Jenna Yordy
Jenna Yordy
Guatemala, 2023-2024
Hola! My name is Jenna Yordy, and I am a recent Global Leadership and TESL graduate. I am so excited to begin this 7 month journey in Guatemala, where I will be working at an orphanage in Cobán and at a trade school in Chimaltenango. Join me on this adventure as I experience living and working in Guatemala! Read More About Jenna →

Semana de Expresión

Hola friends and family!

My last few weeks have been busy with exams and Semana de Expresión (Expression Week). At the end of every quarter, Monte Cristo students are rewarded for making it through their exams with a week of fun activities including cooking and dance competitions! The students have been practicing and planning out their ideas for weeks and it was a lot of fun to watch their hard work come to fruition. Heads up – there are a LOT of pictures in this blog!

To start things off, the students took their quarterly exams for their music and dance classes by showcasing to the whole school what they have learned so far. The senior class asked me to join them in singing a song to start out the program and I, of course, couldn’t say no, so we sang a classic called, Un Idiota, together while the music professor accompanied us with guitar. Un Idiota is an extremely dramatic love song which made it hard for us all to keep straight faces throughout the performance, but thankfully we managed!

We started out la Semana de Expresión with a cooking competition (pictures #1-4)! The students were paired up with a classmate and were required to come up with a unique dish and prepare it for a panel of judges. I was extremely impressed with how creative the students were and how tasty all of their dishes were! Some of my favorites included Oreo pancakes, apple pound cake with strawberry topping, and baked ribs. The overall winner was a chicken lasagna in the shape of a Bundt cake – both creative and delicious!

Day two included a spelling bee, jeopardy, and math games! I have to admit, I originally thought a spelling bee in Spanish would be quite easy, because unlike English, Spanish is a phonetic language which means that words are always spelled exactly like they sound. As I played along in my head, however, I discovered pretty quickly that it was harder than I’d anticipated! Later we moved onto the math/science games which included things like sudoku and strategy exercises (pictures #5-7). The students had ten minutes to complete the game/exercise at each station, so they had to move quickly and think on their feet!

Day three included competitions in drawing, dancing, and reenacting skits! Although I am musically inclined, I am not necessarily great in other artistic areas, so to say I was impressed with the students’ abilities, especially their drawing skills, is an understatement (pictures #8-10)! For the dancing competition, each grade had to perform a traditional and a non-traditional dance. I had only seen a few of the dances prior to the competition, so it was very fun to get to see what the students came up with. One of my favorites was a traditional country line dance that included swinging a few of the members around in the air! Finally, the skits brought great amounts of entertainment and laughter and was a great way to end the day.

We ended la Semana de Expresión by celebrating Monte Cristo’s 21st anniversary! We all gathered in the dining hall to commune and celebrate this special moment together (picture #11). We ate lots of delicious food, drank unhealthy amounts of horchata, and sang happy birthday to Monte Cristo! Afterwards, the seniors started singing Un Idiota with their music teacher, while I stood nearby watching. No one had informed me that we were singing the song, so I just assumed they were doing it for fun. Well, as the chorus came up (where I came in when we’d previously performed it), the seniors started frantically motioning for me to come over and join them. I had no idea that we would sing the song together again, but it ended up being such a beautiful moment and one I’ll hold in my heart forever.

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

 

Travel and Cooking – A Few of My Favorite Things!

Hola friends and family!

It’s hard to believe that I only have a month left here in Guatemala, the time has flown by! I have already mentioned more than once to my host family how I don’t know how I will be able to live without fresh tortillas at every meal, the gentle Guatemalan sun, and, of course, all of the family and friends I’ve made once I return to the States. I have come to love my temporary home here and I will dearly miss everyone I’ve met along the way.

At the same time, homesickness has started to settle in a little bit. I used to think that homesickness could only happen to a person if they were extremely unhappy with the situation or place they were in. I have learned, however, that this is not necessarily the case. While there have been challenges throughout my time here, I love the work that I am doing in Guatemala and everyone I have met who I’ve had the opportunity to share life with. Simultaneously, I miss the familiarity of home, I miss my family, and I miss taking my dog on walks. It is a strange in-between-state to be in, but I’m learning that it’s okay to enjoy my experiences here while still missing home. And that being said, I am extremely grateful for the technology we have today that allows me to stay in touch with my loved ones in the States! What a blessing to be able to remain in close communication virtually even while separated physically.

