June 2-5, 2009

Dick and Cesar, with the help of Ronnie’s dad, were able to trade out batteries in no time at all, while I got to visit with his mom about the family. Orlindo, the 6 year old boy, had just “made” his school’s soccer team and was so proud. All the children were doing well in school and Dick was happy to hear that Jessica, the oldest daughter, was still in school. She had been having some problems with her teacher because she was often late, after helping get Ronnie ready and to school. It seems her parents have resolved this issue with the school at least for now. It is so good to see these parents willing to advocate for their daughter.

Mom told me that Jessica would turn 15 next year, which is cause for a great celebration when a daughter hits this milestone. Dick tells me the families often make a bigger deal about a “quinsinera” than they do a wedding! Evidently Mama was already starting to dream about what she would like for her first daughter’s “coming of age.” I’m hoping I’ll be here to attend Jessica’s party. The two older girls were excited when Di gave them a dress and blouse she’d brought with her. She literally gave Clara the “shirt off her back” and the two girls tried on their new clothes and looked like princesses.

Since it was getting late and threatening to rain, we cut our visit with this family short and started back for Antigua. We did have time to stop at a clinic operated by a doctor from Cuba and his nurse Walter. They help with providing food for some of the children in the area who have returned home from the malnutrition program at Hermano Pedro. Walter updated us on Julio and Milton, two of these children. Dick was not sure that Milton would still be alive, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that, at least for now, he is doing well. Even though it was after 5 in the afternoon and there were still a number of people in the doctor’s waiting room the doctor came out to greet us in between patients. He is such a kind and gracious man.

As we finally headed back for Antigua, I was pretty well exhausted. But Dick’s day was not nearly over. He still needed to connect with Roland who had brought a young girl with spina bifida and clubbed feet down to the hospital. Roland needed money for some tests the girl has to have done in Guatemala City next week. Dick provided these funds from his own resources, but had to firmly explain to Roland that Bethel’s medical fund was completely out of money. With all the things I’ve gotten to watch Dick do, having to say no to helping someone always seems to take more out of him than anything else. From the little I’ve been here I can understand this. There are so many people in need. How do you decide who gets help and who does not? All they can do is pray and trust God to show them who to help. When there is no money available, however, this makes the decision easier, but even more painful. If you’d like to donate to this fund, please click on the link on this page to Bethel ministries or email Dick at dick@dickrutgers.com to find out how you can help. I know Dick doesn’t like to ask for donations in his journal, but I’m hoping in this case he’ll make an exception and allow me to make you aware of this

great need.

While I’m sitting here writing this, I have (finally) realized just how different my experience of Guatemala has been because of my friendship with Dick. I first met the kids at Hermano Pedro through him, went into a traditional village for the first time with him, and have gotten to tag along and meet countless “real” Guatemalans over the past 2 years and even have the privilege of sponsoring a wonderful you man named Miguel so he can stay in school. I probably would have been very satisfied to stay with the “traditional” volunteer activities here in Antigua, were it not for his encouragement to step out and try something different. When I first thought of moving to Guatemala, he was one of the first people I talked to abut this, and his belief that I could actually pull this off gave me the confidence to take the risk of pursuing this dream. And if I “fit in” with the Guatemalan people, so much of this is due to what I have learned watching him and from his stories. Little did I know a few years ago what would happen when a young man in the Guatemala City airport told me that I needed to meet “this guy” in Antigua who makes and fixes wheelchairs. Thank you, God, for all the “Godincidents” you’ve given to show me the way, and thank you, Dick, for letting our Father use you in growing me.

June 1, 2009

Today I finally got to spend the day with the kids at Hermano Pedro. I was walking around saying hello to the kids, and came upon little Brenda. As I said hi, and tried to walk by to see other kids, she quickly lost her smile and began to cry. All she wanted was a little attention, and was happy to be wheeled around with me as I saw some more of the kids. Shortly after I got there, Dick came in with Di, a nurse/paramedic from Australia who is down doing volunteer work in Guatemala. Di is a very interesting lady who has quickly become bored with the tourist activity of Antigua and was looking for something more challenging to do with her time here. Dick immediately invited her to go with us to Esquintla tomorrow to visit some families in that area.

