January 5, 2014
After spending a little time with Lencho and Rosa’s family….they gave us some hard panes (kind of like sugar cookies and coffee for a snack. I was getting rather hungry by then so had to consider this breakfast. Lencho offered the use of their car to drive to church up the road about 10 or 12 miles so we took him up on that.
We, of course, had not been there since they had put in the new 4 lane highway and had built some bridges over some of the barrancos and eliminated some of the excess curves. It is amazing how much a place can change in a very short time. We used to marvel at the changes we saw when we would return from a 2 or 3 month furlough so you can imagine what changes has come in the 7 years since we’d been there. We would see something that we remembered and it was almost like a long-time friend among strangers.
We arrived at Chirijox before anyone else had arrived for the services. We parked and got out of the car—had to park it on the street as they have the church yard fenced in now. We used to always park up next to the church. Jacinto, Ana Tzoc’s, husband, who is now a member came to greet us. Soon, his father-in-law, Miquel Tzoc came out. They all live in a single compound right next to the church house. Miguel shook my hand and asked me who I was. “Soy Kim.” (I am Kim.) His eyes lit up and he indicated to Vernon. “Then that must be Hermano Vernon!”
Yeah, it must be, I thought with amusement. Miguel couldn’t tell who it was but he knew my name and of course knew that strange man must be Vernon. I think his eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be but then it has been 11 years since we left there and Vernon now sports hair on his Chinny chin chin. Too bad Miguel’s hand glasses don’t help him any. (I said that for my children’s benefit…..Miguel used to entertain them during church by putting his hands up to his face and pretend they were glasses….I guess he was bored and figured they were too. ) Oh well, he’s a nice old man and we like him. His wife passed away sometime after we moved to WI. His children are all grown and only Maria, one of the twins is living at home now. I am guessing she is around 30….not sure if she is older or younger than Susana but around her age. Maria is a Christian but has never been baptized. I am not sure what’s holding her back.
Then Diego Tzquin and his family came walking up the street. They walk a number of kilometers to come to church. They live in an aldea called Pachipac up the mountain above Nahuala.
Diego is the deacon and was Vernon’s helper in the church work the 13 years we lived there. His family has been an inspiration to us from the time we met in 1989 and we are still very good friends. Diego’s had 8 children but only 3 daughters lived. None of the girls are married although they have had offers. Catarina said it something like this: “We won’t give up Jesus just to get a husband.” I am not sure why they didn’t find husbands in the church but I suppose it is partially they are more isolated than some of the other church in MAM (Mennonite Air Missions) and another they are Mayan Indians and a lot of the other churches are more Latin people. The cross culture may have a part in it….I am sure it does, but it is the men’s loss because in our humble opinion, these girls are the cream of the crop.
Catarina, Cata, as we call her is now in her 40′s but she was my right arm the last several years we lived in Guatemala. We could TOTALLY trust her to care for our family when I couldn’t. In fact, I did at times. We knew that our children were always in good hands and that she would care for them as well as she would her own children. I think our leaving was hardest on her as she had been living with us the last few months over the time Jonny was born. I was on bedrest so she became our girls’ second mother. Susana was over in Belize the summer of ’02 cooking at Cayo Deaf Institute so Cata came to help. She and 3 year-old Lavina were particularly close. Cata and her sister Magda knit sweaters for us too.
Anyway, we were glad to see them all…except Magdalena who had to stay home to watch the house in case of burglars. They take turns so we missed seeing her.
It had been Jose Benito’s turn to come to Nahuala that Sunday but he knew we were planning to go so he had called Diego to tell him that Vernon was going to preach and he wouldn’t be coming. (Spoil sport. ) So, the element of surprise was gone but they told us they would bring our lunch for the day. Usually we packed a lunch because the afternoon service starts about 1:00.
It was interesting to sit through another service of Quiche…..of course, we didn’t get much out of it either but we are experts of pretending we know what is being said. I guess I am not as expert as some of our family. Its ok, though, if Vernon can encourage them in Quiche, I am glad he can do that. We enjoyed singing in the tiny little church building and recalling the many memories of years gone by.
After the service we had lunch with Diego’s family in the church’s new kitchen/Sunday school room. When we lived there, we didn’t have any building there. The children’s SS class was in the little school room in the back room of the church which sometimes caused a disturbance depending on what songs they sang and how loud they happened to be reciting their verses. Seven years ago when we last visited there, they had a wooden structure that had been hastly put up for some special meetings they were having. This new building was built to replace the shack and is a very nice improvement to the church. We always picnicked inside the church or in our van on cold and rainy days or out in the front lawn on nice days. If we needed anything heated we had to go to Miguel’s kitchen next door to use their plancha.
