World AIDS Day - December 1

Extend your hand to help the millions of children orphaned by AIDS and those afflicted with the disease itself.
World AIDS Day site offers an opportunity to give
World Vision has many excellent programs reaching AIDS orphans around the world
Seed of Hope where my buddy Carl works in South Africa is right in the middle of the epidemic
I ordered a book called The Skeptics Guide to the Global AIDS Crisis a couple months ago, not because I was a skeptic, but rather just to be more informed so that I could inform others with some degree of authority. A couple stats stung me:
the life expectancy in Botswana, Africa dropped from 65 years to 40 within 15 years

every day 1,500 additional children are infected with HIV

by 2010, it is estimated that there will be 25,000,000 AIDS orphans in the world
I choose to do something about it.

Choked Back

Two weeks ago my ISP knocked on my door and explained that because he had taken on new clients, he was going to have to limit my internet consumption to 250 MB/day. He said that up until now, for the 18 months that I had been 'enjoying' the service, I had not had any limits while others had been locked down to 100 MB/day. He said that on occasion I pushed 1 GB and even went over 1 GB once.

Now, when I go over my limit my internet service dies for about 20 hours. This happened a couple Sundays ago. I was sad.

So I got me a little net monitor to make sure that never happens again. I've been maintaining about 100 MB/day (up and downloads combined). Blogging, emailing, shopping, facebooking, downloading software updates, maintaining zaakistan.com, getting podcasts (a big consumer of bandwidth), and getting The Office episode every week (if it ever resumes), and reading other people's blogs now has to be done carefully. With bridled restraint.

It hurtses.



Basically, I suck. Of a list of 100 most popular books (must be of Canadians for all the Canadian authors in the list), I've read 18 of them. Amber on the other hand has read 32 of them.

There are a couple reasons I suck: I read really really really really slowly and the other reason is that I do mindnumbing stuff like playing "The Never-Ending Movie Quiz" and iPod Cubis.

Amber on the other hand can power through a novel in about 2 days and that's when she practices restraint. She actually stops herself from reading novels because she would run out in a couple weeks and then have nothing to read for months. Punk.

Popular books we've read:

Just Amber:
The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
1984 (Orwell)
The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
Lord of the Flies (Golding)
The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
Les Miserables (Hugo)
Just Zaak:
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Both of us have read:
The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
The Hobbit (Tolkien)
The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
The Bible
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
There is no consolation. Not even people telling me they've only read fortune cookies in the last ten years.

(Amber's dominatrix outfit is in the wash so we had to do a headlock pose instead)


I ♥ Paper

Graph paper. Writing paper. Note Pads. Blank music paper. Flipchart tablets. Drawing paper. Thick paper. Thin paper. Construction paper. Recycled paper. . .

I'm a sucker. I see it for sale. I don't necessarily have an immediate use for it. I buy it. Like the twelve 50-sheet legal pads that I bought this morning.



My buddy Edwin who works for the ministry too came by this afternoon. He told me about a family in Chicoy. The father died of an illness very abruptly on Tuesday. The mother was very ill and needed medicine and he had a list of the three medicines.

I looked up the stuff and phone a doctor friend in Canada because one of the medicines couldn't be found in Tactic. Got the medicines together and went with Edwin to Chicoy to see this widow, a mother of a couple of our students. We got the story there.

The husband was in the army and contracted a couple venereal diseases when he was away. He passed these on to his wife who now suffers and could possibly die. The man's brothers accuse the poor woman of being the one who got him sick.

I wrote about this woman's sister a couple weeks ago. Her husband was murdered five years ago.


Well of Emotions

Today was exciting and tiring and hilarious and heartbreaking and frustrating and inspiring. It was training day for the the 60 stoves that we are going to install in people's homes. I wrote about this before when we trained in March and installed in July.

I was a little frustrated at how slowly the training went and despit having 48 of the familes showing up at the two sessions, the facilitator would only certify 16 at each one, so we've got to have another two next week.

But at the same time I was inspired at how many of the women responded to the stoves and expressed an eagerness in receiving and learning.

I had to laugh when two of the women demonstrated what they were learning came forward with babies tied to their backs. There they were moving heavy concrete blocks.

I'm excited to see so many families getting these stoves. It will save them up to 1/6 of their monthly income or days of work each month buying or collecting firewood. And it will get the smoke out of their kitchens.

This is one of our students. She's deaf. She's also got a gorgeous smile. Her sponsors got her an appointment with some hearing specialists and now she has this hearing aid in both ears and she has some hearing now. I need to find out how much, but I was excited to see her with this as I was managing her account. Her family is also getting a stove.

This is what people paid. A mixture of down payments and full payments.

