Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Wow, it's hard to believe that Christmas has already come and gone!  Crazy to think that we wait ALL year long for this day and in no time it's already gone!!!  Christmas was a little different for us this year, so I figured I'd give a quick recap, just so everyone else could experience the fun!!  =)

We started out on Christmas Eve day, we did lots of getting ready for the evening and the next morning.  Risa and my dad got the cinnamon buns, rolls, and even more cookies,  mixed up and baked.  We made chicken pot pie with the dough parts cut out as ornaments, starts, hearts, and gingerbread men and women.  We also visited Fundaninos to play with the kids a little bit and help out.  In the evening we really started to have fun!!

First, we went to our Christmas Eve service at church.  Our pastor made sure that the service was early enough that people could get to their meals later, but late enough that everyone would be done with their afternoon meals.  It's nice to be able to spend some time with our church family at Christmas time!!

After the service, we had several co-workers, as well as two other volunteers working with the church, over for supper.  Later we set up the projector and watched "The Nativity Story" in front of the fire.  The Guatemalan tradition is that everyone stays up until midnight and sets off fireworks at that time, so we were just trying to find things to do in order to stay awake!!  =)

Around 11:30, we gringos (Americans) went ahead and did the "Guatemalan" thing and set off quite a few fireworks!!  We figured that, if we set off our fireworks earlier, we would be able to watch all the other fireworks!!  It's quite obvious that my parents have become much more relaxed with fireworks when Risa and I are running around with lighters and fireworks...  gets to be a little nuts, but lots of fun!! 

A dud...

It got quite foggy!

Grand Finale!!!!!
All the fireworks and excitement finished up around 12:30 and we all went back inside to warm up and get ready to crash for the night.  We figured that we'd clean up the mess that we had made the next morning!  Abby, Risa and I slept in the living room, in front of the tree and by the fire.  

The room BEFORE bed...  didn't get a picture of after!
The next morning (25th), we all gathered around the tree and got ready to open gifts.  This year we each bought gifts for each other, which made our gift piles look much larger!  I had more fun watching others open the gifts that I got them than opening my own (not that that wasn't fun too!)!!  

Risa in her one gift...  her box!!

Even Oso got a gift, he hasn't set that bone down for much at all!
After gifts, some of us went to start cleaning up our mess outside, others helped to make brunch.  We once again had the ORI crew and volunteers over for brunch and then played games and hung out.  We also got to Skype with my dad's side of the family, it was fun to see them again and feel like we were all together!!!  

In the evening, Susan and Hannah (2 of the volunteers with Casa de Libertad) had our family, along with several others, over for supper.  We spent lots of time talking and laughing and celebrating Christmas.  After everyone left I stayed and Susan, Hannah, and I played "Hand and Foot" until sometime this morning...  It was quite fun!!  =)

Christmas for us here in Guatemala isn't quite like it is in the states.  We aren't able to have gatherings with our direct family on Christmas day, and we don't have the ice cold and snow that is often associated with Christmas.  But, instead we spend time with our adopted family and we get to enjoy the Guatemalan traditions that we would never be able to do in the states!!!!  No matter where we are though, we still are all celebrating the same thing, the birth of Jesus and the amazing gift that God sent to earth!!  So, Merry Christmas (even if it is a day late) and I hope everyone has a very Happy New Year!!!!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Picture Speaks 1000 Words, Right?

I realized that I haven't updated my blog in a little while, but I couldn't really think of anything too interesting that's been going on around here, so I thought I'd do a "Week+ in review" in pictures!  So, here it goes!!

Cute kids (only a few of many!):
2 week old Diego, had been left in the hospital by his mother.

Trouble and Double Trouble!

7 year old Noe
Devils (Burn the Devil Day, December 7th):
The pile of Devils about to be burnt!

LOTS of devils for sale!!

Alejandro and I by the devil burning fire

Fireworks from the devils...

Kids celebrating with more fireworks!!

Abby and I with Santa at the Burn the Devil celebration.

Lassie, found in the streets by some kids from an orphanage.

Oso discovering that he really likes & Cafe!

Painting, scraping, and cleaning at Operation Rescue.

Box Truck before takeoff!!

Lots and Lots of food!!!!

New Audi R8 at the dealership... 

Volcan de Agua
And, last, but certainly not least, family:

L-R Clockwise:  Denny (dad), Abby (16), Me (17 almost 18!), Barb (mom), Oso, Risa (13), and Shyanne (6)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Time in Guate

It's hard to believe that the Christmas season has already arrived again, but hey, I'm not complaining!  Christmas time in Guatemala does feel a little different than in the states.  We obviously don't get the snow that we so often associate with Christmas, and it doesn't get quite as cold, but that's really where the differences end!  Allow me to show you...

First off, we do still light fires in our fireplace to stay warm.  Guate is the "Land of eternal spring," but it still gets a little cool in the springtime!!!

We still set up our Christmas tree and decorate the house with manger scenes, poinsettias, and snowmen. 

