Friday, September 27, 2013

From Central America


In Guatemala City we stayed at Semilla - the Anabaptist seminary. These flowers were very pretty, but a bit hard to walk through at night.  

We visited the Mennonite Church in Guatemala City and participated in the Saturday morning music program. Here a young man is learning to drum, instead of joining a gang.

Part of our learning tour was to go to the cemetery. The military would line people up in front of this statue and shoot them. They would then toss them over the cliff behind it which just happens to have a garbage dump at the bottom of the cliff. We heard many stories of suffering in this recent war.

This is the aforementioned dump. A well organized though smelly place to work in, or look down upon for that matter.

One of our big adventures was going out to lake Atitlan to stay with some Mayan host families. We got to go to the homes of our host families on the back of this truck, in the rain. In the end, we had 14 people standing in the back of the truck.

Anna and Nicholas hosted me along with two other men. One of the men could speak Spanish, so we had a chance to actually talk to our hosts at length. Anna has five children ranging in age from 20 down to 4. Here are the two youngest.

We heard the stories of a number of families who had lost their homes to a mudslide. This is Juana. Her husband injured his leg, so is unable to work. Juana is trying to care for her husband and six children by making beaded jewelry.

The Spanish government built these new homes on the edge of the lake. Spain feels some responsibility for their historical treatment of the Mayan people.

This is the site of the village that was buried under 3 meters of mud. 150 people died in the slide. Since the area is now unsafe to live in, former villagers have gardens planted where their houses used to be.

Here is one of the three volcanoes surrounding lake Atitlan.

El Salvador

I was privileged to be able to go on a learning tour hosted by MCC to El Salvador and Guatemala. I was there from September 8 - 18, 2013. It was great meeting all kinds of people. Here is one boy I met at a daycare run by ANADES, an MCC partner. The daycare provides meals for the children as well as education.

We met Rosa, who has 10 children and 18 grandchildren. MCC has provided her family with School kits for 18 years now. She lives in an illegal shanty town called "La Linea".

This is Maria. She is demonstrating what can be done with MCC canned meat. When victims of Hurricane Stan first received canned meat, they weren't too excited. They didn't know what to do with it, so the Baptist church, an MCC partner  that does development work in La Linea, started workshops to give women ideas of how to use the meat. Our group was excited to be able to sample some of the great recipes the women came up with. Maria made stuffed peppers rolled in egg and fried, then garnished with tomato sauce. Now everyone loves MCC canned meat.
We went to Perquin and met a group of women who work together to overcome trauma from the war and who encourage each other to make handicrafts that they can sell and supplement their incomes with. I bought some crochet work from this woman.

We learned a lot about the conflict that El Salvador has just come through. Benito took us to a memorial that commemorates the lives of over 1,000 people brutally killed by the military in 1981. People are making sure that we remember so that this will not happen again.

We visited another daycare that was teaching dental hygiene. It is great to see who benefits from receiving a hygiene kit.

Raul was our driver for the duration of the learning tour. Nancy was our guide, organizer and translator. They helped to make the tour a lot of fun.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Going home

Everyone got up, had breakfast and came along to Heathrow to see us off.

Here we are with all our luggage in terminal 4. We finally got to use the extra bag we packed just for this purpose.

Just after take off we saw Windsor Castle. It's that white set of buildings which the greenway running vertically from the bottom of the picture leads to.

Our flight to Minneapolis was nine hours in duration. Arthur watched three movies. We were fed twice.
We were late in arriving in Minneapolis and had to go through immigration, collect our bags, go through customs, recheck or bags and then go through tight security, so had little time to make it to our gate. The gates couldn't have been further apart, so we got in a nice brisk walk to exercise some of those sitting-too-long muscles.

The boys picked us up at the Winnipeg airport and drove us home to a neat yard, clean house and semi stocked refrigerator.  
It's been a great vacation.