Monday, February 28, 2011

Salsa and Merengue......Sexy

One of the school activities that the kids took advantage of was a salsa and merengue lesson which was gratis. Logan whined the whole day before but after the class, he wanted to take more lessons. Addie was almost as tall as some of the indiginous men, as you can see here. What was really fun is that all of the men were so welcoming to her and she was the only child there. Men were lined up in one row on one side of the room, with women opposite and they changed partners every minute or so.

Here, Logan is dancing with Juli, who just happened to be staying with Marta Julia so we were able to get to know her a bit more that evening. He danced with a number of "hotties" and he was the tallest man in the room.
The guys liked Kenz and one creepy older man made some moves she felt uncomfortable with...all in the open, no touching but just a bit creepy. See Logan in the mirror reflection dancing with another "hottie."

Logan, Kenz and Addie in their line formation. Incredibly humorous was when the instructor was telling the woman to do "sexy" and showed them how to turn, using their hands, their hair and their bodies to tell a story. You have not lived until you have seen a 7 year old model, "sexy." After the class and for days after, the kids were dancing, "sexy" at the house and Addie especially enjoyed teaching Vivi, the six year old at our house how to dance. Kenz and Logan joined in.


A poor person's grave...note the dirt mound but at least, on this one, there is a cross with a name. Sadly, there were mounds like this of dirt covering the dead, with no markers. Over time, with rain and wind, all is eroded.
We met Bill and Paul, friends from the Riecken Foundation for a couple of days in Chichicastenango which is a huge market town. Here you can see the mix of foreigners and indigenous out shopping in the afternoon. It was a huge crush of bodies and tents full of interesting things to look at and buy. We did leave some money behind to help spur on the economy in Guate.

This lady is carrying live bird off...either to sell or she had just bought them. Kids thought that rather, "gross."

Although I have seen people carrying huge bundles of materials in many countries in Latin America and in Africa, I have not seen the size of bundles being carried in relatioship to the minute size of these people. Here in Chichi the people are often carrying more than their body weight or size. Look at this bundle.

We visited this cemetary and this is a photo from aways away so you can see the various colors of the mauseleos. They were ornately decorated and apparently, this is not a safe place to be after dark.

Up close...these really are beautiful but sadly, the whole cemetary was filthy dirty with trash strewn about. Bill reminded me how long it took us in the US to enforce anti-littering laws.

Coffee Production

We visited a coffee finca to see how coffee is produced and packaged. Interestingly, the guide said that Vietnam is now the second highest producer of coffee, pushing Colombia into third place. Guatemala was around 16th place, as I remember.

The red coffee beans are good to pick and in Guatemala, this is a manual production process. After picking the beans are sorted and washed and then laid out to dry as you see below.

This is a final step where they roast the beans and then package many. Most are exported but Azotea does package beans and grind some for sale in their shop. Yup...bought some to bring home. The coffee smells we loved.

Here, the men are drying beans and they rake them and turn them all day. We had some uncharacteristic rains for this time of year while there and the whole production process has to be completed before the end of March when the heavy rains start. Beans can be redried if wet, but if there isn't enough time at the end of March to redry, the "crop" of beans not yet dried, and packaged will be lost. Interesting to watch them walk all over the we would be drinking.


This man sat outside of La Union, making bracelets most every afternoon. Kenz was "bracelet man's" best customer...I think she bought about 10 of his bracelet's which he could make, with a specific name woven onto the bracelet in about 10 minutes flat. When we went into the crowded indigenous marketplace, we ran into him and he grinned hugely to see us/her.

Loved this angel which we saw at Las old church, school and infirmary originally built in the mid-1700's.

There were so many precious moments during our week away and several were just started by the kids...for example: Addison was fond of saying, "My mother says you have to x,y, z." That typically was initiated by Addie's being asked to do something she didn't want to do and I suggested rather strongly that her mother wasn't in Guatemala and I was in she would do what I said and when I said it. Worked.

And then, one day, I had a blow out case of diarrheah which isn't easy to manage when there aren't fast food restaurants to quickly stop by and use. Logan, being considerate, asked me later in the day, "How is your scrotum feeling?" When I stopped laughing, I had to ask, "How did you know I had one?" He, of course, meant my rectum but we didn't let that stop us from kidding him the rest of the week.

