The Provincial Emails
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Our mission group met last evening to exchange photos and discuss what went well and what did not on the trip. In passing we noted that much of the clothing the kids at the orphanage wear is donated and many of the photos show them wearing tee-shirts with the Quad/Graphics logo. It was one of those little bits of the U.S. that made Guatemala seem a little more connected to us. It had been a slight shock when the newspaper headline on our return to Milwaukee was the fire at the company's largest plant, in Lomira, Wisconsin.
Then this morning's newspaper reports that Harry V. Quadracci, the company's founder and president, had died yesterday afternoon.
The light winds lasted until the thin layer of clouds blew to the northeast, and with the sun out the winds picked up. Suddenly conditions were perfect for someone new to dinghy sailing, and I was hiking out for the first time.
This is Mission Sunday, and the visiting missionary was a bishop from Kenya. His parents were English but he was born in Spain and grew up in Argentina. A British subject, he served in His Majesty's armed forces in the Second World War, then went to the seminary, and was assigned to a mission in Kenya.
He started work among the Masai, who were nomads who raised cattle. He said that the Masai generally believed that the material world indicated the existence of a creator, but that the creator had never spoken to them.
In this fertile ground, he has there seen the Church grow enormously, from missions serving a half million Catholics to twenty-seven dioceses serving six million, with many of the priests and religious now native Africans.
My wife's brother Philip told us about this article which includes mention of the work of their father, Emil Arndt (1902-1965), in the early years of the National Federation for the Blind.
The web site for the Alternative World Youth Day attributes this call for job security to Sr. Joan Chittister.
The revolutions that count come silently, come first in the heart, come with the force of steel, because they come with no force at all. Revolutions of this magnitude do not overturn a system and then shape it. They reshape thought, and then the system overturns without the firing of a single canon.[Thanks to Deal Hudson's Crisis Magazine email newsletter for the link.]
From "Whiggery-Pokery" by Keith Sutherland, The Salisbury Review, Summer 2002.
Thus Labour and Sinn Fein, at least until recently, only disagreed over tactics. For this reason Northern Ireland residents face a ban on Labour Party membership -- which almost certainly puts the party in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Given that Labour policy in Northern Ireland has led to a huge electoral advantage for Mr. Adams's party, the ban on Labour party membership in Northern Ireland has given a whole new meaning to the term "Gerry-mandering."
The Summer 2002 issue of The University Bookman reviews Margaret Visser's new book, The Geometry of Love: Space, time, mystery, and meaning in an ordinary church.
The University Bookman now includes Reflections: The Newsletter of The Edmund Burke Society. It notes the Bartleby on-line edition of Reflections on the Revolution in France. Using Bartleby's search feature
Readers can establish to their satisfaction that Michael Freeman was correct, in his 1980 work Edmund Burke and the Critique of Political Radicalism: the words "tradition," "traditions," and "traditional" appear nowhere in the body of the Reflections.
What is that song that serves as The Duff Man Theme on The Simpsons?
It's Oh, Yeah, by Yello.
Dateline Madison, Wisconsin, July 16, 2002.
State farmers say they favor Republican Scott McCallum in the gubernatorial race, according to results from a straw poll conducted by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation at Farm Progress Days, July 9-11.
From "The Art of M. F. K. Fisher." By Patricia Storace. New York Review of Books, December 7, 1989.
In her anthology of writing about food and drink, Here Let Us Feast (1946), Fisher glosses the famous scene in Oliver Twist in which the workhouse orphan asks for more gruel with this recipe for gruel from A Handbook of Cookery for Irish Workhouses:
[His corrrespondent says] "...if Jesus didn't approve of soldiering, He probably would have had a comment or two for the Roman centurion whose servant He healed (Matthew 8:5-13) rather than being amazed at the man's faith."Mr. Work has been arguing that more general statements by Jesus to his followers rule out their participation in the military, or in other occupations in which they might be called upon to use violence. The opposing argument here is that his proposed interpretaion of these more general statements is contrary to what was specifically said to soldiers by John the Baptist and not said by Jesus when he came in contact with soldiers. As a result, it does not appear that Jesus interpreted his own words as Mr. Work does.
Mr. Work postings have generally been fair and non-technical, but in dealing with these passages cited in opposition to his position, he becomes a bit dismissive ("We'll have to wait to see whether he became a Mennonite or a Constantinian") or technical ("an even earlier stage of eschatological pre-fulfillment"). He hasn't really engaged the opposing argument.
