Monday, December 27, 2010

Vamos a Belize!

Tomorrow we will be heading here...

To meet these lovely folks...
We're pretty excited :) Except for the fact that our shuttle to the airport leaves at 3:30AM tomorrow. Oh well, vale la pena (its worth it). Hope everyone has a fun and safe New Years Eve - especially those going to the annual Eastvold extravaganza - we'll miss you guys :(
See y'all next year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ano Nuevo or Feliz Navidad??

Last night we celebrate Christmas Eve with a group of expats and a candle light service at church. In Guatemala, Christmas Eve is as important if not more than Christmas day. Traditionally, people stay up all night waiting until midnight to have tamales with the family and to open up their presents underneath the Christmas tree. The main celebration however happens at midnight when pretty much every person in the country sets off tons of different types of firecrackers and fireworks. We just happened to be walking home at midnight and it literally felt like we were in the middle of a war! Quite the cultural experience. 

 As we were leaving the Erickson's we had a surprise drive-by sighting of Santa and his reindeer. Of course he was blasting 'Feliz Navidad' on the sweet sleigh stereo system :)

Tonight we will have another Christmas celebration with some good friends, good food, and a Christmas movie. We've been trying to watch one at home but they are all in Spanish! All in all Christmas has definitely has been different this year but fun none-the-less!


Homemade Christmas Treats from the Browns! Bet you wish you could actually eat them :)

Love, The Brownios (and the Dumphey's)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fotos de la Semana: Verbos Verbos Verbos

Today I took my final CSA test to get the last book (Grado G). Hip Hip Hooray! That means only two more days of classes and then off to Belize! Though I am FAR from fluent I have learned a butt load of verb tenses...
Getting all psyched up with my teacher Orquidia
A whole lotta Verbos
After: can you see the glazed look in my eyes?
I won't bore you with the details but these boards represent 13 tenses that I know in Spanish. Now if only I could use them correctly in a sentence...
Oh and heres a picture of Gregg and his maestra Claudia for good measure

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stunting in Guatemala: ABC News story

  A few of you may have already seen this article by ABC News about growth stunting in Guatemala. This article is so timely because this is exactly the kind of work I am planning to do in Yalu. With the feeding program for the kids, prenatal clinics once a month we pretty much have pregnant moms and kids from age 2 and up covered. The babies under two however are in a delicate situation where the should be receiving 100% of their nutritional needs through breastfeeding and complementary foods, but for various reasons (poor milk supply, improper infant feeding, moms getting pregnant too early so they have to stop breastfeeding the first, etc) that is often not the case. My hope is to work with the Mayan Doctor in Yalu who also speaks Kaqchikel to develop nutrition classes for new moms that focus on correct breastfeeding, appropriate foods and when to introduce them, family planning, and like the article talks about; the importance of sterile water if they do need to use a supplement like Incaparina. There are so many awesome things happening in the world of Global Health and I am excited to see what the future holds for people in Guatemala and around the world!

ABC News Article - Another Face of Hunger: Malnutrition and Stunting in Guatemala
Amidst the lush landscape and breathtaking natural beauty of Guatemala, more than half the population lives below the poverty line and suffers from chronic malnutrition. In fact, Guatemala has the highest rate of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere: 50 percent of the population is stunted and, in rural Mayan villages, that figure gets as high as 80 percent.
Guatemala Slideshow
The main cause of stunted growth, experts say, is lack of vital nutrients during the first thousand days of life, that critical period of development from conception to age 2.
"The most incredible thing about stunting in Guatemala is how completely total an experience it is for rural communities. All children are at least six or eight inches shorter than they should be," said Peter Rohloff, an American doctor who runs Wuqu' Kawoq, a group of medical clinics in rural Guatemala. "In a family that's extremely impoverished, you will see very extreme cases of chronic stunting where children who are twelve years old, look that they're -- as if they were four or five. "
But stunting is not just about height. With malnourishment comes greater susceptibility to disease and infection, impaired cognitive function and even lower IQ. Stunted kids are more likely to drop out of school and grow up to be unskilled workers with little potential for economic success later in life.
"If you want to break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala this is how you do it: Feed kids and feed them early before they get malnourished," Rohloff said.
Guatemala Slideshow Because a typical Mayan diet is lacking in animal protein like milk, Rohloff encourages mothers to breast feed but also to give their babies supplementary food starting at six months. He teaches mothers how to use Incaparina, a locally made corn gruel fortified with vitamins and minerals that needs to be mixed with just the right amount of water.
The mixture will be useless or even harmful if it is too diluted or the water contaminated. There are better supplements that need no preparation, Rohloff said, like Plumpy Doz, a ready-to-use sugary peanut paste with milk powder and vitamins. Unfortunately, there is no local Plumpy Doz manufacturer and getting the product shipped in can be problematic and expensive.
For nutritional intervention to be most effective, he said, it has to be done before the age of two. "Unfortunately, most programs in Guatemala are geared to school-aged kids but by the time they get to school it's too late," he said....
You can go to HERE to read the rest of the story and view the video that goes along with it. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yalu and the Future

