I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. I Samuel 1:27

Friday, August 08, 2008

My Trip Part #5

(Editor's note: I started this post Friday night but just couldn't finish it until now. I had a rough weekend, I think everything is finally hitting me)

Trip to Tierra Linda and Visiting Alex's Family

Here are some pictures from the last post.

Here's Manuel, Alex and Gloria in their apartment.

I took these pictures from the balcony of my apartment before going to dinner.

Same picture the next morning.

I woke up Friday morning pretty early. (that time difference will get you every time - even if you are tired) I spent some time out on my balcony taking in the sights and watching Pana wake up.

This picture shows one of the volcanoes that was visible from the apartments.

The van came to the apartment in the morning to pick us (Manuel, Gloria, Alex and I) up and take us to Sharon's place.

I finally got to see what the inside of Sharon's place looked like. I walked through the gate into a beautiful courtyard. To the right is a two story building which houses the Mayan Family offices. In the courtyard is an onil stove set up as well as the parts to other stoves that were waiting to be installed. There were also cages to the left with many of the dogs that are being cared for by Mayan Families.

We then went into Sharon's house. Just outside the house is an area where they store the donations to be handed out. It's not a very big area, but there are lots of shelves and some other storage areas.

Sharon's house is modest but very cute. It was obvious to me immediately that there is no privacy - no non-Mayan Families for this family. They are Mayan Families.

We sat down on the couch and waited for Sharon and the others who were going with us to get ready. Sharon immediately had her kitchen staff prepared a nutritious breakfast for Manuel and Gloria (she offered breakfast to me, but I'm not a big breakfast eater, and had already had my granola bar for the morning). I was glad to see that they were able to eat. I never asked Sharon this question, but I wondered where this food came from - was this Sharon's personal food? Did Mayan Families pay for it? I'm tell you - there is no line between Mayan Families and Sharon's personal life.

We then loaded up a couple bags of food that we were going to be delivering to the school in Tierra Linda. I also had Sharon ask Manuel and Gloria if they had formula for Alex at home as they had gone through all that I had brought (which really wasn't a lot). They didn't, so Sharon gave them some formula from the little bit that Mayan Families had left on the shelf.

We then piled in the van - Sharon, Aleeya, Zoe, (Sharon's daughters), Gloria (Mayan Families staff), Manuel, Gloria, Alex and I. I said that I wanted to buy the family some food, so we made a stop at the market. I went in with Sharon and Aleeya to the market. What a great place with great colors, smells, and sights.

We got them a box full of food and added eggs, baby food and what looked similar to rice cereal. (by the way - it cost me around $60.00 and should feed them for about a week-week and a half)

We were finally on our way up the mountain to Tierra Linda.

These next pictures I took from the van on our way.

This was a common sight. If you look at the picture below - about in the middle - you can kind of see an area that doesn't have as many trees.

This is a close up shot of the same place. In the middle of the side of the mountain was a field of some sort. I'm not exactly sure how they get there - I'm sure it's not easy.

The pictures don't do the beauty of the area justice - at all.

We finally arrived in Tierra Linda (probably about a 30 minute van ride). We went to the school first. It was neat to see all of the kids - who came out to greet us. It was also funny to watch them and to realize - yet again - that we are all the same. I saw the shy ones that stood off in the corner - watching everything we did - but not wanting to get close. The attention seekers who were right by our side wanting to be in the middle of everything. The two girls who were fighting over a notebook - and the third girl who was taking sides. :)

We then made the short drive to Alex's family's property.

(as I describe people going forward I'm going to describe them from Alex's perspective)

Grandpa met the van on the road just below their property. He was all smiles and was so excited to get his hands on Alex. He led us onto their property. There were three buildings - a fairly large one to the right, a long skinny one straight ahead and a very small one to the left.

The extended family was all there, including the kids. I found out later that the kids stayed home from school because they didn't want to miss this homecoming.

They then led us into the larger building on the right. As Sharon and I entered the room, they set off firecrackers. (and for those of you who have been to Guatemala, they usually don't need a reason to set of firecrackers!)

I'm not sure if they rearranged this house for our coming, but I think they did. To the right was two beds, straight ahead there was a table with a weaving on it. There were chairs set up all around the middle of the room. To the left was a closet and another table.

