Friday, October 3, 2014

A Trip to Guatemala

It's been a while since we've had a guest blogger! Well, here ya go! Sharyl, one of our amazing cooks, had the opportunity to go on a missions trip to Guatemala earlier this year! How cool is that?! Read and enjoy as she shares her experience! ~ Susan


At the end of June, I had a wonderful opportunity to go on my third mission trip. I have been twice, to the Dominican Republic, but this would be our first mission trip to Guatemala. I went with a Christian-based sports mission organization my boss started in 2009, Athletic International Missions. My sister and brother-in-law went with me. This was their first mission trip and they were somewhat apprehensive, but they needn't have been. They both took to the kids from the get go and since my brother-in-law is bilingual, he was invaluable. The rest of us got by on our limited Spanish and hand signals!

There were 31 of us, all from the Houston area, Tennessee and Virginia. After a direct flight from Houston to Guatemala City, we met up with the rest of our group. We loaded two vans with people and the sports equipment that we had brought with us and headed to our destination. After a somewhat hairy ride of partially collapsed roads and pounding rain, we arrived at our destination in the rain forest mountains of Purulha, Guatemala. The style of driving in Guatemala is wild. They take unbelievable chances in passing, but our driver, as well as our contact pastor in Purulha, took no chances and delivered us to our hotel, safe and sound.

We stayed at Posada Montaña del Quetzal, which was the only hotel in the area that could accommodate our large group. The rooms were very basic - no TV, phone, radio or clock. What was really amusing was that the walls were so thin, you could actually carry on a conversation with your neighbor. My neighbors were my sister and brother-in-law and we did just that!

We got up bright and early Wednesday, excited to meet the kids in the sports camp, who were anxiously awaiting our arrival. We had equipment and volunteers for soccer, volleyball and basketball, which are the big Guatemalan sports. If you know me, you know that I am not very sporty, but you don't have to be! There is a place for everyone to help. There were seven of us who worked with the kids in the Vacation Bible School. That was fun and games - songs, games, coloring and more. The first day, we had about 90 kids and they were a little shy. By the second day, they were hugging us and giving us these little butterfly kisses on the cheek. So sweet! Before leaving each day, we served them lunch of hot dogs with cabbage, mustard, mayo and ketchup on a bolillo, a variation of the baguette. They love their dogs this way. Us Americans? Not so much!

Meals at our hotel were always served buffet-style. A few
A Guatemalan breakfast
things that stood out were that the tables had salt and cayenne pepper only. No black pepper, salsa or jalapenos, which we missed. I have them on my packing list for the trip next year. Breakfast was usually scrambled eggs, but we had sausage once, pancakes once, hash browns twice and corn tortillas at every meal. Lunch was chicken in some kind of sauce, spaghetti or meatloaf with mixed Guatemalan vegetables and soup. Dinner was very similar to lunch. Plantains were served at most meals, as were black beans. Plantains are similar to bananas, but they differ in that they must be cooked before eaten. One would not peel and eat like a banana.

From our hotel restaurant, we could see the hummingbird feeder outside. These hummingbirds were huge. Nothing at all like we see in Texas. I suppose because they stay in Guatemala year-round, they don't expend energy migrating. It was fun to watch these giant hummingbirds. They were so big, we could actually see them.

We went out two nights for dinner. One night we went to Montebello. I had the pollo asado, roasted chicken which 
came with rice, salad and soup. To drink, I had the limonada con soda, lime juice with sparkling water or soda. I had several of those on our trip...they were crisp and refreshing and I was so glad to see ice in my glass! We were never served ice at our hotel. A couple of the locals had a soup that came with tamales and I tried one. They were different from what I

am used to because they weren't filled with anything.

Saturday was our last day of camp with the kids. They had gotten to know us and we had gotten to know them. We had over 200 kids and 30 Moms our last day there, which was a little overwhelming, but so worth it. There are always a few kids that really tug at your heart and this trip was no different. There were two little girls that I always looked for and they usually found me first.

On Sunday, we split our group between two churches. My brother-in-law is an Episcopalian priest, so he was asked to give the sermon at the church for our VBS group. It was in a combination of English and Spanish, with someone translating as needed. Before and after church, we handed out suckers and hard candies to the kids. That was a hit for sure!

After lunch at our hotel, we packed up and boarded the bus to our two-night stay in the Portola Antigua Hotel. This was the day and a half of relaxation at the end of our trip before we flew home.

For the most part, our meals at the Antigua hotel were also buffet-style, but there were lots of entree items to choose from, as well as dessert, fruit and bread bars. My sister and brother-in-law ordered this wonderful concoction, Tangerine and Mango Parfait. It looked wonderful and tasted the same.

We walked the cobblestone roads to the street market. The
Colorful street market
variety of textiles, jewelry, clothing and Mayan crafts (they are known for their jade, which comes in colors other than green - who knew?) was overwhelming, but fun. We all did our part to support the market!

I told my sister that if we hadn't had this mini respite in Antigua before flying home, a few of us might not have made it. I was being facetious. We were exhausted, but it was a good tired. A few key words define this trip for me - joyful, exhausted and pensive.

My sister was keeping our family in the loop about our experiences. It seems her phone knew where she was. One email she typed “take care” and just after she hit send, she saw that auto correct changed it to “tamale care.” Makes sense to me! Hasta la vista.

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