We're back! The last two weekends we spent out in the village of Yalu having end of the year meetings, planning the upcoming year, feeding 300+ kids, fiesta-ing and more fiesta-ing. 
Los ninos of the head cook(Edwin, Ana, Rosa, Leslie)
Gregg giving out multivitamins
A Mayan woman washing her clothes in the pila
Spaghetti day!
Us with the in-coming Missionaries, Gerry and Barb Norman
Cooking the Christmas Feast:
Fried Chicken and Rice Krispy Treats
Pinata at the kids Christmas party
Check the rest of our Yalu photos here.
Besides having a great time this past week, God also really spoke to Gregg and I about the rest of our time here in Guatemala. Pretty consistently over the last month both of us have been struggling to feel content for multiple reasons including; being away from home, being in language school, thinking about where to volunteer our time, missing friends and family, etc. One of our thoughts was that we just need to start getting more involved doing the work that we came down here for. So, a few weeks ago we decided to make something happen and start volunteering with different organizations where we had been excited about the projects being done in public health and microfinance. Though this seemed like a good idea at the time over the following few weeks we have both just felt that something was "off" about the jobs, we have not been as excited about the opportunities as we had expected. Looking back it is clear that we really just rushed into making commitment because we felt like we needed to hurry up and get to the real reason we are here. 
Once we got out to Yalu however we automatically starting feeling better, like we were supposed to be there. In the various meetings we had we learned that  1. Mano Con Mano is going to partner with a church nearby that wants to do some really amazing things in the community including public health stuff and microfinance!  and 2. The current directors decided to step down starting in January and the incoming directors aren't coming till April after they finish language school in Costa Rica. So, long story short, we decided to commit the majority of our time in Yalu! We are both really excited about the things God is doing there and we think this coming year will bring some really exciting changes in the village that we want to be a part of. Anyways, definitely more on that as we figure out what exactly we will be doing but just wanted to keep y'all in the loop. 
This week we are just going to be hanging out in Antigua, finishing up language school, and trying to get in the Christmas spirit. Tonight we are heading to the Erickson's to watch a Christmas movie so that will definitely help. We also will have more time to update this thing so check back again soon. Merry Christmas and God Bless!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Guate Food 101: Fruits and Veggies

Well we made it home safe and sound from a great weekend in Yalu. Highlights were; seeing old friends and making new ones, having a 'MEMO'rial for Memo Jones - co-founder of Mano Con Mano, baking 12 cakes, playing with the kids, taking walks to the beautiful farm, and discussing exciting changes that will be coming this year for Yalu and Mano Con Mano. But we'll save more on that for later since there are still more exciting things to come this week!

In the meantime I wanted to indulge my nutrition/girl/foodie friends with the adventure that is meal planning, shopping, cooking/baking, etc in Guatemala. Since moving into our 'propio' apartment I have had to quickly remember how to do all of the above mentioned things. Yes I was spoiled while we lived at the host families house thank you very much. One of the first things I decided to tackle was shopping for fruits and veggies in the local mercado. Now there is a 'grocery store' of sorts in Antigua but the fruits and veggies are definitely mediocre to say the least, not to mention about 100% more expensive then they are at the mercado. One reason is the freedom to barter with the actual farmer who grew the beautiful produce with their own two hands. The other reason is because as you can see by the photo, there is A LOT of competition in the market. So, one day last week when I was feeling brave my Spanish teacher and I decided to take a break from verbos and hit the mercado. It was definitely an experience but one that I am excited to become proficient at. Besides the thrill of bartering with someone in Spanish and getting them to actually give in to the price you are asking is slightly intoxicating I have to admit. Besides that however, its just freaking cheap:

Bananos,  Mandarinas,  Limas,  Zuchini,  Zanahorias/Carrots,  Pepino/Cucumber,  Aquacates/Avocados,  Ajo/Garlic,  Cilantro,  Fresas/Strawberries,  Papitas/Potatoes,  Cebolla/Onion, Tomates:                          TOTAL: $7.00
SERIOUSLY! Only $7 dollars! Amazing!! I think Gregg and I will be becoming vegetarians very soon. Especially after visiting the meat section of the mercado... 

