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Is it coincidence that this is my 100th blog post? Is it coincidence that friday, I found Marta Elisia after meeting her five years ago? Is it a coincidence that Saturday was her birthday, and that I was able to give her several gifts on Friday. The gift of surprise, the gift of love, the gift of memory, the gift of a photo, and the gift of adventure. Reflecting on this weekend, words cannot express what I felt/feel so I'm borrowing from Marta

If this is all confusing for you, please read this initial post. Some things to be corrected: I had originally convinced myself to believe that Marta Elisia's name was Inna. This a mistake that I deeply regret. And just before I met Marta Elisia in 2006, her mother had died from either rheumatoid arthritis OR a type of cancer.

So diving into the events of yesterday, I first visited the Colegio Nueva Vida in the town of Santa Maria de Jesus. Family friend Judy, who founded the school in 2000, picked me up, gave me a tour of the school and allowed me to take pictures of the students while she had a meeting.

"New life school was established for children who can't gain an education in the overcrowded Guatemalan school system. This inability is either due to the teacher's inability to teach them or the ridicule of the other students. Some of the children have severe hearing or vision deficits, learning disabilities, spina bifida, cerebral palsy Down syndrome, or attention disorders."

While at the school taking pictures of the kids, a woman stopped by hoping to sell her weaving work. Judy explained to me, with her superior spanish skills, that the woman needed to pay her medical bills. The lady asked for fifty quetzales. 50.00 GTQ = 6.42302 USD. I didn't have change so I handed her 100Q and I told her no change..."no cambio." Her eyes grew wide, a smile filled her face, and she could not stop saying "muchisimas gracias." She offered to run to her house to get another piece for me, feeling as though she could not accept the 100Q. But can you put a value on helping someone? Could I put a value on this woman's handmade work, unfinished, and sold to me with all its pieces?

Next Judy took me by the house of Mirna...
Mirna, a quadriplegic, just recently finished the sixth grade at Colegio Nueva Vida. She was hoping to continue her education at the school until she developed a pressure sore. The sore has caused Mirna to be bed ridden for several months, but despite her physical state, Mirna still has an active role in her family. She serves as a communicator between her family and her deaf father and uncles. She brings joy to each family member. And she watches out for her younger relatives.

I loved meeting Mirna and her entire family, and was shocked when her abuela (grandmother) began to bless me, in SPANISH, simply for coming to visit them, to meet Mirna, and to capture the moment with my camera. The surprises did not end there though...
This is the scene I remember from five years ago...
Prior to arriving at her house, my parents, brother, and I walked along the dusty cobbled streets and stopped by a small hole-in-the-wall bakery. With twenty dollars, which is one hundred and sixty four quetzals, we were able to purchase breads, grains, tortillas, and pastries. With four bags of food in hand, we approached Elisa’s house. As we drew near, I admired the ornate black iron-rod door leading to her house. It never occurred to me that the rusted, ridged sheet of metal to the right was actually the
entry point.

Meet Marta Elisia who, in this picture, sits in her brand new house. Turns out that I was not the only one who had surprises to share on Friday. Judy had refrained from telling me about Marta's new house! Money and donations from the United States had made it possible for Marta Elisia and her family to build the house of their dreams. It took three months for the home to be built and during that time, Marta Elisia and her family lived their small kitchen like small "gatitos" (little kittens).

After marveling over Marta Elisia's new home and taking some pictures, (and duplicating the one as shown above), Judy, Marta and I traveled into Antigua for lunch at an undisclosed location...
LUNCH! Despite my worsening health and inability to eat (thank you parasite), the restaurant, Tenedor del Cerro, was breathtaking. Located at Santo Domingo del Cerro, the location hosted a wonderful restaurant, a conference center, a large space for weddings, and several pieces of art.
Ultimately, both Marta Elisia and I were speechless. I shared the story of my college essay, my grant, and how the young girl proved to be such an inspiration to me. Marta Elisia explained the special place I had in her heart and memory. Both of us could only remark...WOW.

I have spent several hours trying to perfect this blog post, but words and pictures cannot capture the emotions I currently feel. Meeting Marta Elisia this time was just as impactful as our first encounter five years prior. Friday, I learned that I have a sister in Guatemala. A young girl that I love, that I already miss dearly, and that I plan to stay in contact with. This whole experience...the surprises, the words, and the emotions...WOW.
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