Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why I do it.

So here we are, a little over a year after we made the decision to leave our jobs, pack up our home and search for that thing that was missing in our lives, south of the border. While the past year has seemed to pass quickly at times, there has also been a lot of waiting and searching on our parts – making plans to go to Guatemala, packing up our things, searching for jobs while we were there, coming home without finding jobs, searching again, waiting to see if we got jobs and then packing up again. Now we can look back on it and know it has been worth it, but really the waiting was the hardest part.

Lucky for us there is no more waiting (at least for those things) and now the living it has begun.
Many times over this past year (and years previous – we’ve been talking about it forever!) we have been asked 1 question over and over. Why? Why do you want to do this?

While we both have our different reasons, we do have one thing that we completely agree on. We want to see the world. And even more than that, we want to help the world. We believe that by using our talents to help people, we can help make a difference in their lives for the better. We also believe that by becoming better informed, more cultured people ourselves, we are helping the world -both in the present and future.

Fortunately, most people in our lives seem to understand or at least accept our choice. We have a pretty amazing group of friends and family who support us and believe in us. Many of them have done something similar themselves and many of those who haven’t, wish they could.

Don’t get us wrong, there are people who don’t get it too. They are worried, they are scared, they are uninformed, they are over-informed. We get that. We really do, but we can only live our lives the way we feel we should, not the way others want for us. And when it comes down to it, we know that these people too, will always be there for us and we love them for that.

For me, the reason I do it is easy. I do it for Ben. Of course, I want to do it too, but he has been the one to help me realize my wildest dreams really can come true. Those of you who know me probably have a hard time seeing me, the perfectionistic, neat-freak, over-organized, girly-girl who loves all things pretty, living in a developing nation. I get it. I have a hard time with that sometimes too. But there are several things that keeps me going.

#1 - I love travel.
I might even be addicted to it. Sure, sometimes travel sucks. Things don’t always go as planned, the rain can ruin your day (at least for me), or even worse, you’re liable to get sick from something your body isn’t used to. For me though, it only takes one good day to make those bad days tolerable. Experiencing other cultures makes me feel like I get to live multiple lives. It’s like I get to make a clone of myself, send her off to absorb everything she can about another world, and at the end of the day I get to drink in it all in, while still knowing that I didn’t have to give up any of my old self. I get to make me as a whole, fuller and better.

#2 - I can am make making a difference in lives.
I work for an amazing organization that touches the lives of approximately 8,000 Guatemalans daily with education, housing, healthcare and family development. My day to day doesn't always involve interaction with the families we support, but I work to educate visitors about our foundation and encourage them to sponsor our affiliated students so that they can directly make a difference in the lives of a child in need. I don't even like to think about what kind of lives many of the people would be living without Common Hope. I will forever support their cause.

#3 - The people inspire me.
A common thought that so many of us Americans have when speaking of the struggles of the world is, “We have it so good.” It’s true, we do, but they do too! We have so many “things” to be thankful for, but other cultures have some really great things that we don’t have, things that we can’t buy. There are many aspects to life here and Guatemala that have amazed me and continue to do so everyday. These are the things that I aspire to bring home with me and adapt into my life, my family and my career.

Of course there are times when I get scared about living in a country where "peace" is a fairly new concept. I worry about the things that might happen. I get nervous that I might fail. I’m sad that certain things in my former life, won't be the same when I return. But there is one thing that I know for sure - these experiences will make me stronger. And when I come home, I’ll know where I’ve been, who I am, and where I want to be. I will know that I am ready to start a new chapter in my life, building on the story that I have created.

*If you never have before, take a look at the quotes in our sidebar. These are the words that define this chapter in our lives.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Lately we've been asked by several of you how we can be reached.

Here's a quick reminder on where to find our contact information.

Just click on this icon on our side bar.

From there you will be directed to a post with all of the info. you could possibly need - phone numbers, email addresses, skype names, mailing addresses and so on.

Sorry if we didn't make it clearer to you before!!! We'd love to hear from you by any mode of communication!

Monday, September 28, 2009

from limon to limonada

Tomāto, Tomäto - Lemon, Lime. It's all the same, no matter how you slice it up! In spanish there is only 1 word for both lemon & lime - limon.

Every once and a while Ben comes home with a great big bag of limones that grow on the tree outside of his office. Alejandro, the office handy guy, has quite a green thumb and often shares the "fruits" of his labor with us! Remember Alejandro's sweet family from this post?

