September 29, 2011

Amoebas and E. coli

We had our first experience with a Guatemalan hospital this week.

It turns out that the food we ate at the Independence Fair about two weeks ago had more effects than we realized. On Monday night one of us (cough, cough, Collin), had a full night of throwing up and other icky things going on. He decided to stay home from school on Tuesday, but he was still experiencing these icky things in the afternoon, so our director took him to the doctor.

A few tests later – blood and stool – the doctor determined he had amoebas, E. coli, and a stomach infection – a hat trick of sickness. The doctor gave him a shot to make him stop throwing up, but a half hour later that was back up too. The doctor said he had to go to the hospital due to dehydration.

The director took him to the hospital where they gave him some medicine and put him on an IV. The vomiting finally stopped, but the doctor said he had to stay overnight at the hospital so that they could rehydrate him. They ended up pumping 3 liters of fluids and 4 other medicines into him.

Our friend Kandy drove me to the hospital after school, and I ended up staying overnight with Collin. His room had a nice long bench with cushions to sleep on. Nurses came in almost every half hour to check on him, but other than that we both were able to get a little sleep.

The hospital was bare – white walls, no TV’s or clocks in the rooms, and no cliché health posters saying “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER shake a baby.” However, it was very clean and sanitary. They did dress Collin in an adorable pastel green, button up, hospital gown. I promised I would not post pictures.

The nurses were also very nice. Every time they walked into the room they would say “excuse me” and “pardon me” and “how are you?” They couldn’t quite remember that we do not speak much Spanish. One time when I walked into the room, and the nurse was fiddling with Collin’s IV. She kept asking “Te duele? Te duele?” (Does it hurt? Does it hurt?). “No comprendo” was not the answer she was looking for. And the doctor really liked to look at Collin’s tongue, so he told him to “saca la lengua” a lot. (Stick out your tongue.) Apparently if your tongue is really white, that means you are dehydrated. Collin’s tongue looked like a snow cone.

Collin was done with IV’s and medicine early Wednesday morning, and our friend Kandy brought us to the pharmacy to buy three kinds of medicine, and then finally to our home. He is feeling a lot better now, and his appetite is slowly coming back. He said his mouth tastes like metal, but supposedly that is from the medicine he is on now.

Amoebas and E. coli. What a trip.

A huge thanks to our friends for driving us all over town, for bring us quiche and cookies, and for simply being wonderful people.

Collin came back to school today. Students were overjoyed to see him. Literally. He walked past a parade of kindergarteners today, and they shouted “Hurray! Mr. Broekhuis is feeling better! Hurray! Mr. Broekhuis is back at school! Hurray! Hurray!”

Also at school…

1. One of my students was drinking a V8 for his snack. He came up to me and said, “Mrs. Broekhuis, you should drink some of this so that you can be skinny like me!” And then he sucked in his stomach until his little ribs shown through his shirt.

2. I was asking questions to the class, and one student gave an answer right on the money, the exact answer I was thinking. I said to him, “Did you just read my mind, because that’s exactly what I was thinking!” He said, “Yes, I read your mind, Mrs. Broekhuis. I can see into your ears!”

3. One of my students is obsessed with handcuffs. He talks about them almost every day. But randomly he asked me, Mrs. Broekhuis, in the United States, in the country where you live, in the state of where your home is…do you have F.B.I.?” I answered, “Why yes we do. Do you know what the F.B.I. does?” He said, “Yes, they catch the robbers.”

4. I publicly praised a student for his good work in class. I said, "He finished his work, he did a great job, and he followed all of the directions!" Another student piped up and said, "Congratulations!"

We have so much to be thankful for. Praise God.

Grace and Peace,

September 24, 2011

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Teaching makes it easy to feel like a hypocrite sometimes. You know, “do as I say, kids, not as I do?” This week was my turn to plan elementary chapel. Our chapel theme for this year is the Fruit of the Spirit, and our fruit to talk about was Joy. So this week in Bible class we talked about Joy, and sang about Joy, and planned our chapel about Joy. As we learned it in class, we can have joy all the time because Jesus is in our hearts.

But sometimes I would rather complain and not embrace the joy in my heart.

Person A and Person B walked out of their house one morning…into the rain…again. Person A said to Person B, “You know, one of these days I would just like to walk outside, not into rain, and into some warm sunshine.” Person B said, “That’s a terrible thing to say!” And Person A said, “Why is that so bad to ask for?” Person B said, “Because God blessed you with the opportunity to walk outside this morning.”

Person A was me. And Person B was Collin.

But this morning I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with joy. My cup over-floweth. I woke up this morning at about 5:45, my mind going hundreds of miles an hour, thinking about the following:

1. School felt busy this week. Maybe it wasn’t that much busier than usual, but after a vacation weekend normal life feels a little more hectic. 

