sábado, 15 de septiembre de 2012

Independencia - Guatemala feliz que tus alas....

This week/month is all about independence.  It hardly seems like we have school with all the activities.  Its been really fun and different.

We had a day where a bunch of surrounding schools came with their bands to play and compete and be patriotic.  My kids and I watched from the second floor.

We also had a big parade with neighboring schools.  My kids dressed up as flowers, a bear, and a frog.  It was really cute.  We marched around San Andres Itzapa with our band playing in the back.

My favorite activity by far was the torch run.  Only the older kids went and it was such a unique and unifying experience.  First we drove about an hour and half away to swim and have fun.

Then we ran home! what?!?  We went to the town San Martin where the mayor made a little speech and lit our torch that we would bring all the way back to NPH.  Ok - we were a  little low on time so we drove about a half hour first, but afterwards the kids and volunteers ran through several towns, lots of hills, for about 2 hours.  Random people from random towns cheered us on and threw water on us.  We were exhausted; I didn't know if I was going to make it.  At one point I was way behind everyone with our bus on my butt honking.  All the tired people had already climbed on to take a break, but I had to keep going.  It was an incredible feeling to hear a bunch of kids cheering on "Estephanie! Estephanie!" and I caught up to the rest.  Then we finally made it to Parramos. (ok, most took a break, I skipped some hills...).  The younger kids came out to meet us along with the tios and we all ran the last stretch together.  Then we lit the torch and sang Guatemala's national hymn (well not me... I'm american) but it was super cool.

This awesome kid from my section explained that running is seen as a symbol of freedom.  I had never thought of that before.  I really like it.  We saw other groups running with their torches and we all mutually cheered each other on.

Not that I have favorites or anything, but he definitely helps me remember why I'm here and why I want to be.
Other than all the independence celebrations, everything has been going well with the Special Olympics and working with the kids with special needs.  Recently I started helping with Club Pica Pica which is a once a week cooking class.  I really like working with other volunteers and I think the kids really enjoy it.  I love having so much variety :)

sábado, 8 de septiembre de 2012

mes de la patria and other stuff

Hey everyone,

I'm happy to say our first training with the Special Olympics in the capital went swimmingly.  We brought five kids with us to a really nice sports complex.  A special olympics coach lead the practice with our kids and another group of adults and kids.

getting ready to head out!
It was really neat to see them meeting other kids with disabilities who are just like them.  At first everyone was very shy, but at the end they were giving hugs goodbye and running together and it was great.  For me it really boosted my energy and excitement to meet more athletes and see my kids participating.  It was perfect.

everyone in action


Our NPH athletes
We want to try to go every 2 weeks and we'll try to bring more kids with us.  And its all free :).  In the mean time, we'll keep up with our practices at NPH a couple times a week.
On a different note, things are about to get pretty crazy around here in Central America.  September is patria month - time to be patriotic.  The 15th of September is independence day for many Latin American countries including Guatemala.  In the school we're going to have a ton of activities throughout a span of several days with bands, torch runs, parades.  I'm looking forward to a change in pace and its so interesting to participate in celebrations I've never seen before.  
So - I'm sure its not a huge shock to the world or anything, but finances are rough, not just for NPH Guatemala, but for a lot of the homes and I imagine nonprofits in general.  If you are interested in supporting NPH and the lives and family they are trying to provide for these kids, please consider donating on this link.  http://www.nph.org/ws/help/donations.php?lang=en
Also, you can donate for specific projects.  We are particularly running low on our horse therapy fund with the kids with special needs.  We do this once a week for two hours and its so good for the kids.  A volunteer physical therapist and occupational therapist head it up and the kids not only get physical therapy with balance and building trunk support, but they also get to ride big, scarey animals.  They learn that they can do it; they can accomplish something that is hard and intimidating.  I'd hate for them to miss an activity so good for their self-esteem and well-being.  All of the specific projects are listed on this link. http://www.nph.org/ws/help/projects/index.php?lang=en

So that's all for me.  I'm enjoying my low-key weekend and tomorrow I'm going to watch the first Chicago Bears game of the season! woo-hoo!

domingo, 2 de septiembre de 2012

santa maria, half marathon, and special olympics

I'm going to gloss over a lot - but here's some recent events and updates.

So, everything is still going with the Special Olympics. We met up with the director, talked things out, I've got everybody's forms, and have downloaded all the rules. We had our first couple practices and its awesome because one of the newer volunteers used to volunteer with the Special Olympics in the states and knows how to run practices and the rules we got to stick to. I'm so excited! We have about 15 kids who are going to participate and we separated them into two groups - the younger, really energetic kids, and the other older, calmer group. Its so great its happening!
Hopefully tomorrow will be our first training in an actual stadium and not at NPH. We're going to take a trip with a few of the kids and practice with the track and the lines and all that jazz. We've got transportation set - I just hope we crossed all our "t"s and dotted our "i"s to actually get there and practice!

I had a couple great weekends. A couple weeks ago Charlotte and I decided to take Friday off and head to Xela for a long weekend. Every once in a while, its so great to get away and get refreshed. We decided to climb Santa Maria, one of the 10 volcanoes that surrounds Xela. We left at 4am and arrived at the top at about 8. It was amazing. I struggled a bit the last half hour with all the altitude and steep climb, but making it to the top made it all worth it. We felt like we accomplished something (which my sore leg muscles attest to), and we got to really engage with nature. It was perfect.

Last weekend, a few volunteers ran a half marathon and a group of us went to cheer them on. As it was in the morning on Sunday and there's lots of stuff to do in the capital, we stayed the night on Saturday with a friend and her family. They were all extremely nice and wonderful. Saturday we took advantage of the fact that the Body Works exhibit was in Guatemala. It was really cool and really interesting. I liked the guy with all the nerves like a creature out of a tim burton movie. I think its amazing that even though the exhibit has traveled to so many of our countries, a good amount of us hadn't seen it yet. Then Sunday morning we all went to the race - about 9000 people running. The excitement was contagious and all the runners did great! (Charlotte under 2 hours whoa!!). Afterwards we all celebrated at IHOP which was wonderful and weird.

In my classes we're continuing coming up with a dance for our little play and making all the masks, props, and costumes. I hope it all goes well and I have a list of people to invite (it will be a smallish audience I think). But they are so cute. School will be ending in about a month and we have about 2 weeks of crazy independence activities amongst other things, so I hope we're able to finish everything in time.

Eeek - officially here in Guatemala for 8 months on Friday. Did that really just happen?
Anyway, its crazy hard to upload pictures - sorry about that. But I have some on facebook.
Hope you are all well!!