It seemed that as soon as Dick got into the children’s ward, there were constantly staff members coming up telling him about one child or another who needed a chair fixed. His goal for today was to fix Fidel’s power chair, but before he got to that, he fixed a walker, two head rests and was told about a new boy who needed a wheel chair. How he manages to keep all this straight is beyond me. He even took time to show me how to fix a few things on chairs. He has much more confidence in my mechanical ability than I do, but, if I can tighten a few screws to keep things from totally breaking, and maybe lighten his load a bit, I guess it’s worth stepping outside my comfort zone. My biggest fear is that I’ll mess things us more than I’ll help, but I guess that’s how I’ll learn.

Dick also walked me through the process of signing out kids for lunch. Since there were only two of us here today, we could only take two kids. You could see the inner struggle Dick was having deciding who to take. This was one time I was more than happy to be “submissive” because then I didn’t have to carry the guilt of the sad faces of those who could not go. Moises had been promised a trip out a couple weeks ago, and then the orphanage was “closed” to volunteers and outings to keep out the swine flu. Today was the first day kids could go out, so Moi needed to go with us for sure. Henry was our second lunch guest. He’s a really bright 5 or 6 year old, who only recently returned to Hermano Pedro after being at home with his family for a number of months. Dick said he just doesn’t seem to be himself since he returned, so we hoped a trip out would cheer him up.

Our original plan was to go to Campero’s, but when Dick asked him if he wanted to have lunch at Camino’s Café (run by the church), Moi jumped at the chance. As we were walking there, Mark Richard, from Hope Haven Guatemala drove by, and decided to join us. With him was a gentleman (whose name I can’t remember, but you can feel free to fill in, Dick, if you do!) from Hope Haven in Rock Valley, Iowa. This is the second time I’ve met someone here in Guatemala who lives only about 2 hours away from me back in the States! They joined us for lunch and I got to hear a bit more about what Hope Haven International is doing here in Guatemala.

The boys had a chance to wheel around while waiting for our food and enjoyed the freedom. There was a little boy about 3 years old in the café, who you could see was fascinated by the boys’ wheelchairs, but was too timid to come over to them even with encouragement. Moi and Henry seemed to enjoy “showing off” for him a bit. When lunch came we all settled down to eat, though I think Henry was a bit disappointed that he got stuck with me helping him rather than Dick, but we managed. He did get to sit on Dick’s lap for a bit, and I think that satisfied him.

After lunch Moi wanted to take pictures with my camera, so we started taking pictures of flowers and the garden area. There was a young woman (the three year old’s mom) sitting on the couch and Moi wanted to take her picture.

I told him he would have to ask her permission, and I swear he blushed. But he did, and she was happy to “pose” for him. We began talking and I discovered that Rosa Angelica was born in Antigua but was married to an American and has lived in San Diego for the past 20 years. She was interested in finding opportunities to do some volunteer work with her children (Lauren, age 10 and Christopher, 3) and was very interested in knowing more about Hermano Pedro.

After he had his fill of photos, Moi decided he wanted to get out of his chair onto the grass in the garden area. Henry didn’t even have to think about joining him, and soon the two boys were crawling around and playing with Lauren and Christopher. It was a delight to see them interacting so “normally” with kids who could walk. And, to their credit, Lauren and Christopher seemed totally comfortable with the boys. A couple of times we had to reign in Henry because, though he’s only a couple years older than Christopher, he’d actually get a bit rough with him. If I didn’t know them, I’m not sure I would have been able to tell which of the four kids on the grass needed the wheelchairs. When we talk about “normalization” for individuals with disabilities, we get all technical and theoretical. This was real “normalization,” just letting the kids BE normal and getting out of their way! I’m grateful we met this wonderful young family who was willing to reach out to our two kids

Dick doesn't do too badly
for someone his age!

Having a more tranquil personality,
I opted for calmer activities. . .

