August 3rd, 2015

I wanted to come up with a list of things that I’m thankful for at home after spending a week here in Guatemala.

  • Being able to flush toilet paper
  • Having a never ending supply of clean drinking water
  • Not being concerned about accidentally drinking the shower water
  • Not being concerned about accidentally rinsing my toothbrush in the tap water
  • My privacy. The rooms we are staying in echo. You can hear everything outside. Plus, I have found that the bathrooms aren’t very private, either. Maybe they keep part of it open air because you can’t flush the toilet paper?
  • The traffic at home is nowhere near as bad as the traffic here on a daily basis. And I can’t imagine having to worry about the crazy motorcycle drivers weaving through traffic.

Things I’m thankful to have experienced while here:

  • Obviously, helping the orphanages.
  • The culture
  • The landscape
  • The food
  • Getting to know so many others on the work team

Things I miss at home:

  • My wife and kids
  • My bed
  • My job and the friends I have there

Surprisingly, I didn’t miss technology all that much. Sure, I have my iPad here, but I only used it to blog. I didn’t check email, Facebook, or anything else while here.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank the many people who donated money toward this trip, as well prayed for our safety while here. You all are as much a part of the team as Domino and I were. Thank you all very much. I hope this blog helped show you what we were able to accomplish and experience thanks to your help.

Sunday Church

August 2nd, 2015

It’s our last day here, and I’m exhausted. This morning, we dressed up a little bit, and went to church. It was awesome. They had a guitar player and a singer, and they played contemporary music to a soundtrack. Several of the songs were the same songs that we sing at the church at home, but everything was in Spanish. They had words on a big screen, and they had fancy light systems plus a smoke machine. It was really neat. Singing worship this morning was one of the highlights of the trip for me. During the service, which was simulcast from somewhere else, we wore headphones which allowed us to hear the message translated into English. I was very happy to experience that church here in Guatemala delivered an identical message that I would experience at home.

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After church, we stopped at a mall of sorts and bought lunch. Nothing terribly exciting to report there.

After that, we headed to one final orphanage. Although, they don’t like to call it that; they call it a children’s home. I believe they have 35 kids ages 4-months to 18 years. On site, they have several apartments or houses, and they have Guatemalans act as parents to groups of kids. It’s more like a foster parent relationship that they build here, allowing kids to be raised by both a mother and father figure. During our visit, we had one group go out and play with the kids. Mostly soccer, but also some other things like rainbow loom, trampoline, and playground. Another team brought a picture frame craft to do with the kids. We even took pictures of the kids families and had a color printer print out the pics to put in the frames that they decorated. It was really nice.

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Now we are back at the resort. I’m typing this journal entry, waiting for dinner. Then it’ll be time to pack and head to the airport.

Chicken BBQ

August 2nd, 2015

While we got to sleep in a little bit today, it was still a very full, long day of activity. After breakfast, we went to an orphanage to spend time with the kids there. There were mostly girls there, but there were a couple of boys there, too. The orphanage cares for 25 children from age newborn all the way up to 18. And it doesn’t get any more newborn than the kid born about 20 days ago to a 13-year old girl. And there was a 12-year old girl who was 6 months pregnant.

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The kids here have been sexually abused, raped, neglected and left behind. Parents are allowed to visit, but they don’t bother. The orphanage itself was very nice, and the kids seem well taken care of. We ended up spending the morning with the kids, kicking a soccer ball around with the boys, painting nails with the girls, and doing puzzles with everybody. The kids were happy to get some interaction from people with new faces who were willing to show them some of God’s love. We knew before hand that we were going to visit this home, and we had received names and shoe sizes for each of the kids, so we brought shoes for all of the kids that were staying there.

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During the ride from this orphanage to the next one, I got some rather tough questions from Domino about girls so young having babies. Very serious topic. Scary. I hope she understands, and I pray that she stays safe and never has to go through such trauma.

At the next orphanage, ORI used funds that we had donated to throw a big chicken barbeque lunch for about a hundred kids that live there. We served all of the kids cups of sodas and plates of chicken and french fries. The kids really enjoyed their meal. I believe that normally, they would be eating a plate of rice and beans.

