October 25, 2011

Renewing Visas = Vacation

Every couple of months we have to leave the Guatemala to renew our visas. Our visas are “tourist visas,” which expire every ninety days. School sends us next door to Tapachula, Mexico. It’s really not too shabby, as our expenses are fully covered by school: transportation, hotels, food, and translation at the border. We were only in Mexico for about 24 hours, but it was lovely. We relaxed, shopped, sat by our hotel pool, and ate a lot of food. Here are a few of our observations and learning experiences from our quick trip:

1. Apparently Mexicans and Guatemalans do not like each other. It is something about how each country thinks the other stole their national instrument, the Marimba. Interesting.

2. The drive from Xela to the Mexican border is about 3 hours, and includes about 130 speed bumps.

3. Border guards will try to intimidate you so they can get some money out of you. Thankfully our fearless leader, Kandy, was not taking any of that crap. At one point they wanted to charge a teacher 900 Quetzals (over 100 extra dollars) to cross the border because her passport had not been scanned when she came to Guatemala in the summer. The legal way to fix the problem was to simply make a copy of the passport and fix the records in the computer…and it no way involved paying any money.

4. It was at least 85 degrees. It was hot, sunny, and humid, and there were palm trees. Each of these factors fit my stereotypes of Central America a little better. It was a wonderful change as the mountains of Xela are getting a little chilly these days.

5. Tapachula, Mexico felt rather “United States-ish.” There is a Sam’s Club, Walmart, a large mall, and a big movie theater there. All a little taste of home.

6. The showers in our hotel were amazing. You could have hot water and real water pressure at the same time! Usually it’s one or the other.

7. I tried to branch out and try some new food at a restaurant. I ordered “enchiladas pollo con mole,” not knowing what “mole” means. It turns out, “enchiladas pollo con mole” means “chicken enchiladas with chocolate sauce slathered over every square inch of the dish. Again, interesting.

8. One dollar = 13 pesos. One Quetzal = 1.6 pesos. Wonderful exchange rates.

And I realize it has nothing to do with our trip, but here are a few cute quotes from 1st graders:

1. “My mom likes to touch my ears because she says my ears are so soft!”

2. “I have a six pack because I am so skinny! Right, Mrs. Broekhuis, that is how you get a six pack?!”

3. I showed the first graders a movie about a rainforest habitat, which included a few scenes of tribal people. After the movie I asked the students what kind of animals live in the rainforest. One student raised their hand and said, “People that don’t wear any clothes!”

4. Sometimes English Language Learners get a little tongue-tied when they try to answer a question too quickly. During Calendar time I asked a student what month we are in. As quickly as he could he answered, “Octember!... eh…no…Octuber!...eh…no…”

A prayer of thanks is that we are finally out of rainy season! The mornings are pretty cold, but the sunshine and warm afternoons make up for it! And we are already in the second week of the second quarter. Christmas will be here before we know it….which is rather exciting because we get to come to the States for 3 weeks!  Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! We are doing great, but we always miss our family and friends at home!

Grace and peace,

 The Mexical Border.

 Standing in two places at once.

 Enchiladas pollo con mole. Try everything once. Some things only once.

 Tapachula Central Park.

 Again, Central Park. Pretty cute.

October 12, 2011


They call it a “Tropical Depression,” which I’m pretty sure means “it’s going to rain so much that you may or may not get depressed.” The rain started Tuesday afternoon at about 1pm, and it didn’t stop until today, Wednesday, at about 1pm. That’s twenty-four straight hours of rain. I would hate to see a Tropical Storm. Or a Hurricane.

Hence, the reason we did not have school today. As you will see from the pictures below, many streets were flooded, including the street that leads to our school, which goes right over a river, which is lovingly and appropriately nicknamed the Stinky River. It is also inappropriately nicknamed other things. Like I said, the Stinky River is now flooded, and instead of the street drains draining the water, they were spitting up water like bubbling mountain spring. Not a clean mountain spring. Remember that the water was coming from the thick and brown Stinky River. 

