This is the place for photos and reflections of my visits to Latin America beginning in 2012. Previous blogs are linked on the main pages of my photo collections on flickr. HAPPY TRAILS!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Hi, all!

We are relaxing in our favorite little airport hotel in Guatemala City - Villa Toscana - having said our goodbyes in San Pedro and having cast a last, longing look at Ti Wachooch until spring.

In addition to the lovely meals with families celebrating their graduates, and the ones we prepared in our very own kitchen, we had this nice lunch out at Nick's Place with Mynor,

this nice breakfast out at Casa Atitlán with fellow Beca sponsors Laure and Tony, newly moved to Panajachel across the lake where Laure is the administrator at Life School,

and dinner at the Mikaso with Mynor, Josefa, and these awesome boys, Manuel and Antonio. We were playing a game where I would draw animal shapes on a napkin and they would provide the faces.

Our last few days weren't all about food, though. Here we're visiting Laure and Tony's Beca Project student María Osorio and her parents, then giving a passing bus a wide berth as we walk into town so Laure and Tony could take María shopping and buy 100 pounds of corn for her family.

I continued to bump into Beca students, this time Emilson at the Cooperativa Spanish School; out of 55 families, I saw at least 1 member of all but 10 families, mostly just random encounters.

Monday night Mike and I met with the 5 directors of the Spanish school who serve as our Beca Project advisors in San Pedro. We needed to make decisions about important changes to the student and parent responsibilities and set minimum grade standards.

Here are some more awesome things about San Pedro.

Saturday kids' art classes at a local gallery - "Help Me Paint My Future".

Nuts for sale

Murals and wire workers

Lights from the terraza - in this case, those of San Juan


These nice boys, Manuel and Antonio - this time learning to use my Spirograph set

This giant, mango-colored lavadero

This oil painting that is an orignal from the book 'The Night the Animals Danced' which was illustrated by José and Henry Mendez of San Pedro - José was the dad in my 2009 host family and the brothers run the kids' art program pictured earlier.

Who knew you could buy hand made elf shoes in San Pedro?!

They fit like magic (but I did not buy them).

Sharing the gospel in many, creative, and usually LOUD ways

And finally, this once in a lifetime shot of a young man walking into my favorite shortcut between centro and the Cooperativa School (note the t-shirt)

We boxed and bagged our household items and tucked them into a corner to be tarped against the carpenter's dust as he sands and finishes the cyprus floor. We hugged and goodbyed until I couldn't take it any more, then headed to the dock, then took a boat across the lake to Panajachel; the lake was like glass - such a gift! I zoomed in to get this parting shot of Ti Wachooch - 3 giant eyes in a ghost face from this side.

We had a light lunch at Llama del Fuego in Panajachel and hopped into the car of Alfredo Garcia - trustworthy and personable.

Passing through Sololá

Nearing GC

The suite at Villa Toscana

Cloud and light show from the terrace outside our room

This is the last post for this trip. We fly out in the morning with a stop in Dallas and an early evening landing time at PDX. With luck, we will beat the snow to The Dalles.

As Mason Williams said, "Don't go down to the ocean with a notion of what you will find." We left Oregon hoping to move into Ti Wachooch straight away but what we got instead was a richer, warmer experience that will live in our hearts.

Happy trails!

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Hi, all!

Time for a post about graduations - so interesting and so many! If you are interested in the photos and not the text, there is no fine for skipping ahead.

Part of our original goal was to time this trip to watch 6 Beca students graduate at the Basico level (like 9th grade) and 5 Beca students graduate from Diversificado programs - like a combination of high school and career training. We waited until October to book the use of air miles for flights, hoping to learn specific dates for the events, but eventually had to make our best guess based on prior years and go for it. Some of the graduation dates weren't settled until a week before the event, unlike in the US where June graduations are often on the school calendar when school starts in the fall.

In the end, our timing was very good. We just barely missed watching Mynor and Josefa's son Manuel graduate from grade school (but got in on the celebration dinner) and will miss the Diversificado graduation of 1, but were able to watch the little ones' promotion with Mynor as Padrino that was featured in a previous post, the Basico graduation, and most of 2 of the 3 Diversificado events which were scheduled at slightly different times on the same afternoon.

Beca Project students Francisco (left) and Eugenio (right) make their entrance at the Basico graduation.

Francisco receives his diploma.

At the halfway point, I was asked on stage to give out diplomas - enough hugging and kissing to warm my heart for a month.



Juana Sharon

Jeany and her family

The Diversificado graduates at the local teacher training school sing the national anthem in Tz'utujil; the boys are wearing the traditional men's clothing of San Pedro.

That is Dorcas on the right in a yellow huipil (blouse).

José Antonio (Tono) receives his diploma.


Mariano signs the school ledger.

We left that graduation a little early and hopped in a tuktuk to the neighboring village of San Juan to watch María Elena graduate from a Bilingual Secretarial program (which means she is trilingual and has mastered shorthand in Spanish and English).

One of my proudest moments of the trip: watching María Elena speak confidently at her graduation, this lovely young woman who started as a Beca Project student in 2010, so shy she could scarcely say a word in my presence.

Some of the students had lunches or dinners in their homes or the house of a grandparent to celebrate and we were invited to many of them. The families are justifiably proud of their graduates (often the 1st in their family to continue past grade school) and the events and celebrations were festive, emotional affairs. There was even a special blessing as part of a Saturday evening mass at the Catholic church for 1 of the students which we attended with the family before joining in the celebration meal.

Lunch at Mariano's

Dinner with Dorcas and her family

Mass and celebration dinner for María Elena

We are so proud of these bright, ambitious students and grateful to have shared in the celebrations of these milestones in their lives.

Happy trails!