In other (more positive) news, I flew to Costa Rica for a quick trip a couple weeks ago in order to maintain my visa status in Guatemala. As you might remember, I am required to leave the country every 90 days. During my time there, I spent my days relaxing in the ocean, touring Manuel Antonio’s national park, and watching gorgeous sunsets (Pictures #1-2). I also saw sloths, dolphins, and so many monkeys (Pictures #3-4)! Additionally, I tried the traditional Costa Rican dish called casado. In Spanish, casado means “married man,” so I’m not quite sure why or how this dish got its name, but I do know that it is absolutely delicious! It includes rice, black beans, plantains, salad, and tortillas. This is honestly very similar to traditional Guatemalan food, so I felt right at home while I was eating it. Besides the extreme heat and humidity, the trip was a wonderful experience!

This week in cooking classes, we made rellenitos, my absolute favorite Guatemalan food! The very first week of school, the Chef asked me what Guatemalan dishes I enjoyed, and I promptly replied, rellenitos! Rellenitos are, essentially, a fried plantain patty filled with refried black beans. I know they sound strange, but I promise, they are so yummy and sweet! My host mom in Santa Cruz made them often which is how I grew to love them. The Chef was a little surprised by my answer, but promised we would make them at some point during the semester, and we finally did! The students had a lot of fun showing me how to prepare them and I was excited to learn! The kids and I ended up making over 100 rellenitos in total (pictures #5-6)!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

Spring Is Here!

Hola friends and family!

Although the mornings here in Chimaltenango are still chilly, the days are starting to heat up and spring is in full swing! Flowers are blooming left and right, filling the streets with color. I have been thoroughly enjoying all of the sunshine, especially because it felt like I spent two months in constant rain last fall. I know it’s still cold for most of you who are reading this, but I hope you’ve been able to catch a few glimpses of the sun here and there!

As I briefly mentioned in my last blog, it has been very fun building relationships with the kids and getting to know them better. Every day they open up more…and also get a little crazier, but so it is with teenagers! Last week, I was asked to cover the 9th grade salsa class because the teacher was not able to make it. For those of you who know me well, this is pretty comical. The only types of dances I know how to do are The Cupid Shuffle and The Cotton Eyed Joe. So naturally, this is what we did! We all had a blast, especially the kids, because line dancing is far from the structure of salsa that they are accustomed to.

In other school-related news, just a few days ago, I was asked to accompany the kids on the bus route after school. All of the teachers had a meeting together that afternoon, but the problem was that an adult is required to be on the bus at all the times. The solution: me. Of course, I readily agreed when the school coordinator asked me if I would be willing to ride with the kids, but I also had to chuckle to myself a bit because I’m barely older than some of the seniors, yet I was the designated “adult.” Nevertheless, it all went well, I managed to keep everyone under control, and even was able to chat with one of the 7th graders almost the whole way!

Additionally, my host family and I went to Antigua last week to watch some of the processions that were taking place. As we near closer to Easter, these processions become more and more frequent. Essentially, the processions include giant floats of Jesus and the Virgin Mary that are carried throughout the streets of Antigua (pictures #1-2), preceded by a few people burning incense and followed by a huge band of drums, tubas, and many other instruments. My two host brothers were helping to carry the floats, so it was fun to get to watch them do that and experience the massive crowds that the floats draw. During my time in Antigua, I was able to visit my previous host family, which is always a blast, as well as meet members of my current host mom’s family, as she is originally from Antigua.

Lastly, I received news from Jenna in Cobán, that Ria, the dog I rescued in December, is ready for adoption! Jenna sent me a before and after picture of Ria’s recovery and I could not believe my eyes (pictures #3-4)! She is so big and healthy now! It makes me incredibly happy to think that the tiny, abused, and malnourished puppy that I rescued just a few months ago is doing so well and will be able to be adopted into a loving home soon!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

 

Pigs, Bracelets, and Learning Italian

Hola friends and family!