Buen Provecho! (Guatemalan version of Bon Appetit) 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good As New

Gregg and I are heading out to Yalu (the small village with the feeding center we work with) and will be without internet for the weekend (EEK!) but before we wanted to let everyone know that things are 100% better here. We definitely had a couple of days where we were ready to jump on the next plane but the feeling has mainly passed and we are excited for things to come: Yalu, fiestas, concerts, Christmas in Guate, Belize, FAMILY VISIT!! 

Anyways, hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and we will leave you with a synopsis of the last week (disclaimer: not for the queasy): 
Stitches, bruise from the IV that the nurses put in WITHOUT gloves!, looking lovely with a mysteriously moving rash

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A slightly different cultural experience

  The past few days here have been somewhat of a challenge to say the least. Some of you know what has been going on but here is the full story: 
  Kelley had been taking a pretty strong antibacterial medicine for about the last week and a half or so and just 3 days ago starting getting some really strong allergy symptoms.  All of a sudden she got really large rashes literally all over her body (we just used a new launderer and thought it might had been the soap so we didn't realize that it was the medicine that was causing it).  
This definitely doesn't do it justice
   At about 3am Thursday night Kelley woke up to go to the restroom and passed out, I'm not sure how long after, she woke up and tried walking back to the room and passed out again. Fortunately I heard her the second time and came out of the room to find her laying unconscious in the hallway.  She had hit her head and had a large cut in the back of her head. I sat her up and she again went out of consciousness, not able to breathe well.  Thankfully our landlord lives right underneath us and the family was able to help us get an ambulance. After a scary ride in a very understocked ambulance we arrived at the hospital, Kelley got 10 stitches, a cat-scan (which thankfully turned out negative), and medicine for her allergy.
Looking hot with bloody, two-day unshowered hair 
10 'puntos' or stiches in the shape of an 'S'
Some folks from the school and Kelley's teacher came to visit
   We were discharged home yesterday after about 11 hours with very few instructions but feeling slightly better. Later yesterday night the rash spread to Kelley's face and her breathing started getting slightly labored. We ended up calling the God-sent Erickson's (who we had Thanksgiving with) and we've been camped at their house ever since. Thankfully Kelley is feeling better now besides having a slight headache and itching all over. 
   Needless to say it has been quite the experience. We can't help but notice the timing of all of this however. Both of us just found places to volunteer last week and we were excited to finally get to the reason we came down. We both knew that there would be challenges and possible spirit interference but this is slightly beyond what we were thinking. Now thats the worst is behind us we are not feeling quite so ready to jump on the next flight back to Seattle but its still tempting. We could definitely use prayer for a full recovery for Kelley, that our insurance would accept the claim so we aren't stuck with an $800 medical bill, and for protection spiritually and physically. Thanks so much and we'll keep you all updated. Love and Miss everyone!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Better late than Unthankful was everyones Thanksgiving?? I know I know it was like forever ago but hey...we're official on "Guatetime" now :) Us Brownios are VERY thankful to have had not only one amazing Thanksgiving but TWO! The first was with an awesome family here that we met through school and that have been so welcoming to us. They are missionaries that moved here from Virgina and have 'adopted' us into the fam. You can check out their blog and all the cool stuff they are doing in Guate. The second was with the American volunteers at Common Hope, a non-profit here that I will probably be working with in the very near future. (sorry no pics of that one...just imagine the same amount of food as the first but add an amazing pumpkin cheesecake to the mental picture)

You can also check out an awesome video made by Clay, one of the Ericksons. Gregg has a staring role, eating as usual :)
Currently we are in the process of moving into our new apartment! Whoo hoo!! Thank you for all your prayers and soon as we settle in more fully we will also post some pics. Ciao Ciao!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Foto de la Semana (mas o menos)