My threshhold for what constitutes good news is now low enough for this headline on the front page of this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Weakland won't be charged in hush money:
Maybe I can practice my Spanish by reading it.
Carol Berres had a bylined piece "Changing direction: Downsizing leads to second careers for some" on page 3 of the Learning and Education ad section in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Attended a memorial service for Mortimer Adler at Saint Chrysostom's Episcopal Church in Chicago.
A Madison, Wisconsin, correspondent had written
I see Garry Wills has a new book, Why I Am A Catholic, that I look forward to your telling me all about (so I don't have to read it).We've both been saved effort by Amy Welborn.
Your tithe dollars at work
Ich bin ein Frankliner
Note our used book sale September 6, 7, and 8 (with a preview sale for members the evening of September 5). A local book dealer called it "a nice little sale" and, as book sale chairman, I hope it will be just as nice and, with our new library, not so little this year. It surely won't be as cramped.
The Newsletter also suggests some links, including Dr. Grammar. Which reminds me that Richard Mitchell started out with a little newsletter criticizing the grammar and jargon of his university's administration and wound up writing extensively on broader education issues. Nihil Obstat has started in a similar niche but appears inclined to stay in it like the Doctor, rather than expand out from it, like the Underground.
With all my recent airline travel, I had time to do some reading and came across this.
Soldiers also asked [John the Baptist], "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."I don't recall any contrary later instructions to soldiers, e.g., at the cure of the centurion's daughter. So how can, say, Stanley Hauerwas give some?
A flyer arrived from Project Censored titled "Corporate Media Defaults on 9-11," and suggesting supplementing your news diet with the Independent Media Center, Centre for Research on Globalisation , Media Channel and Common Dreams. I haven't checked them all, but chances are their position will be that the rich and powerful are behind just about everything.
At Mass, my Pastor actually leads us in the Nicene Creed, although he introduces is if it were a last minute decision on his part.
There was a flyer, next to the bulletins, for Network Lobby Day on Welfare Reform Reauthorization. One of the messages for members of Congress is to "stop the clock." The flyer says Network Lobby day is May 16, 2002, so somebody has already stopped the calendar.
In the bulletin is a letter from Archbishop-elect Dolan. He's one upbeat fellow.
Frijole days of obligation
We wake up around 4:00 a.m., mix some instant coffee in our travel mugs, and board the bus for the ride to the airport. Much of the way we are on Sixth Avenue, the route the Pope will take into town when he visits at month's end. To leave the country, we have to each pay the exit tax of $30, cash, American. In the airport there are coffee kiosks with espresso machines and Dunkin' Donuts. My wife, wisely, has cafe americain. I order a cafe mocha, thinking it will be made with Guatemalan cocoa. Then the barrista reaches for a squeeze bottle of Nesquik syrup.
The folks from Colonial Presbyterian leave Guatemala on the same flight, along with a third mission group who've been doing construction work for two weeks. Mission groups must be a significant percentage of air traffic to and from Guatemala.
We clear Customs and Immigration in Houston, drink the water, flush some toilet paper. Our return trip requires another plane change at Cleveland. The final leg to Milwaukee is on a little jet, with each row having one seat on one side of the aisle, two on the other.
We have an exceptionally good-humored flight attendant. Overhearing our discussion, she asks "What kind of church mission trip has beer?" The answer comes back "A Catholic Church mission trip." One of our group spills his soda in his lap, and from the back another of our group suggests that, as a gesture of solidarity, we all wet our pants. Our flight attendant agrees to immortalize the spill, front and back, on film. But she also says she received some bad personal news the night before and thanks us for cheering her up. Besides our matching shirts, our group wears matching little wood crosses on string necklaces, and one of our group makes a gift of it to our flight attendant.
Finally we land in Milwaukee. Same trip, next year, we hope.
Frijole days of obligation
Because our flight leaves early Saturday morning, we'll spend the last night in Guatemala City. So today we pack up to leave. The kids who aren't in school gather on the sidewalk where they had welcomed us a week before. We say our good-byes and board the bus. But since the main streets of Santa Apolonia are one way, we have to circle around come back within sight of the orphanage again to leave town. So there's some more waving good-bye.
