Sunday, September 29, 2013

Guatemala - pt. 3, Caquiton Chiacal - building a road

On Monday, August 5th we drove 30-40 minutes from Coban to a small village called Caquiton Chiacal. We spent the next 2 1/2 days working at a church in this village. We honestly weren't sure what we were going to be doing. Before we left the states we thought we would be working on a road. When we arrived, Rickie told us that the church instead was making a long side walk instead of a road and they wanted help with a second sidewalk on the other side of the hill. The sidewalks were to make it easier for the villagers to walk up the steep hill to the church.

We arrived in our van the Monte, Bub, and Bryan began unloading the shovels, wheel barrow, and other equipment that we'd be using the next few days. Since we were in a rather remote location we also brought enough food and water for the day as well. We actually took bottled water and large water coolers with us everywhere because we could not drink the tap water in Guatemala. 

(A side note, we also used the bottled water to brush our teeth with. I only let the girls use the tap water to wash their hands with and then I put hand sanitizer on them as well.)

We started our climb walk up the rather steep cement path the church men had already poured. While us Americans were huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top, the Kekchi people acted like it was no big deal. They are extremely used to walking every where (very few own their own cars) and they are used to the steep terrain.

Once we arrived at the top where the church was, we waited while the guys talked with the pastor to find out what we'd be helping on.

We discovered that we were no longer helping with a sidewalk. We were working on a road again. The men from the church had already begun the work so my dad, Bub, Monte, and Bryan headed down the road to help them continue the work.

Us ladies did not help with the road work. We stayed up at the church and played with the children and tried to talk with the women. I'll do another post on that next time.

The men worked hard. In order to build this new road that led up to the church, large rocks were carried in and placed where the tire tracks would be. The men then used sledge hammers to break the large rocks into small pieces. Once all the rocks are laid, then cement will be poured over them to make the tire tracks smooth enough to drive on. We were not there long enough to help with the cement pouring. So the guys in our group spent 2 1/2 days breaking rocks. They were quite worn out at the end of each day. In the picture below I got Monte and Bryan working hard.

My dad and Bub (a.k.a Tom) taking a bit of a break. They were working on digging the trenches to put the rocks into.

This is how rocks where carried. The Kekchi men (and even boys!) had sacks they laid across their necks and shoulders. Then another guy would help lift a large rock onto their back and they would walk up the steep hill and place the rock in one of the tire tracks where another guy would then start breaking it with a sledge hammer.

The Kekchi men also used what looked like a large wooden chair without legs to carry even more rocks. They used this to carry a large load of smaller rocks. While the rocks look small they are not light in weight at all. My dad unloaded rocks that were medium to large in size and said they were quite heavy. The large rocks he said he helped someone else lift. My dad was told that the men carried 300-400 pounds of rocks in these carriers. When they walked up the hill they took very small steps (teeny tiny steps in my dads words). You might notice in the picture that the guy has a strap going over his forehead to help keep the rock carrying chair on his back. These men are strong workers. The men in this church donated their time. They took off work without pay to help the church build a road.

The men also used wheel barrows to pull/push loads of rocks up the hill. I'm sure you can imagine how hard pushing and wheel barrow up a dirt road while loaded with heavy rocks is.

My dad and one of the men from the church breaking up the ground to get it ready for the rocks.

The last day we were there, there was a break in the work. They had run out of rocks and were waiting for the truck to come with the next load. I had kept the girls away from where the men were working because of the danger of flying bits of rock. But since they weren't working at the time, we walked down to see the progress and take some pictures.

When the truck arrived, the men jumped climbed up and began unloading the large rocks.

My dad found a couple of small rocks for the girls to carry up and place with the other rocks. So, yes, Sanaa and Layla did get to help build a road.

After lunch on the final day we were there, the pastor held a short service thanking us for our help. The service was mainly in Kekchi so I didn't understand any of what was being said. The pastor spoke first and then asked my dad to speak. My dad spoke in Kekchi as well and I know all the men gathered in that room appreciated hearing my dad in their own language.