A few weeks ago we got to attend a local Antigua Football(Soccer) game. Now, Antigua is not exactly know as an all-star football team but that didn't dampen our spirits! The creepy avocado/aguacate mascot almost did however...especially for Mal Gal :)
(i know right. who has an avocado as a team mascot, muy extrano!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving Eve! 
Yesterday we took a little field trip to the city to see Harry Potter! We decided to live on the edge and take a public 'chicken bus'. It was quite the experience to say the least. Both trips we were sitting 3 people to a seat with at least one person in the aisle next to us. Every sharp corner I just knew we were going to tip over and go tumbling down the ravine...but Gracias a Dios we survived and got to see an awesome movie and eat POPCORN! Seriously I think I was more excited about the popcorn than the movie. I know thats sad but in my defense it was the first time we've had it since we moved here and its really the only food I have been craving like a pregnant woman. No I'm not pregnant...sorry mom and dad :)

The movie theater was in one of two malls they have in Guate. As soon as we walked in I felt like we were back home in the states. The whole place is completely decked out for la Navidad already since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, pobrecitos. After the movie it was even snowing in the lobby like it does at Pacific Place! Talk about making us homesick :( 

Having this 'glimpse' of home so close to Thanksgiving reminded us how much we have to be thankful for both here in Guate and in the States. The big things here in Antigua are that we have an American family to celebrate with tomorrow (hooray!) so we will be partaking in a proper Thanksgiving feast! We were even able to find a pumpkin pie which I thought was going to be impossible. The other big thing we have to be thankful for is our new apartment! We will be moving in next Saturday and are VERY excited to have our own space. Pictures of both to come! We are also very thankful for all our friends and family that we miss very dearly! We will be thinking about you all manana and hope everyone has a lovely Turkey day. Gobble Gobble

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Last week we had the privilege of seeing a new documentary called Reparando about the history of Guatemala and how the recent civil war has shaped the current generation living in Guatemala City. 
Film Synopsis:

On the morning of June 18. 1954, the US CIA dropped leaflets in Guatemala City demanding the resignation of the president. Guatemala was ravaged by Civil War for the next 36 years. But hope is rising. In the midst of incredible odds, victims have been transformed into champions who willfully embrace the pain of their past to help repair the next generation. This is their story. Shorty – a former gang member who is now a pastor, and Tita – a woman who started a school in Guatemala’s most notorious slum have joined forces to repair La Limonada.

The film is a beautiful, challenging story of how God is using ordinary people as part of His larger story. Living in Antigua, its easy to forget that we are in a third-world country. The reality however is that we are living in the 122nd country on the Human Development Index out of 182. Guatemala also has the third highest rate of chronic malnutrition (stunting) in the world with 54.5% of the population. The film talks about why there are such large public health problems in the country and unfortunately, the United States has played a large role in causing many of them. I won't go into the politics of it all but I do strongly encourage you to check out this awesome film if you get a chance. Currently they are only previewing it in select areas but it should be at a theatre near you soon! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Salsa Anyone?

New Series on the Blog:  Picture of the week/Foto de la Semana! 
We're real excited to check out the teachers moves...hehe :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Happy 25th Birthday Kris!!! Thanks for being the best brother and friend! Miss you :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kite Runner, Guatemalan style

Dia de los Muertos in Guatemala is quite a bit different than the Mexican version we usually hear about in the states. 

 Here the main aspect of the celebration happens in an actual graveyard (which I suppose is more appropriate considering its called the Day of the Dead). Though it might sound morbid, the festival is actually a colorful and very entertaining celebration in which locals build extravagant kites (barriletes) and fly them in their local cemetery. The kites usually have messages or picutres on them to serve as a symbolic link between the living and the dead. There are kites of all shapes and sizes ranging from the normal kids ones you see in the states to 50ft monsters that are propped up on huge bamboo poles. The most popular however are about 12 ft and usually have multiple flags from around the world on them to symbolize relatives who moved away and died in another country. Needless to say it was impressive. Except when one of the 12 footers lost its air and dived bombed to the ground a little to close for comfort!

And what would a celebration be without food? Fiambre, the traditional dish of the festival, is made only once a year. And trust me, once in a lifetime is about all you can handle! Fiambre is somewhat like antipasto but with a mix of cheese, meat of all kinds, and vegetables cured in vinegar. We were lucky(?) enough that our house mom made some and we had a HUGE bowl of it for lunch. Ours contained beets, hearts of palm, carrots, turkey, ham, bologny, hot dogs, 3-4 different kids of sausage, black chorizo and much much more. It was a gut buster! 

Check out our Picasa web album for more Dia de los muertos photos...Hasta la vista