The bus parks several blocks from the main square and we walk to it before going our separate ways. My wife and I go to a jade shop and a leather goods storet that she liked last trip. Then we have lunch at a restaurant with a view over the rooftops at the volcano. We order "barbacoa" which turns out to be Sloppy Joes on toast. This is a restaurant for a leisurely lunch, but wife hears the stores calling her so she takes most of our remaining quetzales and departs. Later, after I'm able to get the check and pay it, I take a tour of the ruins of the cathedral. The original cathedral was built in 1543, It was demolished in 1668 and a larger cathedral built from 1669 to 1680. That cathedral was destroyed by the 1773 earthquake. Only the front portion facing the central square remains in use. Not long ago, a restoration project began. Some of the interior pillars along the nave have been rebuilt. But most of the roof and much of the exterior wall are still missing.
Enough of the roof remains to give me some shelter when a thunderstorm blows through. I then take refuge in the part of the building still in use as a church. When the rain lets up, its almost time to meet the rest of our group, and I set off across the square.
Unlike last year, I saw a few copies of the Guatemala City morning paper around the orphanage, but I can't find a copy at any of the newstands. Most of our group shows up on the square, but two who had been there are missing. Eventually most of us go to the bus, while a couple wait on the square. Then our missing appear and say they thought we were all to meet at the bus. This point gets argued as we recall our search party from the square. The argument stops briefly as a funeral procession, all on foot and in black and carrying the coffin aloft, goes by. The argument resumes as we leave town, and then, from the back of the bus, someone starts singing Kumbaya ...
With the delay, we get caught in the Guatemala City rush hour and it's almost dark when we reach the sisters' provincial house, where we'll spend the night. Again there's one room for the women, one for the men. The women's has beds for everyone. The men's has one single and one double bed, and again mattresses on the floor. Figuring that in a mission group the last shall be first, I wait for everyone else to pick where they'll sleep, which leaves the double bed for me. There's a large bathroom, but so we can have one last adjustment, it's coed.
We order pizzas, none with the available black bean sauce. To go with, those or our company getting the pizzas also bring back some Pepsi and (the Guatemalan diet version) Pepsi Light and, of course, Gallo beer.
The head of the orphanage and Martin have taken the opportunity to come to the city on business, and share the last of the pizza. At evening prayer, our leader, who is also Director of Liturgy at our parish, cannot find his Bible. We make do by having the reading from a Bible in Spanish, with a translation to English after each verse by another participant. I might suggest this as standard procedure for next year.
With the bus returning for us at 4:30 a.m., it's early to bed.
Frijole days of obligation
This morning I'm working with another of the boys, each of us using belt sanders on the side panel of the wardrobes. This is, of course, a slow process with hard to see results compared to sawing and drilling.
Other kids have been assembling the drawers. Several complete wardrobes are now being painted with a gray first coat and a medium blue final coat. Staining and varnishing wasn't practical because of the green wood. How green was it? Sometimes when we were sawing, a trickle of water would come out of the wood as the saw blade went through it.
At lunch, we give the boys superballs and little bags of marbles. We had seen them playing marbles in the little dirt playground area next to the large paved playground. The dirt was packed hard, with some erosion ruts from the downspouts, and the boys played a form of cross-country marbles. We give the Tias gift bags from the group, with things like hand lotions and decorative towels. The Tia's give us gifts of little embroidered cloths, about the size of handkerchiefs.
After lunch, several of us continue assembling drawers. All the components for the first batch of wardrobes are ready to go and a half dozen have been assembled. All will probably be done and in the casas' bedrooms within a month or so. I hope to be back to see them next year.
That evening is the annual surprise fiesta. Toward the end of the day, the smoke from the cooking pots used for such big meals is filling the carpenteria. We have to rush some of the panels, in long clamps after being glued, back into the shop so we can close the doors.
For the fiesta, I change from my flannel shirt and jeans to my group shirt and khakis. My wife sees a spot on the shirt, and drags me to the sink to wash it off.
There are four huge pots of food in the salon, a large room with a stage. The evening starts with a prayer ceremony, with an icon of Our Lady of Guadelupe and one candle for each member of our group in the middle of the salon. At Mass the previous Sunday, we learned that one of our group is allergic to incense, so, of course, the ceremony starts with incense. Unaware of her allergy, the boy carrying the incense burner stands right next to her, drops the incense on the charcoal, and makes sure it's really going good, while we watch the clouds of smoke pour over her. They're very near a door, so we all assume that she'll decide if it's too much for her. She survives. After the prayer, four Tias dish out the food and selected kids bring to all in attendance. There's parts of pieces of chicken (our usual cuts will be split into several here), a rice dish, mixed vegetables, and a hot chocolate drink with cinnamon. Sitting on a bench being jostled by kids all around, I get through the whole meal with no more spots.