Our driver from the school, Hector, a very nice married young father, was the source of much ribbing on the part of Logan and Kenz. They decided because I talked to him quite a bit on our tours/trips, that he was "mi amor, mi cielo." Nice guy and on the way to the airport, while talking, these two nitwitted teens laughed it up at my expense in the back seat.
And then, Addie was a bit particular about her eating. First night at dinner, she had an upset stomach so couldn't eat. 10 minutes later, she said her throat hurt, forgetting that the original issue was her stomach. She was pretty hungry the next morning. But she heard we were having French Toast the following day for breakfast and she said she didn't like that so, I asked our host mom if Addie could have cereal instead. Addie got to the table the next morning and said, "oh, good. I love French Toast. Kenz let her have it and we had no more issues with food after that.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marta Julia's house

We went to the home of Marta Julia, a woman I have stayed with twice before. Interestingly, we ended up staying with her daughter, Karla. Here is a photo of our travel group...minus the good looking young lady next to Logan who is also a student here at La Union and who is staying with Marta Julia. Marta invited us to come over one evening for dinner and we laughed and told the one of Alex who on his first day of language class, listed off a list of vulgar terms that he had learned during the day. Marta Julia was appalled, collected herself and then, asked again, what more he had learned. He happily told her. And this story is how Karla knew that I was the mother of this young man.

She made us horchata de very interesting rice drink which she made that evening and we had quesadillas which Addison particularly enjoyed. More coming.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Guatemala with the grandkids

While I waited in the airport, I sat next to this couple who were also going to Guatemala on a mission trip. I died laughing when their wine order arrived...they ordered a "flight" of red wines...three per.

We all arrived in Guatemala City and our bags also made it. Had some flight getting into Dallas/Ft. Worth to join the three grandkids coming from Detroit was going to be late and I wouldn't get in til the next day. Let's see, three kids in Guate who don't speak the language. The driver we had arranged was to be all should go OK. Had a fit and it was decided that I should hop a plan, go to Miami and then get to Guate about 20 or so minutes before the kids landed, because their flight was also late.

It worked and I went through immigration, got my bag and then, talked with security and said I wanted to exit and hang where the kids could see me the minute they came down. Very suspicious but when I told them that Addie is only seven, they rushed me to wait at the foot of the stairs. They watched me like a hawk but they were soooo wonderful. Imagine trying that in Miami?
More tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Love that word and that is what this shall be...little bits of nothing that I want to share with friends and family and that I don't want to forget.
This cutie is Layne, Kristin and Pat's youngest and apparently destined to work in the newspaper industry one day.

I worked ArtFest Fort Myers all last weekend and had a ball. I saw things and heard things that just made me guffaw and chortle. An elderly lady walked by our tent, and one of the volunteers, himself tatooed and pierced, commented on her legs. Apparently the intricate vines which wrapped her legs from ankle to ? were newly tatooed. He could tell they were freshly done and we discussed why an "old lady" would do that to herself? I had NO answer but was rather impressed that she may have always wanted to do this and now, was liberated and able to not care what anyone thought. Loved it.

And then, one of the ArtFest volunteers is named Heidi and we were discussing how she hated to be called Heidi-Ho and how that embarassed her. I suggested that nothing could compare with how badly I shocked my Heidi when she and her friend, both high schoolers, were walking ahead of me in the mall. I yelled at her, saying, "Ho!" The whole mall stopped walking and turned to look at me. I genuinely did NOT know what HO meant. Heidi did and so did all the mall shoppers...imagine that I had called her, "Heidi Ho" for ages and she had never informed me that Ho was short for "whore!" Anyway, I was sharing this at lunch, with many of the other volunteers and one guy literally spewed his food outta his mouth. He was laughing soooo hard.

One of the best moments of ArtFest was seeing one of our Boys and Girls Club partner board members dressed in his logo polo shirt, raise his beer in front of our workers and those around our tent. I wanted to ask him if he understood image and marketing but I didn't. The good Teresa was working that evening!

