Wednesday, December 31, 2014

favorite books of 2014

I read 52 books this year, a few less than normal as it is a little harder to access English books here.  This is a list of my favorites that I would recommend for your reading in the upcoming year.  I blogged about all these books earlier so if you want to see more detail about a certain book, click on the title. 
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio-written for older elementary students, anyone with school aged children or who works in a school should find this story engaging and worth reading.
  • Runaway Saint by Lisa Samson-Contemporary fiction novel about secrets and family
  • The Testament by John Grisham-Perhaps my favorite of Grisham's books.  It is the second time that I read it and it was just as good or better the second time around.
  • White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner-This is the second time I read this book that mixes history and the complexity of family in one story.
  • Sing for Me by Karen Halversen Schreck-An historical novel about race relations in the 1930's, it would be a good book for a book club to read and discuss.
  • Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier-My only nonfiction book on the list, every adult should read it to better understand other people, especially those of cultures different than their own.
Any recommendations from your year of reading to share?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in Xela

My Christmas here in Guatemala was different than how I celebrate in the States.  I did go to the service at church on the evening of the 23rd.  We ate paches (a type of tamale), then the young people did a drama and the children sang some songs.  On the night of the 24th, the people eat supper LATE.  I went to supper at the home of some Guatemalans from church, and we ate at 10 PM.  (Some people eat at midnight).  We had roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, and bread.  Then we sat around and talked and later ate dessert.  A little before midnight, we went over to the house of the brother-in-law and went on the roof (it is flat) to watch the fireworks.  The fireworks are purchased by individuals and are much grander than the ones people can buy in the US.  There were fireworks going off in all directions.  After that, the family I celebrated with took me home.  I slept late the next day, then hung out in Parque Central and had dinner at Pollo Campero.  It seemed like a good choice, as I could have a burrito and french fries.  Later I got an ice cream for dessert.  A good enough celebration of Christmas, but I do not plan to miss Christmas with my family again anytime soon.

Monday, December 15, 2014

gift ideas

I am not Christmas shopping this year, but if you are and have not finished yet, I have three suggestions for you.  The first is the game Story Cubes.  It is a game that encourages creatity and is appropriate for ages 6 and up.  I have played with adults, teens, and children.  It is non competitive as well, which is a nice change from some games.  There are several different versions, and I have seen it at Target, though I bought mine at Barnes and Noble several years ago.  
The second game I would recommend is one of the versions of the game Spot It! made my BlueOrange games.  I got Spot It Jr! for two different families last year for Christmas, and want to get one for myself.  It is a fast game, where just because you are older does not mean you will win.  I have found some versions of this game at Target.

My third game idea is one of the Brain Box games.  I found this one last year at Toys R Us when I was helping with my dad's Christmas shopping.  It also has a variety of topics-starting with the ABCs and colors.  Again, it is a good game for a mixed age group.

All of these games would be great gifts for a variety of children and families.  I like them because they are educational, but also because they are easy to learn and you don´t get bogged down learning how to play.  Also, the games are not long and drawn out, which could also make them ideal for a classroom on a day when students are not able to get to go outdoors because of the weather. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas is coming

Even though it doesn´t seem like December to me (Guatemala is much warmer than Minnesota this time of year), there are other evidences of the coming holiday.  One day my friend and I decorated Christmas cookies.  I hear Christmas carols in English or Spanish when I am out and about.  There is this giant Christmas tree in Parque Central.

Nativity scenes are not super common, but this a big one that was just set up, also in Parque Central. 
Friday was the first day of Las Posadas.  Normally it is an evening event, but at the home for elderly ladies, they do the activity in the afternoon.  Several people carry Mary and Joseph.  They read some from the gospel of Luke, then walk to a posada (a home), sing some more, then place Mary and Joseph in a special spot and have a snack.  The next day they do it all again, moving Joseph and Mary to the new posada.
What I am not doing this year is Christmas shopping, thinking about preparing a big meal for Christmas, or sending Christmas cards.   I am also not anticipating a break from school or having to decide which holiday events that I am going to choose to participate in.  A different feel to the Christmas season, for sure.

Monday, December 8, 2014


The past couple of weeks I have been spending my mornings at the Hogar de Ancianas (a home for elderly women) here.  It is another way to practice what I have learned in my weeks of language school.  Most mornings, I help some of them get to breakfast, then after breakfast I help them to the room where many like to sit in the sun to get warm.  Then I might help in the kitchen, the laundry, or other miscelaneous tasks.  When there is not a job for me, I sit with the ladies and talk with them.  Around lunch time, I help get the ladies to the dining room and then assist in serving lunch.  Helping out is a way to practice my Spanish, but it is also a good reminder that getting old is not for the faint of heart. 

Monday, December 1, 2014


I kept a thankful book this year again.  Last year I made thankful books for a bunch of people, this year I only made books for my teacher and myself.  Here are some of the things I have been thankful for this past month.

  • my health
  • my family
  • new friends
  • generous people who gave or lent me money when my purse was stolen
  • a good Spanish teacher
  • the Internet as a means to communicate with those far away
  • generous people
  • a place to celebrate Thanksgiving with other Americans
  • I got my passport replaced in one day
  • my visa is renewed
  • the Bible
  • books to read
Are there any things you are really thankful for this year?