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Domino and I had brought a pack of fifty matchbox cars for the orphans. When they saw them, they all got very excited. Domino and I tore open the box and tried to let the kids pick out a car in some kind of orderly fashion, but it was a bit crazy. They seemed to love playing with them.

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This orphanage was broken up into two sides for housing; the boys side was super hero themed, and there were super heroes painted on many of the walls, and much of the bedding had super hero stuff on them, too.

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The girls side was princess themed. Their house looked like a castle, an there were Disney princesses on the walls. Everything looked very nice.

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At this orphanage, there was a fenced off area that had two basketball hoops and two soccer nets. We had brought some soccer balls to give to the orphans. It didn’t take long for a game to start. I was very impressed that Domino was the first to join in on the game, and even more impressed that she jumped in the role of goalie. Fortunately, the kids playing were playing with a lot of skill and finessed the ball into the net instead of kicking it very hard at Domino. Don’t get me wrong – Domino did fine as a goalie in a friendly game. But I’m sure that if she were to need to block a bullet, she wouldn’t be playing much after that. Anyway, a bunch of us got on the soccer court, and we ended up playing five on five. When a team scored, the other team left the court and a new team came on. Our MCCC players couldn’t really compete with the kids, but we put up a fight. We believe that we probably lost 80% of the time. I impressed myself by actually scoring a goal, but for the most part, I was very uncoordinated. Soccer was never my game, and it was quite the workout for me.

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The orphanage had a church on site, and in there, there were two marimbas. They’re like xylophones. I was very impressed to hear five boys put on a concert for us. They sounded great, and they have only started learning how to play one year ago.

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Eventually, it was time for us to say adios to the kids. We headed home for dinner. The kids played manhunt again (they’ve been playing every night). I played some card games, and now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow is Sunday, and will be our last day here. The week went pretty fast.

Final Work Day

July 31st, 2015

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Today was much like the other work days. One team went to go do food distribution while the rest of us went to the place we have been working at this week. At the orphanage, one team finished painting the blue building. Another team finished painting the tin roof red. Throughout the day, as orphans were able to come out to play, our kids went and played various games with them. Tag, soccer, and other things. After getting the painting done, another team went and assembled a plastic shed.

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At the end of the work day today, some of the adults who work at the orphanage challenged us to a game of volleyball. We accepted the challenge, and gladly let them beat us. Just kidding – they kicked our butts. It was embarrassing. At one point during the game, they asked if we wanted to mix the teams up so it would be more even. We declined, hoping to get our act together. Eventually we put up a fight, but nothing compared to their team. Oh well.

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During the volleyball game, some of our team went and played soccer with the kids. I’m sure they had a great time, too.

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After games, the orphans presented each of us with some homemade cards, as well as a small present, which included some homemade souveniers such as bookmarks, Guatemalan pens (pens with a weaved casing aroudn them that had words spelled out in them such as Jesus Loves Me or Guatemala), necklaces and bracelets. It was all really nice. After the gift exchange, they prayed for us, and we prayed for them and we took a big team photo. Everybody was so appreciative of us, and we all exchanged hugs and high-fives on our way out.


We got a whole lot done for three full works days. In addition to painting the exterior of three whole buildings, painting the roof of I think two buildings, replacing a roof, and building a shed, we delivered food to nine orphanages, and spent several hours bonding with many kids who have had extremely difficult lives thus far, and likely for years to come.

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July 30th, 2015

Today we took the day off of working and spent it in Antigua. The weather today was beautiful – much like every day that we have had here. High of around 82, low of around 61.

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Our first stop in Antigua took us through a coffee plantation. I don’t know that I have ever seen coffee plants in person before. There were coffee beans everywhere. For some reason, there was also a lot of chopped wood around. Piles and piles of it lining the streets on the plantation. After we parked, we all went zip lining. That was a real treat. Even the truck ride up to the top was fun. Some people saw some deer and lizards on the drive. The route wound up the side of a mountain, and the road was next to a very steep cliff. One time, they needed to stop the truck and check the engine for something. I wasn’t sure if we were going to have to walk the rest of the way, but everything was fine. I had never gone zip lining before, and it was a lot more fun than I expected it to be. I believe we went on seven lines – each one longer than the one before it. The views of the mountains and the volcano were spectacular. I took a bunch of pictures. Hopefully, at least some of them came out. The people running the zip line tour were fantastic. Extremely friendly, and excellent English. I felt extremely safe, and well taken care of.

