Archive for April, 2012

30th April
written by Michelle

Gerber and I have the joy (and challenge) of working together most days.

Some days we have meetings with staff members, other days we’re in the office planning for the next team.

There are lots of emails, lots of discussions and lots of Spanglish back and forth.

I still teach English once a week, and he coordinates future water filter projects and meets with community leaders.


But when we have teams, we usually work together.


after a days work

I am the planner, arranger and schedule maker.

And He makes everything happen. And sometimes not according to schedule. (imagine that)

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that sometimes his way of doing things just works better than mine. The problem is I usually don’t realize this until after I’ve argued and convinced him to do something my way.

(hey, we’re still learning.)

At our best we work together seamlessly; like peanut butter and jelly.

Or like corn tortillas and frijoles if you want the Guatemalan equivalent.

He’ll share with a group of Guatemalans in Spanish, while I translate to English. Then we switch. I’ll share with the team of volunteers in English, and he translates to Spanish. We welcome conversations and questions about faith and culture and differences because we live it each and every day. In our marriage. In our work. In our life here in Guatemala. Our passion to love God and serve other people aligns perfectly, but learning how to live that out in practical ways often leaves us asking how?

When we’re at our best we (hopefully) model what it means to serve, support and bring out the best in each other.

When we’re at our worst, we get easily frustrated and irritated with each other, and our different way of doing things. I find myself saying, well, if you’d just do it like this______, then we wouldn’t have that problem. We both think we’re right. And that our way works best. And in some ways we both are probably right.

But marriage doesn’t work very well when you try to be right.

The challenge of working together (and doing life together) is that we both can’t do things the way we used to.

so, we are learning new ways of doing things.

And we get to practice often, as we work with a lot of teams from churches, universities, high schools and rotary clubs.

Here’s a little look into part of what we do:


huge thanks to the team from Pepperdine University and the video skills of David Chang ©2012

25th April
written by Michelle

Yesterday I saw a woman riding a scooter. No big deal, I know.

Lots of women ride scooters.

But this woman was riding on the back of a scooter…



no joke.

There are many things Guatemalans do that I try to incorporate into my life.

But, this will not be one of them.

I am certain.

(this is not a picture of the breastfeeding woman. I was too shocked/amazed/confused to even begin to pull out my camera. This happens to be the only photo I have of a family scooter experience)

this is guatemala


Happy Wednesday wherever you are!

22nd April
written by Michelle

Last week I found out that I have been a very friendly host for this not-so friendly guy. Medically, known as Blastocystis hominis,  I just refer to him as “He.” And He has set up camp in my intestines since November and doesn’t plan on leaving. I have visited quite a few doctors and pharmacies in Antigua trying to figure out 1) how to get rid of this guy and 2) how to prevent him from coming back. There are various opinions and medicinal options for number 1. However, whenever I seek suggestions for number 2- ya know, the whole prevention side- I get the same response. Welcome to Guatemala. (thankyou, thirdworldcountry)

For now I am focused on getting rid of him. I am a regular at the local lab. And let me tell you I have a very deep appreciation for these people who examine other people’s poo in search of parasites. I cannot imagine the stories in that lab, or the smells for that matter. God bless the poop checkers. Once a month I carry my sample, carefully hidden in a black plastic bag, to the local lab. I used to place a white label with my name scribbled on it to try and cover-up the product inside. Now, I just bring it in. Let’s be honest we all know what’s in there. Inside the lab there’s a small, clear window. All I have to say is “I have a muestra.” She nods and takes the bag. I pay 25 questzales and come back in 6 hours for my results.

Now what I have learned over my months of sample producing is that parasites are sneaky little fellows. They lay egg like things and when the eggs are dormant you have relatively little symptoms- no diarrhea, no cramps, no bloating, no pain. However, when those guys hatch then the symptoms return and wreak havoc down under. The thing is I’ve been told is that the labs can’t detect the eggs, just the hatched parasites. Which explains why for 5 months (maybe more) I’ve had hard time getting rid of this guy.

•   •   •

My husband teaches communities how to build water filter systems because he knows that diarrhea  kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Did you read that?

DIARRHEA. kills MORE kids than AIDS, malaria, and measles COMBINED! wow.

