Ziplining, Monkeys and Christmas presents to cute Guatemalan kids - December 20 - 21

What the life these kids lead!!!  Breakfast above the little waterfall.  Who needs milk and a bowl to have cereal?
Saturday, Sergio had to leave early to go to the temple in Quetzaltenango for his cousins sealing.  We kept Leah and went to a nature preserve in Panajachel.  It was really fun (and cheap).  There was a butterfly house, ziplining, big grassy areas, lots of trails and a restaurant.
We saw these weird creatures (can't remember what they are called) on one of the trails.

The main reason we wanted to come here was to zipline.  We all got to go (never would they allow 5 year olds to zipline in the states), and we go to do 8 zipline runs!!

Practicing how to stop and where to put our hands.
Those weird creatures came right up to us. 
We saw monkeys too (you can see one right in the middle of the picture).  We saw a ton of monkeys once the guide pulled out some bananas to feed them. Leah said she was going to pelt one with a banana.  I think she wasn't really trying to hit one, but she chucked a banana and nailed one of the monkeys. HA!!
We had to hike to the top of the mountain to start ziplining, so we crossed quite a few of these bridges.  Many were missing slats that made me a little nervous, but the kids didn't fall through so it was all good.
Grant was super nervous about ziplining even before we got to Guatemala.  The entire climb to the top he kept complaining that he didn't want to do it.   We told him to just try it, and sure enough, after the first run he was all smiles and kept saying how awesome it was.  After each run they rated how far and fast they went, and which one was their favorite.  The kids wanted to zipline all day.   Ava and Grant went tandem with a guide, but Noah got to go by himself.  He loved it.  The guides were really nice and told me about 10 times how beautiful my kids are.  So nice.  I think my kids are cute, but I find it funny how, in general, everyone think other nationalities are cuter.  I thought all the Guatemalan kids were so cute, and they stared and complimented my kids all the time.  Whenever we were in a market or walking down the street, I saw quite a few people reach up and rub Grant's head.  :)  So funny.

On this run, there was a cliff past those bars and Ava kept swinging from them.   The guide strapped her to the bar so she wouldn't fall off the cliff.  Smart - I should strap her to a bar more often. :)
After we got done ziplining, they had this bridge and swinging bridge thing at the end for adults to try.  Noah really wanted to try it, so they let him do it.  Before we started hiking up for our ziplining, we watched a group of girls squeal and fall all over this thing, and of course made fun of them (quietly, of course).  Well, it is harder than it looks and Leah and Adam had to eat their words when they struggled a bit to get across.  I didn't try it because I waited with Ava and Grant.
 Here are a few videos I took of us ziplining.  It was SO MUCH FUN!!!

We had lunch at the nature preserve.  They had this bike powered blender, that you had to spin to make your own milkshake.  Genius.  We didn't order one, so I took a picture of this stranger making her milkshake.
After the preserve, we left Lake Atitlan and started driving toward Antigua.   I think I mentioned in the previous post that people climb out of moving buses all the time.  This is the only picture I could get of that happening.  Seriously, these buses are crazy and fast, but they climb out the back and up the ladders to grab things off the top.  Crazy.
These are chicken buses.  Basically old American school buses that they pimp out.  You should see some of these.  They really add lots of shiny chrome and big tires to make them look cool.  They call them chicken buses, because (as you saw in the last post) people take their chickens to markets to sale, so they put their chickens on top (along with other things).  We were told not to ride them because they are pretty dangerous and the buses get robbed a lot too.
Some of the walls around peoples houses that I talked about in the last post. The gray gate is actually Sergio's parents house.  Crazy that behind that is a big green yard and their house.  Nothing is automatic either, so every time they leave, they get out to open the gate, drive through and then get out to shut it. Hmm.....
Sunday, we went to church in Antigua.  From the street you would never know it was a church.  We drove through a gate and the church was 'hiding' behind it.   Naturally, sacrament meeting was in Spanish, so the kids got a little antsy towards the end. 
We left Sergioby at church (he's in the stake YM's, so he had business to do) and went to get food at the Mercado. 