I hope you all are doing well! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of making visits, hosting visitors, and, of course, celebrating Valentine’s Day. Although my school schedule allows for quite a bit of free time, it sure fills up quickly with fun, spontaneous activities with my host family and friends – and I’m not complaining!

To start things off, I am definitely falling into a rhythm with my classes at Monte Cristo. The kids are all my little (and a few not-so-little) siblings at this point, and I’m building relationships with the other teachers as well. I even taught the math professor how to play Sudoku, one of my favorite pastimes! Last week, I had the opportunity to ride on the school bus with the kids, something I normally do not do, and it was a lot of fun getting to chat with the kids outside of the school setting. Additionally, we celebrated el Día de Cariño (Valentine’s Day) by eating pizza and cake in our classrooms, as well as doing a small gift exchange (picture #1). Finally, in last week’s cooking classes, I was shocked and slightly horrified to discover we were cooking the head of a pig. And I mean the entire head. (For those of you who are brave enough, I attached a picture below.) The pot we used to cook it was so big, I could have easily fit inside of it. All of that to say is, I did not really enjoy eating this dish, but it is quite probable that witnessing the cooking process effected my taste buds (picture #3).

As you might remember, the city of Antigua is fairly close to Chimaltenango, so it is an easy car or bus ride to go back and forth. I have a few friends around my age in Antigua that I met through the language school there, so it has been fun making time to see them on occasion. For example, a few weekends ago, a friend came and visited me in Chimaltenango! Because I am really only familiar with the general area around where I live, we took time to explore a different part of the city. We encountered a centro comercial (mall) as well as a yummy coffee shop. At one point while we were meandering around the mall, I heard a few people speaking English and I was visibly shocked. For context, there are very few native English speakers in this area. My friend and I shared a good laugh over my reaction!

The past few weeks have been very fun with my host family as well. They took me to a different centro comercial to eat dinner at one night, and we also strolled along all of the outdoor shops. I’ve also taken up bracelet making thanks to my host dad, Mario! When he was around my age, he was in a severe motorcycle accident which confined him to his bed for almost a year. During that time, he learned how to play a few instruments as well as how to make many different patterns of bracelets. He has been sharing his knowledge with me over the past few weeks, and I’m catching on slowly but surely!

Finally, last week we hosted some lovely visitors, a woman and her family, from Italy. The woman stayed with my host family and volunteered at Monte Cristo for two months, similar to myself, about 20 years ago. She had always wanted to bring her family back to Guatemala to share her experiences with them, and they were finally able to make the trip this year. She has a 16-year-old daughter, Anna, who I really enjoyed chatting with, and she even taught me some Italian! Don’t ask me to repeat it, though, my brain is already preoccupied with learning Spanish! During their visit, we all (as in, the whole extended family) piled into a big van and went out to get ice-cream, a favorite activity in this household. Then, we all gathered back at the house to eat dinner, laugh, and share stories together. It was a wonderful evening that I will never forget!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

 

One of the many beautiful flowers on Monte Cristo’s campus!

 

Adjusting to Life in Chimaltenango

Hola friends and family!

As I write this, I am sitting outside on the patio at my host family’s house, the sun is shining, and there is a nice breeze moving through the trees. The rainy season is now over here in Guatemala (or at least in Chimaltenango)… and I am perfectly fine with that! I can say with absolute certainty that I am happy not to have to put on a raincoat and tramp through mud every day. I have been taking advantage of the warm, sunny weather by going on walks throughout the city almost every afternoon. Not only is it a nice way to get in some movement after a long day of classes, but it also helps me to familiarize myself with my surroundings!

As you might imagine with working in a school, the past two weeks have been BUSY. In our English classes, the students are finally starting to recall all that they learned the previous year, which is great, because it means we can start building on that material to expand their knowledge. The English teacher and I have incorporated games and other activities in order to help the students memorize vocabulary and grammar, as well as have spent significant time helping the students improve their pronunciation. In the cooking classes, we made blackberry jam from a blackberry tree (yes tree, not bush) that the agriculture students tend (picture #1), pulique (similar to a stew) (pictures #2-3), and polvorosas (a pastry typically eaten with coffee) (picture #4). The cooking classes might be moving up to the top of the list of my favorite classes to help out with because I get to learn how to make so many delicious, traditional Guatemalan foods! I even get to taste test them all which is a nice plus! And finally, in the music classes, the students have been learning the Guatemalan National Anthem on recorder while I accompany them on guitar. We were able to showcase what we had learned to the whole school last Monday during student presentations!