When we got back to Hermano Pedro, Dick finally got to fixing Fidel’s chair, with Moi’s help as “tool handler.” I went and got Brenda and we just rocked and rocked and talked. She would just light up with the least bit of attention.

Dick then introduced me to Eduardo, a new boy at the orphanage. He literally looked like a tiny little waif, and almost appeared to be “shell shocked” in his responses. What happened next is one of my best memories from this trip. Ervin, whose nickname used to be “monster” wheeled over and tried to play with Eduardo. He didn’t get much more of a response than Dick and I did until he starting clapping, and Eduardo brightened and imitated him. Ervin kept this up, and Eduardo came out of himself more and more, even beginning to vocalize a bit. I haven’t seen him smile yet, but am hoping this will come if Ervin keeps “working” with him. I don’t think that there is anything that touches my heart more than to see these kids reaching out to each other.

After helping Moises with his homework, it was time to head home. I still had a couple of errands to run and it was getting late. This was a full day, but a satisfying one. It seems every time I am here, each day is better than the last. After a day like this, I fall into bed exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade this exhaustion for a week in the Bahamas!

May 31, 2009--Part 2

Dick invited me to lunch with him and the 8 boys who had come along with him to church. If I’d thought there was too much testosterone in the car the other day, I was “swimming in it” today. Am so glad that God had me raise 3 sons, because the teasing and the horseplay brought back fond memories. These are great kids, and Dick is a great mentor for them. You can see how much they love and respect each other, and for young Guatemalan males, as for teenage boys in the States, this is a critical need that too often goes unmet.

After lunch we dropped off the boys and went to Fernando’s house so I could say hello to him. (He’d traveled with us when I was here last January.) As we approached the house, he came running out telling Dick there was an emergency, that his “mother” was sick. (I think this really is his aunt, but she’s the closest thing he has to a mother in Guatemala. His mom is working in the US.) As we entered her bedroom, I became grateful for Dick’s EMT experience, since she was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. Dick checked her over and she began to settle down and breathe more easily. She was adamant that she did not want to go to the hospital, though her children were scared and encouraging her to do so. Dick asked me to talk with her about this, and then suggested that if she was having no further pain it might be better to wait until tomorrow and go to the doctor then. The look on my face must have told him I thought he was out of his right mind, so he went on to explain that on Sunday, in the national hospitals, there are few doctors and they would probably admit her and she would not really be examined or receive any treatment until tomorrow. (Later, in the car, he explained that she didn’t seem to be experiencing the typical symptoms of a heart attack, and he didn’t think she needed critical care so he suggested this.) We also talked with her about the possibility of seeing one of the doctors at Hermano Pedro, but she was resistant to this also. We made sure they had “minutes” on their cell phone, instructed the kids to call an ambulance and Dick if the pain returned, and left. As we walked out the door I was wondering what on earth we were doing, but trusting in Dick’s assessment of the situation. I have so much to learn about the realities of life in Guatemala. . .and am grateful God has given me some good teachers. It was still hard though to walk away not knowing what was happening with her. Dick promised he would check back with them tonight, and when he called at 4 this afternoon, Fernando said she was doing better. So my anxiety level is a bit lower, but I pray she will decide to see a doctor tomorrow.

We returned to Antigua, and Dick thought I could probably get in to see the kids at Hermano Pedro if I went with him. Did I want to? This was what I’d travel 1900 miles for. Don’t get me wrong—I love going on the road and doing other things here, but the kids are the ones who have grabbed hold of my heart. I figured it was worth a try.

I did get in and was grateful I went. Moises and Sonia remembered me immediately, Henry, who I’d not met before came up wanting to know my name, and David, who does not speak much, came wheeling directly over to me. I don’t expect that the kids will remember me, given the number of visitors that come through Hermano Pedro, so I’m always humbled and grateful when the do. I was surprised to see a number of the kids up in their chairs, though there were many more stuck in their cribs. It is so hard to decide who to take out when we’re only here a short time.

Dick got Byron up (supposedly his chair hadn’t been working, but worked fine when we were there) and predictably went over and got Leonel out of his crib.

