Posts Tagged ‘travel to Guatemala’

Peace Corps in Guatemala

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Yesterday, our local newspaper ran a front-page article about a retired couple who joined the Peace Corps, and are leaving at the end of September for Guatemala.

“Guatemala?” I said out loud. “A few years ago, Peace Corps announced they were leaving Guatemala. Are they back?”

Apparently so, because this couple has been assigned to the Western Highlands. I then searched for “Peace Corps in Guatemala” and it’s true. One hundred twenty-three Peace Corps volunteers currently serve in Guatemala.

My husband will retire eventually…”Tim? I have an idea.”

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A visit with friends in Guatemala

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

When Olivia was a toddler, I moved to Antigua and rented a small house where we lived together while her adoption paperwork was being finalized. I studied Spanish a few afternoons a week, leaving Olivia in the loving and capable hands of nanny (and friend) Yoli Rodríguez. Yoli had children of her own, including her then-young son, known as Junior, who was a good “big brother” to Olivia, as well as to Maya, the daughter of another adoptive mom, Kallie K.

This summer in Guatemala, Yoli invited us to lunch at her home near Antigua, where we discovered photos of Olivia and me, and Kallie and Maya, displayed on Yoli’s living room wall, among Yoli’s other family pictures. Seeing the photos reminded me that our children remain in the hearts of their early caregivers, as their caregivers remain in ours.

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Guatemala calling

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

In Guatemala, I use a tiny blue phone locals call a “frijolito,” because the phone size is like a little bean. You don’t need a complicated ownership plan, just add minutes with a phone card you buy at any tienda. Mateo and I arrived back in California, and this morning, my frijolito rang, which surprised me, because I thought I turned the thing off. And even more puzzling, the Guatemalan carrier is “Movistar,” which doesn’t exist in the US. Yet, just now a new message urged me to buy a phone card because, “Today is Quadruple Minutes!”

Feels like a small piece of Guatemala, calling out to me. xo

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Tortrix

Monday, March 21st, 2016

If you’ve been to Guatemala, chances are you’ve eaten Tortrix–the savory, heavily salted corn chips with a hint of lime that are sold in tiendas and markets everywhere. Ordinarily, I’m not a big snack eater, but Tortrix are my weakness. In Guatemala, a bag always is stashed in my backpack, ready to be dug into whenever hunger strikes.

Of course, Tortrix and I have a history. Back in 2002, when Tim and I visited Olivia in Guatemala City at the Camino Real, we often did a run to a nearby market for stuff we needed or forgot. And there, hanging by the cash register, calling to me, was the display of Tortrix. The iridescent green bag. The bold red logo. The promise of salt and flavor. I was hooked.

Last week, in the US, I visited my parents in San Diego. They’re in an assisted living facility now, 87 years old and as comfortable as one can be at 87 in assisted living. The visits are bittersweet, as my husband and kids understand. Anyway, while I was away, Tim took the kids to a restaurant he discovered, owned by a family from El Salvador. And hanging by the cash register was the familiar display of Tortrix.

It doesn’t take much to make this girl happy. xo

 

 

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Birth family visit 2015

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

I’ve written a few times about Olivia’s ongoing visits with her birth family. To recap: Olivia reunited with her birth mother “Ana”–a middle-aged widow–when she was seven years old. A year later, at age 8, Olivia met her birth grandmother, Abuela, and her siblings “Dulce” and “Santiago.” Over the next several years, we continued to visit the family, always in a neutral place, not Ana’s small village, because I worried about drawing unwanted attention to Ana and her family. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In Guatemala, we stand out.

I knew our visit this year would be extra special because in 2015 our family experienced three important milestones. Olivia turned 13 and became a “senorita.” Dulce married her sweetheart and gave birth to her first baby. And Santiago moved away. Big changes, all.

On a Tuesday last June, Ana arrived by chicken bus at the appointed spot at the appointed time, as usual. But instead of clambering down the steps with Dulce and Abuela, she climbed out the back door alone. In my limited Spanish, I asked “Where is everybody?” and Ana answered that this year, we were coming to her house because the baby was too young to travel and the trip wasn’t easy for Abuela, either.

My attitude toward chicken buses is “Don’t ride them,” but what could I do? Nothing except run back to the hotel for our suitcase of gifts. Olivia and I hopped with Ana onto the next chicken bus for the return journey.

One chicken bus, one microbus, one taxi ride, and one uphill hike later, we stood in the lane at the gate in front of Ana’s adobe house, where Olivia’s family has lived for generations–possibly before the arrival of the conquistadors. A sumptuous lunch of fried chicken and squash and rice was served. The blue corn tortillas were handmade that morning from Ana’s own crop, the best we’ve ever eaten. Thirteen felt like the perfect age for Olivia to transition to a new setting. Abuela gave her a rosary necklace and Dulce’s new baby was beautiful.

As we finished lunch, Ana jumped up without notice and disappeared, and Dulce shrugged when I asked her why. A minute later, from the lane in front of the gate, a hundred firecrackers ignited and lit the sky, the snapping racket loud enough for every person in town to hear.

Ana’s daughter Olivia had come home.

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Guatemala! June 2014

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

This past June, Olivia, my sister, and I spent three weeks in Guatemala. The first week and a half, we traveled around Lake Atitlan and its environs, and the second week and a  half, we rented a house in Antigua with five other people. And every single day, we ran into, chatted or dined with, members of many adoptive families who were also visiting the beautiful country of their beloved children’s birth. Families from California, Iowa, Ohio, New Mexico, Indiana, New York, Minnesota, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and other states across the map. (Canada, too!)