Lots of chicken buses.

Tons of yummy produce for really cheap!!
As we left the market we found this cool looking structure, so we decided to stop and check it out.  It was La Recoleccion, a former church and monastery.   It was huge and really cool.  I'm always amazed to see what people built long ago without modern tools and conveniences.   It was finished in May of 1717 and much of it destroyed in September of 1717!  The whole city of Antigua has quite a cool story too.  I'll just link the Wikipedia, you can read it if you want.

I'm sure it was a pretty amazing building back in it's glory days.  There were big courtyards through almost every door.

All the streets in Antigua are cobblestone.  They looks really neat, but they are a pain to drive on. 
Another old church in downtown Antigua.  Antigua is full of history and old buildings.  Antigua is where many foreigners have houses, so it's actually quite expensive to live here.  It has a lot of 'American' amenities, so it's more of a touristy destination, but still surrounded by authentic Guatemalan culture. 
The house we stayed at in Antigua had a large courtyard that was shared by a handful of other houses.  Everyone's backyards back up to the courtyard.  The house next to us had young kids that immediately came over and started playing with my kids.  We had to send them home when we were leaving, and the minute we returned they came right over, walking right in the house and making themselves comfortable. :) It was nice for the kids to have 'built-in friends', and the kids were really friendly and nice.  They LOVED Leah's dog and mauled him.  All the kids found a huge sick poisonous frog on the front lawn.  Luckily, the neighbor kids knew it was poisonous and came and got us. Ava and one of the other girls were putting flowers over him when we got out there. :/  Ava claimed they didn't touch it, but I was still nervous for a few hours until I knew no one was getting sick from the frog.
One of the main reasons (besides going to visit Leah and Sergioby) we decided to go to Guatemala for Christmas was to show the kids a different culture and  have them experience first hand what it was like for people who literally 'live without'.   On Sunday we did our service project that we had been planning for a few months.   So I don't have to retype the whole experience, below is a letter we gave to my parents for Christmas (we gave them a day of service as their present).
What a different experience it has been to celebrate the holidays in another country.  In Guatemala there are no lights, haven't seen anyone with a Christmas tree.  Stores aren't advertising like crazy to purchase gifts.  As you know, Christmas traditions like the lights and trees are some of my favorite things; however, without the pressure to buy everything, my kids haven't asked one time what they are getting.  We've been talking about giving Christmas presents to the poor kids in Guatemala for a couple months, and the kids have been so excited about collecting all the goods and talking about how cool it will be to hand them out. 

Before leaving, Leah and I discussed what the Guatemalan kids could really need and still like, and she told me that these kids never have the opportunity to color or do crafts.  We bought a bunch of marker boxes, crayons, scissors and paper.  Leah also said that once it gets dark, they have no electricity, so they can't do anything after dark.  We brought over a bunch of flashlights and headlamps. Surprisingly it gets a little chilly every night here, and many of the kids don't have warm clothes.  We also brought over some beanies, gloves, and socks.  We also brought some English childrens books (Leah said they all want to learn English).  Grant was so excited when we were packing them all into the suitcase.  He made sure everything was nice and organized.  I didn't think I would have time to get the flashlights, because we were leaving the next day, but Grant was adamant that the Guatemalan kids really needed the flashlights.  We made a quick trip to Home Depot, and I'm so glad we did, because the flashlights were the favorite thing.

The houses they live in are so incredibly humbling.  Dirt floors, no plumbing, no kitchen, no electricity.  They are basically just a few pieces of sheet metal for the walls and ceiling.  These people are so humble and SO POOR, but they are happy and sweet.  The little kids blew me away too.  Never did I hear a whine that they didn't get something that someone else got, on the contrary, they were so thankful.  It was nice to see the kids make sure everyone was taken care of.  Every time we handed out a gift to one kid they immediately handed it to the person next to them.  All the kids look out for each other and make sure each other is happy and cared for. Such a nice thing to see. 

