Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Week in Guatemala

My work is pretty cool down here in Mexico - but sometimes you need to take your work to Guatemala for a week or so, and that is exactly what we did last week. Natik has projects in both southern Mexico and Guatemala, so we spent this past week getting to know our partners in Santiago Atitlan. 

From San Cristobal to Santiago Atitlan you take a 12 hour bus/boat ride. It is extremely long, and not the most comfortable (especially for someone who gets motion sickness) but the long ride was definitely filled with some adventures. 

In Mexico when people want to protest something they often block off sections of the road so no cars can pass on either side. We ran into one of these road blocks and had to walk about a kilometer and catch a cab to the Guatemalan border where our other bus was waiting for us. We had never been stopped by one of these protests, so it was kind of exciting for us. We even snapped a picture as we were walking!

We went to Guatemala to get to know our partner projects down there, Puerta Abierta is a library/learning center and Just Apparel is a custom ebrodary cooperative that specializes in fair trade merchandise, and then there is a secondary school scholarship program as well. Because these programs are similar to the projects we run in San Cristobal, Xunka, one of our partners in San Cristobal came with us to meet everyone and share ideas. 
Us with Xunka at the Guatemalan border. 

We got to Late Atitlan late in the evening on Saturday and couldn't cross the lake until the next day, so we didn't do much except eat and sleep. But Sunday brought new adventures as we crossed to Santiago Atitlan and started exploring and meeting all the projects.  

Before getting on the boat to cross the lake.
To say that Santiago Atitlan is a paradise would be a bit of an overstatement, but it is an incredibly gorgeous part of the world. The lake is huge, and it took us nearly an hour to cross it on a boat (not a ferry, but an actual semi-fast boat). It is definitely tropical in the region, but also has a high altitude, so it is not blistering hot like in the lowlands. 

One of our favorite activities was just to go down and sit by the lake and talk. We seriously spent a large part of our free time sitting next to the lake. It was good for our souls to be in the open space/nature that Santiago could provide for us.

There was a really cool Catholic church in the center of town that we went through. I love visiting Catholic churches. I don't know why, since I hardly understand anything about the saints, paintings, and images throughout the chapel, but I am fascinated by the architecture and intricacies throughout the spaces. 

We stayed in a house down there. People all throughout the town rent out rooms to volunteers that come down. So rather than stay in a hotel or hostel, we had a family that cooked us two meals a day. This was the view from the upstairs loft-ish area. 

The center of town is used as a market, basketball court, soccer field, and produce shipment area. Guatemala produces a lot of avocados and were were ecstatic to see the entire center filled with avocados one morning. These avocados are way bigger than the ones we have in the states, or in San Cristobal. We were so sad to see that they had trash cans full of ripe ones, and we even saw hundreds on the ground in different peoples yards since they drop when they are ripe and people don't care to continually collect them.

We spent a lot of time meeting with the partners, especially Puerta Abierta, which we fell in love with the moment we stepped foot into the building. Caitlin has a way with little kids, and although she cannot fully communicate with them in Spanish yet, she still had a herd of kids that wanted to spend time with her. She helped them make tamales and cookies since we were there for the last few days of the school. We even got to watch a talent show and see their preschool graduation ceremony!
Here is a view of the school, and me eating tamales in the backyard.

This was a park down by the lake that we spent many hours at. It had a gazebo and benches for people to sit at, as well as a few tables with benches (all made of cement). Women would be down there all day washing clothes, and nearby there was always a group of teenage boys swimming off a dock.


We also went and saw a really cool house (or compound type house) made of super-adobe. It was very artistic and intricate. We don't think we could live in this style of house, but it was really cool to see what people are able to create and make into a home.


They even have a tire playground for their daughter to play on. I especially loved the dragon. 

The family also had many other types of buildings that they are currently constructing. They have a beautiful view of the lake, and they are such a creative family and have cool stories to go with every building, and why it is a certain way. They gave us the full tour and told us all about their future plans. We are excited to see how it turns out when we go back in February.

My favorite picture of the trip.
So if you want to come visit us for a while in San Cristobal, come in December and we can take you to Santiago Atitlan, or come in February or March and we may be living down there! What?! Yeah, I don't know if we have mentioned that before, but we are thinking that we may spend a few months or so down in Guatemala. Yay! We are really excited about that, so I'm sure there will be plenty more posts about Guatemala. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

San Francisco and San Diego

Get excited... this is the last post about our road trip! Whew! I never thought this day would come. :)

After we spent time with my family in Oregon, we drive the entire length of California, stopping in Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Diego. We didn't think we had a lot of time to spend in any of the places since we had to hurry and get to Mexico - but then there were some unexpected delays and we ended up staying a few extra weeks in San Diego. But since we didn't know about that, we blasted through northern California. 

