So Andy and I had a wonderful summer volunteering in Guatemala with Latin Link followed by a great visit to my family in Alaska. We spent a total of 6 weeks there, two of them up in Fairbanks, my University town and another 4 with my family.
Our time in Alaska was so much fun and we had so many exciting adventures:
Everything from flying in my dads airplane to hauling in our first halibuts!
We also go to camp out on our boat out in the ocean and explore some of the little islands off the coast.
While we were camping we got to swim in glacier water, go fishing almost every day, go on hikes and do a bit of unexpected rock climbing 😉
We attended my little sisters butterfly/cupcake themed 8th birthday party which meant dressing up in the most poofy dresses we could find.
We got to to shoot lots of big guns, and even managed to have a snowball fight! These of course, are just the highlights.
The best part by far was just spending time with my family. The moments where we find ourselves playing about our 6th game of Ticket to Ride (a board game) without a break. Chatting about what the kids think about their family, friends, school, or God. My brother and sister are growing up so fast and starting to form their own character and thoughts. They are getting more independent and I love to see them starting to influence their friends for the better. We are able to have heart to heart chats while waiting for dad to fuel up the airplane or while we are out on a run together (course Isaiah always had to to ride his scooter cuz it was faster, fair enough!)
These are all moments I will treasure forever. The excitement and the adventures are all fun but it’s the heart to hearts and being part of their lives that means the most to me. I am so thankful for Skype and email but there’s nothing quite like going home for a good chunk of time and living life together. So much thanks to my parents for always welcoming us home with open arms and lots of yummy food!
So Andy and I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala to do volunteer work and while we were there we got to do a bit of traveling around.
First of all we got to go to Antigua for the afternoon. A wonderful town surrounded by volcanoes and full of brightly colored buildings and amazing markets! We spent most of the time walking around looking at the volcanoes and beautiful buildings taking pictures 🙂 It was wonderfully chilled out with a bit of shopping!
We also got to go to Lake Atitlan for two days. It is claimed to be the most beautiful lake in the world and I wouldn’t disagree! Incredible volcanic mountains coming straight down to the shore. I spent most of my time in the lake swimming around loving the gorgeous sunshine. We stayed in a town called San Pedro. A few of us also went on a horse back riding trip through the streets, woods, stopping to hike to a secret beach, and finishing with a tour of a coffee farm. We also go to go kayaking and enjoy all the yummy food!
My overall impression of Guatemala was that it is amazing! Beautiful scenery, perfect weather, a very rich culture, and the most inviting people you’ll ever meet! I loved it! Would definitely recommend it to a friend 😉
Andy and I had a great time leading our team of 12 in Guatemala. We worked hard and made a lasting impact. Waking up at 6am and working hard all day until 8 or 9 at night where we would crash into our beds totally exhausted. We had fun and absolutely loved it, what more could you ask for?
Once we landed in Guatemala city we started out with a ride in an old American style school bus. Except this one was pimped out and had flames and Christmas lights decorating it! Apparently that’s what they use for public transportation. I love it!
We were staying in a small town called Zaragoza. One of the poorest towns in Guatemala. We stayed in a 3 story rented house complete with a flat roof that we could sunbathe on! We were working with a group called Educando Para La Vida (Education for Life). A project started by Guatemalans and that is basically self sustaining. It is great to work with a project like that where it isn’t just a bunch of Westerners coming in telling them how to do things but it is exactly what they need done just how they need it. Educando Para La Vida works with kids who are at risk for dropping out of school. They also do their best to support the families of the kids. They are self sustaining in that they have a water purification system where they sell the water to families in the city. They get the older kids in the program to help with orders and deliveries, giving them a responsibility and sense of ownership.
What does this look like? It looks like a bunch of volunteers showing up every day after school to do a kids club! They provide homework help, singing, dancing, snacks, and games. All things that they don’t get at home. Most of them don’t have dads around (either because they were abusive, they are alcoholics and the moms don’t want them around or they just split when times got hard) and with so much poverty there is often a lot of abuse and the kids are forced to work instead of going to school. Also, with the nature of this lifestyle often times there is not much love or fun coming from home. It can be very rough and hopeless. So Educando Para La Vida tries to give the kids love, affection, support, and encouragement to strive for more. We were able to help with this after school project which was very fun! We brought a lot of art supplies that they cannot afford to buy themselves which was a real treat for both the kids and workers. We planned out each day, did puppet shows, plays, and various other things they hadn’t gotten to do before. It was pretty tiring with all the dancing and translating that we were doing. I cannot believe that the volunteers do that every single day! They also have occasional days out like going to a water park or going into the city. Opportunities many of them wouldn’t have without the center. The center also encourages them to apply for University!!! Almost unheard of for a lot of the children in Zaragoza.
