Monday, November 25, 2013

Las Olimpiadas! Olympics at the Family Support Center

Text and Photos by Travis McMullen, Pop Wuj Student

Laughter filled the air. Language was no longer an issue – it’s a universal code. Even though our Spanish may be limited, or difficult to converse and understand at times, the simple sound of laughter let us all know that the Olympics were a major success and a day of much joy for all of the children at the Family Support Center.

Quite a few students from the Pop Wuj Spanish School came out to enjoy the day, so four teams were able to be pitted against each other in the race for the gold: Blue, Red, Yellow, Green.
Breaking up into teams

Explanation of the rules
The morning was split into several activities, with the winning team being awarded one point. It was a tight competition and after many different challenges, the final score was:

Blue – 3
Yellow – 2
Green – 2
Red – 0

The activities themselves were a lot of fun, requiring a mixture of team work, communication, and above all, a sense of fun. The activities included:
  • Sack race
  • Catching water balloons in a sack
  • Throwing water balloons to a partner, taking a step back each catch
  • A water balloon fight, firing squad style
  • A relay race
The relay race proved to be a lot of fun and quickly bought out the adventurous nature of the kids – many of them trying to cheat by not running around the poles, which were the student volunteers from the school. This quickly led to the volunteers grabbing and picking up the kids, spinning them around so they were placed behind them, so they could continue on the race. 

One of the craftier kids took a few wider steps just before they got to me, outsmarting me! Suddenly, they were gone, gaining valuable ground before I had the chance to grab them and spin them around! Luckily, the ground gained didn’t result in any major shift in the results of the race. 

Relay Race

The most entertaining activities were definitely the catch game with the water balloons, with a few rounds being played out.  The other volunteers and I were able to partake in the event and it became extremely competitive. Many different strategies were employed to ensure they had the perfect unbreakable water balloon, such as carefully inspecting the balloons before deciding, through to covering them in dirt to try and add an extra layer or two of protection. 

Slowly but surely, the amount of competitors decreased as the distance increased. New strategies were employed, such as moving from using your hands to catch the balloons, to using your shirt. Some of the balloons were perfectly protected – even though the kids might not be able to throw the distance, they could throw the balloon as far as they could and have it roll the rest of the way. Even after a few goes, the balloons were more than capable of continuing to roll along and not break. 

As the playing field decreased to the last remaining handful, I got cocky and made an error. The catch was a perfect ten – the feet moved a few feet while the right hand reached out, catching the balloon perfectly in the centre. I threw the balloon up in the air in celebration of what I had just accomplished. However, tragedy struck and I failed to catch the water balloon, watching in horror, almost from a third person perspective, as it slipped through my hands and landed on the ground below, breaking, water pouring out. We were eliminated. The other children cried out in laughter as we were eliminated, while I look across with a mixture of sorrow and mischief at my partner, who was just standing there, arms raised, the question being heard without it being asked.

These kinds of random, entertaining events filled the morning, as both kids and volunteers alike reveled in the act of playing games, having special moments, and enjoying the uniqueness of the Pop Wuj Family Support Center Olympics.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Although Halloween is not a widely-celebrated holiday in Guatemala, the children and youth of the Family Support Center love our annual joint celebration of Halloween and the Day of the Dead.

Jenny and Gabi, working on the apple crisp.

Adding the crisp to the apple crisp.

On the morning of October 31st, fourteen of the older kids came to Xela for a cooking activity.  We split them youth into two groups.  One group made apple crisp and designed their jack-o-'lantern while the second group made pumpkin cake and also worked on their jack-o-'lantern.  We baked our desserts and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Jacqueline, shredding pumpkin.
Mixing the pumpkin cake batter

The kids traveled back to Llanos and joined their younger compaƱeros for fiambre.  Heavy on vegetables, cheese, and lunch meat, fiambre is the traditional meal on the Day of the Dead in Guatemala.

Some problems with a jack-o-'lantern
The children finished lunch and began their preparations for the Halloween party.  With the help of Carmen Maria, the kids (and volunteers) dressed up as vampires, witches, scarecrows, pirates, and cats. 

Las Gatitas:  Ingrid, Evelyn, Amy, and Brenda

Witches: Ilcy and Lety

Scarecrows: Melissa and Jonathan

We lit the candles in the jack-o-'lanterns, turned off the lights, and invited folks to tell scary stories.  We finished the party with fried plantains, pumpkin cake, and apple crisp.

Vampires: Anibal, Ismael, and Marcelo


Oscar, the lion

Unfortunately we didn't have time to fly the kites that the kiddos made during the week.  October and November is kite-flying season in Guatemala and the kids have been hard at work, creating their own kites for the contest.  Kite flying had to be postponed until the following week.