In other school related news, I have genuinely enjoyed getting to know the teachers that I collaborate with. The English teacher, Ms. Aurora, has become my best friend here – she is very joyful, easy to get along with, and has made me feel so welcomed at Monte Cristo. The chef, Mr. Elliott, is kind, witty, and always explains unfamiliar ingredients and cooking techniques to me which I am so grateful for. The music teacher, Mr. Rudy, is gentle and a brilliant artist, and we have lots of fun playing guitar together (picture #5)!

As I mentioned before, Chimaltenango is only about a 45-minute drive from Antigua, which means that my host family goes there fairly often. For example, my host brother, Sebastian, had a soccer game in Antigua on Friday, so we all went to cheer him on and grab some dinner afterwards. When we first arrived at the soccer stadium, there was another game in progress, and I quickly recognized my other host brother, Samuel (from my first host family during my time in Antigua), as one of the players! I was so excited and soon found the rest of my Antiguan host family sitting in the stands. We were able to chat and catch up for about 10 minutes until the game ended. It was such an unexpected, lovely surprise to get to see them again and it definitely made my night!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

Monte Cristo students during morning reflection

The Start of Something New

Hola friends and family!

I am happy to say I have safely arrived in Chimaltenango, my next Guatemalan destination! It has been about a week and a half, and the transition has been smooth overall. Upon arriving in Guatemala, my Antiguan host dad, Felix, graciously picked me up at the airport, even after waiting over an hour due to my flight being delayed. I stayed in Antigua for a night, catching up with family there, exchanging a few gifts, and playing lots of Uno Flip – if you haven’t heard of it, you should check it out! Can you tell I have become an Uno fanatic while I’ve been in Guatemala?

The next day, two members of my new host family, Mario and Veronica, picked me up in Antigua and drove me to their home outside the city of Chimaltenango, about a 45-minute drive. Veronica speaks English very well, and so it was nice to have the opportunity to introduce myself in my native language (a luxury I rarely have here). That being said, we have barely spoken in English since then, which is good for me because it forces me to continue improving my Spanish! When we arrived at their house, I was honestly quite shocked at how big and beautiful it was. After living in a remote village for 3 months, it almost didn’t seem like Guatemala. That being said, I’m grateful that I can experience two completely different ways of life while I am here. What a profound way to get to know Guatemala and its people better! As soon as I stepped out of the car, I was promptly greeted by Papa Mayo and Miki (Mario’s parents), as well as José and Sebastian, Mario and Veronica’s children. We all live in Papa Mayo and Miki’s house together, and so far, it’s been a wonderful experience!

Except that… unfortunately, soon after arriving, I started to not feel well. I’d already managed to go three months in Guatemala without getting any sort of sickness, but I suppose the lack of sleep due to traveling took a toll. Not only was being sick annoying simply because I didn’t feel good, but it also inhibited my ability to spend time with and get to know my new host family. The good news is, I felt significantly better by the weekend and was able to explore the city a bit (pictures #1-2) as well as participate in all of the family events! We went out to eat Friday night at a Mexican taco shop, Saturday I met all of the extended family, and Sunday there was more relaxing and hanging out with the whole family.  Everyone has been so kind to me and I can’t wait to get to know everyone better!

This week, I also started classes at Monte Cristo (picture #3)! For those of you who need a reminder, Monte Cristo is a middle/high school located in the town, Monte Cristo, which is about 20 minutes outside of Chimaltenango. Every morning, Miki (MC’s principal), Veronica (MC’s coordinator), and I head to the school at 6:10. I like to consider myself an early riser, but 5:15 comes VERY quickly! Thankfully, I’m adjusting to the hours and am not yawning every 10 minutes like I used to.