Leonel came to the malnutrition ward at Hermano Pedro about 9 months ago now, at age 9 weighing, if I remember correctly, about 17 pounds. Skin and bones does not begin to describe how he looked. By January when I was here, he’d doubled his weight and was moved down to the regular dormitory. When I saw him today I was sorely disappointed to see that he’d lost weight since then, and did not seem as bright and responsive as he had been. Dick explained that he thinks Leonel is missing his family tremendously, and we are seeing the results of his homesickness. Dick has been gone a lot, too, so he hasn’t gotten much attention here either. Whenever anyone asks me how just holding children is a ministry, I always tell them about Leonel. If you could see the difference just a few minutes of individual love make in the appearance of this little one, you’d never question that Jesus calls us to be his arms here. I’m afraid for Leonel, this attention may literally make the difference between life and death.

I predictably went over to Ervin’s crib. Ervin is quite a handful, so spends way too much time in bed. The rebelliousness in me comes out each time I walk into the dormitory, and I’m bound and determined he will get out for at least a little while when I’m here. Last January I didn’t get to do much with him, because he had a skin infection they were concerned might spread to the other kids, so it was especially sweet to get to spend time with him today. Ervin can walk, but often refuses to do so. I explained to him today that I didn’t know where his wheelchair was (this wasn’t a lie, since I hadn’t looked and therefore truly didn’t know) and that if he wanted to come out, he’d have to walk. As I lifted him from his crib, he tried to get me to carry him, but I told him (truthfully, he’s gotten to be a big kid) that I could not. So he walked. . .and walked, . .and walked. Around the dormitory, outside in the yard, even through the small hallway where the nurses were trying to work. I figured if he was willing to walk, I was willing to go wherever he wanted. While his gait is still awkward, his balance and stability have improved a lot. He then stood by Dick for a long time, just watching him and teasing him by snapping Dick’s suspenders. He even showed off by standing on one foot part of the time!

Dick was worried Ervin would fall and we'd
be in trouble. But he had a blast!

Since Ervin was walking, a number of the other kids wanted to get into their walkers. So Moises and Elmer, and Henry, and Maynor were all up and playing kickball before we knew it. At one point I looked up and it seemed like there were kids scrambling everywhere! What a great experience. I don’t know if they enjoyed it half as much as I did, though.

I wish I could write about each of these kids, but no one would ever want to read that much. But there are so many amazing stories here. Sonia, a beautiful young woman who goes to regular school each day, was working on her homework. I was pleased to see a number of staff members stop from time to time and help her. Then there’s Veronica, who seems to be the “mother’s little helper” of the group—wheeling around today with a small pan of water, a rag and a scrub brush, cleaning whatever she could find. Dick tells me that she often helps feed the other children.

And Miriam, who is quite disabled, but beams whenever you walk over to her bed, and cries whenever you walk away. And I can’t forget Melvin, a.k.a. Romeo, who loves to flirt and cackles with delight when I call him “mi novio guapo” (my handsome boyfriend). His condition seems to be deteriorating and I fear this may be the last time I get to visit with this dear one.

I couldn’t help remembering today that Jesus said He came to set the captives free, and that’s the ministry we seem to be doing here. Whether it’s free to move through a wheelchair, free to communicate though pictures, or just free from imprisonment in a crib, I see captives being set free, if only for a time. But each time matters to the one who is given freedom. And it matters more to us who follow Him in setting them free. . .we get to experience being Jesus to the least of these. We get to touch Jesus in each of their frail bodies, see Him in each of their eyes, feel His heart beat in each of their chests. I can’t help but stand in awe each time I experience Him in their presence.

When today started, I had no real plans except going to church. Am glad I didn’t because, it seems, my lack of planning gave God more freedom to work. I’m not saying we should be irresponsible, but I am saying that we always need to leave room for Him to move, and maybe even change our direction. I feel much more comfortable now, when people ask me what I’m going to do, with responding, “Whatever God tells me to!” I’m sure I’ll be with the kids at Hermano Pedro, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be working with communication systems, but beyond that the field is wide open. I have to keep reminding myself
that God didn’t give Abraham much information until he got up and went—even though he had no idea even where he was going. Or, as a friend of mine says so aptly, “You can’t steer a car until it’s moving.” So, I’m glad my car is moving. Now I need to make sure I’m not His back seat driver!

