Dual Entry #5

"Our New Family"

We were just getting used to Esperanza's house.  We were comfortable in the 8 x 7 room.  We had learned that the potential for hot showers was greatest when her husband had just come home from a long trip.  We had grown accustomed to the dogs peeing on our door.  And now... we have to go and change things!

What could have been a difficult move has actually been relatively easy.  We are now living in the home of Martin Sop Baten with his wife and six children.  They are all incredibly warm and friendly.  We want to take this opportunity to give you a short tour of the place and all of the cool people here.

Our Room

First, check out our bedroom.  It was originally the ENTIRE HOUSE for this family when they had five children.  It was built by Habitat For Humanity.  Guatemala was the first foreign country where HFH set up shop, and our family is eternally grateful.

Our Storage Space
(Clothes drying due to rain outside)

Scott Hanging Off One Side Of The Bed
(Cool Micheal Jordan posters, too!)

The room is probably 15' x 15'.   In the U.S., many folks have a hard time fitting all of their shoes in 225 square feet.  Here, it's room enough for a family of SEVEN!  For the two of us, it is more than adequate.  In our opinion, it is the best room in the house.  It has a door that we can barricade from the inside or padlock from the outside.  There's even two chairs, a TV and an exercise do-hickey!  They added some extra padding to our bed, which is really awesome.  It's the first soft bed we've seen in Guatemala.  Though it's only a hair larger than a twin bed, we really appreciate it.  Sure, some nights the close-quarters are kinda like putting two wet cats in a paper bag, (someone comes out with a black eye) but we're managing very well.

Our "Exercise Corner"
(Not that we use it)

The Closet With One Of Our Buckets

They also left a nice closet here for us to store our clothes, and shelves for us to store our books.  We were really excited about this until we realized that we have more things to store than the WHOLE FAMILY!  It's a sobering reality.

The plastic buckets that they have given us are used for doing laundry, washing hands and faces, or taking care of nature's call when it's really cold and rainy at night.  The Michael Jordan posters are left over from Martin's two oldest sons, who gave up this room for the new gringos in the family.  They are now sleeping in a "room" that has been partitioned off in the sewing workshop using hanging sheets.

The scenery around the house is amazing.  There is a 10 minute walk uphill from the bus stop, but it isn't so bad when you get to look around at the volcanoes, corn fields, and mountains.  A field of huge stones separates the walking path from the house.  We had a whale of a time hauling huge bags of sand through this terrain in order to get materials for the construction project.  However, now we have one heck of a story to tell our grandkids, as well as some really sore muscles.

Gabby On "The Path"

Volcan Santa Maria

"Soccer Field" Next To Our House

The kitchen is small.  Graciela (the mom) and Yadira (the daughter) can often be found in here preparing meals on the wood burning stove.  They also make some killer tortillas from fresh corn that they grind every day.  Typically, breakfast is beans, rice and tortillas.  Some days, it's vegetable soup.  It just depends on what food they have on hand.  Lunches are the biggest meals of the day.  Usually they consist of a small piece of meat, vegetables and some rice.  Dinner is usually leftover from lunch, or else it is soup, rice, or beans.  Every meal comes with VERY light coffee, bread (usually semi-sweet) and fresh tortillas or tamalitos.  All in all, Graciela and Yadira are great cooks.

This old kitchen will soon be "replaced."  The family took out a loan to add on to their house.  One of the projects is the new "plancha" (or stove).  It is also wood-burning.  It is in the dining room, which is a very large cinder block room with a table and chairs.

Graciela and Yadira In The Cocina

Guys Working On The New "Plancha"

The only running water is at the pila.  Washing clothes here is hard work.  To cut down on the long stints at the pila, we've learned to take care of laundry in small, frequent batches.  What's more, kids from the nearby school come by for "Gringo-Fest 2003" to watch us labor through washing our duds.  We're kinda' like a side show, with the added benefit of not charging admission.  This is also the best place to get clean.  We've both learned the value of a good sponge bath.

