Friday, July 28, 2017

Guatemala Day 7: Antigua and Niños presentation

Today was our last day here. Ally's mosquito bites are itchy and Becky's sunburned skin has starting peeling. I spent the day telling both of them to stop scratching. It's time to go home tomorrow. But we are bracing for a brutally long day of travel. We get picked up at 8:15am for our 1:00pm flight. New TSA regulations require additional checkin time for all flights entering the USA. Then we have a 3 hour layover in Miami again. So we finally land in Boston at 11:00pm and still have to go thru customs and get a cab home. But that is tomorrow. Ally won the photo contest so she gets to pick the restaurant for dinner in Miami. 

That is Becky's peeling arms. 

Today was another fun day. After breakfast we headed back to the arch and did some shopping. Final gifts for Ally's friends and a jade necklace for Beth and Ally. Then we visited a 300 year old church Las Capuchinas, stopped at the Chocolate Museum for some souvenirs and rested for a bit before we headed out to a presentation at Ninos Benedicion, a local charity project for children. 

Breakfast, the children's plate was perfect for Ally. 

Our hotel lobby.

Ally took this fantastic picture of the arch with the volcano in the background. 

At the church it was mostly in ruins. The building now houses Antigua's preservation department.

They are looking at the toilet.

Gorgeous girl. She loves it here. 

Banana bread and bananas to dip in chocolate sauce. 

Beth and Becky took some nice pictures around town.

At the presentation children came out dressed in traditional clothing from different parts of Guatemala. They introduced themselves, their age and where they lived all in English. It was a riot. All were 11-14 years old. They kidded around and were embarrassed sometimes. It was delightful and Ally loved it. The children performed several dances and even had Ally join in.

Then we all joined in!

After the presentation the girls dressed Ally up. The director also did Ally's hair. Ally loved it. 

They taught us how to make tortillas. Traditionally they would grind their own masa. Now you can buy it ground and mix by hand.

But they still form by hand. 

Turns out Ally is a natural at forming tortillas. The director was sincerely impressed, she said most kids get a sticky and messy and even most parents can't do it right the first time. But Ally's were perfect!

Ally also acted as our translator for almost the entire we were there. Again, Guatemalans are so surprised and impressed that Ally knows Spanish, and so much Spanish. This trip has truly reinforced how important it is that Ally is bilingual. 

Then we got to eat a cooked tortilla with beans. 

After the presentation we went back to our hotel. Beth and I did some more shopping and Becky and Ally relaxed. Then the 3 of them went out to eat while I packed. 

At dinner tonight Ally had a huge glass of lemonade. Then it was back to the hotel and she played card games with Beth and Becky while I blogged. Now it's time for bed. 

This really has been an amazing trip. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Guatemala Day 6: PART 2 Visit with Foster Family

This trip to Guatemala is about showing Ally her birth country. The beauty, the interest, the fun and the people. Becky and I decided not to coordinate a birth mother visit this first trip. Ally would like to meet her birth mother and after today I am even more convinced that we will hire a searcher to locate her and hopefully meet her on our next trip here. 

We did hire someone to locate Ally's foster family and facilitate a meeting with them. They came to meet us at our hotel and we took them out to dinner. Lots of tears of happiness. Miriam, Ally's official foster mom and her family loved and took care of Ally for 7 months. Ally was Miriam's 9th and final foster child. There was a little boy in her care at the same time, Armando and Miriam adopted him herself because our agency could not find anyone to adopt him. He was born with a cleft pallet. The agency subsidized surgery (and we even helped with that some 10 years ago) but still no one wanted him. But Miriam and her family loved him and they have raised him. It was so special to finally meet him and see other members of the family again. 

Miriam with Ally and Armando then and now.

Possibly the cutest picture of 2 Guatemalan babies ever!

The facilitator, Orlando acted as our translator as well. Ally did pretty good with her Spanish and could answer their questions directly herself and ask some of her own. But to have real conversation the translator was really helpful. The family told us they were so surprised and happy to hear from us and meet us. We are the only family that has ever contacted them -and the only child they have seen again. So the time together was very special. Armando told them all day at school he was so excited to meet Ally but so worried we would cancel. He was so much like Ally. Very quite. He brought a fidget spinner so I got out some extra putty I always carry for Ally and gave him that. He played with it all evening. 

Ally with Miriam and her sister Norma. We met Norma on our pick up trip to bring Ally to the USA.