Well needless to say, we don't often know what to do with our abundance of limes. Sure, there's limonada, but we need some more ideas! With the last batch of limes we received, I squeezed the juice and made a ton of lime-cubes. I love popping 1 into a glass of water or coke, but not many others seem to be a very big fan. What do you guys think? We need some suggestions on what to do with all these limes!

If only money grew as abundetly as limes do on the trees in Guatmala!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My little Chapin!

Here are 3 signs that Ben has completely
assimilated into the Guatemalan culture.

He owns a machete and uses it for everything.

He uses his head to carry things.

He exposes his belly when he is hot!

It's becoming more & more evident that he is quite comfortable here.
Maybe we won't be going home next summer like we had planned!

Mmm, mmm, Menonita

During a recent work trip to Tejutla, Ben got to make a stop in at the Bake Shop in Xela, our absolute favorite pastel/panaderia in Guatemala. You might remember this place from one of our posts many moons ago while we were living in Xela (read it here).

Living in the land of dry bread and hard cookies, it's our little bakery paradise. Owned and operated by Mennonites, the Bake Shop sells all the delicious goodies that Ben grew up with back in Lancaster, PA. Since they are only open on Tuesdays and Fridays and normally the best treats sell out quickly, he hot-footed it over there early with his curious co-workers Dani & Otto. Within seconds of entering the shop, they quickly realized what all the fuss has been about every time we reminisce about the place! Since I wasn't along for the trip, I made a few requests, namely the jelly filled donuts and garlic bagels! Apparently Ben was feeling hungry because check out the loot he brought home with him.

Bread, bagels, donuts, cookies, granola & more!

As soon as he got home we cracked open the cookies but not without a little laugh. You have to understand that there is not even 1 detail that has gone unnoticed in the Bake Shop - it's pure Mennonite, just a million miles away from the Land of Milk & Honey. Everything from the styrofoam packaging to the cut in half twist-ties is exactly the same. Lucky for us the taste is the same too!

After a visit to this delicious paradise, we always chat about franchising a branch of the Bake Shop in Antigua....or Denver for that matter! With the recipes in the family, our idea might not be so far-fetched after all!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lusting into Fall

Before beginning with this month's current lusts we first must thank you, our very kind and concerned readers, for helping us get over our obsessions for the month of August! We promise when we began this portion of our blog we really weren't hinting for you to treat us....just hoping that by writing and laughing about the silly things that we miss, it would help us get over them and move on to something new! But thanks to a few of you, we've been spoiled - me to a cup of my favorite nuts (doesn't that sound hilarious?) while Ben anxiously awaits his much needed sunglasses that are on the way! Honestly people, you shouldn't have.........but we're so glad that you did!

So here we are again, lusting away as we ring in the first day of autumn (not really here) with grey skies and lots of puddles! This month our lusts again stem from necessity.

Krista’s current Must Have Lust
comfy, closed toe shoes, with a bit of height

Honestly, could it get more specific? As the weather turns a bit cooler here, my sandal-clad toes, have been feeling a bit chilly. It probably doesn't help that with my flat sandals, my pants drag in the puddles. I did bring along a couple of pairs of closed toe shoes (converse, pumas, and flats) but a gnarly bunion that I have on my right foot has restricted my use of them. TMI, I know. You probably are thinking that I just need to head to the mall to get some new shoes....not that easy. Back in the US, my feet are normal sized 7.5/8. In Guatemala, that's giant sized. Not to mention that Guatemala women LOVE to wear high heels on cobblestone streets! All of the shoes that I come across are either super tiny, super high, or super narrow (which my bunion despises!). So, as dorky as they are, I've been pondering the purchase of these guys......

closed toe, a little height, and lots of room so my toes aren't squeezed
and may even jump on this bandwagon....
Gasp! Who have I become?

I never thought the day would come when I condone
the use of Crocs for anyone over the age of 5.

(If i get them in silver they're a bit cuter, right?)

But there's always a silver lining where my love for fashion can shine through.......
and that's why I'm soon headed to Pastores to have a pair of these special made for my feet!

High or low?....or maybe both!

Those should see me through until sandal season again, right?