I brought my digital camera. It has a display on the back that can show the stored pictures. Whenever the kids see the camera, they run up saying "Photo me!" so that I'll take a picture of them that they can then see on the screen. While I'm shooting a group of the kids, young Mario, who we know from last year, bumps into me and his cocoa sloshes onto my shirt and pants. You knew that was coming, didn't you?
We present the orphanage with a wood carving of Our Lady of Guadelupe. The orphanage presents each of us with a gift, a decorative cloth for the women, usable on, say, a dresser top, and colorful belts for the men. The belt is in a native style, but we notice the buckle has the Nike name and swoosh.
Then there's entertainment. Some of this is kids lip-synching while doing dance moves. But the older kids have a recorder group and play the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Rigoberto, who takes a week off from his job in Guatemala City to translate in the clinic, plays and sings a song he wrote for and will perform at the canonization ceremony.
And we sing our version of Los pollitos (The Chicks). We go onstage in the dark and when the lights go up, one of our ladies is dressed up as the hen (brown blanket and foam rubber beak) with wings outstretched. One of the men in our group just happens to be able to make the sound of a hen laying an egg, and as he does so, our hen kicks out one the size of a sleeping bag wrapped in a pillow case. Then we in the chorus start.
Los pollitos dicen "pio pio pio,"At the first "pio pio pio," two chicks (yellow poncho and foam rubber beak) lean out, one from each side of the hen, to sing the line. At the second, two lean out from each side to sing it. At the third, all the chicks come out and run about the stage. For the last "brigo" we substitute "frijoles," and the chicks throw bags of jelly beans into the crowd. Then we make a very quick exit.
Frijole days of obligation
The anti-termite paint looks promising. The courtyard contains some dead moths, apparently killed by the fumes.
In the carpenteria today I'm using a template and drilling holes in the edge of boards which will be joined with glue and dowels to form the sides and top and inside divider of the wardrobe. I mentioned the closet rod. That's not a piece you just buy here. Pieces about two by two inches in cross-section first have the corners cut on the joiner, so that they are octogonal, then are smoothed into the cylindrical rod on a lathe.
One of the women in our group had been planning to go home tomorrow because of an important event in the family business. Then we hear that one of the nurses, who hadn't been feeling quite right, has developed dangerously elevated blood pressure, and her husband, one of our physicians, decided they ought to return to the U.S. to get this checked out. So suddenly the three of them are gone.
Providentially, we have a second physician on this trip and enough other medical staff to keep the clinic going.
One of the girls working with us in the carpenteria celebrated her Quinceanera last year while we were here. For us, it's a little like seeing one of last year's debutantes working on a construction site.
At the casa, we give the boys little light up key chains as gifts. They first have fun flashing the light in each other's and our faces, then decide it looks cool to hang the key chains from their belt loops. We also give the Tias little gift bags of colognes and such.
In the afternoon, my wife and I wind up working together attaching some reinforcing crosspieces to what will be the wardrobe doors.
Martin's German background and efficient planning of the wardrobe project have earned him the nickname "Col. Klink." He manages to take this with good humor.
That night we take the sisters and a few other staff that we've worked with closely to a restaurant. Although literally they take us, specifically in a five passenger pick-up truck. This means two trips with about eight of us sitting or standing in the truck bed on each trip. The restaurant is on the highway, near Tecpan. It has a kind of Polynesian Old West decor. The menu is sort of like the chain steak restaurants, but the quality is several notches above them. The bill for dinner and drinks came to about $6 a person, perhaps a fifth what the same meals would have cost in the U.S. Somehow, as can happen on such occasions, the discussion turns to a song lyric. Then came the pick-up rides back, only now in the dark, and slowed as we passed the scene of a collision between a very large truck and what had been a very small car.
Frijole days of obligation
My wife convinces me to skip breakfast in the casa and make do with what is on the counter. Then I find that the jar of peanut butter is empty. I show the empty jar to one of the sisters, and she brings out a jar of honey to replace it. So it's bread and jelly and bread and honey, rather than tortillas, frijoles and huevos. Or maybe we're missing pancakes. We had them here once last year. Not only were they good, and a change from the usual fare, they used up some of the syrup donated by Canadians a few years ago.