When he first started the project in the norther area of Guatemala they conducted research to find out how many people suffered from diarrhea. The responses were almost always negative. They were confused. How could no one have diarrhea? They had done water samples and found Ecoli and Giardia. With a little more probing and talking with families and kids, they found out that the majority of people didn’t know anything other than diarrhea. They had spent more of their lives with it, than without it. They didn’t know diarrhea was not normal.

Now, they are over 3,400 water filters in this area. And hopefully many families and kids who are healthier and  now living without diarrhea.

•   •   •

My husband would probably build us a water filter right here in the house if he could (they work that well), but because we live in the city limits Antigua and Antigua adds bleach to the city water we can’t. The bleach kill the good bacteria. (for info as to why: read this)

So, the fight against the parasite continues…

I tend to be of the persuasion that tea can cure anything- even parasites. Imagine my excitement when one day I found some “anti-parasite tea.” I’ve been drinking it religiously.  I try and offer it to my husband, with added honey to wash it down. But he declines and says, I’d rather just take medicine. Which he did, because the truth is if I have something living inside of me. I’m sure he does too.

10th April
written by Michelle

My Easter Sunday began with spilled sangria and ended with Pizza Hut. And somewhere between those two events I realized holidays may look different than what I’m used to.

Since getting married and living in a country different from the one where I grew up, I often find myself trying to re-create familiar traditions-especially for certain holidays. On Christmas morning I was adamant about making homemade cinnamon rolls because my mom used to make them every year. So with unopened wedding gifts and half-unpacked suitcases covering the floor and I set-out to make homemade cinnamon roles for Christmas. They didn’t taste like moms.

Growing up Easter was celebrated by wearing a new dress to church, eating a big family brunch and having the most orderly Easter egg hunt imaginable. My mom counted, color-coordinated and hid in height-appropriate places each of our  respective colored eggs.  I looked for the green ones, my sisters had the purple and yellow ones respectively and my brother had the blue ones. There was no fighting over who had more and no race to find them the fastest. We all had the same number, same contents.

For many years Easter has looked different. I spent one Easter on a road trip with my best friend. Another “singing” in the church choir at the request of the choir director who asked my roommate and I if we could smile and clap.

Easter is not really one of my favorite holidays, but for some reason this year all holidays feel important- including Easter. I fill the need to re-claim or re-create some tradition that we now do every Easter. I thought of my options. Riding a scooter gets in the way of my dress wearing capabilities and we don’t have any little ones in our lives yet who would appreciate the joys of colored eggs. I often have reflected on the meaning of Easter, but sometimes have a hard time going to church. I suggested to G that we host a brunch. I found two recipes I had been wanting to try and we invited friends over.  I started baking the day before. Lemon Blackberry cake done. Vegetable Strata in the fridge waiting to be baked. And the sangria was mixed with cut-up fruit floating on top.

Everything was ready.

Until, exactly T-2 hours before people were supposed to arrive, I spilled the entire pitcher of sangria.

Red juice ran under the fridge, across the kitchen and splattered on my flip-flops. I groaned in pure frustration. I couldn’t be mad at anyone because it was my fault, so I became very angry at the pitcher. G, who handles all changes and most emergencies with a quick calmness, grabbed a mop for the floor and a towel for my feet. He volunteered to go to the store for the second round of OJ and wine, before I even asked.

I put the strata in the oven and paper plates on the table. Two friends came early to help set-up and keep the flies away from the food. Another couple came with their three little kids and a few more strolled in later in the afternoon. The boys played fútbol with the kids at the park behind out house, the ladies sat and talked and took turns passing around the adorable baby.  It wasn’t exactly family brunch; it was something different. It was good.

Perhaps, it will become a new tradition.

However, not sure about dinner at Pizza Hut.

But then again, Easter in Guatemala may look different. Sangria and Pizza Hut, why not?

•   •   •

Just for the record this is how Easter’s used to look:

I love ’em. And now that we all live in different time zones we blog. yep, all of us (sans the parents).

You can follow Steph here, Christine here and my brother, Andrew here. I think they’re are pretty fabulous. I mean in three clicks you can get recipes, fashion and pop culture, Italian mafia secrets and a inside look at the business world. enjoy.