My dad, Sanaa, Layla, and I with the pastor and his wife. I could write pages (and I probably will in the book I plan to make with all of my pictures) but I was really impressed with how hospitable and friendly the Kekchi people are (and all the people we met in Guatemala). The people at this church were very grateful that we came and helped them work on their road. Once again, I'm very glad that I made the decision to take Sanaa and Layla.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

School days - bus ride, new friends, and a visit from Mr. Wolf

We are well into the routine of our school days. Sanaa's second week of school seemed harder on all of us because we were so tired after the first week. So I think we're all adjusting (slowly) to the earlier wake up time, the afternoon rest time, and the earlier bed time. 

Both Sanaa and Layla are loving school. Sanaa comes home from kindergarten full of energy. What is up with that? I thought kindergarten would wear her out more. Even Layla comes out of preschool all wound up. 

I think the best part of school is the new friends we've been meeting. Sanaa rides the bus home each day and there is one other child who gets off at the same spot. His name is Markus and he is in the other AM kindergarten class. Over these last 2 weeks I've gotten to know his mom and sister. His sister Naomi is 6 days older than Layla. Needless to say Layla and Naomi have hit it off. The best part is that Markus and Naomi live on the same street as us (just at the other end)! We often end up walking to school with them and we've already had one play date. Markus and Naomi's parents are from Romania, although they've lived here in the US for about 10 years. 

Each day when Sanaa gets home, all three kids plop down on the floor as Sanaa shows us what she worked on at school.

Yesterday, Sanaa got off the bus and was very excited because she got to bring Mr. Wolf home for the night! Her teacher Mrs. Wolf sends the stuffed animal home with each child in the class and they get a night with him. Their assignment is to play with Mr. Wolf and show him things. Then they have to print out (or draw) a picture of Mr. Wolf's time and write about it in Mr. Wolf's diary. So I took a lot of pictures of Mr. Wolf's visit and let Sanaa pick out 4 that we could print and put into Mr. Wolf's diary.

Mr. Wolf did a lot while he was here. Sanaa took him for a bike ride in our garage.

Mr. Wolf played in our tunnel with all three kids.

Mr. Wolf also got to play in the cat tunnel, although Sanaa informed me that Mr. Wolf didn't like that tunnel too much because it was small.

I over heard Sanaa introducing Mr. Wolf to some of her stuffed animals and when I checked on her I saw Mr. Wolf and the other animals sitting together.

Mr. Wolf finished the afternoon with a tea party that Sanaa made and a tour of our back yard.

Part of the tour of our back yard included a train ride on the rake with Layla acting as the conductor. Mr. Wolf was also taken for a walk by all three kids around our kitchen with a necklace as a leash and Sanaa made a special bed for him to sleep in her room.

I did take a picture of what Sanaa wrote in Mr. Wolf's diary. I helped her spell everything but she wrote it. It'll be fun to see how her writing changes throughout the year.

The next thing coming up for Sanaa is her Fun Run this Friday. It's the big fund raiser that her school does. The kids run laps and have friends and family either pay them for each lap they run or just give a flat amount. The Fun Run is going to occur rain or shine. Right now the forecast is partly sunny with a 10% chance of rain. We've had a lot of rain the past couple of days, so I'm hoping that Friday is rain free. I can't see how running in the rain would be fun.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Malakai - 15 months old

Today Malakai is 15 months old. He had his check up this morning and got 3 shots. He was not happy about that until he saw the cool bandaids on his legs. Then he stopped crying and became more interested in removing the bandaids. But then I made him mad by putting his pants back on and covering the bandaids. 

Before I get too far into this post here are his stats:
Weight - 21 pounds (29th percentile)
Height - 30.12 inches (14th percentile)
Head circumference - 18.7 inches (70th percentile)

I discussed many things with the pediatrician. Once again he is behind on his communication and personal social skills. His problem solving skills fell in the gray area meaning it's something to watch but not as concerning as the communication and personal social skills which he barely scored anything on. His gross motor and fine motor on the other hand scored very high and he is doing quite well in those areas. At his 9 month check up we left that visit with a referral to ECI because he was lagging behind in communication, personal social skills, and problem solving skills. So I feel like we're having a repeat. The pediatrician isn't going to refer him to ECI at this time. However, she said that at any point between now and his 18 month check up if I have any concerns I can call ECI and refer him myself. If, he is still scoring really low in communication, personal social, and problem solving at his 18 month check up then we'll need to have him evaluated with ECI. 