May 31, 2009--Part 1

Found Iglesia del Camino (Church of the Way) without any problem this morning. Discovered that this is a “church plant” of Pathways Community Church in Largo, Florida. From the minute I reached the door, I felt at home, though I’d never been there before. Immediately you are greeted by their hospitality team who gives everyone a name tag. Interestingly, visitors and members all wear the same name tag. The atmosphere is really relaxed, with coffee and quick bread available to snack on before (and for some even during) the service. The whole place had a “come just as you are” feel about it. During the week, the church runs a coffee shop, has a number of opportunities for Bible study and fellowship, and even has a Celebrate Recovery group and an outreach ministry to the police in Antigua. Since, as a whole, the police in Guatemala are not known for their integrity, this is amazing. Pastor Mike leads three Bible studies during the week for police officers, at the invitation of the police department. You can feel the Spirit moving through this church.

I’m having difficulty knowing how to write about the service. It had a profoundly personal effect on me that I don’t know I can really put into words, but here goes. The theme for the day was, “God can do nothing for me until I get to the limit of the possible.” (Oswald Chambers) I’ve been praying much this week about how I can possibly get everything together to move after the first of the year, but God has not given me any indication to change course or delay. (Believe me, I’ve been watching for some.) So immediately I was hit by the “oh, this sermon’s gonna be for me” experience. Pastor Mike didn’t let me down. The sermon notes in the bulletin were brief and to the point: “Life is for the resurrection of our heart, and the discovery of our role in the larger story.” He also challenged each of us to consider what we were doing as part of this larger story. I didn’t ask him after service, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Pastor Mike has been reading John Eldridge, one of my favorite authors on spirituality. Those words could have come out of any of his books. As Pastor Mike spoke, though, I knew he was not just repeating catchy words written by some “guru” of the spiritual life. He was sharing how he was living his life. . .and challenging me to live mine with the same “ruthless trust” in the Father who loves us.

I’ve been praying about how I was to continue to grow spiritually once I move down here. I strongly believe in the “up and down” theory of discipleship—everyone needs to be discipled by someone, and everyone needs to be discipling at least one other person. There has never seemed to be a lack of people God has put in my life to help come to know Him better, so I really wasn’t worried about that. But, many times in my life I’ve had long periods where I felt like those teaching and leading me were speaking another language. For the past few years I’ve been blessed to receive spiritual direction and training from a couple of pastors who “get it” and “get me” at the same time and I’ve grown remarkably. Now I feel more confident that I will find a place to continue my own walk with God down here.

If that weren’t clear enough from Pastor Mike’s preaching, he then began talking about a new ministry at Caminos—ministry to the deaf. I was impressed when I’d noticed that there were 3 people signing in the front of the church. He introduced one Guatemalan man as the pastor of a church for the deaf in Guatemala City, who was coming to Antigua on Wednesdays to help start their deaf ministry. This seemed a bit coincidental to me, because Dick & I had just traveled two days to help Bayron, a deaf child, communicate better with his family. As Pastor Mike introduced the next two folks, it became clear, at least to me and Dick, that it was not by accident that I was in THIS church on THIS particular Sunday. Lynn and Stan are two missionaries working with the deaf through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention—which my home church belongs to. Not a big thing, ~~~~~~Pastor Gusatavo~~~
but really, even Lynn and Stan commented
on the “coincidence” (which I’d already decided was a Godincident) since they said there are not too many IMB missionaries in Central America, fewer who work with those with disabilities, and they don’t live in Guatemala at all, but in El Salvador. I don’t want to imply that God put this day of worship together just for me—but I don’t want to discount His provision in inviting me here this day. Am more confident than ever that this is where I belong, though 2010 seems to be coming much too quickly when I look at all that needs to be in place for me to move. But I’m coming home with Pastor Mike’s words in my heart, “Faith looks back and draws courage. Hope looks forward and keeps desire alive.”

