Try to focus on the starfish rather than litter.
It’s certainly been a thrilling couple of months since I last reported out on mi vida centroamericana
. For one thing, I finally made it to Panama! What an amazing country…tiny red dart frogs, lazy sloths, giant starfish, the Panama Canal, delectable ceviche…the list goes on. On this trip I got to stuff myself with lobster and other treats, see gorgeous sights, visit with a wonderful family, and, drum roll please, SCUBA!
As it turns out, I don’t really scuba well; I can’t equalize the pressure in my head. Also, I’m terrified of being eaten by a shark. As I floated along several feet above the rest of the group, trying to ignore the lightning daggers of pain in my brain, I was distracted by a large floating mass to my left. Keeping my breathing calm, I slowly turned my head to get a better view. SHARK! HUGE SHARK! No wait, it’s a manatee. Do they have manatees here? No, it’s not a manatee.
Learning all the signals and how to share oxygen.
I look to the guide. He is making the gesture for “come down to me” and “look at the scary thing on your left.” But I can’t go any deeper! My head hurts so much. I am going to be eaten by a shark while my boyfriend floats blithely below me, looking at the pretty parrot fish! So I do the only thing that makes sense. I close my eyes, turn slowly 180 degrees, and begin calmly dog paddling back to the boat, humming a cheerful tune, knowing it will be the last sound I hear before the crunching of my bones.
Turns out it was a barracuda. I’m just as glad I didn’t know because I’ve read me some Carl Hiaasen and I know what a barracuda can do. The fact that it was the size of a life raft means its teeth were that much larger than the one that ate the man’s hand along with his shiny watch in that story.
Eyli and Helen estan caminando!!
Just as we were returning from Panama, another Long Way Home staffer was coming back after an inspiring journey to the States. You may remember last year when I wrote about one of our students, Helen, who has brittle bone syndrome. On July 14th, she and her sister Eyli, accompanied by our very own Liz Howland, returned to Guatemala and a different life here. While neither girl can yet walk unaided, they both received extensive treatment at Shriners in Philadelphia and are able to get around with walkers in addition to their wheelchairs. They still have a difficult journey ahead but the hope is that with further physical therapy, and possibly another surgery for Eyli, they will be able to walk with braces or completely unaided. Watching them walk for the first time in front of their cheering classmates was a moment I’ll never forget.
The Lovely Couple
In other news, a bunch of the Long Way Home crew went to Boston over Labor Day weekend. In addition to having a great joint staff and board meeting at the home of our board president, Elizabeth, we also had the pleasure of watching two of our teammates get hitched. Aaron, former staff now board member, and Ericka, former architect still huge LWH fan, got married in a lovely lakeside setting on August 31st. As they met through Long Way Home, we all felt extra proud to see them declare their love and reaffirm their commitment to the project. Okay, the commitment to the project wasn’t really a part of the ceremony, but LWH love was all around
In addition to Long Way Home business and pleasure, I got to spend time with my siblings, niece, in-laws and parents while I was in New England. Every time I see my family I am reminded again how truly big I hit the jackpot in the birth lottery. We may snap at each other from time to time, but overall we’re a generous, hilarious, intelligent, good-lookin’ bunch. Thanks for helping me re-boot, Fam!
At our LWH meeting we decided to do a little staff shuffling and I’m pleased as punch to announce that I am now the Director of Development. This means no more supervising or worrying about day-to-day operational decisions. From now on I get to focus on the fun stuff, i.e marketing and fundraising!!! I can spend even more time playing with photos, writing blogs and newsletters, learning how to edit videos and honing my grant writing skeelz. Note to self: do not use cutesy spellings for grant applications.
Glass bottle cupola on second primary school classroom.
I’m back again in Guatemala and work continues much as it ever does. We now have a gorgeous cupola on the second primary school classroom. The exterior finish work is progressing on all three primary classrooms as are the stairs up the second stories of the buildings. I have some loose ends to tie up before I can be Ops-free but I have already been able to spend more time behind the camera taking stills and trying to improve my live action shots for our editors back in the US.
The rain continues to fall, the corn continues to rise, the children continue to shriek all morning and yet, change is ever in the air. I want to thank everyone for their continued support for this project that is so dear to my heart. I think of the people who have touched my life everytime a child smiles…
So they don’t always smile when I put the camera in their face :P
by Genevieve Croker
Director of Development, LWH