Malakai is currently not saying any words. He does experiment with sounds and sometimes it sounds like he says words but he doesn't use words (or sounds) consistently and in the same manner. He'll often use the same sound/word to indicate he wants several different things. He also does not say mama or dada on a regular basis. He's started saying mamama when he's upset but that's about it.

We're also dealing with a lot of tantrums and hitting from him. The pediatrician gave me a good idea on how to deal with the hitting. She suggested that if he hits (or starts to) to gently say "no hitting" and then have everyone leave the room for 30 seconds. If he does hit one of his sisters and they start crying she suggested to pick up whoever he hit, comfort them, and walk out of the room. This way he's not getting any attention (good or bad) when he hits. He's hitting partly due to frustration and sometimes just to get attention. So I plan to talk with Sanaa and Layla and we'll probably start trying this. 

The tantrums are much harder to deal with and a lot more exhausting. I have video of him just laying on the floor screaming and crying. I think his longest tantrum so far has lasted about 15 minutes (even though it felt like an hour). How such a little child can cry and scream for that long is beyond me. Usually I ignore him and step around him, but most days from the time he gets up from his afternoon nap until dinner he is fussy, clingy, and throwing a fit over something. The afternoons are very long and making dinner with a screaming toddler under your feet is frustrating and exhausting.

Malakai's gross motor skills are great. He is climbing on everything. I find him on top of something new nearly each day. He finally managed to climb up on the counter after using a stool to get up on a table and then climbing up on the counter.

He really enjoys putting items into containers or tubes. So one afternoon I was able to keep him occupied with fuzzy balls and an empty paper towel roll.

The girls have a peg train counting game and one morning Malakai sat for a good 20 minutes putting pegs into the holes on the train cars and removing them. It was the longest period I have ever seen him sit still. And yes, I did tip toe around because I did not want to disturb him!

Most of the time Malakai is just getting into mischief or "helping" me get chores done. I know that clean laundry has been sitting in a basket too long once Malakai begins tossing each item out of the basket. That is usually my cue I need to start folding it.

He loves to empty the cabinets and bang on the pots and pans.

When I found out that Malakai was only 21 pounds I was really surprised. At his 12 month check up he was 19 pounds so he only gained 2 pounds over the last 3 months. I am constantly feeding him. If the pantry is open, he'll pull out crackers or other snacks to carry over to me. I guess he's burning off everything he eats.

Last week Malakai discovered how much fun it was to pull the petals off the roses and throw them on the ground.

On Monday we had some rain. Sanaa and Layla were so excited about the rain they immediately put on their rain boots and grabbed their rain jackets. Malakai was not about to be left out, so he got to play in the rain for the first time. It was fun watching him. He stood in the drive way and just looked up into the rain as it fell on him.

He then walked down to the end of the driveway and thought the water flowing down the gutter was pretty cool. It was even more fun to drink the gutter water! After taking the picture, I tried to stop him from drinking the gutter water but he wouldn't. So we ended up going back inside and he was so mad at me!

Today Malakai discovered how much fun it is to remove books from the book shelf. He would take books off, look at them briefly, and then toss them aside. Sanaa walked into the room and saw what Malakai had done and exclaimed, "Oh my word! What a mess!" But then she discovered some books she had forgotten about and sat down to look at them.

And finally, Malakai enjoys cleaning. He likes to use the broom and he likes to wipe up messes, which is good. He spent a few minutes emptying the last bits of water from a sippy cup onto our coffee table, but then he was nice enough to wipe up all the water.