Who takes care of the kids, you might have been wondering. In each house there are two or three housemothers, called Tias (Aunties) who live there much of the time, cook, clean, wash, discipline, and hug the kids. In our casa there is also an older boy who is confined to a wheel chair. Helping him with his special needs is one of the jobs of a young man on the staff who also stays at the casa overnight.
This morning in the carpenteria, I'm working with another of the boys on a table saw cutting down the pieces that have been given one smooth edge using the joiner. Then one of our group working the joiner holds a piece wrong and has most of a fingernail sliced off. He's treated at our clinic and the prognosis is the nail probably will grow back normally.
The few wardrobes already done are being painted with the insect repellent in the courtyard. The chemical apparently causes the brushes to lose their bristles. The space is wide open and the time spent fairly brief, so no one seems affected by the fumes.
We've been taking some Spanish language children's books to the casa at some mealtimes. Most of the boys can't get enough of reading them. There's a library for the kids in the orphanage, but kids can't have too many books. We also bring along English-Spanish dictionaries for our reference, and notebooks. Some of the boys even browse the dictionary. Most of them enjoy writing out their full names, rather long in the Spanish tradition, in the notebooks. One tells me the names of the numbers one through ten in Spanish and in the local Mayan language.
One of the young women in our group is quite sad at evening prayer because a good friend among the girls of the orphanage is turning 18 and so might be leaving soon for life on her own. This is part of growing up here, as it is most places, but the girl does have some health problems which might make this a particularly difficult change, and she seems worried and upset. We'll have to wait and see what the sisters have in mind for her.
Alfonso invited our group to his place that evening for what was billed as beer and snacks. When we get there, he's fired up the old restaurant grill and the snacks turn out to be a half dozen courses of little entrees, like sausage or chiles rellenos. On the way back to the orphanage, the evening's festivites and our previous trip to the cantina put a young man in our group in mind of the words of Homer,
To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all life's problems.
Frijole days of obligation
We settle down into a daily routine. My wife and I jog around town, perhaps a mile total, at 6:00 a.m. We wait for a bathroom to be available. There is running water for a few hours in the morning and the evening, at least. Sometimes there's even hot water. To conserve, liquids are not deemed sufficient reason to flush the toilet. The hardest adjustment, most people find, is that used toilet paper cannot be flushed; it will clog the drain. Instead it's disposed of in a wastebasket.
In the hallway outside the sisters' quarters is a supply of drinking water, a pot of hot water, and some juices, bread, and snacks. While Guatemala produces excellent coffee, it's almost impossible to get a cup of brewed coffee here. Everything's instant. We offered to buy a coffee maker, but the sisters insisted that Guatemalan instant coffee is the finest in the world. (It might be, but we can't understand why any coffee drinker would care.) We had packed some travel mugs, which came in especially handy this morning. There were no spoons set out today, so our instant coffee was shaken, not stirred. We drank it on that back balcony and watched the clouds and volcanoes and hummingbirds. Breakfast sometime after 7:00 a.m., the kids are off to school, our group's prayer service at 8:00 a.m., then to work.
Our mission group has a name: Amistad sin frontieres, or Friendship without Borders. We didn't select it. When the first of our group came to the orphanage back in the mid-1990's, that was the name the kids gave to us. On our travel days and some of the special occasions during the week, we wear matching shirts with that name on them. Matching shirts might give some esprit d'corps but where they really come in handy is keeping track of people in the airport when we're changing planes.
No team shirts today. By 8:30 a.m. we're at work. I'm in the carpentry shop. We're working with seven of the older kids, ages 13 to 17, who have some training on the power tools. They work with us until 11:00 a.m., when they leave to do their homework and then go to school. As I understand it, the school has morning and afternoon sessions, and children attend one or the other depending upon grade. And homework right before school is the way it's done here.
One of the boys and I are using a DeWalt power saw to cut planks to the lengths needed for the sides of the wardrobe. Since I have none, he has more experience than I do on a saw like this. But I remind him to wear eye protection (I had packed my own safety glasses and work gloves) and to shut off the saw after a cut if moving away, and show him how to avoid unnecessary motion. We bring in a board, roughly a 12 foot 1 by 12, cut it into two component boards, and stack these for further work by others, in 75 second cycles. It reminds me of Adam Smith on pin making. There's a certain satisfaction in the production, but it wouldn't be interesting for long. Fortunately on that score, we're only cutting enough for 16 wardrobes, and so later we're on a radial arm saw cutting a different component.