Ben’s current Must Have Lust
his old NF backpack or Timbuk 2 messenger bag

Ever since what we like to refer to as "the incident" a couple of months ago, Ben has been without backpack. He's been making due, that good sport he is, by using this grocery tote as his take to and from work bag. I get a kick out of seeing him walk out of the house every morning with it, but not quite as much as his co-workers do. Pobrecito, his grocery bag has become the laughing stock of the ADU office (but no one has tried to steal it, he adds)!

Obviously he we learned our lesson and will not be purchasing a new backpack (at least not here), but he can't bring himself to spend Q150 in the market for one either. If he could just wiggle his nose and blink his eyes and be back in Brian & Angie's basement where his oldies but goodies are safely stored away, he'd be in back in action again!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

when opportunity knocks

Quisiera ser millonario

Last night we went back to that cute little movie theater that I blogged about here to catch a showing of Quisiera Ser Millionario (Slumdog Millionare). We've seen it before, but I think we could watch that movie once a month - it's awesome. It's an inspiring story of hope and opportunity. As children and young adults everyday life is a struggle for Jamal, Salim & Latika, but they never lose hope of a better future and they are sometimes even blessed with amazing opportunities.

While I was sitting in the theater I couldn't help but to think about the children and families in Guatemala that are able to have a similar hope because of the opportunities that Common Hope provides them with - they're just different faces in a different country. With the support of this amazing organization that I am proud to be a part of, nearly 8,000 Guatemalans have been given an opportunity to live a better life and provide their children with a better future. It doesn't take much, just $30 or $60 a month can cover the cost of education, healthcare, housing and social work services for a child and his/her family, and it makes a huge difference in the lives of the families it helps.

Stay tuned for a future post about education in Guatemala and sponsorship opportunities through Common Hope.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

There's no place like home

Recently I've been feeling nostalgic for home, especially for all of the girlfriends that I left behind. I think most of you ladies out there will agree with me when I say that after college, it's a little more difficult to make good friends. Maybe it's just that we get to know ourselves better and therefore we know what we want from our friendships better than we did before?

Whatever it is, for a while after finishing graduate school, getting married and moving to the city, I found myself often feeling a little lonely. I had no problem making friends once I met people, but for me it was the act of meeting them that was the tricky part. Little by little, I have developed some great relationships though, whether I simply met them at work or by way of someone else.

When you live far away from your family like we have for quite a while, your friends become a second kind of family. They make "home" feel more homey and become the people you can turn to for whatever, whenever. Whether it's going out for a night on the town or just for a walk to the local ice cream shop, it's nice knowing having people in your life that you can let your hair down with, laugh with, cry with, dream with - all while wearing your frumpiest sweats (or your sassiest dress)!

Being away from my go-to girls for the better part of this year, I have come to realize exactly what it is about each one of my girlfriends that fills that special part of me. I love each and every one of these girls for very different reasons because each one of them connects to a specific part of my personality. Each one warms my spirit with her very own flavor!

Thanks for your loveliness friends. I miss you all dearly.

(And please, please, pretty please, if I didn't post your face here, don't think I don't love you too! I'm working with limited resources here and had to go scrounging around on Facebook to get these photos!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rental Remodel #1

Guess what's behind these doors?

Our house.

The cute red one.

While it's got lots of potential our little rental needs lots of love too. Most people would probably think that it's fine - why waste your time on a rental? For us though, it's not a waste. If you know me at all (or read my profile) you know that aside from my "real" career, I am a closet designer. So since pretty much all of my other hobbies went by the wayside when we packed our lives into a car, I have to do something with my time here! Plus Ben is a die hard DIYer too and for years now he's been itching to do some home improvements, but our old apartment was in tip-top shape. So now the way we see it is, why not put some sweat equity into someone else's house? It makes our temporary home more comfy for us and gives us great experience for when we flip a house of our very own. We do realize however that it's not a great idea to blow our wad on a rental especially considering our salaries are significantly reduced from what they used to be, so we're trying to keep the costs as low as possible and work with whatever is available (and inexpensive).

So without further adieu............

Rental Remodel #1 - the guest bedroom
The main reason we're living in this house is because it has a 2nd bedroom (for all of the guests that we hope to entertain!). And since our guests deserve the best, we tackled their room first.

The goal: Sunny & Tranquil - on a budget (always!)

Yea, I know, it's not as complete as I would like - no rug & nothing on the walls, but since we're one a budget and fairly temporary here, this will probably be as good as it gets. Even so, I love the neutrals with that great pop of chartreuse with my favorite accent material - aqua glass. The few guests that we've had thus far have liked it at least!