2. We were feeling a little discouraged. Sometimes being here feels like it’s just a job more than it is a home. Our lives seem to revolve around school, and not much else.  

And then Friday happened.

3. The school day came and went. I was tired from the busy week. We had to walk home in the pouring rain again. It was a night where I just felt like curling up, staying home, and watching a movie. But we had plans to go to one of my students’ homes for dinner. That is me complaining.

But God is faithful, and He knew exactly what we needed.

We were told we would get picked up at 5:30pm for dinner, so naturally we didn’t even walk outside to wait until at least 5:45. We are quickly learning how to calculate Guatemalan time. While we were waiting, two kids strolled up with a wheel barrel full of fruit, platanos, green oranges, and papayas. They were a brother and sister, 12 and 10 years old. They walk up and down the streets everyday trying to make money for their family.

We struck up a conversation with them as best as we could with our Spanish, and what a delight they were! Here they were walking through the rain, working on a Friday night, laughing and cracking jokes about us and with us. I really hope we get to see them again. Their energy and joy was contagious.

4. And then our ride came for dinner. I will honestly say that I was nervous about these dinner plans. Our Spanish is basic, and as far as I knew my first grader was the only one who spoke English in their family.  What would we talk about? How would we relate?  

They drove all the way across town to pick us up, through traffic and hundreds of potholes. When we arrived, they welcomed us into their home, which was magnificently beautiful. The father is an engineer. We sat down right away in their sitting room. When you go to a Guatemalan’s home for dinner, they may not even start cooking until you arrive, which was true for this event as well. So we sat and talked in a mixture of Spanish and English. It turns out that the Father and the older son speak a little English.

Then we moved from sitting room to dining room, which was set with an amazing feast of special Xela burritos, salad, and bread, after which we had the option of two desserts. And might I add that dessert is not a common thing around here, it is reserved for special occasions, like holidays. They prayed a blessing over us before eating, for God to bless our health: physical, emotional, and spiritual. They showered us with kind words, thanking us for our work at school and for being willing to come here. And then they drove us home, all the way across town again, right up to our front door.

What a blessing it was. What a gift from God to experience another family dinner with another wonderful Guatemalan family. Their kindness and respect filled us right up and made us feel more at home.

And now it is Saturday morning, a day of rest, right before another day of rest. Great is Thy faithfulness. He knows exactly what we need.

Grace and Peace,

Ps. Every week my first graders learn a new Bible memory verse. One of my favorite moments about being a teacher is listening to them recite their Bible memory. The faith of children is so pure and refreshing sometimes. This week we learned Psalm 66:1-3, which reminds us that we can have joy in our hearts because God is awesome!

The rainbow we saw after the rain. God's promises are forever.

September 18, 2011

Independence Day(s)

September 15 is Guatemala’s Independence Day, which was on a Thursday this year. This means that we had off from school on both Thursday and Friday. Although we are not from Guatemala, we enjoyed celebrating in a few different ways:

Independence Day Eve 

Wednesday night was the beginning of all the Independence Day festivities. We went to Parque Central to gather with the rest of the crowds. There were big inflatable decorations, including those weird inflatable people that float in the wind and wave their arms in all directions and are usually seen at car dealerships. There were stages set up for various concerts. There were vendors in the street selling food, souvenirs, toys, and balloons. There was a parade of high-school marching bands that came through the center of town. There were loud speakers blasting music, competing with the noise of the marching bands. There were fireworks shot off right in the center of town. They were really cool and bright and loud, and were probably done in a way that is illegal in the States. We left the city-wide celebration after the fireworks display at 12:30am, but apparently the party went on until 5am. Yikes. 


On Friday morning, we took advantage of our days off from school by traveling to Panajachel with a few other teacher friends. The town is about two hours away from Xela by chicken bus. Yes, we took a chicken bus. It was crowded with people, it went way too fast around the winding, mountain curves, and it was wonderfully inexpensive. We got all the way to our destination for about three US dollars per person. And on a side note, there is an American man living in Panajachel who used to work at Inter-American School, the school we work at. He let us stay in his apartments for about $1.50 US dollars per person. Again, wonderfully inexpensive.  

Panajachel is known for how touristy it is. Some people call it “gringo-jachel.” However, it was fun to embrace tourism for a couple days and see a new part of Guatemala. There were shops selling souvenirs everywhere. Adults and children were constantly coming up to us, trying to sell us things and barter with us. And I officially love bartering. The price most vendors offer is usually double what it should be. It became a fun challenge to try to get them to sell me something at half price, the price they should have been charging. There were also restaurants about every ten feet, inviting us in to eat their yummy food. We did find some great restaurants, and we did eat a lot of yummy food.  

