Mike and I explored the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula for 2 weeks of flyfishing (Mike), diving (Stacey), snorkeling, Maya ruins, a colonial city, cenotes, quite a few hammocks and lots of great food.

When Mike flew home I headed to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas for 2 weeks of Spanish study with a small group in tow. We lived with host families and visited area sights including villages, museums, and ruins.

When the group flew home I bused to San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala for a week of planning for future growth of the Beca Project (link below) and meeting our sponsored kids and their families.

When our daughter Mariah and her husband Greg invited us to share a timeshare in Quintana Roo between Christmas and New Years, a new chapter to this blog was added. HAPPY TRAILS!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Transition Back to Mexico, Heading Home

Today I rose early, said quick goodbyes to my host family, and hopped in a minivan heading west into Mexico in advance of my Sunday flight home. The photo above was my last view of San Pedro in the distance as we drove away.

10 hours and thousands of mountain views later I reached San Cristobal de las Casas.

I picked up some extras I'd stored at my SC host's house; here's one last shot of my old "hood"....

....and 1 last shot of the beautiful catedral. That's it for this trip as I fly home tomorrow - HAPPY TRAILS!

Last Day in San Pedro La Laguna - July 16th

It was fitting to have a packed, emotional day for my last day in San Pedro - the whole week has been that way. I started in class with Mynor (this week has been more about using my Spanish than studying grammar, but this morning it was the subjunctive imperative tense for my tired brain).

Mid morning we took provisions to a local family. Those of you who have heard my story about the start of the Beca Project know that it was this sort of family visit a year ago that planted the seed. Today we visited the family of Florinda, a mother with 6 kids and a scant excuse for a house. The Cooperativa Spanish School has raised about 65% of the ~$9000 it will cost to build Florinda’s family a new home; we’re hoping to meet the goal and begin the house this winter which is the dry season in Guatemala. The Cooperativa school has home plans for 8 more families after this one; our Andrea's family is on the list. Most of the houses will cost around $6000; Florinda's is more because the lot is so tiny they have to build a 2nd story.

I’ve spent hours this week preparing letters and photos (some from sponsors, some that were taken during visits this week) for each student; after lunch (my final meal with Rosa, Felipe, and family) I bought envelopes and finished that process. At 3:00, Mynor and I walked to the school that most of the Beca kids attend, toured around a bit, and took photos of the group (below, with Mynor). Most of the photos we get of the kids and their families are really serious. I learned this week that if I say, "uno, dos, tres" in a goofy way before I snap the photo, I get smiles.

In advance of my trip I had asked if school staff would prepare a meal for the students and their families if I paid for the food - a big job with more than 60 people to feed. The dinner was a great success - every family attended, a father who is typically out of the picture joined us, and a mother I’ve only seen worried and serious beamed the whole time. Mynor, Lorenzo (the Cooperativa school’s director), and I each spoke briefly and food was served. Delicious! I was really humbled by the gratitude and the hugs I received from nearly every single person there, even the shy ones - a wonderful, warm group of people. I’m sorry the photos below don’t convey the warmth that I felt in spite of the rain. HAPPY TRAILS!

The kitchen crew - the female teachers at the school and 1 grateful white woman.

The servers

Some of the guests - Rosa (in pink) and her mother even managed smiles while eating!

Fresh tortillas, mixed vegies (carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and guisquil), rice, guacamole, barbecued chicken, and a fabulous salsa made from barbecued tomatoes - we're going to have to try that at home.

The set-up and clean-up crew - the male teachers at the school.

Me with those beautiful, beloved kids - note that there are 12 now, we added one this week!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Host Family

Here are some photos of my host family for your viewing pleasure - HAPPY TRAILS!

Say queso!

A game of Twister!

Rosa gets the grandbabes to sleep.

Rosa taking a break and helping me practice with my Spanish.

My room is to the right of the hammock.

Crowded kitchen - 4 boys who look like clones.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Random Shots

I decided to just post some random shots of the school and the town. This is Mynor and me taken by Maria Cecilia at her home on Wednesday.

Playing with Mynor's baby, Antonio, at his house on Thursday.

2 views toward the lake from high points in town.

The entry lane to the Cooperativa school.

Pretty colors at the school: a rainbow...

a lizard....

and a cactus fruit.

Some sort of solemn event by the municipal building this morning - saluting and singing - the national anthem, maybe?

A few street scenes: a chromed out chicken bus....

laundry day (note the sign) ....

Maria, the cinnamon roll and banana bread lady (she balances the bread pan on her head as she walks )....

and an old guy, Jose Navichoc, I talk to every time I pass his house; I enjoyed his company last year, too. He's really hard to understand - I think he's speaking more Tzutujil than Spanish to me. HAPPY TRAILS!

More Wonderful Families

Two more unforgettable mornings, 5 more family visits. The ambiance in each home is different due in part to their economic circumstances but (in my opinion) due more to the amount of hope the parents feel and have instilled in their children. I am so unbelievably grateful for this experience - HAPPY TRAILS!

Josefa Angelina and several younger siblings are being raised by their oldest sister after the parents both left and remarried. Josefa Angelina plays in the band and wants to be a doctor; her sponsor is Brad Schell.

Sharing photos with Luis and his mother; Luis is sponsored by Sue Wallace.

Sharing photos with Miguel (sponsored by Peter and Kathy Gay) and his family.

(I'm 5'4")

Admiring Maria Elena's excellent 2nd quarter grade report; her sponsors are Becky Cardwell and Judy Loen.

Sharing photos with Maria Cecilia and her mother; Maria Cecilia is sponsored by Phyllis Coats and friends.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Family Visits

Mynor and I visited 3 more families this morning. Each visit is so moving it’s impossible to put my emotions into words. Most of the parents speak only Tzutujil, a Maya dialect, so Mynor translates from my Spanish to their Tzutujil and back. The kids are fluent in both and study English in school.

The homes are incredibly humble; most wouldn’t even be considered houses in the United States. The families are all very proud of their kids and very grateful for the support. They were all very welcoming, though you can't always tell from the photos. Some offered me bread and coffee which is rich and very sweet. Several offered me bananas and it was hard to refuse so I took a few and shared them with my host family. Photos below - HAPPY TRAILS!

With Josefa and her parents; Josefa is sponsored by Carrol and Judy White and their kids and grandkids.

Sharing photos with Josefa (in orange) and her sister

Juan Carlos' family; Juan Carlos is sponsored by Sharon and Gary Brink, our daughter Mariah's in-laws.

Sharing photos

Looking at Juan Carlos' good grade report

Cute grandma!

A serious photo of Rosa's family; Rosa is sponsored by John and Mandi Coats and their boys.

Someone cracked a joke - love the smiles!