And yes, it is killing me that only 1 of the beds is sporting the perfectly neutral shawl.
I picked it up in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas for about $5. It's so great - now I just need 2 more....1 for the other bed and 1 to wear! It's about an 8 hour drive from here, so I'm hoping that we may make it back sooner rather than later. If you're headed there anytime soon though, maybe you can help me complete my decorating dreams!

Check out the breakdown:

Furniture - free (it came with the house)
Paint - $24 Sherwin Williams
Versitile Grey (our concrete walls suck up paint)
Bedding - $35 (on sale at Cemaco)

Curtains - $17 (on sale at Cemaco)
Lighting - $10 (on sale at Cemaco)

Accessories - less than $5

Total = $91

And the best part is that we'll take most of it home with us and use it again...that is unless some Guatemalan friend call dibs!

Sorry, I seem to have lost the "before" photos, so you don't have anything to compare it to, but even so what do you think? Did we hit the mark? Come on down and stay with us!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hidden Beauty

It's been a while since I've posted images of the beautiful scenery in Guatemala. I suppose I've gotten used to the fact the I walk by these silent beauties everyday. Shame on me! I promise to be better about appreciating and photographing my surroundings in the future. For now, take a look at a few of my local favorites.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

new faces & new places

Last weekend we were quite busy in the Lengacher household. With all the Independence Day festivities, we almost forgot to share it with you!

Friday night Dani & I hit the movie theater in Antigua for a showing of Sex in the City. Yea, it's way old by now & we had both seen it before, but it was still a great girls night. Aside from my company of course, the theater itself was the most impressive part of my evening. It's absolutely adorable. Think Neighborhood Flix you Denver folks, with little nooks that hold traditional movie theater seating and cute cafe tables. Waiters serve drinks, snacks and even full meals if you want! Plus the best part is that you don't even pay for the movie - just your food and drinks!

Then Saturday morning we hit a soccer game at the Roosevelt cancha (fields). This just wasn't any old soccer game though - we went to watch the son of Ben's co-worker Otto play. He's only 10, but pretty darn good. He even was chosen to be a part of a special Guatemalan selection team. Unfortunately his team lost this time, but I got some great photos that we can't wait to share with him & his family. Afterward we all went out for lunch & ate some of the best ceviche that we've ever had. Delicious!

Superstar Cristofer!

Father & Son, Otto & Cristofer

When lunch was done, Ben & I hopped back into Dewey and went to go visit the family of another co-worker, Alejandro. His lovely wife just gave birth to their 5th child last weekend, a baby girl named Wendy Orlanda. We fell in love with his kids, Alberto, Sophia, Alvaro, Lucrécia & Wendy and had a wonderful time visiting their family. Baby Wendy was sooooo tiny and sweet - we both think she may be the smallest human we've ever held.

Luky & Alvaro

mama & baby

little Wendy Orlanda

uh-oh, baby fever!

Ben & the kids

The Cacao Family

sleepy Luky

all smiles Alvaro!

On our way back into Antigua, we made an unexpected stop to see a litter of 10 golden retriever pups - only 1 month old. So cute and furry, it was all we could do to not walk out of there with one - or two! Don't you just love that puppy smell?

Then to wrap up our busy Saturday we met up with a group of friends for some sushi. Yum! How could we have not know that this great restaurant existed before? For several hours, we indulged in all kinds of sushi and great conversation. Wow! We are finally feeling like Antigua has become our home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Year in Review

It's official - we arrived in Guatemala for the first time 1 year ago today. While we did have a bit of a Guatemalan hiatus in the middle (from mid-December to May), we're back and prouder than ever to be Chapingos! (That's Chapín, mixed with Gringo).

Here's a look back at our year in no particular order.

picking coffee at Finca Nueva Alianza

Our faithful companion, Dewey

Traditional Mayan dress in San Antonio Palapo

Crossing the Tropic of Cancer, Baja California

Tandem biking in Ixtapa

Cascadas El Chiflón, Chiapas

A surprise birthday party with the girls in Tuxtla

Ben & Brandon's half-marathon

releasing baby sea turtles in Monterrico

atop Volcano Santa Maria

International Thanksgiving at ICA

professional campers in Mazatlan

A quality guy in Xela

there have been many beach breaks!

a caving expedition at Semuc Champey

100% Chapingos