And Panajachel is beautiful and warm. It sits right on Lake Atitlan, and is across from some beautiful volcanoes and mountains. We spent most of the day Thursday walking down the main street and looking at the different shops, but on Friday before we left, we searched the beautiful lakeshore for a place to eat breakfast. We sat at tables shaded from the sun by a tiki-hut roof, and we had a perfect view of the lake and the volcanoes in the distance. So beautiful.  

La Feria  

We came back from Panajachel on Saturday. The last part of Independence Day(s) celebrations that we still needed to experience was La Feria, the fair. Xela hosts Guatemala’s Independence Fair every year. It is one more reason why people flock to Xela every September.  

We literally dropped off our bags at our apartment and made our way over to the fair. It was like most fairs that I had been to before: tons of people, tons of food, and tons of sketchy rides. Again, I am sure that one or two of these rides would be illegal in the states. One of the rides didn’t even have a seatbelt or a bar to go over your lap! Fascinating. And terribly not smart to ride. 

We are not “fair ride” type of people. However, we are “fair food” type of people. We made our way around to different booths, eating chéveres (hotdogs), pizza, churros (fried dough with sugar on it), liquados (smoothies), and papas fritas (French fries.) And a little bit surprisingly we did not get ourselves sick. 


We head back to school tomorrow. Speaking of school, here are the latest tidbits: 

1. My “room mom” invited us over for dinner last Friday. We were going to be gone in Pana, but I wanted to write her a note – in Spanish – to thank her for inviting us. I wrote in my best Spanish, using my best handwriting, but I still wanted to have our Spanish-speaking secretary check it over for me. Sure enough, I had written in my note, “I hope there will be another opportunity to come over so that we can eat each other,” as well as, “it was so funny of you to invite us over for supper!” I do not regret having my note proofread.  

2. I was reading our weekly Bible memory to my students, which says, “be kind and compassionate to one another.” All of my students laughed, and I was rather confused. One raised their hand and said, “Mrs. Broekhuis, I thought you said we should love Juan another!” 

3. I asked our high school science teacher to come and show an iguana to the class. I told the first graders that a special animal visitor was coming to class in the afternoon. One student exclaimed, “I bet it is going to be Sonic the Hedgehog!” 

4. I was explaining a new Bible memory verse to the class, and it talks about God’s awesome deeds. I asked the students if they knew what “deeds” were. One student raised their hand and said, “I don’t know what ‘deeds’ are, Mrs. Broekhuis, but I am SO CURIOUS!”  

5. After I explained what “deeds” were, I asked students to give examples of God’s awesome deeds. One student said, “McDonald’s!” I do love Big Macs. Answer accepted.  


There are so many things to praise God for:

1. A violent-free first series of presidential elections. The second round between the top two political parties will take place in November.

2. A wonderful break from classes.

3. Our icky colds are gone for now.

Grace and Peace,


The taxis we took around Pana, called Tuk-Tuks.

The place we got to stay at in Pana.

The waterfall nextdoor to our apartment in Pana.

A Guatemalen bug.

Our view at breakfast.

Just taking it all in.

A popular ride at the fair. It is just as sketchy here as it is in the States.

September 11, 2011

Here and There - 9/11

It is a great day to be a patriot: in the United States and in Guatemala. Today in the States, people are remembering the past events of September 11, 2001, already ten years ago. I think everybody remembers where they were that day. I was in 7th grade, sitting in Bible class. What I remember most about 9/11 was the after effects: people uniting in pride and patriotism for their country, people recognizing the evil that is in the world, and searching beyond for hope.

Today in Guatemala, it is Election Day. People everywhere are headed to their hometowns to vote. They recognize the evil that is in their past: bad leaders, broken promises, and civil war – though it is NEVER talked about – and they are reaching beyond for some sort of hope. While many may think they can find salvation in their next president, we see many believers who recognize that their only true hope and salvation is in Christ.

On Friday, we again attended this church, Palabra en Acción. Today the church was a voting station, so we went to the service that they held on Friday instead. The service was very patriotic, with Guatemalan flags and colors everywhere and on everyone. We even had the pleasure of borrowing a few Guatemalan soccer jerseys to join in the spirit. The service showed us that people were fired up to vote for new leaders, and that they are hopeful for change in Guatemala. The service included so much prayer. People in the congregation were literally crying out to God on behalf of their country. The prayers and message again did not focus on endorsing any one political party, but encouraging people to be the change that Guatemala needs, and praying to God to help their country. Whoever said religion and politics can’t be mixed?