All of us were there to keep our children connected to their first home, and very often, first families. We shared our histories and stories, our challenges and our hopes. I’m always proud to be a mother through adoption, but never so much as when I share the experience with other adoptive moms, dads, and kids in that extraordinary place: Guatemala.

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To chicken bus or not to chicken bus

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Chicken buses are arguably the most affordable mode of transportation in Guatemala. And I do love a bargain. Yet when people ask me about riding chicken buses, I caution ”It’s not worth the money you save. Don’t do it.” Now, after reading Ben Groundwater’s article– ”Nobody on board but us chickens“– I’m not so sure. Maybe riding chicken buses is fine outside of Guatemala City. Read Groundwater’s article and decide for yourself. He writes:

The first surprise about my chicken bus is that there aren’t any chickens on it. Guatemalan chicken buses don’t carry too many of their namesakes, apparently.

***

The second surprise about my chicken bus is it’s not really a bus. In the physical sense, it is; it was once an American school bus but has been resurrected with Guatemalan engineering and a glorious riot of red and green paint. But in the sense that it behaves how we Westerners know buses are supposed to behave, it definitely is not.

I’m forced onto it just beyond the Mexican border, told it is going in my general direction, if not where I really want to go. “Xela?” I ask.

“You change Reyu,” someone yells as they throw my backpack onto the roof.

Great. What’s Reyu?

From there, we make a tortuous journey to … nowhere. It soon becomes obvious we aren’t leaving until more passengers turn up. A lot more. Half an hour later, we hit half-capacity and it’s off to Reyu. Or something like that.

I loved this article. It made me realize that, when it comes to chicken buses, the perceived safety, or lack of it, could depend on who is doing the riding, and where. Admittedly, I’m more cautious than most. As a North American adoptive mother traveling with two English-speaking, yet obviously Guatemalan-born children, it’s hard for me to blend in anywhere in Guatemala. In general, we avoid large gatherings of people, which rules out riding a chicken bus. However, that doesn’t mean other folks don’t feel comfortable on board.

From now on, I’ll offer this modified position: If you feel safe riding a chicken bus, you should ride one. But I”ll stand by my advice not to ride a chicken bus in Guatemala City.

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Beverly Public Library in Beverly, Mass.

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Last night, I got to read at the Beverly Public Library in Beverly, Massachusetts. It’s a beautiful building, made with the kind of thick, heavy stones that are designed to last. Outside, the air was frigid, but in the meeting room downstairs, the ambience was cozy and warm. My sister, Deanna, her husband David, and their three girls were there, as were an adoptive mom with her son born in Guatemala, a woman who leads art tours and volunteers at Hermano Pedro in Antigua, and a mother to two girls from China. One couple was considering adoption and wanted to hear what I had to say. Others knew adoptive families. Some people had read the book and loved it. A handful were simply curious. Everyone was incredibly nice.

A local independent bookstore, The Book Shop of Beverly Farms, supplied copies of Mamalita, and my sister Deanna sold every one of them. Thanks, De! Thank you, too, to Anna Langstaff, Assistant Director of the Beverly Library, for setting up the lovely event, for posting it on the library website, and listing it in the local newspaper.

Hearing other people’s stories and thoughts about adoption has been a profound experience. I feel very privileged.

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NY Times article calls residents of Solola “Best-Dressed”

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

It’s always a great day around here when the New York Times publishes an article that includes Guatemala and the news is good. That happened this morning, when I opened the Sunday edition, and saw the front page of the Travel section announcing an article by Seth Kugel on page 6: “The Highs and Lows from 13 Weeks Traveling From Sao Paolo to New York on $70 a Day.” I’ve been following Kugel’s Times reports on his journey throughout the region–he writes as “The Frugal Traveler”–and was eager to see how he rated Guatemala.

Winner of Kugel’s “Best-Dressed” Award? The “Residents of Sololá, Guatemala.” Whoo-hoo! (Readers of this blog may remember Sololá’s fabulous traje from a photo I posted  this past summer.)

Kugel writes: ”I  did not expect Sololá to be memorable. I was just changing buses there, but since it was Friday— market day—I stopped to explore.”

“I expected to see stands offering spices and batteries, women dressed in colorful local costumes making tortillas and men buying (and wearing) the cheapest fashions that Chinese factories have to offer.”

“But this market was different: the men wore traditional woven shirts and pants so riotously colorful — bright oranges and yellows and pinks and purples, sometimes in the same square inch — that even the most non-fashion-conscious shopper (i.e., me) couldn’t take his eyes off them.”

The Times even ran a large photo of the beautiful traje.  We all know it’s spectacular, but now it’s official. (more…)

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The sole of the matter

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Olivia and I leave for Guatemala tomorrow, and like many adoptive families who visit, we are bringing items we know can be used by people who live there. Vitamins, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and the most important item of all: shoes. 

A newly described, preventable disease afflicts some people in the highlands of Guatemala. It is called podoconiosis. The disease is caused by dust in volcanic soil being ground into the skin, causing an immune reaction that results in swelling of the feet. For many years, podoconiosis was mistaken for sleeping sickness (which causes similar swelling of the legs in tropical regions). Recently, however, a group of German dermatologists figured out the connection between walking barefoot or in open sandals in volcanic soil for decades with the characteristic swelling of the feet. (Please note:  I’ve italicized for decades to emphasize that the disease develops over many years, not during a hike up the side of a volcano.) (more…)

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