We still decorate and bake (and eat!) lots of gingerbread cookies!  Sometimes we eat them all or give them away, or we decorate them ourselves or bring kids from an orphanage or other friends to help us!!

We still make a mess and have tons of fun!!
Decorating cookies (or each others faces, not sure which...) with my "new" big sister, who is becoming a Freed for Christmas!!!

I guess there are a few different things about Christmas in Guate...

We never decorated our dog in the states, but we do here!!

There was never a 40 meter, Gallo (beer) Christmas tree in the states, but there is here!

The steakhouses don't usually have huge trees and other decorations in the states, but they do here!!

The companies change their billboards to be more Christmas related, even if they only leave them up for a month!

Finally, our local Starbucks-like coffee shop (& Cafe) changes their coffee cups to be more "Christmas like".  They also have new, short-time drinks that are REALLY good!!!

I'm not sure Christmas in Guate will ever quite feel like Christmas in the states, but then again, what is Christmas supposed to feel like?  If our view of Christmas is centered entirely on the snow, the cold, the trees and the lights, we've got it all wrong.  But, if we can still enjoy all these things and keep our main focus on the amazing gift of Jesus, I think, no matter where you are, Christmas will have a similar feel, no matter what!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations/Visitors/Trips

This past week has been pretty crazy.  On Tuesday, we had visitors arrive from the states and they are here for a week.  We've had TONS of fun with them so far and we're looking forward to the next few days with them!  Since they've arrived, we've been finding plenty of things to keep us busy, so I thought I'd share a few of the things...

First, on Wednesday morning we went to Operation Rescue for one last time this year.  No, they're not closing down for good, but the school year is now done so they won't be serving breakfast anymore this year.  It's been so much fun getting to know the kids there and interacting with them!!

Later on Wednesday, we began the 3+ hour trip to Santiago, which is across the lake from Panajachel.  There is an orphanage that we resource up there, and we thought it would be fun to take our guests there to see a different home and a beautiful view!!  Not to mention it gave us a good excuse to go visit as well!!  The place we visited only had 17 kids when we arrived, but they got 3 more while we were visiting.  All the children either speak English or are learning English and they are very well behaved!!  It was a lot of fun to visit with the directors, interact with the kids, and snuggle the babies!!  We only stayed overnight, but the 6 hours on the road was 100% worth it!!!!

Josue arrived at the home with his mother/sister fairly recently.  His mother is now 13 years old.
4 month old Josue

Mama with Rosita and Shenny

Out at the home, they had recently received a new little girl, 6 day old Mercy.  Mercy had been found laying in the streets, naked, umbilical cord attached and tiny.  She only weighs about 4.5 lbs and is the sweetest little thing.  
1 week old Mercy

Me with tiny Mercy
Minor had arrived at the home when we was about 7 months old.  At the time he couldn't even sit up by himself!  He's come a very long way and is an adorable little guy that gives AMAZING hugs!!  =)
11 month old Minor

Abby and Minor

Risa and Minor

While we were visiting, the directors went to pick up three new children, two babies and a 12 year old girl.  The babies have already had hard pasts, but I am so glad they are now in a home that will care for them, love them and support them in their futures!!
This little guy was 1lb at birth and his mother never claimed him.

This little guy was found in a field and has been in the hospital his whole life

Friday we spent the day visiting two orphanages, one in Guatemala City and one in San Lucas.  At the first home, we mostly just went to play with the kids.  Many of these children don't have family or anyone really to visit them, so we enjoy just stopping by to play every now and then. 

This little guy also has one sister with eyes exactly like his and another sister with 2 blue eyes!!

At the second home, some of our friends were throwing a pizza party for the kids, so we went to help and hang out!!
Sleeping (now 1 year old!!) beauty


Baby Kisses  =)

On the way home from these two orphanages, we ended up getting stuck in 1.5 hrs of traffic, which can get a tad boring...  so Abby and I started taking pictures.  As embarrassing as they may be, I thought I'd share a few.  Abby, please don't kill me!!!

See the resemblance? 

My personal favorite!!! 

Finally, this morning (Saturday) Operation Rescue had their final party for the year.  They brought the kids from the school, as well as several hundred others from the streets.  Each of us was assigned to a group of 10-11 kids to try to keep control of, along with another worker.  They had about 15 inflatable bounce things and tons of games.  It was really chaos, but a lot of fun!!!  We all left the party exhausted, sunburnt and dirty, but happy at the same time!!

A VERY small portion of the kids!!!

After the party, we had to take our guests down to center Guatemala City to show them the fireworks...  oh, and buy a few!!

No, we didn't buy all those!!

I think that about sums up our Thanksgiving celebrations/visitors/trips, and everything else.  I could start to talk about all the things that I'm thankful for, but we could be here for a while!!  So, it'll have to suffice to say that I am thankful for so much in life; my God, my family, my friends and my life.  Happy (belated) Thanksgiving everyone!!!