Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Welcome Home, 8 9

We arrived home this morning to find this sign on our front door.

It has been an incredible day of readjustments, hellos to family and friends, and acknowledgement that a major chapter in our life is finished. Does it lead to other chapters? We can't pretend to know that now.

It feels so strange to settle back into our little apartment where things are clean, tidy, not brick, and without bugs. How do we reconcile this with the life we've lived for four months? What is our responsibility from here forward? Who are we to be here?

This is our final post, number 1009. You have walked with us on our journey, encouraged us with your comments, and reminded us night after night that we were not alone. When we have cried while writing, you cried while reading. When we have celebrated, you have cheered at home too. You have been "with us" in a depth that we felt so clearly, so far from home. Thank you for praying, believing, supporting, cheering, and living fully.

We don't really know how to "end" a blog like this, since it's really a story of beginnings - for us, for Tierra Linda, and hopefully for you. We're hoping to share some news from Tierra Linda over the next few months, and if you'd like us to include you when we send out an email, drop us a note at davemacd@gmail.com.

Some of you are friends that we may never meet. Our best wishes to you, whoever and wherever you are tonight, and may you follow the call of your crazy dreams too.

Henri Nouwen said that “we are often afraid to enter into the chaos surrounding situations of poverty, and we will remain paralyzed unless we dare to take new risks. If we need to have all our bases covered before we move into action, then nothing exciting ever happens, but if we dare to take a few crazy risks because God asks us to do so, many doors that we didn’t know existed open before us.”

Gracias. Dios te bendigo (God bless you).

Dave, Danaya, Zane, and the future leaders of Tierra Linda

Frequent Flyer, Flight 8989

Zane was a trooper on our flights yesterday, hanging in there until the very end when we arrived in Seattle. We watched the "Cars" movie many times, drew lots of numbers, and were glad to feel that final approach to the airport.

We had absolutely no problems with travel, customs, flights, or anything. It was a great day.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Final Morning

As we pack up the final things into our tuc-tuc bags and head for the airport, it's a sunny morning at Hotel Aurora.  The reality of "departing" hasn't hit us yet, of course, but we're conscious of how this chapter in our lives has been life-changing for us, Tierra Linda, and hopefully you as a reader back home.  Our journey here is ending, but a new journey in Canada is beginning.  Whatever your journey is, we're hoping that you jump off the cliff and get going on it too.  We'd do ours all over again in an instant, with no regrets, as crazy as it's been.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rain Veterans

We watched a number of soaked tourists walk by our window (as we sat inside, dry, eating ice cream). They kept slogging through the six-inch-deep streets, sopping. Poor indigenous people getting soaked while working: not funny. Rich tourists getting soaked while touring: funny.

These two ladies (in heels) couldn't cross the street river, so they hailed a truck, hopped on the back, and "forded" the river (pun intended).

I Need A Gutter

We've never been in Antigua during an afternoon downpour. Of course, it makes sense that since there are no gutters, all the water creates rivers in the centres of the streets. The intermittent hail during the rain was a nice touch too.


Some of you have asked specific tech-related questions about what we used to set up the lab in Tierra Linda:

Computers: Mac iBook G4's, purchased through www.macstation.com in Abbotsford.  Durable used laptops, with enough power to accomplish any basic computer needs.  We installed Firefox and Open Office in Spanish (free), as well as AType Trainer For Mac (also free). 

Printer: HP Laserjet 1006.  Durable and cost-efficient.  www.officedepot.com or multiple resellers.

Internet: TIGO USB modem, purchased at a local shop.  It's a Huawei E160, although there are several models available through TIGO.  Specific custom-fitted antennas for various USB modems can be purchased through www.panorama-antennas.com, based in England.  We connect the TIGO to one laptop, then share the connection to the other computers wirelessly.  Basically, the modem computer reverses its wireless card, and uses it as a broadcaster rather than a receiver.  www.tigo.com.gt

Keyboard Stickers: www.4-keyboard.com.  We used the Spanish ISO layout in the Mac preferences, since it's identical to the Windows Spanish keyboard layout.

Container: Rubbermaid bin from www.londondrugs.com, with total dimensions of 62.7 inches.  Cinch strap from www.princessauto.com.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Old Friends

We took it slow today, enjoying a quiet Saturday for the first time in a long time. Late this afternoon, on the way to El Viejo Cafe, we poked our head into a curious-looking deli...only to find that the cashier was Vilma, who we hadn't seen in several years. Vilma speaks English fluently, and is working on completing her "bachillerato" (high school) part-time. We enjoyed introducing her to Zane. Small world, as usual. She says hello to all the Conexions friends from years ago.

