Sunday, July 29, 2012


Coming soon, to this blogspot near you -- the long awaited, much anticipated chronicle of Fr. John's travels to the highland villages with Metropolitan Athenagoras, complete with dramatic photos. Stay tuned for the premier episode. Coming soon!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shop Till You Drop.

While staying at the orphanage in Guatemala City, I was able to access a variety of stores to supply the needs of my sewing classes. My shopping buddy was usually Señora Irene, one of the capable ladies who organize things at the orphanage. Whatever I needed, Señora Irene knew where to get it. My trusty cab driver, Jose, took me wherever I wanted to go, waited patiently while I shopped, and managed to stuff my many purchases into his small cab. Shopping in the small, rural town of Nueva Concepcion, is a different experience. Here, my driver is Charley, the jack-of-all-trades who takes care of everything at the Orthodox seminary where we are currently staying. A former police officer, he never leaves home without his trusty sidearm. As in the city, stores are usually guarded at the door by unsmiling men, carrying BIG guns. It is a wonder to me that anyone would attempt a theft, considering such a presence of righteous firepower. And yet, robberies do occur. There was a robbery at one of the gas stations that provides an income for the local church. The attendant was shot and critically wounded. He survived and was able to identify his attackers. The police caught up with the perpetrators and shot them dead on the spot. I guess they don't have a backlog of court cases here. There are many stores in Nueva Concepcion, each carrying a very limited supply of very specific merchandise. Each item on one's shopping list must be carefully sought out in a variety of locations until its serendipitous encounter. This can be exhausting! There is an area that they call the "Old Market," reminiscent of the ancient markets I encountered in Jerusalem's Old City, and the bazaars in Istanbul and Cairo. One day, in search of an ironing board for my sewing classroom, I combed the shops of Nueva Concepcion in vain until I finally came upon a man carrying ironing boards on his back and selling them along the streets. It is times like this that make me appreciate the convenience of Walmart. Because I had a long list of things to buy for my classroom, I was offered a ride to Paiz, a large supermarket, affiliated with Walmart. I eagerly accepted. This shopping trip launched us on a more than 3-hour drive over rocky, unpaved roads, past fields of sugar cane and corn, and along groves of banana and rubber trees. Horses, cows, and pigs grazed serenely along the roadside, while cloud-shrouded volcanic peaks ringed the horizon. This scenic drive would have been reward enough for the day. In addition to this joy, the Paiz store offered shopping carts, satisfied all items on my shopping list, and had a quick and easy check-out. What more could a shopper ask for?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Spicy Contrasts

As mentioned in my previous post, Fr. John, Angel, and I made the 3-hour trek from the noisy congestion of Guatemala City to the peaceful, rural environs of Nueva Concepcion. We would be staying at a beautiful compound with a group of 15 older boys from the orphanage and a few Orthodox monks and priests. It is here that Fr. John has been training the newly ordained priests in Liturgics.

It was this change in location that made me realize how a country that is small in territory (the size of Ohio) can encompass great contrasts. The first difference that struck me was the climate. In Guatemala City, situated one mile above sea level, temperatures range from comfortably pleasant to chilly. There were nights when I slept with 2 blankets on my bed. Here in Nueva Concepcion, the temperature also ranges between two points: very hot and insufferable. The additional high humidity and the lack of a breeze provide a constant source of the health benefits of a steam bath. In the city, we were surrounded by brick walls, concrete, and acrid odors. Here, in the country, there are walls of lush, green vegetation with brilliant flowers springing from every nook, perfuming the air. The incessant honking of city traffic and wailing sirens have been replaced by 6 honking geese that waddle about, patrolling their domain and the crowing of a proud rooster, commanding his harem of hens. Life is slower and simpler here. During church services at the orphanage, our souls were lifted to heavenly heights by the cherubic voices of the children, young ladies, and nuns. I was not prepared for the explosion of robust, manly voices that chant the hymns in the Nueva Concepcion chapel. The boys who live at this school are powerful prayer warriors, akin to the archangels.

If, as the old adage says, variety is the spice of life, our lives are being seasoned to perfection here in Guatemala.


I apologize, dear Readers, that my blog has been neglected for many days. Sporadic Internet connections, coupled with my limited technical skills, have interfered with my blogging. There are photos and information that will be posted as soon as I get some help.

Until recently, I had been working in Guatemala City, teaching sewing at the Hogar Rafael Ayau orphanage. My husband, Fr. John, had been sweating it out (and I mean that literally) in Nueva Concepcion, a 3-hour's drive from the city. In anticipation of the arrival of a 9-person team sent by the OCMC, Fr. John joined me at the Hogar for 2 weeks.

The OCMC team consisted of:
Lia Prodromitis, along with her son, Angel, and daughter, Madai, who are native Guatemalans
Anne Randall, with her son, Carlos, also a native Guatemalan
Georgia Flamporis
Olivia Stevens
Demetria Panopoulos
Katie Berg

What a joy it was to meet and interact with such a wonderful group of dedicated Christians! The team did vacation church school activities and crafts with the children, took them on excursions, and did landscape work on the campus of the orphanage. Angel was so moved by his experience at the Hogar, that he extended his stay to give more service to his countrymen. After the departure of the OCMC team, Fr. John, Angel, and I made the 3-hour trek to Nueva Concepcion to begin a new phase of our work.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Going Buggy

This entry in my blog will not be inspirational.  It is written, instead, as an advisory to any aspiring missionaries in my readership.  My advice is this: when venturing into a new environment, be prepared to give nurture and sustenance, not only to the people in the mission field, but also to the insect population. 

I, personally, have been giving prodigious aid to the blood-thirsty vermin of Guatemala.  My body has become a veritable pincushion for their hungry proboscises.  They stealthily scout my bedroom as I cower beneath my bedcovers, waiting for the opportunity to pierce my face, eyelids, and fingers.  They lurk insidiously in my shower stall, which affords them the purview to attack where no insect has gone before.  Grassy areas outdoors are also their battlefields, where even a copious application of insect repellent does not dissuade them.

I have concluded that God requires my magnanimity as a part of the Guatemalan food chain.  I am a primary food source for the mosquitoes, which, in turn, provide alimentation to the birds.  The birds do their part in fertilizing the earth with their droppings and enhancing the world with their beauty and music.  In fact, it is the gentle cooing of doves and the twittering and chirping of myriad other birds that create a daily symphony which lifts my spirits and brings joy to my heart.  Keeping the birds´ food supply viable is the least I can do to repay them.

In addition to the insects of a sanguinary nature, there are those creepy, crawly ones, too.  One night, I discovered an extremely large cockroach in my bedroom.  Not having any insecticide, I sprayed it with insect repellent and it scurried away.  The repellent did not kill the critter, but most likely, it created an existential crisis within him.  I can imagine the anguished arthropod visiting a cockroach psychiatrist and complaining, "I don´t know what it is, Doc, but lately, I just hate myself."