Working alone that afternoon, I think of my grandparents, who went to Mass every morning before going to work, he as a carpenter, she as a cook at a Catholic women's college, looking down on this. First grandpa, "Oy, gevalt, he's sleeping 'til 6:00 a.m. instead of going to Mass. And there's no 6:00 Mass!" Then grandma, "But at least he measures twice and cuts once. And he's stopped being such a picky eater."
Termites and other boring insects are a serious problem here, so the wardrobes will be treated with a chemical to repel them. The warnings on the label are a bit frightening even though I can't fully understand the Spanish. "Antidote: No tiene" stands out.
Every board has to be planed as well as cut, and the shavings from the power planers are knee deep by day's end. These we shovel and sweep into used chicken feed bags, and the shavings are then taken to the orphanage's farm land to be used for bedding for the chickens.
One of our group had last year befriended Alfonso, a local businessman who stops in to visit us in the carpenteria. He had tried to run a small restaurant in Santa Apolonia, but it was too hard to staff for the somewhat irregular business. He has a few of us over for a beer to his place, now a furniture shop, after work. He builds the furniture in his own woodshop and sells it to buyers in the bigger cities. Since he had lived in the U.S. for about twenty-five years, his English is much better than any of our Spanish.
Back for supper, and Neto demonstrates that he can do a headstand up against the wall. A few of the other boys try to do likewise, but he's the only one who never needs a hand to get his legs straight up.
After dinner and prayer, most of our group congregates in the "women's dorm." We know there will be a "surprise fiesta" for us Thursday night, the night before we leave. The kids put on entertainment and we have to plan how to reciprocate. Last year we presented "Old MacDonald" in Spanish, ("A-E-A-E-OO") and dressed up as the animals, making our entrances with each chorus. This year we decide to keep it simpler, and settle on a much shorter and simpler version of a Spanish children's song.
Frijole days of obligation
This year I was ready for Sunday Mass at the Catholic Church of Santa Apolonia, having printed the order of worship. With that, it was easy to follow along. (I wish it were possible to do this at my parish, but, as far as I can tell, the order of worship exists only in my pastor's mind. He and I had a protracted discussion about this the Sunday before this mission trip, but that's another story.) Many Latin Americans are leaving the Catholic Church for various Pentecostal and Evangelical churches. Guatemala is leading the way in this trend and Catholics likely will be a minority in a few years. In Santa Apolonia, the Catholic Church building was old and large, just off the village square. The Pentecostal and Evangelical church buildings were numerous, newer and small, and scattered around town and in the countryside. Still, the Mass was packed with people, and they actively participated (at least as I understand that term). We'd been warned that the Mass would be extremely long, but it was not significantly longer than some masses at my parish. While at my parish many parts of the Mass are usually skipped, e.g., Gloria and Creed, the time is more than made up with new material and many verses of many hymns. Sorry, I said that was another story, didn't I.
All the lay people assisting at Mass in any capacity, servers, lectors, ushers, were to the left of the altar during mass. One of the boys from Casa Siete, our casa on last year's mission, appeared to be a kind of junior server, although not in the server's garb as two older boys were.
At the close, the priest discussed our Pope's upcoming visit to Guatemala for the canonization of Brother Peter of Betancur. As a fundraiser, some parishoners were selling little commemorative flags for two quetzales, equal to about 25 cents American. One of our group bought ten for the orphanage. This raised one of those nagging questions for a mission like ours. On the one hand, it was certainly appropriate to contribute to this worthy cause and help the orphanage mark this occasion. On the other hand, we pretty much cleaned out that week's inventory of the little flags, and so there were none left for some parishioners who wanted one. This is, obviously, a minute example, but within our group some had doubts about the form of our mission. My answer, for now, is that the evidence I've seen indicates we're doing some good, while if we wait for a perfect plan, we'll never do anything.
Frijole days of obligation
Awakened by the roosters crowing, we began our first full day. Breakfast was scheduled for 7:00 a.m., which meant sometime between then and 7:30 or so. You enter each casa or housing unit into a central dining area with a long table and benches. There are bedrooms at each of the four corners. The pantry is between the bedrooms on one side, the bathroom between the bedrooms on the other side, and the kitchen between the rear bedrooms. The food is prepared on a wood burning stove built of brick.
The most recently arrived child at the orphanage was Neto, a young boy in our casa. He wore eyeglasses, and said his nickname was "Cuatro Ojos," which he didn't seem to mind at all.
