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Friday, July 23, 2010

Guatemala Day Nine - Ten

Day Nine Monday morning, we were able to check out the house more. It was a wonderful little two story villa at the base of a large mountain, within a secured complex. Now, when I say secured, we all think of having a gate around the area we are living but in Guatemala, secured means not only the gate but armed guards at the gates and strolling through the complex, 24/7. The villa had three bedrooms and a bath up stairs. All the bedrooms had large windows that fully opened to the outside. There are no screens here. One bedroom had a door that opened to a small balcony and also had a loft with a hammock. The main area between the bedrooms and the bathroom had a door that lead to a large rooftop sitting area that offered a good view of the surrounding area. There was a wonderful courtyard off of the dining room that was accessed through French doors. The courtyard was surrounded by 15 foot walls and was a combination of grass and tile with a large tree in the center, a small fountain on the left and several flowering plants along the wall, where humming birds would come to every morning. The first floor had a kitchen and dining area separated by a beautiful wood counter and a small living room just inside the front door. The living room had three wooden benches with pillows and a small TV. There was also a very small bathroom and shower down a few stairs off of the living room. The shower was so short that it would have sprayed my chest only if I had attempted to use it. The entire place had tile floors and concrete walls just as the majority of the building here. Directly above the house was a large mountain which was covered by small shacks piled on top of each other all the way up the steep sides. We decided immediately, we wanted to go there. The city of Antigua is an old city so there is much great architecture but since it was built using cobble stone streets and those were intended for horses or mules, it is a very tight squeeze to get around with all the cars, trucks and busses that are now used. It is situated at the foot of a Volcano named Agua which has already destroyed the city once but is now sitting dormant. The volcano towers above the city and is mostly covered with clouds, even when the rest of the sky is clear. We were there to volunteer for the God’s Child project which is a project of schools, clinics and shelters started by a man from Bismarck, North Dakota. The main offices are in Bismarck and that is where we got connected. We went to the Dreamer Center Monday morning. This is the main center for the God’s Child project. Despite my attempts to let them know we were coming, it still caught them by surprise. So after a tour and filling out some forms, we were sent home because the director of the location we would be working at was in Guatemala City for the day. So we went back home and got some much need sleep. We then went to a market that is housed in a section of ruins of a large cathedral that was destroyed when Agua buried the city in the 1700’s. The market was a unique and surreal place. It was very compact with little room for two people to pass at the same time. It was dark but very colorful with all the handmade Guatemalan purses, scarves, shirts, skirts and crafts. The people at each table immediately began trying to bargain with you but of course in Spanish. Some spoke a little English and they were very helpful. The concept here was to find what you wanted and then try to get them to the lowest price you could. That went very much against my German—American sensibilities and since things were very reasonable to begin with and since I knew many of these people had almost nothing, I didn’t bargain as you were expected to do. I brought a couple things down a little but for the most part I just paid them and went on my way. I found everything I wanted in a very short time so I was very excited. We stopped at an Italian restaurant and had pasta for supper and then headed back to the house. Day Ten Tuesday we headed out bright and early to the Scheel Center which is an elementary school and clinic for the poorest of the poor in Antigua. We had got directions from the Dreamer Center which was on te other side of town from where we were so we went there and flowed the directions that took us closer and closer to the mountain above our house. The Scheel center turned out to be at the base of that mountain and only about 3 blocks from our house. So the twenty minute drive to get there was completely unnecessary. The Scheel center is a four story building that houses a school, a clinic and soon a pharmacy. Its main benefactors come from the mountain directly above it though some come from Antigua below. They are chosen by their poverty level and only the poorest children are allowed entrance to the school. This school goes entire days and serves two meals a day while the public schools only go half days and only serve breakfast each day. The method of the Scheel center is not just to be a place for the children but for the entire family and if the families pay the 12 to 24 cent fee per month tuition, they get access to the clinic and medicines for free for their entire family and well as classes for the mothers and fathers on many different subjects from hygiene to cooking and nutrition to even make up application. In addition to schooling, the children all get trained in one of two vocations. These are cooking and carpentry. They all get certification in typing and Microsoft Office as well. We spent are time sweeping the tile floors which get dirty very quickly, preparing for lunch and cleaning up after lunch, clearing some drainage issues and installing sound panels in order to cut the immense reverb caused by having tile floors and cement walls and ceilings. The difference the panels make is really quite drastic. After we left the Scheel center for the day, we cleaned up and headed to pick up some friends from Guatemala City who had rode the bus out to Antigua to assist us in our project for Wednesday morning. We went to a grocery and used money that the Worship Team had earned while leading several retreats and services in the States and purchased enough food to feed 10 families for 3 days. Each bag contained Rice, Corn Flour, Sugar, Noodles, Salt, Black Beans, Coffee, Cooking Oil and Candy Suckers. We went back to the house and separated out the food into 10 bags and then went to bed, excited to head up the mountain in the morning to distribute the food. We did not know what to expect. Pray for us.

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