So, no school today. I realize how nerdy of a teacher I am, when I am somewhat disappointed because of the fun and cool activities I had planned for today. But, a day off is rather fun as well. I have never had school canceled because of flooding. As a child I only knew what to do with myself when school was canceled because of snow. But if I were to go outside right now and try to make a snow angel or throw a snowball or slide down our street, I would be sorely disappointed. And I would get really dirty. So, instead we sit and hang out. Our power turns on and off. We read books and watch movies. We feel a little adventurous and we take a walk in hiked-up pants to go take pictures of the flooding. 

And like I said, the flooding was really bad in some places. People were wading through streets up to their knees in water. Down one flooded street we could see that a family was bailing water out of their house, big buckets full of water. There is bound to be a lot of damage to people’s houses on the lower streets, so please pray for them! Our house and our streets are on a little bit higher ground, so even though they are covered with water and dirt, they are not flooded very deeply. 

The beginning of this week was somewhat interesting as well. As Collin said before, his health is on the rise. But at school on Monday I was not feeling very well at all. I felt really nauseous all day. Finally in the afternoon, I had to stop in the middle of a really cool science experiment, tell the students to get out a book and read, and then run to the director’s office to tell him to take over my class. I sat down in the teacher’s lounge. Our secretary gave me a pill and some tea, but I am pretty sure both just tickled my gag reflex and made me more nauseous. A few minutes later I was in the bathroom revisiting my last couple of meals.

But let me tell you, I am terrified of throwing up. Probably because the last time I threw up was in 5th grade, aka eleven years ago. So this past Monday, the longest streak I have ever had in life – consecutive years without puking – was ruined. It was rather disheartening. Needless to say, I am pretty sure there are little amoebas swimming inside of me as well, just like Collin had. I suppose we will go get that checked out soon.

As far as school goes, we are coming to the end of the first quarter already! I can’t believe how fast the weeks fly. Grades are in this Friday. Parent-teacher Conferences are next week Thursday.

That is what is happening lately. And here is what the First Graders have been saying lately:

1. “Mrs. Broekhuis, there was a huge, scary monster under my bed last night!”
I replied, very concerned, “Oh boy, what did you do with it?”
“I played with it!”

2. “Mrs. Broekhuis, I may vomit, but I think not.”

3. “Here in my picture I am telling people about Jesus, and they are saying ‘Ooooohhhhhh!’”

4. A story. Title: “The Mouse Who Eats Persons.” Once upon a time there was a mouse that eat persons. But one day the mouse was sad because the persons were all eaten of. So the mouse stop to eat persons. The end.

I love first graders. And again, please pray for all of the people whose houses and businesses are flooded!

Grace and Peace,

 Our street, just a little muddy.
 Flooded streets.

 The street drain not draining the water.
The road to school. The Stinky River grew.

October 6, 2011

Back to Normal

It's Collin. After our little hospital stay and E-coli extravaganza things are pretty much back to normal. Food actually tastes good again, I'm eating more than peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, but I'm still supposed to take some pills every morning for a month. I'm assuming they are to keep me healthy, but I can't tell you exactly what they are for.

It was good to feel better again because we were able to take another trip to a city about an hour away called Irtra. We went with our Guatemalan friends again (Kandy & Christian) and their daughters. They had free tickets to a water park called Xocomil. It was awesome. I went on pretty much all the rides with Christian. Most of the rides were fun, but they had one ride which was interesting. It was a long, steep slide where you lay on a mat and go down head first. The fact that I got air on the first hump before the steep drop where you picked up some amazing speed definately made me give it an A+ rating. All in all, Xocomil was a great time, and we were told we get to go back for a teacher/staff retreat in February.

Also, something got passed up by Kendra when we visited Sibila a month ago. Any sports fan would kind of find this interesting, apparently Michael Jordan's influence does travel outside the U.S.

His "Air-ness"

I also have a story to tell from my Life Science class. We are talking about Genetics, so as I was writing notes on the board when one male student (if he has a question he asks it... no stopping him) perks up and asks "Can men have babies?" I did not turn around right away and continued to write trying to figure how to carefully answer that question when another male student quickly chimed in saying "No, we don't have eggs." I figured that was good enough and continued to write my notes on the board.

Grace and Peace,

A few pictures from Xocomil:

Enjoying the first fried chicken meal post-hospital stay.

Enjoying the best water park in Central America.

 Have we mentioned how cool this family is?
One of many waterslides. I am pretty sure every one had sharper turns than what should be legal. You usually get air when you aren't supposed to.