Maybe for some people, graduating high school isnt a huge deal.
6+ years ago, in 6th grade, Madi moved from Florida to Guatemala. Having been a straight A student in the United States made no difference at that point. Changing languages and cultures is brutal when it comes to academics.
The first year was a nightmare. Madi (and her siblings) came home crying almost every day. She couldn't understand anyone, including her teachers. People laughed at her. These were tough times.
But she stuck it out. Year 2 was still hard, but a little better. Year 3 even better. By year 4 and 5, my oldest daughter was "coming alive" as a spanish speaking guatemalan girl! Fluency in a second language is one thing... but laughing, joking, using sarcasm, and complete being yourself in another language is something completely different.
I have watched my daughter give speeches, debates, and presentations - all in spanish. She worked hard to become an honor roll student. And as she gave her speech at graduation, I was proudly fighting back tears.
Check out some pics below from her big day, which was celebrated with all of our dear friends here in Guatemala!
Here are a few reent pics from our recent trip to Florida. I wish we would have taken more... we saw a lot of friends and family but didn't take enough pictures!
Luciana Andrea Johnson was born at 1:00AM this morning, December 2, 2012. She weighed 6lbs, 4oz. Kerrie is doing great. She was amazing... and Luciana is precious! Thank you for your prayers! We are praising God for this new miracle member of our family.
I wrote a blog about our experience if you're interested. Here is a slideshow with captions!
we were recently blessed with a 3 day vacation recently to nearby lake atitlan, which is truly one of the world's most beautiful places. we were shocked to find a beautiful lakeside home awaiting us, with a 1-acre garden and amazing views. so nice to get away as a family every once in a while - to enjoy some rest and fun.
read about this incredible day HERE....
read more about this trip at brock's blog...
for madi's 14th birthday we took her and 7 friends to the movies ("tron" in spanish) and for ice cream. it was a blast! we are thankful she has good, sweet friends.
below are some recent family pics... including lots from a recent weekend trip to the beach that was donated by some friends...
One of madi and brooke's friends from buena vista, Iris, recently turned 15. (the "quincenera" is a BIG event in guatemala!) she asked madi and brooke to be her "damas".
There's always so much going on with the kids. Right now they are finishing up their school year (1 month left) and getting exciting about summer break. (summer break is Oct 15-Jan15.) They are all 3 in soccer leagues right now, so that keeps our saturdays busy. Its been great though, to finally have them playing organized sports again.
Here are a bunch of pictures with descriptions to fill you in on more thats been going on recently!
All 3 kids just kicked off a new soccer season in a league in Antigua. read a quick blog about it HERE!!
thanks to brock's parents, who somehow defy the odds every 2 years in managing to get all of our calendars in sync, we were able to spend 5 days together in the florida keys with the entire johnson extended family. it was a great time of catching up, fun, and rest. for me (brock) personally, it was a nice time of rest, reading, and prayer in preparation for a busy season that is about to hit us!
below is a photo gallery from the trip.
the kid's are out of school for mid-year break. we're enjoying the days with them together in Buena Vista and doing different projects together. we also have Carter here with us - the 15yr old son of our friends from florida, jon & vanessa jackson...
its been a great break. we have painted houses, celebrated new homes with families, played at the park, built a new home for a family who lost everything in the volcano eruption, etc, etc.
we also celebrated jake's 9th birthday. i still cant believe my youngest is 9...
next week to head to south florida for a 5 day vacation with the johnson side of the family. we are greatly looking forward to that as we miss them all so much...
chapin is what guatemalans call themselves.
lately i have been amazed watching my kids live and interact so comfortably in the guatemalan culture. on friday they received their grades for their first semester of exams and they were all in the top three in their entire grade levels! normally this wouldn't be so incredible, but considering they are in a local, fully spanish speaking school i think it is pretty amazing.
yesterday jake was invited to a movie in guatemala city with a bunch of his classmates. as they ran around in the play area outside the theater, i was so proud as i watched him interact with his buddies. the way he has picked up the language (including slang!) is crazy. the picture attached is of jake arm-wrestling a buddy on his soccer team...
the only downside is that he is losing a bit of his english. he had just turned 7 when we arrived in guatemala (he is about to turn 9) ...so i have to remember he really didn't have any advanced english grammer in his brain when we got here!