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After zip lining, we went into the central part of the town where the market is. We were told to stay in groups of no less than three people, and to make sure that we carried any bags carefully. It was very crowded, and a big mix of locals and tourists. We started by going to the center of the market where we went to a bank to exchange our US dollars into Quetzales. The exchange rate was around 7.5Q for 1US. After getting some Q, we broke up into groups. Most people went to lunch first. We ended up at an authentic Guatemalan restaurant. I thought it was funny that they played American 80’s music. Random things from Ah-Ha to Metallica. Anyway, the food was fantastic. I got a plate of chorizo, potato salad and broccoli salad. Domino got a chick leg and thigh, with potatoes and guacamole. I decided to have a beer with my lunch, but it wasn’t all that great, not that I was expecting it to compete with the beers I normally drink at home. Lunch cost about 30Q a plate, which works out to about $4US. That’s amazing!

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After lunch, we headed towards the market. The market was about what I expected – lots of vendors whose English mostly consists of “I give you good price”. Some vendors had things you would find in a typical dollar store in US, while others had handmade crafts of all kinds. There were also lots of people selling fresh fruit of all types. And there were a few places selling bootleg copies of current movies. And there were some obvious knockoffs – like Oakley glasses, Beats headphones. There was even a Playstation One that was marked FunStation on it. Prices for things were great for the most part. They always started pretty bad, but then you were expected to negotiate with them on the price, which brought things down to a fairly decent price. Domino even got herself a hair wrap. It looks really nice! At the end of the day, I ended up spending much more money than I thought I had spent. Oh well. I think I got some good souvenirs.

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After heading back to My Father’s House, I took a much needed nap before dinner. Dinner tonight was a piece of beef, rice, and beans. They also had some pickled vegetables that were a bit on the spicy side. The beef was a little tough, but it was still delicious.

Oh, before and after dinner, I was able to have a Frisbee catch with some of the guys here. That was fun. I haven’t thrown in a long time. One of the little boys who loves here joined in. I was very impressed with his throws. It seemed like he was shy and didn’t know how to throw, but he threw quite well for a boy his age.

After dinner, we had our nightly devotions withe the whole team. We learned about two of the ORI staff members who we have been working with this week. They currently help out with the food runs, but they are only doing that to  help out while they transition that work to somebody else. They previously did a lot of work with the work teams, and they will soon be beginning a special vocational program to teach the orphans some work skills that they can use. I found it very interesting that they have given up their lives to support this mission. They live off donations, and they sell whoopee pies to the missionaries who come here for $1 a piece. They don’t have a retirement fund that they are saving away for their future. This is their life.

Tonight we learned that there are 370,000 orphans in Guatemala. This is the highest number of orphans per capita in the world. I believe this is the number of kids who are living in orphanages, which means that they either have no parents at all, or their parents have abandoned them. ORI currently supports 48 orphanages, soon to be 50. Those 48 orphanages make up about 2,500 kids. Sounds like a lot of kids, but when compared to 370,000, it’s just a very small fraction of the population. It would be amazing if the love of Jesus that we spread through these orphans turned their lives around to be able to make a difference not only in their country, but in the whole world. Wouldn’t that be amazing? I am glad that Domino and I are able to be a part of this.

Hump Day

July 29th, 2015


I’m so glad that I’m staying in after working today. It was a full day of painting today for me. We are working on painting the outside of some of the buildings. I believe that some of them are where the kids sleep. They aren’t small buildings. I’ve been mostly using a roller on a long pole, and doing the top half of each building. Today, we nearly finished our second building, and we began painting our third and final building. The three buildings we painted were light green, a slightly darker shade of green, and blue.

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A team of people went up on the roofs and swept them off and were working on painting them red. I’m not comfortable getting up there to do that. Another team continued working on replacing one of the tin roofs. They were up there all day. Measuring, cutting, and screwing in pieces. They worked very hard in the hot sun.