So Malakai definitely keeps me busy. Most days I'm completely burned out by the end of the day. But once I go back and look at the pictures I've taken I just smile. The kids can be a handful and I could have had the most frustrating day with them, but looking at the pictures I'm reminded about how much they are discovering about their world and how much fun they are having.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Guatemala - pt. 2, Bible Institute in Coban

We arrived in Coban at the Bible Institute Sunday evening. After we arrived my dad helped me empty our large suitcase and inspect every single piece of clothing for ants while some of the other team members (Rickie, Bethany, Nkele, and Monte) did the grocery shopping. The main building was built in 1949 and that is where they have some offices and classrooms along with the kitchen. 

This is an open hallway that we walked through from the front of the main building where we parked. The kitchen is the doorway on the left next to the bench. We had the kitchen completely to ourselves for the entire week we were there. We took turns making breakfast and dinner.

If you continue past the kitchen there is another building (the one directly in front of Sanaa) that I believe they may have had more classrooms in, but I'm not sure. If you took the path that goes off to the left near Sanaa that led down to the dorms where we stayed. Each family unit got their own room.

The team at breakfast. If you start with me on the left and move in a clockwise direction you have Tom, Rickie, Bethany, Monte, Bryan, Nkele, Sanaa, and Layla. My dad was the one taking the picture, so he's obviously not in it.

My dad made pancakes one morning. He told me not to take a picture of him since he doesn't want my mom to see that he can actually flip pancakes. But now his secret is out! Everyone liked his pancakes, so I guess he cooked them well.

Tom actually goes by Bub and Sanaa and Layla fell in love with him and his wife Rickie. Bub and Rickie have a little 2-year old grandson (who lives in the states with his parents) and another grandson on the way (due in November). So they were absolutely thrilled to spend the week loving on and playing with Sanaa and Layla.

 This is a picture of the dorm that we stayed in. Our room was at the very end and we had the biggest of the three rooms.

When you walked in the door and looked right you saw one set of bunk beds (where we laid out all our clothes, the sink (with no mirror) and the door to the bathroom.

On the other side was another set of bunk beds and that is where my dad slept. There was a second room with 4 more sets of bunk beds where the girls and I slept (it's right through the open door way).

We all slept on the bottom bunk and I used the top bunk to put our backpacks and stuff.

Overall, the girls did quite well sleeping. Each day was filled with so much activity that all of us were worn out, so sleep came easily. Many nights the girls were up until 9pm but surprisingly they were not that grumpy. The hardest part about sleeping was that there was a tin roof on the dorm. So when it rained, it was loud. When it poured, you could barely hear each other when talking. Thankfully, it only rained the first two nights.

The very first thing we learned in Guatemala was that we could not put the toilet paper in the toilet. I was told the water pressure wasn't strong enough to continually flush paper. So all the toilet paper went into the trash can. We forgot a couple of times and that's okay, except for my rule following oldest daughter. Sanaa nearly had a meltdown and was so worried that we forgot once to put the toilet paper in the trash can. I reassured that forgetting one time was okay and we wouldn't get into trouble or cause the toilet to break.

There was no bath tub, just a shower, but that's what I expected. The first night we were there I was looking forward to a shower, but decided to skip because I was just too tired. The next morning I found out from my dad that we had no hot water. Ugh. We were without hot water from Monday morning until Wednesday afternoon. Monday night I had to give the girls a shower and I desperately needed a shower as well since my last shower had been Saturday morning. The girls were troopers. They hated the cold shower but they got through it super fast and didn't complain all that much. On Tuesday I just washed their faces and arms. By Wednesday I was getting a little worried about having to take cold showers the entire week but when we got back from our work site we discovered they had fixed the shower for us. Yay! The girls were very excited about having a warm shower. At least until a rather large spider ran across the shower floor just as Layla was stepping into the shower scaring her to death. Grandpa came to rescue and killed that thing. But after that we had to do a close inspection of the shower before entering. The spider was probably 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches in diameter, so definitely bigger that the small ones I freak about in Oregon.

On Thursday Sanaa helped me hand wash a few pieces of clothing in the sink. She thought it was great! As we were washing my dad came in to tell me that the president of the Bible Institute was going  to take any laundry we needed to washed to a laundry mat. Woohoo! So I stopped washing at that point but Sanaa wanted to do more. So I let her finish washing some socks.