Ana brought us some lunch too.
Just for the record….When Marvin outgrew his shirts when he was 13, he gave them to Diego….they fit him perfectly.
The kitchen was not the only improvement made on this property. If we wanted to use the restroom, when we moved to El Novillero twenty-four years ago, we had to use one that was very primitive. Sometime along the way the government had a project going to build “sanitary” facilities to everyone that needed one. Now, this project, helped to upgrade the one at church. Wow. We thought this one was nice. When I saw the new ones this time, I could hardly believe it. They even have separate ones for the men and the women. I told the girls that I took pictures of the new ones to show the family. Cata told me I should take a picture of the old one that we had thought was so wonderful for a comparison. I did just that. But I was amused that the new door still had a couple of holes. (Knotholes)
Least anyone thinks I am poking fun, please know that I am really impressed with these changes and I am not making fun in the least. We would have loved having it this nice when we lived there. Of course, we did in our house but a lot of people had corn stalk walls to their outhouses with a piece of plastic that served as a door. Hey, at least they had an outhouse. Some didn’t until the government program came and built them.
After the afternoon service we headed back to Novillero. Craig Martin, (a 2nd cousin) had gone out to San Marcos for the service there and offered to pick us up at 3 in Novillero. I was so glad we didn’t have to get on another bus. In case you may have wondered, some people love riding those buses but it never was my favorite activity.
We had lived close to some Catholic nuns while we lived there and became very close friends in our later years. Immaculata Burke was born in Ireland and Marie Tolley is a native of New York. Immaculata immigrated from Ireland to New York when she was young and these two women have been in Novillero since the late 60′s or early 70′s. When Mary Beth (Bentz) Hogan was our children’s school teacher in ’97-’99 she started having our youngsters go sing for these two wonderful women. Our family continued that until we left in 2002. The nuns were not happy that our family left and often had told us that we were their quietest neighbors. They, of course, were referring to the loudspeakers that most of the churches around have mounted on their rooftops to broadcast their services. Only those that have lived in or visited Guatemala can visualize the noise we were subjected to. One Sunday afternoon I had to stay home with a sick child and I went out onto our porch and counted 9 different services being broadcast within a 1/2 mile radius of our house! Big time racket to put it mildly. I remind the nuns, whenever they say something about us being quiet, that we don’t need any loudspeaker…..our family is loud enough.
Anyway, the 2 times I have been back to Guatemala since we moved away….6 and 7 years respectively, I had wanted to visit with the nuns. The first time, we got to see Marie but Immaculata was sleeping and they didn’t want to awaken her. The last time another nun answered the door and said my friends weren’t home. Talk about disappointment. This time I prayed that God would allow them to be home. They are both elderly and Immaculata hasn’t been in the best of health. At 90+ years, and we only getting a chance to visit every 6 or 7 years doesn’t leave us a lot of possibility that she’ll live to the next time we visit. We pulled into their driveway and were hopeful because there was a couple of vehicles parked there.
A knock on the door brought Immaculata herself to answer it. Her delight was evident when she called “Marie, we have very special visitors to see us!” Marie didn’t guess who it was and began dancing in her excitement when she saw us. They confessed that they thought they’d never see us again. We had a delightful little visit which we terminated by singing “Jesus Christ the Son of God” and “All Things Work Together For Good” for them before we left. I almost cried thinking how good God was to answer my heartfelt prayer to get to see them again. I said that it made my day. They assured us that we made their day. Marie couldn’t get done hugging the girls and exclaiming how happy she was to see us….”And one more hug for the road, girls, just one more hug.” (We just received a Christmas card from them in which they wrote: “We wish your family could Christmas carol for us this year.” How we would have loved to do so.
They run a medical and dental clinic there, right across the street from our old church house in Novillero, and they wouldn’t let us pay to do our dentistry. Every dentist and doctor that graduates from college in Guatemala has to give a year in service (internship) somewhere in Guatemala. Since Immaculata was a friend to the dean of dentistry she got first dibs on any of the students….so she would pick someone who got the highest grades to serve in her clinic. So we had free dental work there. Also, it was Immaculata who got the job of bandaging Vernon’s finger that got smashed off when the hammermill fell on it in 1997.