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The kids helped out with painting all day, except when the orphans were out for recess – then, they went and played with them. It was neat to watch them play on the see-saws, play tag, play soccer. One of the girls was a “hugger” and came around and hugged all of us. Everybody was very nice to all of us.

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At the orphan’s snack time, which is mid-to-late recess time, four of our girls who were playing with the kids at the time were invited to join them for snack. First, they brought out plastic sandwich bags which were filled with some kind of drink and tied off. The kids bit a hole in the bag, and then drank the liquid out. I have no idea what the drink was. I’m hoping it was some kind of juice and not made with any tap water. After the drink, they ate a slice of Domino’s Pizza.

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I heard that those who went on the food run visited three locations, but only one of them had orphans there (the others were at school). The place they visited, all of the orphans were very special needs kids. I bet that was hard to visit.

I’m not sure if I took the time to share about the drives to and from My Father’s House. Tons of cars, and tons of people. Everywhere. So many shops, but it didn’t look like lots of shoppers. Nearly every store had security bars on the storefront. Some of the shops were like a little convenience store, and those had bars up the whole time. people wouldn’t go in to the shops – they would window shop, and tell the worker on the inside what they wanted. They would do the whole transaction through the bars. Nearly every store or home or anything has barbed wire surrounding it. Everything is pastel colored. There are tons of places to get your cars worked on, and they all seemed busy. Lots of the roads have speed bumps in them. And some of them are fairly close to each other. Nearly every car has tinted windows. The public transportation buses look really awesome. Bright colors and stylish metal work. So cool. Plenty of street vendors selling various things such as flowers, or electronic bug zappers, or little dogs with bobble heads on them. While the cars definitely produce plenty of pollution, there are often some very nice smells of street vendors selling food. I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance, or if it would even be smart to take the chance, to try any of it.

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One thing that I’ve been thinking about is how nice the people we have run into have been to us. I’ve been wondering how that would be in the USA. I mean, were we have foreigners (Americans) going in to a foreign land, and helping people out. If we had any foreigners who didn’t speak English come in to the USA to help with orphans, I can’t imagine they would be received with such open arms. Or if a group of foreigners came to preach to the homeless and hand out food on the street. I mean, to me, it just seems like that’s just asking for trouble. Why is it okay for Americans to go to other countries and help them out, but it’s probably not as acceptable for others to come to America to help us out? Maybe it’s just ignorance on my part. Maybe it happens. I really don’t know.


July 29th, 2015

Last night, after dinner, we had a special guest. Her name was Jan, and she is 73 years old. She looked amazing for a lady that age. She works with ORI, and has a lifetime of personal experience of extremely hard times. She shared her life story with us. She grew up being mistreated, sexually abused, raped, moved from extended family member’s house to extended family member’s house. Parents divorcing. Nobody really protecting her. Being blamed for being raped by her mother-in-law. And much more. She shared all of this with us because over eighty percent of the kids in the orphanages here have been sexually abused and have had similar experiences of being left behind or passed around. One of the things she shared about with the kids around here is that often a woman would get pregnant with her boyfriend, and after a month or two, the boyfriend would leave. But then the woman would find another boyfriend, and he wouldn’t have any interest in supporting a baby that wasn’t his. So that baby would be left in the street, hopefully found and dropped off at an orphanage. Then the woman wold have a baby with the next boyfriend. The weirdest part is that the law here allows families to go to orphanages once a month to visit the kids that the family has left behind. So, the mother, her boyfriend and her kid, would all come to the orphanage to have a meal with the mother’s kid, but then after the meal, they would leave the kid behind. The kid would be left very confused – why can’t he go home with his mom? Often, it would take several days to calm the kid down from that. A very disturbing experience for the kid.

Jan explained that when we visit orphanages, we should be sure to play with the kids in groups of three kids and not to play with them one-on-one. She said that by working with them in groups, it takes away their ability to manipulate people into giving kids what they want. It is also important to be sure make a special effort to find the kids who are of on their own and to include them, too. Makes sense.

Long Day

July 28th, 2015

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For each of three work days that we have here, there will be one team that goes directly to the main orphanage, and a smaller team of about 8 people that will first go and deliver food to other orphanages, and then finish the day with the main team. Today, Domino and I were on the team that did the food run.

