Sunday, February 8, 2015

Remembering Why I Love Antigua

Friday February 6, 2015

I'm well settled in at Linda's beautiful house that's just south of the downtown area of Antigua (El Parque Central) about 8 or 9 blocks. She lives in a gated community, which often means mostly gringos live there; that's not true in Linda's community.  There are about 10 houses, owned by a few North Americans (USA and Canada), a couple of European households, and the rest are Guatemaltecos, some who live here all the time, and some who come from Guatemala City for the weekends and holidays.  As you would have noticed from the photos, each of the houses is its own compound within and compound.  There is a large park-like central area with shade trees, grass and lots of vegetation and flowers with all the walled compounds located around that central area.  The houses appear to be connected to one another, their exterior walls are.  But, none of the walls of the house proper are in any way connected to the external walls, so there's a lot of privacy and it's almost impossible to hear noises emanating from other residences.

Linda and I had lunch today with a very good friend I met two years ago when we were both here.  Tamra is a retired attorney who lives in Southern California, but travels a lot, like me.  I spent a couple of fun days with her last summer, sightseeing in the Sacramento area.
Great friend, Tamra, with me at
Doña Luisa restaurant
Linda returned from a week-long vacation in El Salvador on Monday afternoon and had gotten her dates mixed up.  She'd told me before I arrived that she'd planned a dinner party for my birthday, which was Tuesday, but she had invited friends for Wednesday.  So last night I was treated to a scrumptious and entertaining birthday dinner with Linda and my wonderful Guatemalan friends:  Carlos and Nancy, and their two daughters, Heisel and Shirli.
L to R:  Heisel (21), MP (72), Shirli (18),
and Nancy (40).  
L to R:  Heisel, Nancy, Shirli, Carlos (41), and Linda (60s) holding
Honey (3).  I love the entire Hernandez family; and, of course I
love Linda, whom I 'found' in Guatemala, and also found out we are
third cousins!
Linda with the girls - Linda met Nancy at Antigua's Christian Spanish
Academy (CSA) five years ago.  I met Nancy as my private tutor
in 2012.  I studied with her for quite a while.  Now she's back at the school;
so, while I'm here I'll be tutored by Carlos three mornings a week for
two hours each time.
My plate with a conservative portioning of a mild cream curry sauce with
pork and vegetables, a delectable rice pilaf, and lots of wonderful Guatemalan fresh
vegetables.  I love the carrots (sanahorrias) that come in many colors; I missed
serving myself a reddish purple carrot!

For the birthday dessert, Linda made the most fantastic pecan bars and served them warm with delicious vanilla ice cream.  My dessert even had a candle on it!  I was so looking forward to it I forgot to take a photo!

Over the course of the 18 months I lived here in Antigua, I made so many wonderful friends.  Nancy and Carlos' family are among my favorite people in the world! My first two-hour class will be at 8:30 tomorrow morning.  I'm already feeling more comfortable in my speaking ability, which seems to be coming back almost moment by moment; I can't wait to get back on the Spanish language wagon.  Nancy was my private tutor for about 8 months; however, it will be Carlos giving me lessons during this stay.

Today, Linda and I took it easy in the morning; I started a big pot of black beans with additions of lots of vegetables and seasonings.  Black beans are a staple of the Guatemalan diet; these won't be exactly traditional, but they'll be hearty and healthful.  Tonight we'll dig into the leftovers from last night and I love leftovers!

This noon I accompanied Linda to Hermano Pedro Hospital in town, where she volunteers 4-5 days a week.  Herman Pedro was a Spanish brother who came to Antigua with the conquistadores when they established Antigua as the first capital of Guatemala in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.  Hermano Pedro had instructions from the Spanish crown to build churches and a care facility for the indigenous Maya people.  He fell in love with these wonderful people and their plight in lieu of the treatment and terror rained upon this gentle culture by the conquistadores.  Hermano Pedro dedicated his life to the welfare of this gentle culture; he's now been canonized by the Catholic Church - the only canonized saint from Guatemala - a true hero.

Hermano Pedro Hospital has been in continuous operation since the 1600s.  Many of the buildings date from that time; this is true of many, many of the buildings in Antigua and surrounding pueblos.  Each day around noon, Linda goes into the little angel department [what we would call the "Pediatrics"] to assist the nurses with their duties and to give as much love as she can.  Many of the babies and children are hospitalized for months, and even permanently, after having been brought in as a result of severe malnutrition and other sometimes horrific maladies.  Malnutrition definitely isn't the extent of their health problems, so most have varying degrees of mental retardation and other chronic or disastrous physical anomalies.  Herman Pedro Hospital is completely free to anybody in need of care who shows up at their doors.
One of the hallways outside of various departments at Hermano Pedro.
Nobody in need is turned away
A Canadian contingent of Rotary International was at the hospital to give
25 patients a new wheelchair; the patients were thrilled.  Many of these
actually live at the hospital, going home, when possible, for holidays
Entrance to the "Little Angel" Department with
Heidi (pronounced A-E-DE) one of the nurses.
She's a very good friend of Linda's whose wedding
Linda photographed - all very traditional Maya
Linda with three of her babies; she's holding a new little girl.  In front of
her are from left, Hamilton and Robinson - not sure why they both have
traditional names.  Both boys are over two years old!  They're
definitely on the mend.

This is Kevin, a severely developmentally handicapped
boy who also suffered from severe mal-
nutrition.  He's almost three.
This is Dulcie, a severely malnourished little girl who's been
recently admitted.  Unable to eat, she's given tubal feedings.  She's
about six years old.
This is the nurses' station for the department, no computers here!

I post these pictures, some of which are distressing to view, because these are the lucky children.  Others are out in the pueblos being loved and cared for by their families, to the best of their abilities.  They either can't or do not know about the help they can receive at Hermano Pedro.  Also, it's very difficult for these poor people to leave their babies and children, which they must do in order to return to their other family members and work to provide food and shelter that's so necessary for their survival.


  1. Thanks for the post and photos MP. These things always make us realize how very fortunate we are in the US and Canada. Thank the Universe for the wonderful staff there and also for the volunteers like Linda. Amazing......

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