Here at Monte Cristo, I am collaborating with the English teacher, the chef, and the music teacher. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I have each grade for English class. English classes are my favorite because it gives me an opportunity to demonstrate to the students that even though I don’t speak Spanish perfectly, I still do my best and they are still able to understand me. Likewise, if they mess up in English, it’s not a big deal and I can still understand them. This allows us to have a more comfortable atmosphere where we recognize that we are all learning and making mistakes only helps us improve! The cooking classes, which I have on Tuesdays, are also fun because, even though I am assisting the chef, I get to learn traditional Guatemalan recipes alongside the students. This week, we learned how to make Jocón (picture #4)! And lastly, I help with the music classes every Friday. Although I have extensive experience singing, playing piano, and playing guitar…apparently that means nothing when it comes to playing the recorder, which is, of course, what we’re learning in class. That being said, I’m not sure if I’m much help in these classes or just more of a distraction, but it is still a fun time!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

Central Park in Chimaltenango

View of a street in Chimaltenango

 

Bittersweet Goodbyes

Hola friends and family!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year spent with your loved ones! In order to maintain my visa, I need to leave Guatemala every 90 days, so I was also able to spend time with my family this holiday season! It was such a gift to be able to reconnect with my family and friends before returning to Guatemala for another 3 1/2 months.

Although I was looking forward to coming home, it was incredibly hard to leave the people I’d grown so close to in Santa Cruz. My last few weeks, I tried to soak up every minute I could with my host family, as well as the kids and staff at Casa Gloria. I played uno and baked cookies with my host siblings (picture #1), laughed and reminisced with my coworkers, and loved on the kids – my new little siblings – at CG. I also did a lot of reflecting on my time there, thinking about what I had learned and experienced, and also making a list of key events and memories that I didn’t ever want to forget. A few of these memories include my youngest host sister, Michelle, always attempting to sneak into my room to see me, Meyli’s (CG’s secretary) endless patience with my subpar Spanish skills, watching soccer with my host brother, Emerson, and receiving the best hugs from my host sister, Sulmi. Each day that passed, I felt the love and gratitude that I had for these people grow more than I thought possible. That being said, there was also a sadness and heaviness that I felt on my heart as well. I knew saying goodbye to my new friends and family would be one of the hardest things I’d ever experienced.

In my last few days at Casa Gloria, I carried out my typical tasks, including teaching English classes and taking a few dogs to the vet. The staff at Casa Gloria also surprised me by taking me out to dinner. I had not expected this at all, but they gave me a cute invitation (picture #2) and we ate at a delicious crepe restaurant nearby! I was so honored and grateful for their kind gesture. Additionally, before my last English class, all of the staff, nannies, and kids presented me with a gift (picture #3). The beautiful drawing contains each of their fingerprints with their names, “so that I’ll never forget them,” they told me. I was overcome with emotion at their thoughtfulness, thanked them for everything they had done for me, and promised to frame their gift as soon as I made it home. We ended with lots of hugs and a big group photo (pictures #4-5)!

My last night with my host family called for about twenty games of Uno, twirling around like princesses (picture #6), and lots of love (picture #7). I refused to be sad because I simply wanted to enjoy my last moments with my family. They mean more to me than they’ll ever know!

The morning that I left, I only wanted to thank my host family over and over for everything they had done for me. But it was hard, in a way, because how do I adequately express my gratitude to the people who welcomed me into their home with open arms, fed me, looked out for me, and treated me as one of their own? It’s hard enough to represent such reverence and thankfulness in English, let alone in Spanish! I only hope that my words and actions were enough to show them how much I love them. I hugged each of them for an eternity, said goodbye, and then walked out the door. The weight of my sadness was great. Yet, I was, and still am, eternally grateful for my experiences there and everything I learned. My new family and friends will remain in my heart forever.

After leaving Santa Cruz, I headed to Antigua for a few days to spend some time with my host family there before I flew back to the U.S. It was wonderful to see them again, and my host dad and sister were even kind enough to take me to the airport (picture #8)! When I finally landed back in Tennessee around midnight, I was greeted by my mom, sister, and best friend in the airport (picture #9). It was a great welcome back to the States and a moment I won’t forget!