I was heartbroken when an old woman caring for her orphaned niece and nephew explained that she has no money and probably won't be able to pay. There's no way she's not getting a stove. I was just as heartbroken as I spent the morning and afternoon with dirty, poorly dressed and sick babies. I'm so blessed to be able to provide for my children.

Working in Guatemala, I have to keep my emotions at an arms length most of the time just so I can get my job done. It sneaks up on me sometimes.



We were invited to attend the graduation ceremonies of the Colegio Blaise Pascal as one of our church members / students was graduating from computer studies. We attended, dutifully. I don't even remember having desire to attend anyone's graduation. Ever. Not even my two grads.

It was LOUD. Really LOUD. We couldn't even shout at each other to be understood. This was just the prelude music. It was as if they were pumping up a crowd for some concert or boxing match.

What is most ironic is that the sound is very bad. Feedback on occasion, but the music is clipping all the time. And then a man occasionally interrupts the music with some mundane announcement.

A couple weeks ago, I attended another graduation and they had big band and jazz music playing throughout the entire service.

This is during the national anthem.

The ceremony was being broadcast LIVE on a local radio station via cell phone. The announcer wasn't getting any messages from home base, but if I were home base, I would have just stuck on a CD and killed the show citing sound quality issues.


New Birth

Well, Cappuccino Surprise is now the proud mama of a little baby nanny goat. I rounded the corner of our little stable with Blaise this morning, ready to milk Ermentrude and there she was!

It looks as though she was born outside, which is odd, because we put sacks over the walls of one side of the stable so the wind wouldn't get in and we put fresh sawdust down too.

What's so amazing is watching the little one walk already and nurse. I tried milking Surprise, but there's only colostrum. Maybe in a couple days. I'm going to by an animal bottle to feed the kid. This way, Surprise will produce more milk and her udder won't get smaller.

Amber came out with Acadia to see the little one too. We've had several guests already: the greenhouse guys, the greenhouse owner Miguel and also Walter, our neighbour.

This is sad news... along with the new little female was born a dead male. He's fully developed, so I'm not sure if he was stillborn or died during the birth. He was still inside the sack. I buried him.


...that get me revved

I like to sing. When I'm listening to certain songs there is nothing that can stop me from singing certain lines. I think it's because the lines carry conviction that I share. Here are some of those lines.
When the boy was a boy, the girl was a girl
they found eachother in a wicked world
Strong in some respects,
but she couldn't stand for the way he begged and gave in
Pride is for men
young girls should run and hide instead
You risk the game by taking dares with "yes"

"Eat for Two" by 10,000 Maniacs

And I love when folks
Look right at me
And what I'm doing
Or have done
And lay it on about
How groovy I am
And that I'm looking grand
And every single word
Makes me think I'll live forever
Never knowing that they probably
Won't remember what they said tomorrow
Tomorrow I could be dead

"The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes & The Pride Of Life" by Smalltown Poets

When youre done
With being beautiful and young
When that course is run, then come to me

"I'll Be That Girl" by Barenaked Ladies

In a seedy karaoke bar
By the banks of the mighty Bosphorus
Is a Japanese man in a business suit singing 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'
And the muscular cyborg German dudes dance with sexy French Canadians
While the overweight Americans wear their patriotic jumpsuits

"Wheels" by Cake

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away,
and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life,
and what she's done to it
There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.

"Rockin' in The Free World" by Neil Young

Your father was a pervert
Face down in the dirt
He taught you how to hurt
My father was a miner who lived in the suburbs
Let's live in the suburbs
If I let where I'm from burn I can never return!

"Vampire/Forest Fire" by Arcade Fire

Hey my love do you believe that we
Might last a thousand years
Or more if not for this?
Our flesh and blood it ties
You and me right up
Tie me down
Celebrate we will
Because life is short but sweet for certain
Were climbing two by two
To be sure these days continue

"Two Step" by Dave Matthews Band

So leave me alone
You ought to be proud that I'm getting good marks
Needle in the hay

"Needle in the Hay" by Elliott Smith

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
praise Him all creatures here below,
praise Him above ye heavenly host,
praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

"The Flowery Song" by Five Iron Frenzy

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control

"Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley

just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean its there.
(theres someone on your shoulder)
(theres someone on your shoulder)
There there!

