Clean, Economical, Healthy, Safe, Environmental

This is how most Guatemalan's cook. There aren't many benefits to this. The one benefit I can think of is heat when it's cold.

The damages are numerous. The smoke is thick. Lungs and eyes are constantly irritated and related illnesses are common. Children are often burned when they pull burning sticks onto themselves or fall into ground fires. The metal roofs are ruined by the soot and smoke. The walls and everything in the kitchen are blackened and filthy. The cost of the wood is very high, either by time collecting it or purchasing it. One woman told me she spends $14 a month on firewood on this kind of fire (we spend the same on propane for ours). An estimated 6 trees are cut down each year in order to provide firewood for one family.

I've been spending the last three days delivering, installing and photographing new Onil stoves in people's homes. These of course eliminate the smoke, soot and burning dangers (unless someone sits on griddle, the concrete only gets mildly warm). They use up to 70% less firewood on top of that.

I really enjoy seeing these stoves go into people's homes. Their quality of life improves so much! What's funny is that when we drop off the stove, they often have it almost completely put together before I can get in to make sure it's put together correctly, they are so excited. It's quite the treat!


So we got 50 bullets.

Picked up Erick's pistol.

Put up a target.

And mostly missed.

Comment: It was really loud.


Failed States Index

The Fund for Peace publishes an annual report called the Failed States Index. This year it studied 177 countries and rated them on 12 criteria which polled social, economic, and political factors.

A few observations:
  • Canada's three greatest weaknesses are shown to be:
    • Mounting Demographic Pressures
    • Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
    • Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
  • Only 18 of the 36 most failed states are in Africa
  • The United States is failing as a state better than 17 other countries
  • Guatemala is failing more as a state than Mozambique, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mali, and Vietnam
  • The 5 countries that are succeeding the most all have high taxes and are in Europe
  • South Africa is the most successful country in Africa
  • Haiti, Columbia, Bolivia, Guatemala are the biggest failures in the western hemisphere and also the sites of US military intervention (and the cause of much of the failure)


Papa's Day #2

Amber put together a splendid father's day for me. I was nearly as pampered as the kids. It was my second year as a father (my first year we hiked to a waterfall) and already look more haggard (see above photo).

The dear mother of my children got a DVD* for me and let me watch all 6 episodes on the disc throughout the day. We went out for brunch and played at the playground outside the restaurant. Amber cooked up my favorite pumpkin soup with biscuits. Then after the lambs were in bed, we watched Pan's Labrynth (superb!!).

My papa wasn't home all day so I couldn't call him. Besides there was no signal on our phones most of the day anyway. I'm going to call him later today.

I only had to change 2 diapers the whole day too!

* Thanks Saison for picking it up and thanks Tureena for bringing it to Guate. The DVD was The Office, Season 1

House Hunting in Tactic

We had two visitors to our ministry over the weekend. One of them sponsors a girl, Olga, and so I ventured to take her yesterday to see her. It went like this.

1. Stop by Oscar and Evelin's to see if they know where Olga lives. They don't know, so they direct me to Olga's aunt's house (Alma), close to Tienda Amarilis (store).

2. Stop by Tienda Amarilis where the lady at the counter sends me next door to Alma's house.

3. Stop by Alma's house/store. She tells me that Olga just recently moved. She doesn't know where she lives now except that it's in a small village up the mountain. The road there has a sign that reads "Salam."

4. Stop by the SDA Church because Olga's father is the pastor there. It's Sunday and no one is there, so I ask the owner of the store across the street if he knows where the pastor lives. He doesn't know, but he knows that Porfilio Ayala knows where the pastor lives. I get directions to Porfilio's house.

5. Stop by Porfilio's street and ask a teenager where the Ayala house is. He says that no Ayala's live on this street. I should try the street over.

6. Stop by the street over and ask a woman there if she knows which house is the Ayala house. She says the Ayalas live on the street I was just on. The teenager was wrong.

7. Stop by the Ayala house and no one is home. They've just left according to a neighbour. They went to their other property on the highway next to the Telgua phone tower. They have a white car.

8. Stop by the white car parked on the highway and ask three neighbours and several pedestrians if they know where the people are that came in the white car. No one knows any Ayalas nor to whom the car belongs.

9. Drive down the road leaving town looking for the "Salam" sign. We don't see it anywhere.


10. We meet Olga at school this morning with her sponsor. After the morning devotional, Olga carries a flag in the morning's civic ceremony that happens once a month. It's her class's turn to lead the service. Olga also proudly leads the school in the Guatemalan National Anthem.

I guess I could have been pro-active and talked to Olga on Friday and gotten directions to her house. It's usually not that tricky to find a house though. Usually it's 2-4 stops.


Kids' Favorite Verses

Our latest mailout to sponsors from their sponsor children was the child's favorite verse. It took a long time to translate the 450 sheets. The younger ones added drawings and the older ones explained why they chose the verse. There were some very funny and very touching verses that I thought I would record here.