By the next time a submit a post, I will be with my new host family in Chimaltenango and working at Monte Cristo! I am excited for this next adventure and can’t wait to share my experiences with you all.

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

Merry Christmas from Casa Gloria

Hola friends and family!

Christmas is in full swing in our little aldea. Presents are all wrapped and more fireworks are set off every day. In Guatemala, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th and gifts are opened at midnight, so as I’m writing this, the kids are all excitedly anticipating opening their presents together! Most people do not listen to Christmas music here, so I have missed that aspect of the holidays in the States. That being said, last Sunday we all took pictures together in the mall by the big Christmas tree (pictures #1) and that definitely helped me feel a little more in the Christmas spirit!

In other Christmas news, Casa Gloria has been working on making a Christmas video for the Corbitt family. The Corbitt’s have been supporters of Casa Gloria from the beginning, have visited and volunteered here on numerous occasions, and are also the reason why I decided to intern at Casa Gloria in the first place! The video offers an inside look at the kids’ daily lives at Casa Gloria, interviews with two sisters, and information on Casa Gloria’s latest project, Colonia Casa Gloria (more on that later!). I had the opportunity to narrate the video we made for them, which was a nice, full-circle moment for me! The end of the video features all of the kids and nannies holding a “Merry Christmas” sign, so I had to hop in there and get a picture with everyone, too (picture #2)!

Casa Colonia Gloria (CCG) is a set of apartments being built for the kids that have graduated out of Casa Gloria (picture #3-4). When a child turns 18, they are legally no longer allowed to live at Casa Gloria. CCG will give these kids a place to live and continue their education, while also teaching them how to work and manage their money responsibly. Currently, there are two sisters who have already turned 18 and two more girls who will turn 18 next year that are waiting for CCG’s completion. We are all very excited about giving these girls a place to live and an opportunity to continue to flourish within the Casa Gloria community!

This past week, there were quite a few dogs who needed vet visits. We learned that Soldier is in liver failure, Cariñoso has a tumor, and Arisa had fluid in her lungs. Fortunately, there is treatment for Cariñoso’s tumor and he will be just fine. There is not much that we can do for Soldier, however, other than keep him as comfortable as possible. Similarly with Arisa, we tried to help her feel as loved and cared for as we could in her last days, but she ended up passing away last Monday. Although this was a challenging week, it was a good reminder that all things come to an end that we should cherish every moment we have together. Especially as we enter the holiday season!

Lastly, an update on Ria! Three weeks of love and nourishment later and Ria is a completely new puppy! She pretty much walks around the children’s home all day with her tail wagging, but she especially loves to be curled up on a pillow in Jenna’s office. She also enjoys spending time in the sun (when we actually have some, that is) and being held. It has been such a beautiful experience to watch her heal and turn into a happy, curious, and charming puppy (pictures #5-7)!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers! I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

You Win Some and You Lose Some

Hola friends and family!

Although I haven’t taken any trips in the past two weeks, I think I’ve had more new experiences than any other two-week period thus far! I am continually amazed at how many opportunities continue to arise for me to learn and grow from. I’m also extremely grateful for all of the friends and family I now have here in Santa Cruz. What a beautiful blessing it is to have relationships and connections with people all over the world!

To start things off, last week I rescued a tiny, extremely malnourished puppy, whom I named Ria (pictures #1-2). I was walking home from work and, in the distance, I could see several kids kicking stones at a small object. As I got closer, I realized it was an innocent little puppy, curled up in a ball. I was horrified and ran over to the kids, telling them to stop. I asked them if the puppy was theirs, to which they replied, no. So, I promptly scooped up the puppy and took it back to Casa Gloria. There, Jenna and I bathed her (she had oil all over her), gave her medicine, and put a healing cream on her wounds. At first, Ria had trouble keeping her food down and didn’t want to move at all, so we were concerned that she might not make it. But it’s been a little over a week since I rescued her, and I’m happy to report that she is much healthier (picture #3), eating lots, moving around… and barking nonstop. I guess you win some and you lose some!