Another aspect of our project was setting up 12 small businesses with families of kids involved in Educando Para La Vida. Before leaving the UK we raised money to put into this project. We were creating a system of interest free loans. This is a vision that the center has to help the families in this community. So we split into teams of 2, met with each family, planned what business they would like to start, wrote out a budget, bought all necessary supplies, and got them set up to start working. There were all sorts of businesses: Making clothes and selling them in the market, raising pigs and selling them for food, setting up a street food stall, or raising chickens to sell the eggs and even more!
Andy and I were in a team working with two different families. The first family was a single mom named Helen and her 4 boys (she called them her 4 little earthquakes, hehe). She had lost her daughter a few years back from a lung condition. She was a uniquely wonderful hardworking mom with so much love for her boys. She wanted to raise chickens and sell them for food. So we bought the supplies, built the coop, and got the chicks and their food for the next 6 months.
The second family we worked with was a mom Yaseña, her two kids and her husband (out of the 12 families this was the only one that had a dad in the picture). She was such an amazing mom! So much love and care for her kids. The most stable family we were involved with. They already had the beginnings of a farm but she wanted to buy a pig to have babies and she would sell the piglets. We bought the pig, and supplies for a pen, and enough food for 6 months. We bought cement, mixed it on the ground with our hands and a hoe, and spread it on the ground with pieces of wood, HARD WORK! The neighbors even came to help us out. She was 9 months pregnant while we were working with her. She actually passed her due date while we were making the pig pen with her and she was working just as hard as we were!!! What an amazing woman! They don’t have any concept of maternity leave there 😉 I was so impressed and how hard working all the families we were working with.
It was amazing to be working with families in Guatemala, being a guest in their home, chatting with them, encouraging them, and making a difference in their life. A once in a lifetime opportunity for every one of these families. But the biggest thing I took away was how welcoming they were of us into their families! Every home we went into we just felt like the most honored guests! They thanked us repeatedly for coming so far just to be with them. I can honestly say I have never felt so welcomed and invited into somebody home. We got other opportunities to be part of the community like attending evening single moms support groups, prayer meetings, youth groups, churches, and small groups. We also got to do a bit of preaching and sharing of our testimonies. From what we heard, we were very encouraging to everybody we came in contact with. I couldn’t believe the welcome we received 🙂
So on Thursday we packed up our belongings and got our flat ready to be stayed in by friends for the summer, got on a train and headed down to Reading to meet our Guatemala Team! We arrived in time to go see the football with some friends and then Friday morning it was down to business. We spend all of friday doing Team Leaders training so lots of “do’s and dont’s” and “what if this happens”. Then Friday night we drove out to an outdoor centre and met our team! We spent the next 48 hours learning about eachother, playing games and getting prepped for Guatemala. Lots of presentations about Guatemala and their culture, language, and how to be most respectful while in their country. We also learned tons of kids games and ideas for working with the kids once we get out there. Our team is incredible and I am excited. It’s all so real now! My next job is to learn spanish…
We are leaving in 2 weeks and I can hardly believe it! Andy and I are still working on our fundraising. We have about £1,200 left to raise. You can have look at our website for more info about our trip. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=TeamHayesInGuatemala
So we have spent a few days seeing friends in Reading that we haven’t seen for a very long time which has been amazing. I went into the Workhouse where I used to be a barista and saw my old boss, manager, and a few colleagues. It was great being back there again and they all seem to miss me a lot. It’s so great going back somewhere and knowing you’ve been missed. And it’s seriously the best coffee I have ever had! We went out to dinner in Henley with our friends Steve and Sheila last night then today we headed to London!
We were planning on going to the War Museum but when we showed up it was closed for construction 😦 So we went to Oxford Street to do some shopping. There were a few shops I really wanted to go into. We saw tons of stuff we will never be able to afford and tons of stuff we don’t need. But I was restrained and only bought three things that I ACTUALLY needed 😉
We walked through China town enjoying some steamed buns and looking through the Asian Markets. We try to always buy a new food we haven’t had before whenever we go into an Asian market so this time we got dried sweet potato. I wasn’t too sure what I thought about it. It was different from most dried fruit. I ended up liking it and I think I would have it again if the opportunity was there. I just love looking through those markets and trying new foods. China town is always a good time.
We went around to a few other shops just enjoying the atmosphere of London before we wore ourselves out and had to get the train back home to Reading. We have a full day of seeing friends tomorrow then finishing off our stay in Reading with a massive picnic in the park with all our friends invited.
It is going to be a great end to our Reading/London-adventure. Wonderful weather and good time with friends 🙂
So I just realized I hadn’t posted anything since beginning of ! But also not much exciting has happened since then. I’m still working 6 days a week at Kember & Jones coffee shop and babysitting. Andy’s finally finished his 4th year of Uni. so only one more year to go until he has his Bachelors/Masters in Mechanical Engineering!