Our first stop was for a few minutes in Sacramento where we said hi to Stuart Spieth, my old roommate and friend from Estacada. He and his wife live there and we hadn't seen him in over a year, so we stopped in to say hi real fast before we headed over to San Francisco. 

Caitlin's sister lives near San Francisco with her husband and two kids. Our brother-in-law, Alan, works for Facebook, so he took us on a tour of the campus and let us see all the swag that Facebook employees are privy to. It was actually pretty sweet. If only Facebook had an international development department, I would love to work on the campus for a while. 
P.S. if any Facebook big-wigs want to create that department for me to work in, I will come take a look in May :)

Besides seeing the Facebook campus, we spent a day exploring a few sites around the city. We went to the Golden Gate Bridge and walked more than halfway across. But seeing as how we had two kids with us, we decided it would probably be better to only go halfway since they weren't seeming like they would want extra long bridge time.

Also - did you know that Caitlin was (is) obsessed with Full House? Also - did you know that Full House takes place in San Francisco? Well, lucky for us, Caitlin knew exactly what she wanted to see in San Francisco that had to do with the show, the Painted Ladies and the front door that was the Full House. We found the Painted Ladies easily, but the front door took a little bit more time to find, even though it was only a few blocks away.

Caitlin was so disappointed that they painted the door, but here is the house!

We only spent one day in San Francisco, and after that we made our way down to San Diego to visit Caitlin's parents. Luckily, Amber and Alan came down too so we got to spend more time with them and their kids. 

We didn't take a lot of pictures while in San Diego, but we spent a fun day pedal boating with the whole family and managed to snap a few pictures while we were out.

This was actually a lot harder than we thought. Our legs were burning after an hour around the lake. Maybe it wasn't that hard and rather it was a wake up call that we had not been exercising for the entire duration of our trip. :)

And of course, whenever we are in San Diego we try and visit Adrea Nichols, who is always full of the best stories and energy. 

We also spent way too much time at the beach, ocean kayaking, boogie boarding with Kami Oliver, and an incident with Clark (Caitlin's dad) a boogie board, and the ocean floor. We enjoyed other things in San Diego as well: the Spanish branch, eating way too much ice cream, Duck Dynasty, going to the temple, becoming addicted to Once Upon a Time, and many other great adventures. We also went on a double date with Clark and Teresa to an Ethiopian restaurant which was amazing. After this trip we are both convinced that living close to Caitlin's parents would not be such a bad thing. But we will see how job hunting goes after we are done in Mexico.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Few Days in Oregon

I love going home to visit Oregon - especially in the summer. Oregon only really has two seasons: summer and rain. Is rain a season? I'm pretty sure it is in the Pacific Northwest. And since I grew up there, I can say anything I want about the rain in Oregon, but if someone else says anything about it, I will defend Oregon until I pass out.

Every time we drive to Oregon, we have to stop by Multnomah Falls. It is seriously a breathtaking view. I'm so glad to pass it in between Idaho and Oregon. 

And of course, spending time in Oregon is always full of spending time with my family. We stayed with my mom for a few days and also stayed with my sister Carley for a few days. Carley just bought a new house and it was so beautiful! We are really jealous since we've been bouncing around for so long. 

While we were in Oregon, we decided to spend a day sightseeing in Portland. Caitlin had never been to Oregon in the summer, so this was the perfect time to introduce her to Voodoo Doughnuts, Powell's Books, the Waterfront, and many other Portlandy things. 

Voodoo Doughnut is a pretty infamous Portland donut shop, that has a wide variety of crazy, weird donuts. It seriously epitomizes the spirit of Portland in one little shop.

Caitlin got a coconut one and I got a blueberry one. We also tried maple, Captain Crunch, Oreo, and the voodoo doll donut. 

And of course, we had to take a picture with the Portlandia statue. 

Some of the other fun things we did while in Oregon include picking fresh blackberries, going to the temple with my grandparents and aunt, going to the Oregon State Fair, and going to see the movie, The Butler. We didn't take a whole lot of pictures, but here is what we got. :)

Carley with her mini pigs at the fair petting zoo.

Us with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe outside of the movie theater.

And of course, our last day saying goodbye to my mom. We were so sad to leave, and really wish all our family would come down and visit us in Mexico soon!