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There were four orphanages that we stopped at today to deliver food. At each one, we delivered the same things – beans, rice, powdered milk, sugar, and cornmeal. We also dropped off some day-old food that we received from one of the local supermarkets to give out.

The first location that we stopped at reminded me of a daycare. The place was pretty nice. some of the kids were in a class, while other kids were playing in the play area. The kids playing looked to be around 6-9 years old, and seemed like they were having a great time. While it wasn’t a  lot of room, there were two or three kids who rode bikes around. And there were some swing sets to play on, too.

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I thought about how I drop my girls off at daycare, and the fun that they have while there. But this isn’t the same. These kids live here year round. They don’t get to go home at the end of the day to be with their family; they have no family to go home to.

Domino seemed to really enjoy spending time with one of the kids who just recently learned to walk. She held him and carried him around. Every time she went to put him down, he reached up for her. Even handing him off, the boy wanted to go back to Domino.


After Domino was able to break away from the little boy, she found herself doing a monkey-see-monkey-do game against several boys on the monkey bars. One boy would go across the bars one way, and then Domino would repeat. Then Domino would go across them another way, and the boys would repeat.


One of the boys grabbed our friend George and showed him his collection of matchbox cars. George got down on the ground and played with them.


George’s daughter, Lauren, got the kids to compete in some relay races, which was a bit tough considering the amount of room we had to work with. Later, she laid down on the ground and played dead, and a bunch of the boys made ambulance sounds and came to help her.

I had my camera with me, and I let a couple of the boys take pictures of things. They really enjoyed seeing the pictures they took on the camera’s display.

Domino took out her rainbow loom stuff, and several of the boys came over. Domino showed them how to put the bands on the loom. It looked like one of the boys may have known what to do without using a loom. Domino had some finished bracelets and handed them out to the boys who were with her. She then took some of the bands that she had and gave them to the boys to use and share with others. It was neat to see Domino try to communicate. She didn’t speak at all, but rather tried to use her hands to get her point across. For example, she would point at the bands, and then point to each of the kids to show that they were meant to be shared.


Our friend Nivea spent most of her time holding on to one of the infants. I think the baby was only three months old? She had a very hard time letting the baby go, and joked about taking the baby home with her.


We left when the kids who were playing were instructed to come in for snack time. They were all very well behaved, had smiles on their faces, and very appreciative of the time that we spent with them.


At another location, there were only very little kids there, many not able to walk yet. There was a set of twins, too. The ladies in our team really enjoyed holding on to each of them and spending time with them. The guys, well, we mostly hung out and watched the ladies take over.

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At two of the locations, the kids that stay there were all in school, so we didn’t get to see any of them. But one of those locations, we did at least get to tour the facility to learn about the kids who stay there. As you would expect, the kids come from various backgrounds, including products of rape, parents on drugs, and other horrible things.

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After the four food drop offs, we took a quick stop at a coffee shop much like Starbucks. I ordered some frappe with chocolate and peanuts. It was delicious. We ate our packed lunches (sandwiches, carrot sticks, cheese-itz, that kind of stuff), and headed back to the main orphanage that the rest of the team was working at.

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When we got there, they were broken into two teams – one smaller team was replacing a tin roof. They needed to cut pieces and screw them in. They were going that in the hot sun all day. The other team was working on painting the outside of one of the many buildings at this location. I was really impressed at how quickly the kids who were with the food distribution team grabbed a roller and started painting.

Oh, I guess I should explain that this location was a very big compound with many buildings. I’m not sure how many kids are there yet. I’ll find out more about the place today, since that’s where we will spend our other two work days working.

We completed painting the outside of one of the buildings, and started working on the next one. Every once in a while, the orphans came out – maybe during recess time or something, and the kids in our group were able to play soccer with them or whatever other games.

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At the end of the day, the orphanage gave us ice cream bars to enjoy after our hard work. That was nice of them!

We headed back to My Father’s House exhausted after a long day of work.