Our mission group met each morning and evening for prayer in the orphanage chapel. Morning prayer usually was at 8:00 a.m., after breakfast. The boys' casas were side-by-side in a long building, sort of like town houses. The chapel was between two of the casas, and was perhaps 12 feet wide and 30 feet deep. On the back wall was a large portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe. When we sat, it was on plastic stools or cushions. Each prayer service included some hymns, all relatively recent, a psalm, a gospel reading selected for relationship to our mission, intercessions, and the Lord's Prayer. Morning prayer included some questions connecting the gospel reading to our day's work which we were to think about in the course of the day. Homework!
The most important work of the mission was the medical clinic run for the benefit not only of the orphans but also for the people of the surrounding area. The medical team consisted of doctors, nurses and other health professionals, and translators. The smallest undertaking of the mission was some educational sessions with selected children, which would take up three mornings. In between was the construction work. My wife and I being lawyers and therefore having, in this context, no useful skills, were hands. I was on the construction team, and she was on the education team when it was in session, and joined me on construction when it wasn't.
Martin, a young German who originally came to the orphanage staff as the foreign social service alternative to the military, presented us with the plans for our work. We were to turn rough lumber into muebles grandes, large wardrobes, or at least as many of the components as we could in the time we had. The wardrobes would be placed in each of the 32 bedrooms in the casas. The kids slept in bunk beds which had two drawers under each lower bunk, so each kid had one of those drawers for all his clothes and other possessions. The Wardrobes would each have four drawers below and above a divided closet with rod for hanging shirts and jackets and such. This would give each kid another large drawer and about a foot of closet rod.
In the course of the day we began bringing lumber from storage to just outside the carpentry shop. This is not kiln-dried lumber ready to use. It was green wood, and would have to be trimmed to standard sizes with planers and a joiner.
At lunch, we had watermelon for desert. I'll eat all the red, but the Guatemalans eat the green right out to the skin.
The set up work continued in the carpentry shop after lunch. Dinner was around 5:00 p.m., followed by a little quiet time. Our rooms were on the second floor of the main building and an open air walkway served as a balcony as well. From there we could look out at rolling hills, with farm fields in the valleys and forests on the summits. It looked rather like northwestern Wisconsin between Tomah and Eau Claire, except for the three volcanoes, one active, in the distance.
Immediately below the balcony was a courtyard with perimeter plantings including some flowering shrubs. These attracted hummingbirds, including, that evening, a large green one with a squeeky call.
We finally had a meeting with the sisters to introduce the new people and discuss our week's work. Then we had our evening prayer, which included discussing the questions for the day with our "prayer partner." Months before, we were assigned to these groups of two or three and now we reviewed the day with each other. I can't say I actually thought about the assigned questions until then but it was a good opportunity to get to know another person in our group and get their perspective on the day.
After prayer, a dozen or so of us thought it was time to sample the night life of Santa Apolonia. The night life consisted of one cantina with a capacity of perhaps a dozen, and a dozen young Guatemalan men already filled it. We took our Gallo beers to go, and stood on the sidewalk across the street. The patrons inside were extremely drunk, slouching at the tables and talking loudly, coming out and falling down in the street, urinating on the outside wall of the cantina and on the tires of their cars. It was very disturbing to see, given that no college football game had been played anywhere near Santa Apolonia that Saturday. One fellow was too drunk to walk, but fortunately he had his car, and burned rubber taking the corner onto the main street.
We decided to forgo reentering the cantina to claim our bottle deposits and walked back to the orphanage to go to sleep.
Frijole days of obligation
Members of our group met at the airport around 4:30 a.m. We each had one checked bag of our own, and one for the group. The group bags contained the supplies for the medical team, some tools and equipment for the construction team, supplies for the education team, donated clothing and quilts, and gifts for the staff at the orphanage. As usual, there was a snag at baggage check-in, this year some of the group bags being over the size limit. With some rearranging of contents, all eventually met the requirements and were loaded. The airline's staff was much more helpful solving this problem than those of some others had been in the past.
We changed planes in Houston. As usual, there was another mission group on the flight to Guatemala City, this year from Colonial Presbyterian Church, Kansas City, Missouri. They were going to be doing similar work in Quezeltanango. They said they would be staying in a hotel there. (Our group was to sleep on mattresses on the floor, not that I'm complaining, as my pastor says when he notes that some of his Protestant counterparts are paid more than he is.)