David, a Hospice staffer shared great book with me. This book, written by Ulla Carin Lindquist tracks her life as she tried to celebrate every moment with family and friends from the day she was diagnosed with ALS until her death. Rowing without Oars is truly a fight to the death for a strong woman who realized who she was after she was no more.

I have started packing for Guatemala and have several surprises for the kids. Can't wait to see my old friend, Bill who is still working in Tegucigalpa and who will be joining us for a short side trip to Chichicastenango.

Hospice...finding the way

I wrote a bit about my Hospice experiences yesterday and in the night, realized what I am enjoying is being an advocate for those who can't speak for themselves or who have no family close by. As I walked this morning in the dreary rain, I was reflecting on my dad's last few months with us and was hoping that we helped him on his way in a way that he wanted. The whole of Hospice, for me, is living and dying with dignity and in peace. I am trying to learn how to handle that so I can be graceful, (and yes, I realize that Teresa and graceful in the same sentence is truly an oxymoron) when confronting the necessity of leaving family and friends.

Dad told us for several months that he would take his own life when the time was right for him. And that would be when the pain was too great and when he was ready to meet Him. We talked. We cried. We argued. But, he had warned us that the day his light was not on when we woke up, we should not allow Alex to go visit grandpa before going to school. That day arrived and I went down instead.

Dad was in his chair and waiting for me...we were both early risers. He asked that I call the ambulance, after all. He decided he didn't want to die in our home because it would leave bad memories. The ambulance came. Dad was in the ER and I had his "do not resuscitate" with me and showed the doctor but he put the paddles on dad to try to revive him and I know that my father heard me screaming, "Leave him alone. He is ready to go...NOW!" They did leave him alone and I know my dad did not go quietly as he'd wanted...had he stayed home, in his comfy chair, he would have passed from the overdose of meds that he had told us he would eventually give himself. Of course, dad wouldn't have been surprised that I was there next to him, screaming....he would have just thought that Teresa was being Teresa and trying to get folks to do what she said!

My dad didn't go quietly but he had tried so hard to go his way. He had begged his doctor to help him leave this earth, which the doctor couldn't and wouldn't do. He had begged us to help him on his way...and we couldn't and wouldn't do that for him, either. So, he talked through how he would do it himself and Lord knows, no one should have to do this alone. And so, a road I began walking with my father is helping me heal as I volunteer. I still miss the old coot.

I find it peaceful to give just a few moments of peace to families and individuals struggling with how/when/if their lives or the life of someone they love, will end. When my time is up, I want to be ready and go quietly and with dignity and this is what I find permeating Hospice, its staff and its philosophy. I sat in a room with 40 individuals receiving chemo the other day and was amazed at the jokes, the laughing and the enjoyment of just being. Being reminded that there is a joy in every moment lived, even when having a crappy painful time, makes me realize how blessed my life is. I have had cancer and survived...I fought and won. With help, caring, empathy and good will, many of these Hospice patients and their family members will win and survive. If they don't survive, hopefully they will have special memories of laughs and experiences that are special to them.

I was called yesterday to see if I could take a Hospice patient to a casino about 45 minutes from here. I agreed and when I got off the phone, I laughed my butt off. Someone is a Hospice patient, living the best life she can and trying to enjoy every moment she can. Why wouldn't I agree to take someone to enjoy a couple of hours outside of whatever uncomfortable ugliness she may be experiencing? I can. I will. It makes me smile...a huge return on time spent.

Back to dad...after he died, we returned home to be greeted with the police in our driveway. They came to check that we had not hurt my father. Elder abuse is rampant. Fortunately, my dad's doctor, our neighbors, our family, our church and our neighbors had seen us caring for dad for years. He was a cranky old man but we loved him. And I know we never thanked the people enough who visited dad, brought him meals and took the time to hold his hand while we were at work. I want to do it right next time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hospice....the life of a volunteer

By nature, I tend to be a person who wants her value to be measured by how much I am paid per hour for the work I do. This clearly doesn't apply when one volunteers, something I have done since my early 20's when I received food stamps to help me get through college and feed my children and me. I felt that if tax payers could help me, I should give back in some way. So, I have always, at the very least, given to the local food banks and also have served on their boards and raised money and worked their events. Giving back is part of who I am.