The deli is three doors up the street from El Viejo Cafe, next to Pushkar, a little Indian restaurant that makes an incredible curry. Another good find!

Pollo Campero FunLand

When we can find a playground, Zane is happy for hours.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Surfing The Road

We left for Antigua at 4 PM, which is the typical "hour of downpour" these days. The road was an adventure, but we're here safe and sound, in the courtyard at Hotel Aurora. Realizing that Pana is behind us hasn't sunk in yet, nor has the fact that in a few days, we arrive back in Canada and attempt to re-enter our own culture.

Muchas Gracias

Without Candelaria's patient coaching and correcting, we'd never have been ready or able to progress as we have. We're sad to say goodbye to her too.

In The Calzone

Adele made calzones for us today, as a final send-off lunch on the rooftop. We're sure going to miss seeing them regularly, and their friendship has been a special part. Couldn't have done it without them.

The Last Tuc-Tuc

Gael (Abel's son) was along for the final ride with Abel today. Zane is going to miss his tuc-tuc a lot.

A Stitch In Time

Abel finished up the final projects for us last night (bags, purses, and a coffee-sack tablecloth) in the nick of time. We're bringing a lot of his handiwork home.

The Grand Opening!

The major Pana event this week is the opening of the new "Depensa Familiar" grocery store. It's a chain (supposedly owned by Wal-Mart), and the prices and organization are light years ahead of anything else in town. It will really shake up the local stores, and the people are excited.

Hitchhiking In Boats

We caught a ride with the hotel's cargo boat on the way home.

Goodbye Atitlan

It was a spectacular, clear, silent final morning on Lake Atitlan.

Fire and Water

Casa Del Mundo has a wood-fired hot tub, which means it actually has a woodstove submerged in the tub. Don't try this at home, kids (unless you're at our home, in which case you're welcome to).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tuc-Tuc Jenga

I roasted and bagged our coffee with Mike early this morning, we finished packing, said goodbye to Rosa, then to Rosy and Bill, and headed to Casa Del Mundo for the night. The skies are clearing over the volcano, and we may have a sunset.

It's hard to say goodbyes, one after another. We'll have a final lunch with Mike and Adele tomorrow, then say goodbye to Panajachel and head for Antigua. It seems like yesterday that we were arriving, clueless and Spanishless, not knowing how to do anything. And yet somehow this whole journey has been blessed with help, supporters, new friendships, open doors, and success.

And again today, Vicente from Mayan Families continued to run computer classes in Tierra Linda, where there are computers and possibilities, children learning, and a community excited. We're sad to go, but we feel a great sense of satisfaction.

We're remembering today how Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings said to Frodo: "all you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to you."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

And It Begins

In a matter of minutes, the river changes from a 6-foot-wide trickle to a torrent. The excavator was parked forty feet from the edge this morning.

The Floods

The little fold-up rain ponchos would always be good things to bring along, as you can see. Very few people have raincoats, and most use pieces of plastic.

The Floods

It was a grand thunderstorm this afternoon, and the main streets were filled with six inches of river. It was raining too hard to get better photos.


We stopped by the market to say goodbye to Santa, Joel, Rodolfo, and the family this afternoon. They gave us a tipico bag to remember them. We'll sure miss them.

At Long Last

Conexions partners with Dr. Juan Pablo in Panajachel, and we've been working hard to find and deliver a new part for his ultrasound machine. It's a joint project with him, and we shared part of the cost. We finally got it delivered to him today, after several weeks of effort. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning.


Leonard the Lajartija (salamander) lives in one of the plants in our house, except when he emerges to use the internet.

Carpenter Ants

We kill a small flock of flying ants every day in our house, and apparently one escaped, laid eggs, and they hatched...into carpenter ants! Zane led our stomping defenses, and we conquered them all. Casualties: 120 (them), zero (us).

Tuc-Tuc Bags

We arrived with our stuff packed in Rubbermaid bins, four months ago. We are leaving the bins as storage for the computers and printer, so we need something for our return flights. Abel sewed us an indestructible bag, made of the same waterproof fabric that he uses for tuc-tuc curtains. It's double-stitched, reinforced, and double-layered on the bottom and ends. He's been furiously sewing up four more for us, and since we're packing up today, it's good timing. They are made to the maximum allowable dimensions on Continental flights.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

VIDEO: The Future

Greg was showing me the school website, and explaining what the graduates are now doing. The people are so proud to say that their children are learning, and the graduates now have "choices" for "futures". A village that reads, succeeds.


The stories that Greg has experienced here cannot be recounted, but they have made a real difference for these people.