Scott Washing Clothes In The Pila
 

Gabby Acting As The "Washing Machine"
(Bathroom is at the upper left of her head)

The bathroom will soon be replaced.  Right now they just have two big holes in the ground.  The "stool" is simply a concrete cylinder over the hole.  Clear plastic drop cloths surround the area for some privacy.  There is no roof, so the climate in the bathroom is whatever God provides.  Because of the rain, you have to plan ahead and bring any necessities in there with you when you go.

The Potty

A View From Outside The Bathroom

So... what will the new bathrooms look like?  We're not entirely sure yet.  The family had originally talked about building an outhouse, but later decided to construct a true, running water system.  They're being constructed just behind where the new bedroom will be for the two younger boys.  We're really happy about this development.  So... eventually we'll have two bathrooms with toilets, and one cold water shower.  We're thinking this should be finished before the year is over.  Awesome stuff!

The New Bathrooms

Now for the people.
Our new host dad is Martin (again for you gringos, that's Mar-teen).  He has an awesome sense of humor.  He loves to tell jokes and stories.  He drives the bus for PresGov, the organization that Gabby works for.  So, she'll be getting to know him well when she's on the road 40% of the year.  On his off days, he sews jackets, shirts, shoulder bags, and book covers.  He's lived in this town of Cantel his whole life, so it's fun walking around with him.  EVERYBODY here seems to know him.

Gabby With Martin

Graciela

Our host mom is Graciela.  She takes care of EVERYTHING around the house.  It's a pretty traditional society here, so you often see her doing laundry, chopping wood, going to the market, cooking EVERY meal, and taking care of the kids.  She works very hard to keep the house running, and does an excellent job.  Her kids are awesome, and she loves them all very much.
Francisco is the oldest son.  He's 21.  He attends a local university where he's studying to be a teacher.  He LOVES kids... especially his youngest brother.  In addition, he's a really good basketball player.  He's invited me to play on the team that he and his brother organized.  Pretty cool!

Francisco With Little Jose

Edwin Working On The "Plancha"

Edwin is 20 years old.  He's a trained mechanic, but can't find any work (which is common here).  He has a heart of gold.  He's always asking how we're doing, and is genuinely concerned that we're happy here.  He's also an incredibly hard worker.  Just this past weekend, he was hauling 100 pound bags of sand on his back up and down huge hills for HOURS without complaining.
Yadira is the only girl.  She's 15.  She has a big voice and big laugh.  She helps her mom with EVERYTHING!  Though she's beautiful, she's pretty camera shy, so we don't really have any good pics of her.  This is her getting dishes out of the cupboard.

Yadira

Marlon (right) is 11.  He's the kind of kid who just wants to be your pal.  He is really extraverted and always wanting to try something new.  Just yesterday, he coaxed Scott into hopping onto this farmer's old horse.  Riding bareback wasn't the most comfortable thing, and the horse groaned under his weight.  Though it probably wasn't the best idea, it was kinda fun.

Juan Eduardo (left) is really quiet and sweet.  He's definitely a mama's boy, but isn't afraid of hard work.  For example, Scott thought he was one tough guy, lugging sand in huge sacks up a steep hill.  That is... until little Eduardo ran past him carrying a sack almost as large.  He and Marlon are attached at the hip most of the time.

Eduardo And Marlon

Eduardo And Marlon Singing After Dinner

Finally, there's little Jose.  He's two years old and full of personality.  He is the family's home entertainment system.  He's constantly throwing rocks at the dogs, picking up the cats by their heads, kicking balls around, and barging into rooms uninvited.  It's a good thing he's so darn cute, or he might get in trouble alot.

Jose Taking A Break

Jose & Gabby Walking The "Beam"

 

All in all, we love our family and couldn't be happier with our situation.  Throughout the year, I'm sure we'll be typing up a bunch more long-winded stories about all of these folks.  We hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as we will.

Take care!