They had Sharon and I sit behind the table. The rest of the family then sat around the room. There was Manuel, Gloria, Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt (I think - maybe Great Aunt), Great Grandma, and then the kids - not sure if they were cousins or aunts/uncles.

As we were waiting for everyone to hold Alex and get settled, the women went outside. I was able to capture the next two pictures from inside the house. I think they are priceless. They then brought bottled water for all of us.

Soon, the speeches started. Everything had to be translated from Kaqchikel (pronounced CATCH-a-kel) to Spanish and then from Spanish to English. Because of this, I'm not 100% sure that the translation was perfect, but I think I got the idea. :)

Manuel spoke first. He couldn't get through his speech without crying. Grandpa spoke next - then Gloria - then grandma.

Basically they said that they were very poor and they didn't know what they were going to do for Alex after he was born. They went to a couple of doctors and they were told the surgery would cost $7,000 USD. There was no way they could come up with that kind of money. They were very grateful to Sharon and to Jay and I for providing the opportunity for Alex to get this surgery. They told me that they would never be able to repay me, but that God would bless our family, and He would repay us for them. They also thanked me for the food that I bought for them, and for the rest of the gifts that I brought with me.

At this point, I was still doing ok. The tears were right there on the edge, but I was able to get through it without crying. Sharon then spoke, and then I spoke. I can't remember - at all - what I said, but I think it was something about how it was our honor and pleasure to take care of Alex, that they have a very special little boy, and that he will always be a part of our family.

At this point, Manuel got up and presented Sharon and I with a present. I wasn't totally surprised by this, as they are a very giving people, and it is not unusual for Sharon to receive small gifts from the people that she helps. I was a little concerned about the money they had spent - water - gifts for Sharon and I - knowing that they have very little money.

Next, Grandpa got up. He had a present in his hand that was wrapped in masculine paper. He said that this present was for Jay. It was to thank him for treating Alex as his own son. At this point, I was starting to tear up - this was so unexpected. As you will see in this next picture, I was holding back the tears.

Then, Grandma came forward holding a present wrapped in Mickey Mouse paper. Before any translation could happen, Sharon gasped and said, "I think that's for your Alex." I LOST it - totally and completely - not just tears, but crying. I was trying to pull it together, but it was just too much. If I remember correctly (and all I could think of was trying to stop crying) Grandma said something along the lines of this was for our Alex to thank him for treating Baby Alex like his brother, for playing with him, and sharing with him.

You will see what a wreck I was in the next pictures.

Sharon and I then opened the presents.

The weaving is beautiful. It's not one that they made - they did buy it, but I love it. Everyone kept calling it a shawl, but it's pretty thick. I'm going to use it as a table runner.

After these pictures, there was a flurry of excitement. Most of the family (especially the women) left the house and went outside. Sharon and I sat back down as Sharon said something was going on.

Grandpa came back in the house carrying bottles of Gatorade for all of us. Next he came back in with these heaping bowls of fresh fruit - TONS of it. (as well as honey and cream) The presentation rivaled anything Martha Stewart could have done. The fruit was presented in styrofoam bowls set on a "charger" plate. :) (just one of their plates) Sharon looked at me and we wondered if we were going to get sick. But, obviously, we couldn't refuse this food. This is a family that eats tortilas and salt for many meals - that's it - and they obviously spent a lot of money and time preparing this snack for us.

I decided to just deal with it - I had a prescription of Cipro with me as well as Tums and Immodium. I just stuck with the fruit that I thought would be safe - Bananans and Watermelon. The strawberries looked WONDERFUL, but I didn't want to chance it. There was also pinapple and other melons, but I don't like that fruit anyway. I also got to try pitaya. This is a very interesting fruit. It was purple - very dark purple - with lots of little black seeds in it. It had the consistency of kiwi and it was delicious.

After our wonderful snack, we took a tour of the rest of the property. We first went into the long skinny building which is their kitchen.

Sharon made sure that they family got a new onil stove which is pictured below.

But, as you can see, they weren't using it, they were still using their old stove. Sharon explained to me, that although the family shared a kitchen, they saw the onil stove as Gloria's stove, and neither Grandma or Great-Grandma would use it.