May 30, 2009

Spent a good part of last night working on my blog, only to discover that I could not connect to the internet from the house. UGH! And Dick had conned me into agreeing to let him use my writing for his blog for the past two days. Reluctantly, I called him to explain my difficulty, but, in his usual style he said, “no problemo.” ******** Typical night at Dick's house ********
Of course, for him, his
very practical solution WAS no problem, because I was the one who had to go find a blank CD, then locate a computer to send the journal to him, while he sat in the comfort of his house inChimaltenago! Since he’s been great about driving me around while I here, I thought it was in my best interests, though, to go along with his idea. I did tell him I would NOT be doing it until morning however. He was placated, at least for a while. . .am beginning to think he’d to anything to get someone else to write for him. Of course, now that I’m trying to blog, I do have more sympathy for him—but only a little.

So, bright and early this morning, about 8 am, my phone rings and I hear, “Well, you can’t sleep in forever!” I don’t know what I’ve done to earn this type of treatment from a man who is usually so kind to people, but evidently I’ve found the way to bring out the best in Dick. He was a bit disappointed, however, when I told him that I was already up and showered and dressed and ready to head to town to send him the journal. After finishing breakfast, I picked up a CD on the way to Camperos. I figured that would be as good a place as any to burn everything onto a disk. I also wanted to check and see if I could get on the internet there, even thougbefore my battery wore down and it was time to head home for lunch. I was pretty impressed thath Dick was certain I couldn’t. Sure enough, I was right, and connected with no problem from there. Was able to answer numerous emails, send Dick his stuff, and even post some to this blog the folks working there didn’t mind me sitting there using their internet all morning, though all I bought was a diet Pepsi and flan.

If you come to Guatemala you have to experience Camperos. It’s kind of like KFC on steroids. They open for breakfast, and stay open through dinner. Their menu has chicken, of course, but now you can even order fried shrimp. Since I’d been assured they were safe to eat, I tried them yesterday, and still am not sick, so I guess they really are okay. You sure can’t beat the price—4 dozen for 84 Quetzales, which is about $10. If you split this with someone it’s quite the deal, and they are really tasty. Am glad, because after last year’s trip with Bethel Ministries, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to look a chicken leg in the face again. Anybody who’s coming back with me next month, you’ll get more than your fair share of opportunities to try this cuisine. The rest of you will have to travel to Chicago, where they’ve opened a Camperos on the north side. Spent a few hours after lunch working on communication boards that I want to try out with a few of the kids at Hermano Pedro next week. Also got to play computer pinpall and solitaire with a six year old named Natalie, who is a friend of the Hernandez family, with whom I’m staying.

Decided I’d had enough time sitting today and went for a walk. I needed to locate the church I wanted to attend tomorrow. I’d tried to find it on my last two trips with no luck, and I was up for the challenge. The directions I’d been given THIS time actually made sense, and I found it without difficulty. Telling me to walk east on the street past the cathedral made a lot more sense than telling me to look for the gas station on the way out of town, especially since I don’t have a car and really don’t care where the gas stations are.

A side benefit of this walk was that I got to meet an 80 something year old Franciscan priest named Father Bernardo. Dick had told me many wonderful stories about this man, and also said that he often walks back and forth on a particular street. So, when I saw an elderly Franciscan, I decided to take a chance and introduce myself as a friend of Dick. Now, Father has a bit of Alheimer’s so it took a few minutes for him to remember who Dick was, but once he did, he could not have been more excited to tell me about all the wonderful things Dick does. I told him that Dick thinks just as highly of him, and he lowered his head and I could see tears in his eyes. He said, “I’m a Franciscan, I’m supposed to be good, but Dick is just a man.” I know there’s a moral in there somewhere, but, I think I’ve met another living saint who doesn’t seem to know that he is one. I’m so glad I finally got to meet him after hearing about him for a number of years.