In between the madness of work I’ve managed to run a half-marathon and a full marathon! You can have a look at my running blog if you want to know more about that and my fundraising towards Alzheimer’s Society alaskagirlrunning.wordpress.com 🙂
We also had a wee trip up to Andy’s parents cottage in Gairloch in the Highlands with Andy’s mum linda which was a much needed rest! Lots of films and book reading. A bit of hill walking, bike rides, and smores to top it all off.
So what now? This summer is gonna be CRAZY! First off, I’m quitting my job in 1.5 weeks. Whoop Whoop! Then Andy and I are going to be leading a team of 13 to Guatemala to work with children at risk. There’s quite a lot involved with that including fundraising 4,100 pounds, doing leaders training, vaccines, training with our team and…oh, going to Guatemala! Should be lots of fun though. I’m so excited! You can read more about it on our wee website http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=TeamHayesInGuatemala
Some fundraisers that we’ve been doing include leading Park Fitness, an acoustic night in Dundee, the Reap & Sew market with our church.
Straight from Guatemala we are heading to Alaska!!!!!! Spending about a month there to see my family, some friends, our goddaughter, and to do some much needed fishing 😉 It will be so good to be back at home for a while. I miss Alaska so much! All the adventure to be had and seeing my brother and sister again. Those two mean the world to me 🙂
So our first semi-adventure is going back down to Reading for a week for our training. Then we will stay there a bit longer to see some of our old friends and have a look around London.
So that’s a Team Hayes update. Lots to come!
Happy Hogmanay! Going into 2014…whaaat?
In Scotland New Years Eve is a massive deal full of food, drink, and massive amounts of celebrating. They love it so much that they’ve named it Hogmanay. We were trying to figure out what to do to celebrate Hogmanay and to bring in the new year and Stonehaven came up. Stonehaven is a wee village on the east coast near Aberdeen. It is famous for it’s fireballs…what are fireballs? Balls of fire that locals march up and down the high street with swinging around their heads….usually wearing kilts, no protective gear for these Scots!
I had heard about the Stonehaven Fireballs before so as soon as this came up as an option I was all in! So we grabbed a few friends and made the drive up to Stonehaven. I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.
The festivities started a few hours before with a Simple Minds concert in the square and then a parade of drummers and pipers up and down the High Street all wearing traditional kilts (some of them wearing Christmas lights!) . Then a few minutes before midnight the fireballs were lit! It was like nothing I have ever seen. They have been swinging fireballs for over 150 years and one of the guys that was swinging them that night had been doing it for 45 years!
One lady was 65 and had been participating since 1988! I have to be honest and say if anybody wanted to start this as a tradition today Health and Safety would NOT let it proceed. Swinging balls of fire around your heads and marching up and down a street with pedestrians on either side???Probably not 😉 They actually have never had anybody get hurt at all in the 150+ that they have been doing this. SO I was impressed by that because some of the fire balls seemed to have come VERY close to my face 😉 After all the swingers get tired and their fireballs start to fade they parade down to the harbor and throw the fire balls into the sea! Then we finished off the evening with a fireworks display. It was memorable and if you’ve never seen the Stonehaven Fireballs you HAVE to make a trip up to Stonehaven.
Happy 2014 everybody! I am excited for the year ahead!
So being from Alaska I have grown up used to a fair amount of snow. Try snowiest town in America on for size 😉 So when Thompson Pass (the only way into my hometown) is closed due to an avalanche blocking the road you KNOW it’s gonna be closed. There’s no mistaking that it is crazy outside and you shouldn’t be driving anywhere. So with that in mind we decided to go up to Glenshee to find some snow and go sledding! We started driving after checking that the webcams looked good and the weather forecast was saying snow! Not too surprisingly, it was raining when we started driving and there was a massive amount of flooding all during the drive. But we were hopeful!
We kept driving hoping to start seeing snow topping the mountains. Unfortunately we only saw rain, flooding, and puddles on the road.
A few miles away from the top of Glenshee we saw some flashing blue lights behind us so we decided to let them pass….not 15 seconds up the road they stopped and pulled these gates closed over the road saying Police Road Closed….so that’s what a snow gate is….not hardly a drop of snow in sight! But apparently the weather can change quite quickly up at the top of the mountain and it was snowy up there….we couldn’t have guessed 😛 So we decided that we were going sledding that day! And we weren’t gonna let lack of snow or stupid snow gates keep us out! So we headed up a muddy mountain in search of snow and found it! Might not have been much but it was enough to go sledding on 🙂 We succeeded! Take that snow gates 😉