And so, in my "retirement" I have upped the number of hours I give to my community and this past year, I have become very involved in the local Hope Hospice organization. Funny. I am finding that I am given so much more than I donate or give. I will share a few stories but the people's names, due to HIPPA regulations and to be considerate, will not be shared.

I was sitting with an elderly man, who was sleeping soundly and whose wife needed to go run some errands. The phone rang and I took a message and when I returned to the patient, he pointed to the sky and asked, "Was that Him that called?" I pointed and said, "Him? No, it was the pharmacy." My patient smiled and quietly stated, "When He calls, you have to go." I assured my patient that I knew this. And he told me, as he closed his eyes, that, "He would be calling soon." My patient died the next day.

And there was the situation when I was asked to pick up an adolescent patient at his middle school, take him to pick up his Spanish speaking grandma and take them both to the young man's neurologist. We walked into the doctor's office and he announced that we were late for our 3:00 appointment and he didn't have time to speak with us. I assured him the appointment was for 3:45 and we were early. He disagreed and began questioning me and the grandma about the issues confronting the young man, as if he weren't even in the room. The doctor immediately decided to increase the boy's meds and announced what he would prescribe. Grandma was very shaken because she was giving him two meds per day and what he was going to prescribe was less per dose than what she was currently giving.

Grandma checked to make sure I was translating well and that I understood...I had no doubt that she knew what she was giving her grandson, but the doctor disagreed, writing a prescription and shooing us out of the office without once speaking to the patient. We were almost to the pharmacy when I noticed that the prescription grandma held was made out to a "Gillian...." a woman's name!

This doctor, who had no time for us, thought us late, and talked about med dosages which were incorrect, made out a prescription for a person who was NOT in the office. He did not know who his patient was. I called the social worker but I was sooo angry and so was grandma. I told the Hospice people that if this Dr. Fox was treating any member of my family, I would report him to every medical oversite group that I could.

And then, I met a woman who is riddled with bone cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer at her first chemo treatment. I sat with her. Held her hand. Laughed with her and waited while bag after bag of drugs were deposited, drip by drip into her body. I had to leave her while she was asleep because we had no idea that her first treatment would take over five hours. I witnessed the most caring of doctors. Dr. Rodriguez, her oncologist, checked her oozing incision on her stomach, calling her surgeon to co-ordinate care. He held her hand, answered her questions and assured her that he was there for her...a week after the horrific experience with Dr. Fox, Dr. Rodriguez reminded me what a caring profession the medical one can and should be.

I sat with a woman who should be considering her death and yet, she was considering how she could rediscover her love of art and how that could be worked into her very busy medical appointment schedule. I left this patient energized and reminded of what is truly important in life...that is living every moment of it fully. This woman, a Hospice patient, had meticulously applied her make-up, was considerate of my time, and careful to document everything she was told...and her list even included the names of the nurses who were kind to her. She expects to thank them one day.

Live every moment as if it were your last.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Thursday in February....

Not much going on here in sunny SW Florida other than warmth and sunshine at a time when most of the US is inundated with snow storms and high chilling winds. I am trying to be a considerate friend and family member by NOT rubbing in how wonderful it is down here...I mean, flip flops in February isn't too wonderful, right?

I have been cleaning out my walk in clothes closet and getting a small feeling for what Richard will have to go through as he tackles garage #1. This is tedious, tiresome and I think also a tad embarrassing that I have so much that I don't even remember seeing or using much of it in years. The good news...I have enough long sleeved shirts that I can handle a spring and fall in Michigan. The bad many pair of capri pants does one woman need? I count 6 brown capris and so far, 5 black and I still have half the closet to go through.

Two of my "moms" have suggested in the last week that I turn my free time to writing. I like that idea, but I am unsure what type of writing I could tackle that anyone would want to read. Short stories or articles seem like a great idea, but topics elude me.

Leaving in two weeks for Guatemala with Logan, Kenz and Addison...oh, and also Flat Stanley, who has been renamed, "Wilfredo" by the classroom in Madison, Alabama. He will have some wonderful experiences, I am sure. Was told by my daughter that the packing suggestions I have sent the kids are for "old folks." I suggested a baseball cap and they wouldn't wear one of those. Who cares...they need something so they don't burn their blonde heads! Ya just can't win.