Next, they took us into the small building. This building is Manual and Gloria's "house." It's one room that is smaller then most of our bedrooms.

As you walk in the door, the "bed" is to the left. Here's a couple pictures of their bed. You will see that I use that term very loosely.

Their bed is a piece of plywood on a couple of sawhorse type things.

You will see in this next picture that they have old rags and bags shoved in the ceiling to prevent leaks. I'm not sure that it would work very good.

Look carefuly in this next picture. You will see their "window" and the blue thing in the corner is sitting on a little corner shelf.

The only other things in the room is this table and chest. The chest held Alex's clothes. I'm not sure where Gloria and Manuel put their clothes as there was nowhere in the room for them.

It was then time to say goodbye.

Oh, how hard this was. I'd like to think that I'll see Alex again, but I have no idea if I will. It was so obvious that his entire family loves him very much and they will do everything they can for him.


Will he have enough to eat? Will he go to school? Will his next surgery go ok? Will they be able to keep him healthy enough for surgery? Will they be able to keep infections away? Will he get used to not being able to crawl around on the floor? Will he get used to not playing with his toys?

And in the midst of all of this poverty - they get to see this from their property everyday.

As we got to the van, I just wanted to curl in a corner and cry. But, I really felt like I couldn't break down - not in front of these "strangers."

Sharon then asked me if I wanted to see the new Community Center that Mayan Families is building. (ok - I just realized that it's possible that we did this before going to Alex's - it's getting to be quite a blur in my mind!) The community center is going to be a great addition to Tierra Linda. When we were there, some of the men were getting the building ready for a "roof pouring"

This is where the playground is going to be built.

Sharon would like to start an early childhood education center here. The children could come with their mothers, get a nutritious meal, and the mom's can learn how to "play" with their kids and get them ready for school. I think this is going to be my new project. I'm hoping that by the time Alex is old enough to go to something like that we can have it up and running.
At this point, we got back in the van and headed back to Sharon's house.


Alleen said...

Oh my word. I have tears streaming down my face. I would have been a total wreck way before you lost it.

What an amazing, amazing opportunity.

Sarah said...

Oh Kim... what an amazing, heartbreaking, rewarding, emotional journey! I know you explained it all to me already but reading your eloquent words and seeing the pictures to go with it just brings tears to my eyes!

I promise that when I go back to MF that I will ask to go see baby Alex and take pictures for you! You WILL see him again in person too! I just know it!

He looks SO BIG in all those pictures! He was so obviously thriving in your care!! I have sent Sharon some money for his formula... I hope that he is doing well back home with his mami and papi!

Big hugs to you, my friend!

Krystal said...

I don't know how you held it together like that -- I am a blubbering mess just sitting here reading about it!!!

Alex's family looks so happy. I love seeing pictures of them with him :)

Kelly said...

I really have to stop reading things that make be cry at work. Not that it takes much these days, LOL I am so touched by your story and thank you for sharing with us.

Lori & Robby said...

OK, I had cold chills just reading this post. What an amazing experience!

I just have to ask -- is Sharon looking to hire an American staff person to help with the child development center? That sounds like my dream job!

nikki said...

Oh Kim,
Now you have me crying right along with everyone else. What a wonderful, loving, amazing family little Alex is home with. I really hope that Mayan Families's new center is up and ready soon so that Alex can attend. I also pray that someday you will be reunited with Alex again.

Anonymous said...

Oh Kim - I have tears streaming down my face. I'm not sure how you held it together during your visit with Alex's family.

What an amazing way to bless family in need. You and Jay are truly special people. And I pray that you will see baby Alex again.

Robyn said...

Kim, thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us. I am in tears reading about your trip and seeing the pics. You are such an inspiring woman!!


Angie said...

Wow what an amazing experience! I must admit I questioned the same things as you as I was reading through this post. I will pray Alex stays healthy and happy. It is obvious how much his family loves him.

Holly said...

What a wonderful post, Kim! Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us.

Jennifer said...

Oh my goodness... I am just sitting here bawling my eyes out. I have been watching the Olympics... looking at all that "we" have... it is so humbling.

Alex changed so much... not just his lip... but he just grew and grew! What an awesome miracle... and I would say it is a time in your life that you will never forget!

How amazing... how special!