More recently, I, along with Casa Gloria’s Social Worker and a translator (to help translate between Poqomchi’ and Spanish), took three kids to visit their family in a remote village about an hour and a half away. To put it simply, the trip was quite eventful. During the drive there, it rained without ceasing and the roads were extremely curvy and unforgiving. Of course, I was the one driving, so that was a little stressful. By the time we made it to the village, we were all happy to be out of the car and the kids were excited to see their family. Something I wasn’t expecting, however, was for the entire family and their neighbors to ask to take a picture with me. I didn’t want to say no, so I ended up being in more than a couple pictures. This made me a little uncomfortable, though, mostly because no one was interested in taking pictures with the kids. Nevertheless, it was a good experience and, after the family served us lunch, we headed back to Casa Gloria with sunshiny skies (picture #4)!

Other notable experiences in the past two weeks include arm wrestling a 13-year-old (in case you’re wondering, we tied) (picture #5), celebrating Thanksgiving a second time with friends, and finally getting those Christmas cards finished (pictures #6-7)! Casa Gloria also received a 6-year-old girl on Monday who had actually been here previously a few years ago. There was a mixture of emotions when she arrived, but the reunion between her and Jenna was one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming moments I’ve ever experienced (picture #8).

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

 

One of the siblings found an adorable puppy while we were in the village!

Adventures and Celebrations

Hola friends and family!

I hope you all had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be grateful for, and I hope you were able to reflect on this while feasting on delicious foods and spending time with your loved ones. Thanksgiving was very different for me this year, but I’m thankful that I was still able to eat some turkey and mashed potatoes! As always, the past two weeks have been packed full of activities and adventures, especially with preparing for Thanksgiving at Casa Gloria.

Fall is one of my favorite times of year, and being in the tropics, I have missed watching the leaves change, wearing sweaters, and eating my mom’s delicious soups. So being away from home during Thanksgiving this year was also difficult. I really missed being able to cook my favorite foods and spend time with my family playing games and watching football. That being said, celebrating Thanksgiving with Casa Gloria was still a wholesome and exciting experience! We needed to prepare food for almost 50 people, so all of the staff took a recipe and started cooking the day before. In the end, we had quite the feast (picture #1)! Because Thanksgiving is not a holiday traditional to Guatemala, Jenna had me explain to the kids how we celebrate Thanksgiving in the States and why it’s important to remember to be grateful for what we have. After, all of the children and staff took a moment to say something that we were thankful for. This was a precious moment, especially listening to what the little kids came up with! I am extremely appreciative to Jenna and her family, the Casa Gloria family, and my host family for welcoming me with open arms into their lives and families. My experience with Casa Gloria has been so positive thanks to all of these wonderful people!

Besides Thanksgiving, my internship continues to provide new experiences and opportunities to learn. For example, I took a girl to the eye doctor and, let’s just say, I learned a lot of new vocabulary! In the past two weeks I’ve also helped out by driving people around to complete errands including castrating dogs, buying groceries for the children’s home, and picking up flooring. The other day, I even weighed out medicine for a few of the dogs! Like I’ve said before, there truly is never a dull moment! On a more somber note, Casa Gloria recently received two sisters who witnessed their father kill their mother. When I first heard the details of their situation, I was heartbroken. Unfortunately, these things happen regularly and is the reason why Casa Gloria exists. Thankfully, the girls are adjusting really well to living at the children’s home, but any thoughts and prayers for them, as well as the other children, are always welcomed and appreciated!

In the last two weeks, I also returned to Antigua for a few days and traveled to Panajachel, a town located on Lake Atitlan. While in Antigua, I spent time with my host family and friends, climbed Volcan Pacaya (picture #2), and witnessed the gorgeous arrangements of the Flower Festival (picture #3)! While visiting the towns around Lake Atitlan, I took in gorgeous views (pictures #4, #5, and #6), learned about the process of roasting coffee beans (picture #7), and attempted (not very successfully) to do traditional Mayan weaving (picture #8). I also did a tour of San Pedro on horseback (pictures #9 and #10)!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la próxima,

Jenna

P.S. I included a picture of my host sister, Michelle, and I because her smile brings me so much joy and she’s just adorable! Hopefully you’ll be able to receive some of that joy through the photo 🙂