(Written on the 16th) In my zeal to get my Blog posted 5 minutes ago, I neglected to write some very important information. It is Spencer’s 18th birthday! He also had his interview to be ordained an Elder. So, those two babies born two days apart, in the same hospital, with the same doctor and OB nurse, have now turned 18. One of my friends asked if they will celebrate together but that won’t happen because Spencer is in Pennsylvania and Kayla is in Washington.
Now to the 17th of August. Yesterday after I posted the Blog, Jim called. He said he was making cinnamon rolls and he wanted Dick to come over with his apron. So Jim rolled out the dough and then the two of them put cinnamon, sugar, raisins and pecans on and Jim rolled it up and sliced it. The outcome was delicious large cinnamon rolls.
Last night we had a booming thunder storm about 9 pm. We had weak power. Some things still worked but the recessed lighting came on so low that the lights didn't help at all. We used flashlights to finally get ourselves into bed. It was still raining when we got up this morning. The elevator wasn't working when we left for work so we are grateful we only had two flights down to our car in the garage. It rained most of the day. We had PEF Committee meeting for an hour and forty-five minutes. There is a wonderful Yamaha piano in the conference room on the fifth floor so I played the hymn for the opening song. I enjoyed playing the piano after three weeks of playing the keyboard. But, I am very happy to have the keyboard to play every day.
We stopped at Paiz for some groceries and drove home on Las Americas with a lot of water up to the curbs. The elevator still wasn’t working and the Tilleys and one of the guys that works here at the apartment came hurrying down to help us carry our groceries up the stairs. There is a grocery cart in the garage so all we have to do, usually, is to put all the bags in it and push it into the elevator and then into our apartment to unload. Very convenient. It is still raining now, almost 24 hours later. Bill came down and brought us some warm, delicious cornbread.
18 August 2009…..Tuesday
I was able to get the Priesthood reports emailed to all the members of the Seventy in Central America before our video conference began. They were having struggles in Salt Lake and so the conference started more than 30 minutes late with no video. There was a problem with the video part for us and the countries in South America. But, everyone could interact and ask questions. In the afternoon I emailed the Priesthood reports to the 97 stake specialists in Central America. Modern technology is amazing. When we got home from the office Dick took over the kitchen to make bread.
19 August 2009…..Wednesday
Today Jill is 45! My kids are getting so old! Of course, they’re not the only ones. We got mail today at the office….a photo card from Jill and family and a thank you note from Spencer. I worked all morning trying to finish e-mailing the Priesthood report to the bishops in Guatemala. I’m almost done.
We left at 1 pm and went to Wendy’s for lunch. Then Dick got in the car with Jim and they went to help Gert with some things. Rexene drove our car and she and I came back to our apartments. I have no desire to drive here in Guatemala City. Having a couple of hours at home I was able to work on a few things I have wanted to get done.
20 August 2009…..Thursday
Today Dad Graff would have been 108 years old! I don’t think he ever forgave me for giving birth to Jill on the 19th and not on his birthday. This morning a group of us met at the office to travel together to visit Safe Passage, about 20 minutes away. It is known as “the dump school.” It is hard to type everything into my journal tonight…..the things I learned, the things I saw, and the things I felt. To begin with, there is a huge dump in a ravine that handles most of the city’s trash. There are hundreds of people that live and/or scavenge in the dump every day. It is their way of making a little money to buy food for the day. There is no water available, no bathrooms, but many of them actually live there in structures of cardboard or other materials that are dumped there by numerous trash trucks. Some even eat the food they find in the mountains of trash. Ten years ago a good woman from Maine by the name of Hanley Denning was in Guatemala and when she saw the living conditions she knew she couldn’t leave. She started with a few children of the dump and an old donated church in the area. The only qualification was each child had to live at the dump or be the child of parents who make their meager income by sorting plastic, glass, cardboard, etc. every day. They earn whatever they can sell it for. I don’t remember a lot of details but one hundred pounds of any of those things brings them about Q20, less than three dollars. Later, Hanley Denning was able to move her group into a very nice, clean, pleasant building.
Her particular group is aged 8 to 21. They all must go to public school and then to Safe Passage for help with homework, English classes, art and drama, meals, and just a safe place to be happy and away from the dump. Of course, they return to their home and family afterward. To put this all into perspective, there are 500 children that are serviced by Safe Passage every school day. There is another similar group who services the children from age 1 – 7. So, obviously, there is about 1500 people who are living at or from the dump. There is a group for the mothers that teaches them to read and finish 6 years of basic schooling. Many of the mothers grew up in the dump and never had an education. They have women from 15 to 81 who attend. They have helped a group of the mothers to form their own jewelry business. They were getting an order ready today to ship to the states. They use some beads that they buy but they make many of the beads from magazines they find at the dump. I would never have guessed that the colorful “beads” were colorful magazine pages and glue. Some of the men also want some education and they are being taught on a regular basis. The sad thing is that two years ago Hanley Denning was killed in an auto accident traveling from Antigua to Guatemala City. One man, a Guatemalan who has been involved for a long time, conducted the rest of the tour on the edge of the ravine so we could look over the dump.