Since I was in town I picked up some ink Dick needed and was heading back home, when Mari drove by with two girls living at the house. They were on their way for ice cream, and had driven around town looking for me so I could go with them. Traffic in Antigua on Saturday is horrible, so I had no idea how long they had been looking for me. They said they tried to call, but I must not have heard my phone. Anyway, we got ice cream and sat along side Central Park (in a no parking zone) and ate our treat. Then we were off to run errands in San Miguel, a small town just outside Antigua.

The University of Notre Dame Chorus is giving a free concert at the church of St. Francis in Antigua tonight. The girls asked me to go with them, and I think it would be a hoot to hear them sing in Guatemala, when I grew up just about a hundred miles from their campus in Indiana! Think I just might have to join the young people tonight!

Hermano Pedro Orphanage will not allow the public to come in and work with the kids until next week, for fear of the swine flu. There have been 11 confirmed deaths from this “dread disease” in the entire country of Guatemala, and they’re really concerned. Can’t help but wonder how many people died on motorcycles this past week alone. But what do I know, I’m just a gringa. Had been a bit worried that I’d be bored with nothing to do, but I’ve had experiences this week that I will never forget. Evidently God knew what was going on, even though I didn’t. Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings. Please let me be a blessing in return.

In the spirit of "full disclosure" I want to admit that I borrowed some of these photos from my friend Dick. Figured since I wrote a number of HIS journal entries this week, he owed me.

June 2, 2009

To say I´m a bit behind in posting is an understatement. I just finished posting through May 29th, and have more to do, but wanted to get this up for any of you who are wondering if I´m just lying around in the sun. Though I do have a sunburn, there´s been much to do, and it seems I never know from one minute to the next what I´ll be doing! The weekend flew by and I´ll write more later. Now I know why my friend Dick only posts once a week!

May 29, 2009

As I was slowly waking at about 6:30 this morning, I was jarred to immediate alertness by a LOUD banging on my door. I jumped up, threw on my skirt, and leapt to the door ready to strangle Dick who I’d assumed was just being obnoxious. Throwing open the door ready to pounce, I was greeted by Bayron’s smiling face, motioning for me to come with them to breakfast. I hurriedly dressed and we walked down the extremely steep hill to the restaurant. I swear, everything in Guatemala is on at least a 60° angle!

Being much younger, Bayron ran ahead of us. As we entered the restaurant, Dick and I saw this little guy who could not speak had already gotten the attendant to turn on the computer for him! What independence. He had watched a little boy playing on it the night before. We helped him find some free games on the internet, but he wanted little if any help figuring out how to play them. He made it extremely clear that he could do this himself! It appeared that Bayron must have had some opportunity in the past to use a computer. After checking out a number of games, he did condescend to taking turns with a motorcycle game with Dick. We let him play until his breakfast arrived. Then it took the full willpower (stubbornness?) of two grown people to convince one little boy that he really did want to eat more than he wanted to play the computer. (Turning off the monitor helped, too.) Thankfully, we averted a tantrum this time.

Once again at breakfast, Bayron showed his independence. I’d forgotten to order him something to drink, but that was no problem. He just took the cup Dick was not using, poured himself a cup of coffee, and added two heaping teaspoons of sugar to it! Tasting it, he made a sour face, and added a third for good measure. And when the waitress returned to see if we wanted anything else, he very ably communicated to her that he would like a glass of orange juice just like Dick’s! What a kid!

Earlier this morning, Dick told me, Bayron had figured out how to use the self-timer on Dick’s camera and had a great time taking pictures of himself with it. He has quite the aptitude at using electronics, it seems. He learned my camera instantly, and occupied himself by taking pictures of everyone in the restaurant this morning!

Some of Bayron's pictures

After a quick swim, it was time to get to work at using his communication cards. I’d worried for weeks about how to communicate their use to a child who didn’t hear. This was all new to me. Silly me, Bayron took to using them like a duck to water. He especially liked the photos I’d included of his family and Dick. With no instruction, he immediately made it clear that his favorite activity of those on the cards was kicking a ball. We practiced some with using the cards to request different types of candy and colors of crayons. It was clear, however, that he didn’t need practice, just the opportunity to use the cards in the real world. He ran off excitedly to show his new cards to Dick.