Oh yes, every time we’d go to visit them, they’d give the children candy that was sent from the New York church for the heathen children. They would joke: “Yours are heathens aren’t they?” More than I cared to admit. When our oldest son took his family to see them a year or so ago, the question was; “May we give the Heathen’s children some candy too?” I suppose there might be a reason our children were partial to Immaculata and Marie.
I had a bit of a hard time seeing how frail and fragile Immaculata was. She is such a sweetheart.
Reluctantly we left them and drove back to Lencho’s. We had just parked the car in the carport when Rosa came running over and asked Kendra Lily to come quickly. They have a big swimming pool in their yard and there was a group of students from the Escuela Normal (Normal School for teachers) just down the road and one of the girls fell about 7 feet onto the concrete. Actually, I think there is a pulley or something rigged up from up there that they could ride down across the water and drop in. I wish I would’ve thought to take pictures. Anyway, 3 girls were up there and the one who fell said she had been pushed. The other two denied that but it really scared everyone. They had laid the girl out and Kendra Lily checked her. Rosa called Lencho who was at their restaurant and told him about the accident. Lencho came home and he and Rosa took the girl to Solola to the hospital for Xrays. We found out later that she was ok. I do hope that Lencho moves the tower closer to the pool’s edge so that in case it happens again they will just fall into the pool.
We didn’t stay long as 3 o’clock was coming up fast and we needed to see some other people. Juanita Ovalle in particular. As we got out to the main street, Kendra Lily said that we should see if Domingo Chavez was home as he always asks about Vernon whenever he sees them. She knocked on his door and he let us in, very happy to see Vernon. He took us through his house to his son’s house at the back of their courtyard. His daughter-in-law Celestina and I had been very close friends when we lived there. We sat down in her living room when her husband Max came in. He had heard us talking and had come to investigate. Unfortunately, we had to go as it was nearly 3 o’clock. We had to try to see Juanita yet. She’d never forgive us….oh, she would but some of her family wouldn’t.
We went out the back door at Max and Celes’ and up the alley past our old house. It was kind of hard to see it sitting there abandoned as is also the church house in Novillero. The mission has given up the work in Novillero, which, we think is what needed to be done, but it doesn’t make it easier to think about. Many years and little fruit but we did have roots there and that is where most of our children grew up. Susana was 7 when we moved there and 20 when we left….13 years is a long time…..the longest time we ever lived in one place. We didn’t have time to even explore for a tiny bit because just as we reached the bridge in front of our house, Craig came driving up.
We asked him if he’d wait a bit for us to go see if Juanita was home. He consented and Vernon and I went to Jorge Ovalle’s compound. No one there except for Kevin, Juanita’s nephew. We left a little gift there for Juanita and the family. (She told me later he hadn’t given it to her….I guess Hershey chocolate bars were too tempting to keep. ) We left a message for her and she called me the next day at the mission. Juanita had worked for us the 13 years we lived there. At first she was our maid, then when Amalia came I taught her to knit sweaters…..She was by far my best knitter and could spot a mistake in a pattern and fix it without having to tell me. Many times I would give her a pattern to try for a sample and fixed an error I had made. No one else ever was that good at making sweaters. In the sweater business she was my right arm. She was totally trustworthy too. She is a calm natured person which we really appreciated.
We left and headed back into the mission. Oh, in case you wondered….Craig made the trip from Los Encuentros to Tecpan in the same amount of time the bus had done it so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. At least in the Mitsubishi van I didn’t feel like we were going to fly off one of the cliffs into the barranco!
We saw a rainbow as we were coming into Chimaltenango so KL had fun taking more pictures.
She also had taken a bunch of photos of the different colors of soil where you can see the levels of dirt between Nahuala and Novillero where the road construction cut into the mountains.
We made it back to the mission too late and too tired to attend church in the City that night. Sorry we missed seeing a bunch of our other friends by doing that.
Well, I think one more blog will finish up this story. Until next time……
Here is the Pan Am Highway. We lived north of Santa Lucia, Utatlan, at the edge of the highway. You can see where the highway comes southeast with very few curves and then a sharp curve going northeast for a very little bit before going east. We lived in the pocket of land at the curve. I think 25 or so vehicle ran off the highway during that 13 years as it was a very dangerous curve and drop off, almost into Jorge Ovalle’s patio. It got so I could recognize the sound of a vehicle running off the road and tumbling down the side of the hill.
Chirijox is somewhere between Nahuala and Ixtahuacan…..about where the curves start to straighten out. But you can see how the road is like a snake having contortions. Not built for carsick prone people. This terrain is about 9,000 ft above sea level.