April 1, 2013

Bucket List Complete: Semuc Champey

We love having visitors.

Having visitors is the perfect excuse to travel and cross things off our Guatemala Bucket List. And we are happy to say that this past week we were able to cross off the last item on that list: Semuc Champey, a national park in Guatemala.

(Why are we so happy to cross that off? Time is ticking as A.P. will be arriving shortly. A.P. is what my dad and Collin like to call our child. It is short for Adrian Peterson: NFL MVP, running back, something or other for the Minnesota Vikings. Needless to say they have high hopes for our child. Sometimes they are polite and call the baby Adriana Peterson...as we don't actually know if we are having a boy or girl.)

But anyways, we love having visitors, and this time we had the pleasure of traveling with Mom, Dad, and Kayla Broekhuis! They are an adventurous bunch, which was good for all the fun we had planned for us.

We first spent a few days in Antigua, checking out the churches and ruins, as well as hiking the volcano Pacaya. Collin and I hiked Pacaya earlier this year with friends from school, so if you are curious what the hike is like, check out our post We Climbed a Volcano. I didn't take any pictures this time, but we were able to roast marshmallows on the hot volcano rocks again. Who wouldn't want to eat a s'more on top of a volcano, right? I am also proud to say that this is the second volcano that A.P. has hiked with us.

After Antigua we made the 8 hour trip to Semuc Champey. It is an awful trip to make. While the scenery is beautiful, it is also the curviest, most sickening road to travel. But wow, was the trip worth it. Semuc Champey was not just our last Bucket List item, but in my opinion was also by far the best place we have traveled to in Guatemala. Pictures never do it justice...

Our view for much of the 8 hour road trip to Semuc Champey.

The hut we got to sleep in...and outside of...

Semuc Champey National Park offers a variety of things, and we took a whole day to explore them all. Our guide was wonderful and we did many things, including...

1. Hiking to the top of the lookout with our tour group to see the Semuc Champey pools from above. Our group included a few guys from the Netherlands who confirmed that "Broekhuis" indeed means "Pants House" in Dutch.

2. Hiking down from the lookout to see where the rivers at Semuc Champey flow underground into different caves.

3. Exploring the Semuc Champey pools. We found some natural water slides, swam under rock formations, and also relaxed in the sunshine.

Another view of the pools.

4. We took a swimming tour through caves. (Think "The Goonies.") Our only light was our own personal candle. We quickly learned how to swim with one arm to keep our candle from going out. Inside of the caves, Collin and Kayla jumped off of a ledge into completely dark waters. Quite brave. No pics.

5. We also watched Collin and Kayla jump off of a huge swing into the river.

6. Then, we tubed down that same river.

7. After tubing down that river, we watched as a few from our tour group, including Kayla, jumped off of this yellow bridge into the river. (Are you catching all of the "jumping off" going on in one day?) This jump was a solid 30 feet high.

The next day we spent a little more time relaxing in the morning, took another tubing trip down the river, and went on a tour of bat caves at night. Why would you go into a bat cave, you wonder??

1. To see freaky scorpion spiders like our guide is holding here. It's a little difficult to see in his hand, so take my word for it that it was pretty freaky. And this is only a baby scorpion spider.

2. And to hike to look at different rock formations inside of the cave.

3. And of course, to watch thousands upon thousands of bats flying around and out of the cave.

4. And to see how close the bats can fly by you without running into you.

5. And to watch thousands upon thousands more bats fly around and out of the caves.

Amazing. Adventurous. Tiring. Wonderful. All words to describe our vacation. There were a few bumps in the road, one literally took the transmission off our shuttle bus, but like most family vacations those bumps are all interesting memories and stories that we now share together. Praising God for a wonderful vacation and time spent with family.

Grace and Peace,

Out of Poverty

She handed me two little eggs.

Two little eggs from their chicken.

Two little eggs from their chicken that lives with them and eight other chickens in their one room shack. The one room shack that harbors many 3rd world stereotypes: a tin roof, walls lined with cardboard, a dirt floor, chickens squabbling around the room, and no indoor toilet or shower.

Two little eggs: her way of saying "thank you" for the money we deliver to them each month for her husband's medical bills, money from your donations. (See post: We Are Asking You For Money)

Each time we visit, we are greeted with strong hugs and blessings from Victoria, a small but very tough old woman. She brings us plastic chairs to sit on, and when we sit we can finally see Pablino, Victoria's husband, propped up in bed. Pablino, who has not been able to walk for over 4 months or work for over 2 years due to the disease in his leg.

But this time it is different. We are greeted by the same hugs and blessings from Victoria, but also enter to see Pablino standing up with his cane. Praise God. We listen to Pablino. While his leg continues to get better, more health issues seem to always be around the corner: headaches, losing vision in one of his eyes, and so on.

And out of their poverty, out of their sickness, out of their struggle, they give us two little eggs from their chicken. The chicken that is meant to feed them, not us. Not two healthy gringos who have more than enough to live off of each month.

Two little eggs, but so much meaning. So much to learn from.

"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." Mark 12:43-44

We so often give out of our wealth, give what doesn't hurt, give but don't actually sacrifice. Why is it that the people we think we are helping are actually the ones who are helping us, who are teaching us?

"Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability." 2 Corinthians 8:2-3

May we continue to learn to give as freely as we have been given. Thank you again for your donations for Victoria and Pablino. We have been richly blessed to not only deliver your gifts, but to also spend time with them, build friendships, and learn lessons such as these.

Grace and Peace,