Do small acts with great kindness.” I remind myself that no one can change the world, but maybe we can change one tiny thing.

Yet some days, like today, I read an article touting a revolutionary new program guaranteed to lift up and empower, and what do I do? I sigh.

Note to self: Shoulders back while marching forward. Keep the faith.

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Museo Casa del Tejido

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Behind the municipal Mercado in Antigua is the small, family-run Museo Casa del Tejido, a sumptuous collection of hand-made textiles from every department of Guatemala. Technically, the address is First Calle Poniente no. 51, but you’re better off finding it by going to the top of Santa Lucia near the ruins of La Recoleccion and walking straight back. The admission is not too much, and for a small fee, they’ll let you take pictures. Our guide spoke English fluently and taught us a lot.

Don’t go in expecting sealed cases and precious pieces protected from light and dust. This isn’t that kind of museum. Here, the traje of embroidered blouses and woven skirts are hung on rods or simply nailed to the wall, often approximating the figure of a person who might wear it. A stroll through the galleries impresses anyway, especially for anyone who loves textiles. Each weaving and embroidery is a unique balance of composition and color and story, beautiful in its own way.

If you visit Antigua, particularly with your children, schedule time for the Casa del Tejido. Afterwards, meander through the market for a perfect half-day.

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Pacaya 2015

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Mateo and I climbed Volcano Pacaya in February 2013 and I remember the trip as rigorous and hard. Something I was proud to have done, which I never needed to do again. Until this past July, when Mateo and I rented a house in Antigua with 10 other people–four adoptive families from the Bay Area, friends all–who really, really wanted to climb Pacaya this trip back. In fact, climbing Pacaya was the Number One item on their wish list of Things to Do in Guatemala. Pacaya was a must. We couldn’t leave without climbing it!

Good sport that he is, Mateo agreed, and talked me into accompanying him. I’m so glad he did. This time we hired a guide on-site–a family of guides, actually: a young mother and her son, and her mother, the boy’s Abuela (see photo above), and various helpers–who led us up a gentler path than the one we traversed in 2013. The family of guides came equipped with horses, two of which members of our party chose to ride. The rest of us soldiered forth, walking sticks in hand, until we reached the summit. Marshmallows were roasted, and piles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches consumed. Before we headed down, fistfuls of sweet vanilla cookies were scarfed, rightfully earned.

The day was misty and overcast,  the gray sky threatening rain. We finished before the deluge, victorious.

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Father Stan Rother

Friday, June 26th, 2015

I’m writing this as a person who loves Guatemala, and as a practicing Catholic who has been praying for the canonization of Father Stan Rother, an Oklahoma missionary priest who was shot in the head and killed at his parish home in Santiago Atitlan in July 1981, during Guatemala’s armed conflict. Yesterday, the Associated Press announced that a commission in Rome has declared Rother a martyr, and efforts to canonize him a saint will go before a panel of 15 bishops and archbishops, in six months.

I read the news this morning on my Google alert, sitting in a chair in a village only a few miles away from Santiago Atitlan, where Father Rother was assassinated. I have visited his Santiago church, where his heart and blood are buried, and witnessed the deep and active faith of the parishioners there.

Father Stan Rother: American Martyr in Guatemala, written by John Rosengren, is a 2006 account of the events surrounding Rother’s death, the best I have found. Read it if you are interested in learning more about this good man.

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Judge suspended in Guatemala

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Judge Jassmin Barrios, who presided for 18 years in Guatemala, in cases that include the murders of Bishop Juan Gerardi and Myrna Mack, the Dos Erres massacre, and the mystery of Rodrigo Rosenberg, is suspended for a year for her role in the Efrain Rios Montt trial. An interview with Judge Barrios, translated into English, can be read here on Upside Down World.

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“Bboy for Life” and a Maya Frieze

Monday, August 12th, 2013

A new documentary about Guatemala’s breakdancing subculture, BBoy for Life, will premiere in Louisville, Kentucky on September 11. You can watch the trailer here. Thank you to Sharon Smart of Mayan Families for forwarding me the link.

At this point, I’m not sure where else the film will be screened, but I’ll keep an eye out for more information and will let you know.