With our work done, we headed back to the pool. The sun was shining warmly and it was a truly glorious day to be in the water. Dick, Bayron and I tried to play a game of “keep away” against Abner and Daniel. With my inability to swim, and the water up to my chin, and the need to hold on to Byron to keep him from going under, Dick got quite the workout. And he now knows why I was usually the last one chosen (deservedly) for team sports in school!

How the time flew so quickly, I don’t know, but all too soon it was time to check out. Dick and I talked about how this trip was nothing like we had expected—it was so much better than we thought it would be. Thank you, God, for this gift of recreation. I hadn’t realized how much I need to relax, have fun, and just laugh. Thank you, Dick and Bayron, and Abner, and Daniel, for giving me so many opportunities to do just that! I couldn’t have picked four better men to travel with, even if the testosterone level in the car was a bit high at times.

Lunch at Campero’s was a bit challenging for our little guy. He’d seen the card I had with the Campero’s logo sitting on my bed, and he jumped right on it. It was clear that that was where he wanted to go for lunch. How do you say “no” to a little boy who finally was able to ask for what he wanted? So Campero’s it was! Walking in, Bayron was excited to see some animal hats which should have come with the kids’ meal in a display case. Yes, I said “should have come” because when our food came we discovered that the store was out of the hats and was substituting a little pokey-mon type stuffed character. Bayron was obviously disappointed, and gave the toy to Dick. He ate his meal well, even if he and Dick did not display the best table manners, and was ready for dessert. Disappointment #2—this Campero’s didn’t have ice cream, even though there was a large sign advertising ice cream cones! This was VERY difficult to communicate to Bayron, and after his earlier disappointment about the hats was almost too much for him to handle. We tried ordering him chocolate pie, offered him flan, but he would have none of it. It was ice cream or nothing!

I stepped away from the table for a few minutes, and returned asking Dick if he wanted me to go to the “tienda” across the street to buy Bayron a cone. With a scathing look, he informed me that that would NOT be happening as Bayron had been pouting with his head on the table since I’d left. Knowing better than to argue with Dick (and being the submissive woman that I am) we left without Bayron having dessert. He continued to pout all the way to the car and until we pulled away from the curb. Then Dick remembered that he’d “promised” Bayron that he could help “drive.” Motioning for him to sit on his lap, Dick helped Bayron steer the car around the block. Bayron actually did a pretty good job of doing most of it himself. I could not refrain, however, from asking Dick to explain to me the logic of refusing to give a child ice cream because he was pouting, and then allowing him to DRIVE A CAR while he was still pouting! Dick mumbled something about keeping promises, and I’m still waiting for a reasonable answer. This seemed to appease Bayron, however.

We headed back home with Bayron, all of us dreading the need to say good-bye. As soon as we got there, Bayron showed his cards to Grandma, and demonstrated how to use them. I really wanted to meet the teacher who was willing to put so much effort into helping Bayron, so asked where she lived. Since it was only a few doors away, one of his aunts went to get her, and Julicia (the teacher) was with us in a few minutes. This beautiful young woman then explained to us all she was doing to help Bayron learn. What was so amazing was that she didn’t seem to think she was doing anything unusual, let alone remarkable. Hopefully she now knows how much of a blessing she is to this little one, because we sure tried to tell her!
I asked if they had a computer at her school, and she got a shocked look on her face, explaining that they did not even have electricity! Grandma also said that Bayron had never used a computer. Dick and I were stunned. Evidently he had learned what he knew about computers from watching the little boy the night before in the restaurant. I’d give anything to know what his real ability level is, because he has to be a lot smarter than I am! Something tells me that this guy is going to “make it,” and more probably do something really remarkable. He sure seems to have the ability to do so. Am still trying to figure out whether or not Bayron is handicapped, despite his inability to hear. Seems to me he functions better than a lot of us who have full use of all of our senses!