for example, today he said "i am going to go remember Eli and Isaac about the game." in spanish, the same word (recordar) is used for "remind" and "remember." when i brought it to his attention he genuinely did not understand the english explanation. he had forgotten the meaning of the word "remind."
another one... the other day he said "don't worry, i'll cuidar for the ball!" he didn't even realize he threw a spanish word in the sentence. when i asked him about it, he thought for a second (and laughed with me), then said "but dad, i really don't know how to say 'cuidar' in english."
not long ago, someone asked jake what state he was from in the US and he answered "jacksonville." when kerrie said, "jake, he asked what state are you from", jake said sarcastically, "i know, and i said jaackksoonviille" in a long drawn out voice that implied kerrie was the dummy! we laughed so hard...
while there is a part of us that wants to make sure he learns his english, american history, geography, etc... we are so very thankful that he is embracing the guatemalan language and culture, and thriving in his new environment.
my girls are too... but i'll write about how proud i am of them in another blog!
today (march 2, 2010) madi turns 13. hard to believe we have a teenager! wasn't it just yesterday that madi was this giant-eyed beautiful baby girl?
we are so proud of her. in all sincerity, we could not be more pleased with who she has become. she is a true blessing of a "first child" as she typically sets the example for the other kids. she loves Jesus, is kind, obedient, and aware.
what amazes us most of all is her pulse for the truth. the holy spirit inside her recognizes sin quickly and she is not afraid to speak up.
she is full of joy, loves to laugh, and has a special knack of making everyone around her a better person!
i can confidently say that we are ready to enter the teenage years, and are blessed to be doing so with such a wonderful daughter!
The newest member of our family... Frank the schnauzer.
We had to go with a name to go with George! Frank and George are getting along great. He is a great addition and perfect fit with the johnson crew - he is a fun combination of energy and snuggles.
The kids freaked out when we came home Christmas Day from an event in Buena Vista to find Frank under our tree. Jake said its was a "dream come true!" They have been doing good, taking care of him and trying to get him house broken.
Check out some more Frank pics below!
The kids have enjoyed their summer break and are gearing up to start school again. (In Guatemala, summer break is Oct 15-Jan 25.) Madi will enter 7th grade, Brooke 6th, and Jake 3rd. After considering homeschool, we decided to put them in the same local school as last year since we were so pleased...both with the school and how quickly they learned Spanish being a fully spanish school. Our hope is that after another year they will be fully fluent, which we feel is an absolute necessity in order for them to truly appreciate the culture, make deeper friendships, and truly fourish here. Please pray with us as it is very difficult for them to keep up with classwork and homework considering it is all in Spanish!
It started at 6 am when we pulled out of Magdalena - headed to Guatemala City to catch a public transportation bus. The bus was great - large, comfortable, etc. It was 5.5 hours to reach Puerto Barrios, a port city on east border of Guatemala.
From there we would simply check in to immigration before catching a boat to Belize, but unfortunately it didn't work out that easily. To make it short, there was a problem with our passport status and they would not let us leave. They told us we could not leave Guatemala and we would need to get back to Guatemala City to get the problem handled. We knew the immigration office in Guatemala City had everything squared away, but It was a Saturday, so nothing was open.
The next 3+ hours was spent trying to track down documents in our home (with the help of our dear friend Amy) that we knew would prove our case. Finally (and I am really leaving out so much of the drama that unfolded) we received the fax with the proof. Yep... everything we had told them initially was there - in black and white - and we were stamped and free to go. All this after Kerrie, Mark, Gina and all 7 kids had spent over 3 hours in a hot immigration office, and Brock went from place to place - catching rides in the back of pickups - to find a working fax machine, and making dozens of calls.
Because all the boats had already left for the day, we had to pay off a lady with a private boat to get us across the gulf to the Belize border. The choppy boat ride was just under 2 hours. Despite several near-misses, Kerrie held in her puke until we were on dry land!
We arrived around 6pm and the immigration office was closed. Again, we thought we were going to have to take the boat back to Guatemala because we were not allowed to enter the country without going through customs. So here we are - all eleven of us - in a shady part of town, being chapperoned by 3 less-than-dignified characters, in a dark parking lot. They told us the customs agents would be here soon... that they had called them and asked them to come back. We waited, and waited.
The "agents" show up and look more like guys you'd see on the street than customs agents. The one who checked our passports was wearing a shirt that said "DEA" and underneath it read "Drunk Every Day." After walking us into the pitch black customs building (which looked like an old wharehouse), they checked us in and let us go.