But my work wasn’t done yet. As an added bonus, a small team of about 7 of us were invited to join another ministry team go do into the inner city and spend time with people on the streets. So, instead of having dinner, a team of us packed some food for dinner (the same as what we had for lunch), and after 15 minutes of returning, we were back on the bus.

We picked up about 40 other people at another orphanage. Apparently, that team got to stay on location with the orphans instead of having to commute.

We drove to the inner city, and waited for another smaller team, who was leading a ministry to help the homeless. While waiting in the bus, we not only saw homeless people on the side of the streets, but we even saw two guys squat next to some cement fixture to defecate. They squatted next to each other, and even shared a roll of toilet paper.

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Eventually, the other team showed up, and we all got out of the bus to join him. A small group of homeless people gathered, and sat on the curb, while the main leader preached. When he was done preaching, we all handed out bread, a hot beverage, and a hot soup to each person. Some of the people were drunks. One of the guys was from LA. He had an LA tattoo behind his ear. Pastor Chris went and spoke to him. He spoke very good English. Apparently, he was in LA, but got kicked out of the country for doing something. I’m not sure what it was.

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We eventually got back in the bus and headed to another location. This other place had many more people – lots of kids. The same thing happened here. The man preached, and we handed out food. After we were done, the man preached to the volunteers, who said that we have all been touched in our hearts and that we will remember this for years to come.

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We eventually, wrapped up, and headed back to where we were staying. Exhausted. I tried to write this journal entry when I got back, but I was too tired to finish, so I had to finish in the morning.

I need to quickly shower, make my lunch, and get breakfast so I don’t miss the bus this morning.

My Father’s House

July 27th, 2015

We safely made it to Guatemala!

We were met at the airport by a Cool Bus (a yellow school bus with the word Cool instead of School).

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The bus ride from the airport was insane. It was during rush hour, so that made it extra crazy. Roads were packed with all sorts of cars and motorcycles. Many of the cars had very tinted windows – even the front window. I was very impressed with the other buses on the road. They were very shiny, variety of colors, and rather blinged out. Some of them even had their front ends raised up like they were tricked out. Many buses had cargo carriers on top.


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We passed by a bunch of familiar restaurants, such as Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s. There were a lot of car repair places. Lots of graffiti, too, but much of it was tasteful or advertising. We saw some people selling things on the street. One guy was even selling lamp shades.



The motorcycles weaved in and out of traffic, and we even saw one get clipped and wipe out. I don’t think he was killed, but it was pretty scary.

As I write this, at 8:41pm, we occasionally hear fireworks. I believe that they light them off to celebrate birthdays or something. They’re loud!

During the drive here. we saw the volcano off in the distance. It puffs smoke every five to ten minutes.


One vehicle that we passed had a passenger holding a shotgun. We saw armed guards in front of quite a few businesses. Many of the places we passed had tall walls with barbed wire at the top.


The place that we are staying at is called My Father’s House – it, too, is surrounded by barbed wire. However, inside the compound is very nice.

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Domino and I are staying in our own room (most families have their own room). The walls are a bright yellow color, and the floor is red tile. The room has two beds and a bunk bed (so the room sleeps four). Each room has their own bathroom and shower. Of course, we aren’t supposed to drink the water, or even use it on our toothbrush. We were given water bottles that we can refill for the week. Another interesting thing about Guatemala is that their septic systems are very bad, so we are not supposed to put toilet paper in the toilet. Instead, there is a trash can next to the toilet that we put our dirty paper in. Yuck. After we arrived, we did introductions and were told about our plans for the week. Basically, three days we will be working. Working includes food distribution, painting, and roof repairs. The other days we are here, we have other plans. I’m sure I’ll share them with you as I journal. Dinner was awesome tonight. We ate boneless chicken that was pounded out and fried, along with mashed potatoes and green beans and carrots. It was delicious. After dinner, Domino and I played a game of pool with a broken pool stick, and then we headed back to the room to get ready for bed and do our journals. I hope I get some good sleep tonight. Breakfast starts at 7:30am.

Big Ben, Parliament

July 27th, 2015

So, we got on the plane, taxied out, and then they told us there was a problem with the plane. So, we have come back to the Houston airport, and are waiting for the next plane to get here, which is supposed to be here in about an hour. Having fun yet?