I've always believed being a foster parent is one of the most difficult jobs. Sometimes it gets a bad rap in the USA because foster parents are paid. Miriam was paid too. It's what she did as a job for many years. Now she cleans schools (like a custodian). But can you imagine caring for a child and loving that child and knowing you had to give her up? And yet doing it so well? I told the family their love and caring for Ally was such a gift. We are so grateful to them. 

After dinner while we waited for the check (our treat of course) I told Ally she could play games on her phone with Armando. We found out they have the same favorite food: pancakes! It was a huge laugh amongst the adults, that these two children born of different mothers, raised as infants together for 7 months, adopted into different families have the same favorite food. Turns out they are both pretty quiet and reserved kids as well. 

I had a video of Ally at her gymnastics meet ready on my iPad to show the family. Ally was pretty proud of it. We had put together a 100 picture photo album for them. Ally pictures over the past 10 years and then pictures from the last 12 months that show what Ally does in a year: school, friends, holidays, ballet, lots of gymnastics, our pets, vacations etc. Ally and I went thru the album with Miriam and Norma in person and at home we had dated the 10 year picture series in Spanish and wrote captions on the last year. 

They told us a picture I emailed them when Ally was 3 or so hangs in their house. It's the last time I had emailed them. I'm going to try and send updates at least once a year now. They asked that we visit again when we come back to Guatemala next. I promised we would.

The family was so thrilled that Ally spoke Spanish and that she has pride in her birth country and has other friends from Guatemala. 

I think Ally's smile speaks volumes. Miriam said she is  so grateful to see Ally and know she is so happy and with such a good family. 

Miriam took a picture of Beth and Becky and me. 

It was late when they left and we were all pretty tired. Ally has been getting eaten by mosquitoes and has some golf ball size welts and is super itchy. Some Benadryl and hydrocortisone cream helps a little. I feel bad for her, we do spray her down with insect repellent but she is like a magnet. 

Guatemala Day 6: PART 1 boat ride to San Juan

Today is my birthday!
I woke up early to see the sunrise. It was a nice present from Mother Nature.

Lee picked us up at 8:30 again this morning and we walked down to the dock to get a boat across the lake to San Juan. San Juan is a village that has created a co-op for the artisans. We did a lot of shopping.

It was a cold 30 minute ride across the lake. Perfect for snuggling. 

The sun came out as we arrived, and Lee bought a dragon fruit for us to try. It's a beautiful hot pink color inside. It tastes like a strawberry and a kiwi. 

Becky loved it.

We shopped a little, mostly gifts for Ally's friends. Then Lee suggested a Tuk Tuk ride for Ally. Tuk Tuks are small 3 wheeled taxi cabs. The plan was actually for Ally to drive one! And she agreed!!!

So off Ally and I went with Juan. 

Once out of town he had Ally get in the front and she drove for about 10 minutes. 

She loved it. 

Crazy hair selfie!

Ally and Juan the driver. 

We met back up with Beth and Becky and Lee at a local weaving co-op. We got a lesson in how they take raw cotton and make a finished woven article. Ally translated for us. She did great.  Two pictures above is the khaki colored natural cotton that represents the skin color of Guatemalans. 
In the above photo Ally is pounding the cotton.

Then they spin the cotton by hand, 

Ally is grinding something to make dye. 

One the thread is created and dyed it is woven using s back strap loom.

Next up was fashion show. Ally tried on the traditional and popular Huipil and skirt with belt. Traditionally women where the huilip blouse in a pattern that represents their tribe or location in the country they are from. Above and below Ally is showing off her heritage Huipil. 

Becky tried one on too.

In the end Ally decided on an outfit with colors she really liked and fit her better. We were told that the tradition is a bit outdated. So it was fine for her to get what she wanted.

Outside the store waiting for mama and Beth to pay.

At lunch Ally learned how to use a can opener.

She loved her orange crush.

Basically she loves orange food. Yes she ate most of this plate of carrots Lee ordered for her.

After lunch we stopped by another school. This one was public school with a covered play yard.

Before we got on the boat Ally did a few more handstands.

It was a rough boat ride back to Pana, but Ally loved it. 

The view from the boat. We said goodbye to Lee in Pana, he was a great guide and host for 3 days. 

On our way back to Antigua today we saw a rainbow!

Part 2 up next, meeting Ally's foster family. It was a good time and I'm so glad we did that.