There were lots about obeying parents and God such as:
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:20-21)

For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
(Proverbs 3:12)
There were those on poverty, like:
Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive,
(Psalm 41:1-2a)

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
Those about judgment such as:
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, (Hebrews 9:27)
(the accompanying drawing was of Winnie the Pooh)

and the very popular

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
To obscure verses, perhaps open and point), for example:
Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. (John 3:23)

Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:12)
And the ones that had special meaning for certain students:
So he said to them:
“Out of the eater came something to eat,
And out of the strong came something sweet.”
Now for three days they could not explain the riddle.
(Judges 14:14)

from 13-year-old Ervin:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth
For your love is better than wine.
Because of the fragrance of your good ointments,
Your name is ointment poured forth;
Therefore the virgins love you.
(Song of Songs 1:2-3)

from 10-year-old Jessica whose father abandoned his family to go work as an illegal in the USA nine months ago:

When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.
(Psalm 27:10)

From 18-year-old Juan:

do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9b)

This is my favorite verse because when I am in a place where there are many guys drinking alcohol and there are people passing in front of them and the drinkers hit them, but when I pass by there, they don’t do anything to me because God is with me always.
The 23rd Psalm was the overall favorite, edging out John 3:16. One boy had this to say about John 3:16:
God loved the world so that the world would love Him. I love Him. God sent His only son to die for us. God gives us eternal life because God loved the world He sent His son so that he who believes will not be lost and have eternal life.
16-year-old Eddie adds perhaps a little more coherence to why he chose John 3:16:
...in my life there have been many problems and temptations, but I remember this verse and I feel that the burden is lifted, to know that God loves me and loves me a lot. He has a hope for my life and also has prepared something for my life.
And for the hasty:
Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Early Morning Rain

I've been so messed up by this quick trip to Guatemala City. We got up at 4:30 AM to pick up Tureena at the airport and I can't nap, so I've been passing out early in the evening ever since. This means I wake up early; this morning it was 5:30.

It was just dawning and there was rain. The temperature, light, humidity, sounds of birds chirping, fog in the mountains, and being alone. It just brought me back to so many other mornings in the woods growing up, standing on our patio in Montreal, walking to the beach on Carlos, packing up the tent on the Mackenzie or on the bike trip, delivering the newspaper at CUC, and on and on. Mornings all over the world are awe-inspiring. Add rain, and you have purity.

The atmosphere was so perfect, I had to indulge in one of my current favorite passtimes: pissing off the back step.

Disney DVD Deal

Between movies #1 and #2, and right after eating a quick supper, I shot into an appliance store that also sells movies. You know, just to see if there were any deals. Before I could get to the shelf with adult movies - by adult I don't mean pornography, I mean not for children - I ran accross a big shelf that had a sign "Liquidation of Disney Movies."

I'm not a big big fan of Disney movies. My sisters watched The Little Mermaid religiously when we were kids and I laughed when I saw Aladdin. But I never sang Disney movies or watched one over and over again.

So this shelf had about 50 different titles - most of them straight to video sequels of originals, but some were the classics like Dumbo and Pinocchio. The more I looked around, I found more really great cartoons - some recent ones too like Chicken Little and The Emperor's New Groove. They were selling for Q43 ($6.14 & no tax, no shipping). From what I remember in Canada, Disney movies sell for $25 and old movies only come around every 15 years or so.

So I did the only thing any film-addicted parent would do: I bought every original theatre release they had: 19. I may never have to buy another Disney DVD again. Sweet.


Action, Action, or Action

I will spend tomorrow afternoon and evening at Proceres, a mall in Guatemala City. I'm picking a friend up a the airport at 5 AM on Tuesday, so we're heading in early because driving in the dark is scary and it might take 8 hours to do a 3 hour trip, you never know!!

So, at Proceres, there's a nine screen cinema where they play English language movies with Spanish subtitles. I saw The Last King of Scotland there a few months back and so I am excited to return and perhaps pull off a triple-feature. I just looked up what is playing there and I'm mildly enthused. I'm wishing there were more compelling dramas, but alas! I'm stuck with 3 of 7 films playing in all of Guatemala:
1. Piratas del Caribe 3
2. Spiderman 3
3. Panico en Alta Mar* (Adrift)
4. Crank, Muerte Anunciada** (Crank)
5. Prueba de Fe*** (The Reaping)
6. El Tirador (Shooter)
7. Exterminio 2 (28 Weeks Later)
Looks like I've got a choice between Action Adventure, Action Horror, and Action Thriller. I will endeavor to see Action movies behind curtains 2, 6, & 7. (though #6 is at another theatre... and it might be the best film of the three!)

*translated Panic in the High Seas **translated Announced Death ***translated Test of Faith


No Pets Allowed... No Pets Needed

When it gets dark, the toads come out, and so does Blaise.

A flashlight is commandeered and the creatures are probed.

The toad is the usual main attraction and Blaise enjoys ordering them around.

Tonight's beetle is a bonus. It's BIG. And relatively quick too.
(You can see it in the second photo in the middle)

Acadia is more comfortable with tamer, plusher organisms.


Rained Out




Memories, courtesy of Salomé

My sister Salomé gave me a little notebook for Christmas. In it she asks probing questions like:
What is your earliest childhood memory?
Do you have any regrets?
When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
What are your favorite memories of Mom? Papa?
When you tell others about our childhood, what do you talk about the most?
The purpose is for me to answer the questions and then return the book to her as a gift next Christmas.

I hadn't touched the book until tonight, on a whim as it has been sitting by my computer for a couple months now. I shocked myself at how these questions opened up such emotional memories, both joyful and sorrowful. There really is a magic in memory and its power to influence how you think about yourself and others. I look forward to completing the last 2/3 of the questions on other upcoming nights. I feel blessed tonight to have been given the opportunity to reflect and make some concrete decisions about the future because of these reflections.