Besides our carry-on bag, we each had bottles of water, because it's not safe to drink the tap water in Guatemala. Arriving in Guatemala City, we cleared Immigration and Customs (each with a polite and professional staff, in our experience), collected our mountain of bags, and boarded our bus. This was a yellow Blue Bird school bus, still bearing the name of its original operator in Maryland, along with the Maryland Ford dealer who originally sold it. It did not have the colorful paint scheme, roof rack, and loud exhaust of the typical Guatemalan chicken bus.
First stop was the Hiper Paiz for essential supplies, such as Coke and Pepsi, regular and diet, and snack chips for the balance of the bus trip, and a few items like shampoo and toilet paper, in bulk, that the orphanage could always use. The Hyper Paiz, as the name indicates, is an enormous grocery and general merchandise store, along the lines of the Try and Save on The Simpsons.
Speaking of which, the Burger King restaurant across the street featured a meal with a toy based on Los Simpson, and a large banner with Bart's likeness hung in front of the restaurant urging us to collect all ten.
A few of our group had arrived in Guatemala a week earlier to attend brief intensive Spanish courses in Antigua, so we set off the get them. Guatemala City is in a mountain valley, and much of the route to Antigua is carved into the mountainsides. This is the rainy season, so the vegetation is lush and green, and the views up to the summits and down to the valley are, what else, breathtaking. Especially breathtaking are a few of the views down the mountain when on the outside lane of an outside curve.
Antigua was the colonial capital of all the Spanish possessions from Chiapas to Costa Rica. After it was hit by a severe earthquake in 1773, the capital was moved to Guatemala City. Antigua's cathedral and many of the churches from those days still are in ruins. These and other buildings and steets from the colonial era make Antigua the main tourist destination in Guatemala.
With the rest of our group on board, we set off to Santa Apolonia. The highway soon was two lanes, rather than the four lane divided highway nearer Guatemala City. Nearing Santa Apolonia, there are enormous greenhouses growing flowers for the world market. The lesser highway to Santa Apolonia was newly paved with asphalt, until we reached the village with its paving stones.
As always, as the bus pulled up to the orphange, there was a crowd of the kids and staff to greet us. The kids had made construction paper hearts to give us, and had blown up balloons to give to us (and for them to later pop). Having been there on last year's mission, there were kids I knew who'd run up to me yelling "Terry! Terry!" with the Spanish trilled double-r.
We unloaded our baggage, emptied the bags of supplies, and took our personal bags to our rooms. The orphanage is on both sides of the street. The girls' four houses are on the northerly side of the street, the boys' on the southerly, along with the clinic, workshops, classrooms, storerooms, and convent. We stayed in two large rooms, men in one, women in the other. The married couples were offered their own rooms, but declined so that the women could have their evening dorm party and needle the husbands about celibacy. Our beds were small thin mattresses on the concrete floor, on which we unrolled our sleeping bags. On bed was a construction paper note "Bienvenidos, amigos, a nuestro hogar." Although in the tropics, at an altitude of about 7,000 feet it can get cool at night, even in July. And not using the sleeping bag left one susceptible to picking up some little critters from the mattress and bedding.
Members of the mission are assigned among the eight housing units for their meals. This gives us an opportunity to get to know better a smaller group of the kids. This year we were assigned to Casa Cinco, where the youngest boys live, and had our first evening's meal there. Frijoles and tortillas are the staples of the Guatemalan diet and were usually on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whether you want to or not, it's hard to not clean your plate sitting around a table with eleven Guatemalan orphans.
Finally it was time for bed. We fell asleep to the sound of rain on the corrugated fiberglass roof, to the extent we could hear it through the earplugs we wore to keep out the sounds of snoring and barking dogs, and starting at about 3:30 a.m., roosters, trucks and chicken buses.
Reconsiderations: Society and History
For Independence Day, here are The Declaration of Independence and A Note on the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and Gordon Sinclair on The Americans.
This morning's newspaper reports that the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court filled in yesterday in Small Claims Court in Milwaukee.
On the topic of "It Sure Beats the Alternative," it sure looks to me that my experience of a past and anticipated future colonoscopies sure beats my brother Michael's experience of four years of eventually fatal colon cancer.
There's another on-line database of used books.
LibraryBookSales.org matches you with rare, collectible and quality books that have been donated to public libraries. The money you spend goes directly to the library that sells you the book. You benefit because you can find quality books at great prices. Everyone Wins!Note they did not say "It's win-win," another reason to support their work.
I will go in to the alter of God
Was the Implementation of Vatican II a Homosexual Fantasy? by E. Michael Jones, Culture Wars, July/August 2002