At this point its about 8pm and we're still 2 legs from our destination. It was too late to travel any further, so we walked (11 gringos: 4 adults, 7 kids, loaded with backpacks and suitcases) to a local motel place called "Grace's."
Starving, we ate the local grub, prayed a genuine thanks to God for protecting us thus far, and went to sleep in this local dive of a hotel not knowing what the next day would bring.
The next morning we found the local bus station and took a 2 hour bus ride to Independence, Belize. It was an old school bus, and all of us had memories of riding the buses to school when we were kids. It was a cool experience to stop at all the bus stops along the way and get a feel for the local way of living in this small rural area.
We arrived in Independence and asked around where we could catch the boat to our hotel. After about a mile walk (11 gringos, with suitcases, blah, blah, blah...) we found ourselves on a small boat navigating through a jungle style creek. Awesome! This only lasted 15-20 minutes and we arrived at a dock that looked nothing like we were expecting.
Taking the locals word for it, we got of the boat and began another trek by foot. This part was really cool. We walked a path that looked like something out of a movie... a small dirt path surrounded by thick jungle, water, and locals all around us. The walk eventually crossed a street that entered into the Nautical Inn, Belize.
We had made it! Gail and Roger were waiting for us on the other side and welcomed us to our little haven for the next few days. It was a beautiful and quaint little resort with cottage style rooms, a pool directly on the beach, lots of coconut palm trees and hammocks.
The next several days was loaded with sun and relaxation. Thank you to the Blair's for their hospitality and generosity! Check them out here...
Fortunately, without the delay at immigration, we made the whole trip back in one day (arriving our homes at 11pm).
It was a fun adventure and a great opportunity to do something a little crazy. Even though we had no idea what we were getting into, we felt God's hand of protection over us as he continued to lay things out and make things happen!
Check out our Belize pics below!
last night (july 18) there was a parade in magdalena. they are celebrating the annual fair. check out the video below, filmed from our balcony at our home. this went on from 7pm until 2:00 in the morning! (and started back up at 7am!)
the kids have really enjoyed having visitors. they are always looking forward to who is next! it has truly been a blessing to see them embrace the opportunity to lead guests when they are here (translating, etc) in an effort to help them have a great experience in guatemala.
even the mission teams that come who they did not previously know... by the end of the week they feel like their saying goodbye to family! a great example of being united in the family of chirst....
below are some pics of the kids connecting with visiting friends as well as locals.
Holy Week is a big deal in Guatemala. Thes pics were taken on our street in Magdalena. Our house is just up on the left.
Jake's teacher, Miss Houskamp, put together a video of her class saying goodbye to Jake. He (and Madi & Brooke) will be changing to a Guatemalan school after Christmas. He made some great friends in only one semester!
Here are some recent photos with self explanatory captions!
Last week we had the Hults family here visiting. What a blessing to be with old friends, and to introduce them to some of God's work going on in Guatemala. We were able to pack a lot into 5 days, from visiting the kids in Buena Vista, painting the Mundo's house and doing the key ceremony together, hiking volcano Pacaya, visiting and worshipping with the Yoc family, and visiting the Ixcajoc home project and praying with their family. We had a great time!
There is a video from their time in Guatemala posted below:
Nov 1st is a big deal in Guatemala. A national holiday celebrating Dia de los Santos (All Saints Day) and Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead), thousands gather in cemeteries to bring flowers, crosses, etc to the gravesites of their loved ones. Our friends the Salazar's invited us to Santiago where thousands gathered in a huge cemetery.
The big attraction? Kites. Huge kites! Tons of them. We estimated some to be nearly 100 feet across. Many of the kites were so big it took several grown men to hold them down. It was crazy!
While it seemed strange hanging out among thousands of people watching grown men sprinting through mounds of gravesites pulling kites - we had a blast. We are told it is one of the most cultural Guatemalan experiences there is, so much so that people travel from all over the world each year to be a part of it.
I am posting a few pics below...
Madi just finished up here soccer season. After a rough start, they were able to take 2nd place in the tournament. Most importantly, she had a great time playing and hanging out with friends.
Here she is with her team, celebrating after the end of season tournament.
Jake hanging out at the casa watching soccer with George...
Man, we miss our friends and family in the states While we are so excited about all that God is doing here, we have plenty of moments where we just want to be back home hanging out with loved ones. We did a little video saying goodbye to florida, and hello to guatemala...