On Sunday, we went to Leah's apartment and got all the supplies ready.  The first house we went to was just down the street from Leah.  They had 2 girls (12, Erica and 8, Carolina) and 2 boys (5, Edwin and 3, Estuardo).  Noah had a handful of supplies and gifts for Estuardo, Ava gave to Carolina and Grant gave to Erica.  Adam gave the rest to Edwin.  They were so excited and my kids had been practicing saying "Feliz Navidad", so afterward they each told the kids Feliz Navidad.  It was so fun. 

Next we walked a couple blocks to a "house" that had a few families living there.  When we arrived we asked the mom if we could give the kids some gifts.  All of a sudden a whole bunch of kids came out of the shack.  We gave them a few things and before you know it a handful of kids came out of their gate down the street.  They were just standing there watching these white Americans handing out gifts.  It was so sad, so I hid some of the books from the kids we were handing the presents to and gave them to the other kids.  We still had quite a few supplies back at Leahs, so we told them we would be back with more.  They were all waiting outside when we showed up again.  As we were walking down the street this adorable little girl (picture of little girl in blue shirt with pigtails in front of Noah) started jumping up and down.  I looked over at Noah and he had the biggest grin on his face and gave out a little chuckle.  Then I noticed that he was about to cry.  Jack pot.  That was the feeling I wanted with this entire trip to Guatemala.  Adam showed one of the boys how the headlamp worked, and he thought it was pure gold.  I don't think he had ever seen anything like it before.  When we were walking back Noah told me, "did you see how excited they were to get those crayons?".  I told him I thought it was so cool that kids can get so excited over a box of crayons.  I asked him if he was ONLY given a box of crayons for Christmas if he would still be happy.  He looked at me and said, "yes, because my other box of crayons is broken". Ha.  The last place we went was to a village of EXTREMELY poor people.  We just went to the first house we came to (it was super dark) and a bunch of kids came out.  We handed out the rest of the stuff and they were so grateful and loved everything.  The dad gave us a plant to thank us.  

What an experience this has been.  It has been so humbling and makes me so grateful for everything tiny little thing I have.  I'm so grateful for parents that taught me about service and the joy it can bring.  I hope my kids get that burning desire to give and help others

Aren't those kids adorable.  The pictures are blurry because I was trying to sneakily take a couple photos without them seeing. 

Definitely the highlight of the trip. 
On our way to deliver the last of the presents we stopped by Leah and Sergio's lot to check it out.  They are building one of their igloo homes here.  I believe they are not going to live here, just sell when it's finished. 


The Yoder's Five said...

What awesome memories for your kids!!! Great alternative to a traditional Christmas, too. What are Leah and Sergio living in Guatemala for? That is a long ways from Hurricane, lol!

By the way, my brother uploaded a ton of videos onto YouTube under the channel Murset Family Videos and there's a lot of ballet performances on there with you in them. I've only watched one so far--it was the Winter dances in The Seasons, which we did so many freaking times, I still remember the choreography. I haven't seen the little swans dance, I'll let you know if I find it.

mammasweet said...

These are so great, Summer. I feel like we have had a cultural lesson along with photography class. I love you all.

Mary said...

What a great new perspective you gave your kids. That's better than any Christmas present you could wrap. Have they talked about it since your return? I'm wondering what impression it left.

Leah Wilson said...

I love how good your memory is. You remember the names of the kids we gave presents to, who gave to who, etc. It's so nice to read. It makes me feel okay about not keeping a detailed journal:) And, so you know, the kids in this neighborhood use their flashlights regularly and remember you guys. Ericka, Carolina, Edwin and Estuardo come over 3 times a week for English class. They stayed late one day last week so I could show them pictures of my family, and when they saw you, they said, "That's your sister! She brought us presents for Christmas at our house!" I guess we look more alike than Adam and I.