"There There" by Radiohead

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns."
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

"Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash

Things will stay the same so I'll remain
And show just who I am
Seeing things around me
Bonnie and Clyde
Graffiti with no message
Doctors, medicines, or pride
But it doesn't really matter
They're blowin' in the wind
On the cover of a magazine
Babylon is falling

"Hallelujah" by k-os

Cry for guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would not hesitate

"If I Had A Rocket Launcher" by Bruce Cockburn

You look like a perfect fit
For a girl in need of a tourniquet
But can you save me
Come on and save me
If you could save me
From the ranks of the freaks
Who suspect they could never love anyone

"Save Me" by Aimee Mann

I've seen so much in so many places
So many heartaches, so many faces
So many dirty things
You couldn't even believe
I would stand in line for this
There's always room in life for this
Oh baby, oh baby
Then it fell apart, it fell apart

"Extreme Ways" by Moby

If you want to kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel
On your knees boy

"Mysterious Ways" by U2

But don't cry
Know the tears'll do no good
So dry your eyes

"Life is Sweet" by Natalie Merchant

Those here without the lord,
How do you cope?

"Breakfast" by Newsboys

There's the progress we have found (when the rain)
A way to talk around the problem (when the children reign)
Building towered foresight (keep your conscience in the dark)
isn't anything at all (melt the statues in the park)
Buy the sky and sell the sky and bleed the sky and tell the sky
Don't fall on me (What is it up in the air for) (It's gonna fall)

"Fall On Me" by R.E.M.

Elle me regardait
Et elle souriait
Elle m'a fait penser à rien en ce moment
Et comme le vent elle s’en allait
Et moi je suis réveillé
Oui moi je suis réveillé

"No Sleep" by Sam Roberts

It doesn’t mean much
It doesn’t mean anything at all
The life I’ve left behind me
Is a cold room
I’ve crossed the last line
From where I can’t return

"Sweet Surrender" by Sarah McLachlan

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold
We'd fire no guns-shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier
The last of Barrett's Privateers.

"Barrett's Privateers" by Stan Rogers

Just cast your cares and
Please beware of snakes
They come in all shapes and sizes
Tempt you, put scales on your eyelids

"Irene" by Toby Mac

His head it felt heavy
As he cut across the land
He went deeper into black
Deeper into white
He could see the stars shine
Like nails in the night
He felt the healing, healing
Healing, healing hands of love
Like the stars shiny, shiny...from above
He put his hands in the pocket
His finger on the steel
The pistol weighed heavy
His heart he could feel
Was beating, beating
Beating, beating oh my love
Oh my love, oh my love
Oh my love.

"Exit" by U2

All you funny little men
With that fever in your eyes
You say you put them with the others, put them with the others
You should never analyse
He fucked the watermelon women like a thief in the night
All the time, all the time radiating
More heat than light

"More Heat than Light" by The Veils

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

"Idiot Wind" by Bob Dylan

My friend Greg says it's all good
As the eastern seaboard's blown away
Now everything is going half-price
So look at all the money we saved
And all the politicians shake their asses
Looking for the backdoor

"Members Only" by Sheryl Crow
Yeah, I'm not partial to long blog posts either... I need a drink of water. What are some songs you can't help but sing along to?


El Nuevo Presidente

Yesterday Guatemalan went to the polls for a second time to vote for the two candidates in the presidential run-off. No one got more than 50% of the vote in the general election, so the top two candidates campaign for another 6 weeks. The orange guy lost and the green guy won.

Speaking with most people, they didn't really have faith in any of the candidates. A man I had breakfast with on Saturday told me that it was basically like choosing a terminal disease.

Colom of the party U.N.E. won with 53% of the vote. The accusations he's fought during the campaign is that he is a Mayan priest who is going to commit the country to idols once elected and that his party bought votes by giving away sheet metal for example. His platform is to clean up police and judge corruption while addressing the root of violence which is poverty.

Pérez Molina, the guy who lost, was accused of killing a lot of people during the civil war as a part of the military and of being financially backed by some drug lords. His platform was to beef up the military and police while reinstating the death penalty. (He seems really keen on killing people)

You can read about the results in this article by the CBC and watch these TV adverts for Colom and for Pérez Molina.



On Tuesday, Amber discovered that there was mold forming on our car rug. There was no question that our car smelled musty, but mold is another issue for me.

So we gutted the entire car to get the rug out for a scrubbing and drying. It took quite a while, but I think it was worth it.

The spare tire well in our trunk periodically fills up with water and the water leaks into the back seat and onto the floor of the car causing a very moist car. At least that's the theory. I punched some nail holes into the bottom of the trunk to give the water somewhere else to go.

I was worried for the last couple nights that someone might actually come and steal our seats. No one did. Though someone untied both my goats this afternoon...

Amber, Blaise and I installed the carpet, panels and seats this afternoon. Just one screw was missing in the end. Here's to a moldfree car for the next while!

Fiesta de Cumpleaños

Les turned 52 the other day and our cell group, which includes three of his children, threw him a party.

The last short-term mission team of the year (#16) was here so we made it extra Guatemalan for them: Churrascos and Marimbas.

We didn't have firecrackers though. That's good, because my babies don't handle those well.

Oh, and there was cake too.