We should find out the results of the election later this evening. There are at least six political parties here. In order to win an election, you need more than 50% of the vote. If no party has that many votes, there will be another election held in November between the top two political parties. A new president does not take over until January. We do not know much about the political parties, except that we are highly encouraged to stay out of it, for safety reasons. So far nothing crazy has happened, but that could change after announcements are made about who wins or who is moving onto the next round of elections. But please pray that nothing crazy starts. It only takes a spark.

This weekend, we also had the pleasure of traveling to Sibilia, Guatemala. Let me explain by first introducing you to our new and very dear friends, Kandy and Christian. Kandy works at our school, and their daughter is in my class of first graders. This family has been such a blessing to us. They have welcomed us and made such an effort to make us feel at home. They answer all of our silly questions about living here, give us rides across town, and make sure we don’t get too bored. They have been a demonstration of Christ’s love to us, and I do not know what we would do without them. They are awesome.

So, again this weekend, they included us in their plans. They invited us to visit their uncle who lives in the mountain county of Sibilia. We made the hour drive through the winding mountain roads, and arrived just in time for a 3pm lunch. People here eat lunch at 3pm. We thought we were eating an early supper. But we ate lunch with a lot of her family: uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, sisters, and such. It was great to be a part of a family atmosphere again. Her family also welcomed us, and put forth an effort to speak to us slowly in Spanish. The food we ate was so good too…rice, potatoes, tamales, and turkey – straight from their back yard, literally. I even had a cup of coffee, which was the first cup of coffee I ever liked. I asked how it was so different and so good. Apparently, they grind the coffee beans with corn, and then roast it. Weird, but so good!

We enjoyed a walk around town, which was much quieter than Xela. No fireworks, barking dogs, or crazy traffic. Before we left, a couple of their backyard turkeys got in a fight. One of the turkeys did not come out so well, and so they bagged him up and sent him home with one of Kandy’s relatives to be slaughtered. It was fascinating.

This week is a short week at school, because it is Independence Day on Thursday. We are planning to head out of town for a couple of days to Panajachel, on Lake Atitlan. Google it, it’s beautiful.

But again, please pray for Guatemala as they go through the transition time of changing leadership. They need it.

Grace and Peace,

 We love Guatemala.
 In Sibilia.
 Another cemetery. It's like a small, very colorful city.
 The beautiful mountains surrounding Sibilia. Credit for photography - Collin.

The turkey being led to the slaughter. It had a good life.

September 6, 2011


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth at least a million. I want to share the following videos, because they point to different people, places, and words that have both touched and inspired me until now, in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

The first is a video that was first shown to me by Dean VanderMey. As a friend of his wonderful and spectacular daughter, Aubrie, I had the privilege of spending a few nights at the VanderMey home as a youngster. One thing I will always remember is sitting on the floor of their cottage in about 5th grade, asking a lot of questions about the Bible and spirituality, and then listening to Mr. VanderMey answer with his stories, experiences, and God-given wisdom. Last summer...maybe even two summers ago...I went to Set-Free Ministries, where Mr. VanderMey and Aubrie work. We went to Mr. VanderMey's office to catch up and say hello. Conversation once again turned into him answering many of my questions. Toward the end of the discussion, he pointed us to this video, "A Call to Anguish," by Dave Wilkerson. Rather than even attempt to describe its message, I will let the video speak for itself. Mr. VanderMey and Aubrie, I thank God for the blessing and inspiration that you have been to me and to so many other people.

The next video is a promotion for the blog and future book, "Kisses from Katie." This is a young woman who chose to go to Africa right out of high school, and now three years later is mom to 14 girls who used to be orphaned, with no future. Her life and her story are such a testiment to the gospel of Christ. She is busy being the light of Christ to her daughters and to many others in the heart of Uganda. I was introduced to her blog after my trip to Uganda two summers ago, which was eye-opening, to say the least. You can't come back from Africa without some form of change in your heart. I remember so much crying when I came back from that trip: crying for all of the children without parents, crying for all the starvation and desolation in Uganda, and simply crying because I had been exposed to things that must truly break God's heart, true anguish.

The next two videos are promotions for books that I read after returning from Africa. They carry a similar message: that the true Christian Gospel demands a lot more of us than what most of us realize or are willing to do. After coming back from Africa, I was now responsible for everything that I had seen there. These books helped put a lot into perspective after coming back from Uganda that summer. So, if you happen to have down time, I highly recommend Radical, by David Platte, and The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns (World Vision President).

Last, but not least, I would like to give you a better inside look at the school we are working at in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. One of our fellow teachers here created this video. It gives a great look inside the school we are working at, as well as the city we are living in. So, if you are interested, follow the link below, and enjoy a little taste of what we are up to.

Grace and Peace,

Ps. The Guatemalan Presidential election is this Sunday. And on a lighter note, we still have our icky colds. Please pray.