Saturday, July 2, 2016

Things Learned in Guatemala: How to Throw Up While Wearing A Necklace

Well, Jo and Mom made it back from their mission trip in Guatemala alive, intact (and pretty smelly to boot).
Their return isn’t exactly breaking news anymore, since they’ve been back for an entire week now, but I get around to these things when I can—and that’s rarely immediately.

Since they’ve come back, we’ve been asking a lot of questions about their trip, what they did, what it was like in Guatemala, and what they thought of the experience, plus looking at all the pictures taken by the group they went with. I’ve heard plenty of stories about what they did while they were away, but before that, a little background.

In case you were wondering (because I feel I haven’t been very clear) Mom and Jo did not go all on their lonesome to Guatemala, and they certainly didn’t co-ordinate the trip details and well-drilling themselves. They’re actually just two members of a large team of volunteers that went through World Help, a global humanitarian organization that sends teams like Jo’s to different parts of the world to provide aid and relief in struggling areas. The specific trip Jo went on was also partially managed by Hope of Life, a Guatemala-based humanitarian organization focused on meeting the needs of Guatemalans.

The team Jo went with consisted of about twenty-five people. I found it interesting that twenty of these people were from a church in Pennsylvania, and then there were these five random Minnesotans tagging along. Go figure.

The Pennsylvania group had been to Guatemala before, and last year they raised money to build a church and a home for the church’s pastor in the village of Altimira. This year they came back with plans to repaint that church and build another home. On top of that there was Jo’s well-drilling project, but she was able to raise all the money for that ($15,000) by herself, something I talked about HERE.

Jo and Mom approached this trip with only a hazy idea of what they’d be doing during their weeklong stay, but they figured they’d be helping with the building projects by hauling cement blocks and doing physical labor. (Here in Minnesota we call that “grunt work.” Or maybe it’s just the Clan who says that.) Turns out they were mostly right, since they repainted the church, stacked rocks for landscaping at the home they built, and hauled wet concrete to lay the floor of the new house. There were a few hospital visits and village tours mixed in, but they still did a lot of grunting during that week.
Dedicating the new house
Unsurprisingly, this trip was a huge learning experience for Jo, from start to finish. She went from home school kid who’d never been more than one or two states away from home to a veteran fundraiser and globe-trotter…or something close to that. Along the way she learned quite a number of useful things which I thought I’d pass along to you.

For instance, Jo is now the Clan’s resident expert on how to scrape stucco off a wall without getting stung by the scorpions that get flicked out of their hidey-holes by the scraper. She’s also our resident expert on scorpion smashing—definitely a handy skill to have.
Scraping old stucco off the church
Of course, Jo being who she is, she somehow didn’t figure out how to apply paint to a wall without getting it on her shoes and in her hair, so we’re calling those off-white splatters a “souvenir.”
Another skill she picked up while she was away is how to mix concrete the Guatemalan way. They don’t have concrete mixers in the villages down there, so instead they mix the rock and water right on the ground and then haul the buckets of wet concrete to wherever they need it. Whatever is left just sits there to dry, leaving an oddly placed uneven sidewalk there on the ground.

Jo also learned to drink lots of water while in Guatemala. Staying hydrated there is a full-time occupation: between the heat and the humidity, you can get heatstroke pretty fast. Something else the Guatemalan climate does is grow gigantic grasshoppers. Think 4 inches long and you’ll be on the right track. Mom being who she is, she dared someone to eat one of them and almost had to cough up $20 before he thought better of it.

In case you were interested, it would take more than $20 to convince me to eat a grasshopper, even with chocolate.

Other things Jo learned was how to drink water out of a bag, how to hand out boxes of ice cream, and how to ride a bus for six straight hours. Again, all very valuable skills.
Unfortunately, despite all the immune boosters Jo and Mom took before and during their trip, they did end up getting sick on the last two days, so another thing Jo learned was how to go without eating for 48 hours and how to throw up while wearing a necklace—or rather, how NOT to do it.

 But surprisingly enough, out of all the things Jo learned on this trip, a better grasp of Spanish was NOT one of them. She tells me her Spanish is probably worse than it was when she left because “they talk so fast down there! I got confused.” She did get one chance to show off her language skills, though, because at the dedication of the well she had to give a speech.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Jo is not overly fond of the spotlight, and she isn’t too keen on public speaking either. Her speech caused her a lot of anxiety, but in typical Jo fashion, she figured out a way to deliver a speech and still avoid being the center of attention for more than thirty seconds. The speech she gave at the dedication was delivered in Spanish—and was exactly four words long.

Hallelujah! Gloria a Dios! (Hallelujah! Glory to God!)

It was short, sweet, and to the point—just her kind of speech. It's probably worth mentioning that this was about all the Spanish she could string together at one time.
Jo got the cut the ribbon at the well dedication
Cutting with aplomb!
Since she got back, we’ve asked Jo several times if she thinks she’ll be going back next year. At the moment her answer is “I don’t think so.” It was a great experience, one that she definitely enjoyed, but right now she’s ready to get back to her regular schedule and do things like school, chores, and washing my laundry.

Cuz that’s what sisters are for, right?

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