Also: I’m not sure if you saw this announcement about a newly discovered and beautifully preserved Maya wall sculpture, found under a pyramid in Holmul, Guatemala, in the Peten region (around Tikal). In case not, here’s an article from USA Today. And a link to information about the Holmul site, from Boston University.

 

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Alfombras and cascarones

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

I’ve never spent Semana Santa in Antigua, but someday!

However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, our trip to Guatemala this year coincided with Ash Wednesday, and we were lucky enough to view a few spectacular alfombras, or sawdust carpets. I’ve posted photos here, taken at the churches in San Felipe de Jesus (above), at La Merced, and La Cathedral (below).

At the very bottom, you’ll see a photo of Olivia with bits of paper in her hair. This Ash Wednesday tradition is known as cascarones, where children take hollowed-out eggs filled with pica pica, or small colorful bits of paper, and smash them against each others’ heads.  Last year, we celebrated Ash Wednesday in Panajachel, where we noticed teenagers smashing real eggs all over each other. Not sure if that’s unique to teenagers, or Panajachel, but our children loved watching the oozing yolks. 

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Sacred Season!

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After the visit

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

What I want to talk about is what it feels like for me after I visit birth family in Guatemala.  Not what it feels like for anyone else, because I’m not qualified to speak to that, but what it feels like for me.

And I don’t mean to imply that making contact with Olivia’s birth family is not the greatest thing I have done in my life. Because, really, it is. If I do nothing else in my life, I’ve done that. For my daughter, for her birth mother, for the rest of her biological family. And it feels huge.

But there is a sadness attached to it. The sadness of life’s realities. That circumstances are hard, that life is not fair. That situations are unstable. That some have so much while others have so little. Relationships end. People get sick. Wars happen, and people are killed. Illnesses wipe out entire families. Nine children are born, but only three survive.

When we go to Guatemala, when we insert ourselves into families’ lives, we change their perception of the world. We represent “elsewhere.” Another possibility. Someplace they’ve heard about, maybe from the man in another family who left and never came back. Who sent money for a while, then stopped sending it. Or the mother who sends it, but is still gone.

This is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. Either way, it’s not simple. There is love, there is loss. There is longing. We each have something the other doesn’t.

We have changed the lives of Olivia’s birth family, as they have changed ours. I’m grateful and humbled.

Every visit brings back the emotions I felt the first time I held Olivia. Simply being in Guatemala triggers many memories of her adoption–good and bad. It takes a while to process the experience. Today, I give myself permission to be quiet and just feel.

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A hotel lobby story

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Like many adoptive parents of children born in Guatemala, I have my own “hotel lobby story.” Why a hotel lobby story? Because a hotel lobby is where I held each of my babies in my arms for the very first time.

In 2006, deep in the struggle to write Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, I attended a writing workshop led by Joyce Maynard at her home in San Marcos, Guatemala. I knew the arc of my story. I had lived it. But what was my point of entry? Was it the moment my doctor informed me I’d never have children? Or did it happen during the five-day, 400-mile bicycle trip I took over Christmas 1998, when my now-husband Tim said he was open to the idea of parenthood through adoption? At Joyce’s workshop, another writer, Andi Sciacci, who also teaches writing, asked me a very simple question. She said, “Where does the story start for you?”

I had found my opening scene. (more…)

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Mamalita

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Every time my husband travels and I’m home doing everything myself, I realize two things: First, how much my husband actually does around here. And second, how hard it is be a single parent. To anyone who is rearing a child or children alone, for whatever reason, I say: My hat is off. You have my respect. Single parenting is not easy. 

Tim is back now and I can finally take a breath. Yesterday, I took myself to see the new movie about adoption, Mother and Child. Talk about intense. The film showed adoption from multiple points of view: birth mothers, prospective adoptive parents, related family members, and the child who is adopted. The story and performances were so believable that in many parts the film was hard for me to watch. The movie drove home the complexity of adoption—the deeply felt loss and pain, and how that coexists with joy and new life. Many scenes will remain with me for a long time. I recommend Mother and Child to anyone with an interest in adoption. Go prepared to be affected.  (more…)

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