There are many volunteers, mostly Americans who come for a week or a month or six months, or whatever. He said of the 600 volunteers Safe Passage has had, none have been Guatemalans, and that upsets him about his country. While we were there the BBC was filming a documentary. The website is www.safepassage.org . I did find out later that there is a nurse at the dump every day and a doctor is also there a couple of times a week.
Well, those are the facts about the school. Feelings about the day and what we experienced are pretty much what I expected. We all felt it deeply. We need to figure out what we can do to help in some small way. Our tour of the school and then out to the dump was about two hours. We rode with Blackburns. When we got back to the office I was able to finish emailing the Priesthood report to the bishops in Guatemala and then I started working on the loans. We came home a little early. Our busy morning left us tired. Dick left to go to the cleaners. When he got home he had some slices of chocolate cake with him that he bought at a pastry shop.
He got our key to Tilley’s apartment and let himself in and put the dessert on their table. Today is their 33rd anniversary.
21 August 2009…..Friday
Today is Dustin’s 34th birthday. I think that means that Cyndy is getting old. I spent the morning entering the payment dates and amounts into the loan report. With nearly 3000 participants in Central America now my work is increasing. There were 1600 when we arrived here last September. The last six months our work has become very desk/computer oriented. Dick’s work is becoming busier as PEF prepares to launch many changes throughout the world. The program has grown in numbers which requires new ways of tracking and implementing the plan.
This afternoon Brother Juarez came to the office with two new nacimientos (nativity sets). They will have two more for us in October. We took 5 sets home in June and gave them to Jeff, Jill, Dennis, Alison and Mark. By October we will have four to take home for Kristen, Scott, and Cyndy. The last one is for us. I love the Guatemalan textiles used on the small figures.
One thing that is interesting to me as I see countless names on loan reports. It seems that every day I encounter several participants named Mirna. I have known just a handful of “Myrnas” in the states but here it is a popular name.
22 August 2009…..Saturday
This morning Rexene, Adele and I went to Enrichment Meeting in our little branch. Rexene drove us as we left without our men. They stayed home with cleaning assignments and breakfast at McDonalds. There were about 13 of us in attendance, including a member of the stake Relief Society presidency. Adele’s daughter brought down looms for making hats when she was here a few weeks ago. Rexene taught the sisters how to do it, hoping that some might be able to turn it into a little business to help them make money. I acted as the official photographer.
There was also a Primary activity going on. While some of the children played outside, our young Primary president worked with two boys and two girls on a Hawaiian dance. They were darling.
I also walked through the home that serves as our chapel and took pictures of the rooms and the beautiful grounds surrounding the house.
After we got home we three couples went to lunch. We wish we had a car that would hold all of us, but Blackburns jumped in our car with us and Tilleys followed as Bill directed us to a Mexican restaurant, Mexico Lindo, not too far away that is a tourist area with nice hotels and good restaurants. I had a delicious tortilla soup, three tacos al carbón, with plenty of cilantro and onion, and a virgin piña colada. We were at a table next to the window and a woman with a little boy walked by carrying the goods she was trying to sell. She stopped at the window and started holding things up for us to see. She would smile and try to tell us the price but I couldn’t lip read her Spanish. Finally, Bill and I walked outside. She had a table runner in the colors I like that I thought would be the perfect cover to put over my teclado when I am not practicing. I bought another smaller tapestry also. She also spoke some English and she wanted Q300 for one of my purchases and Q200 for the other but as I hesitated about buying the second one she said I could have both for Q350. Bill bought a table runner, too. For stopping and smiling at a restaurant window she made $70. I am so glad she can make money from gringos like us and not have to work and live in the dump. When we purchase something here on the streets or at the markets there is that feeling that when we buy we are helping someone feed their children.
Tonight was dominoes and root beer flavored popcorn at Tilleys.
23 August 2009…..Sunday
It was another bright sunny beautiful morning in Guatemala City as we traveled to Church. We drove our car so Dick would have it to go home teaching with his teenage companion. I rode home with Tilleys and so did Adele as Bill also went home teaching. We have a busy week ahead of us since we will be gone Tuesday through Thursday with our returning missionaries.