Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater

Guatemala focus, Day seven.

Wow.  Poverty awareness month (PAM) is hard.  I miss my variety of veggies.  I miss my fruits.  I really miss my salads.  The kids' Halloween candy screams at me every day....

I could sit here and write about everything we're learning--we are learning a lot--but instead I'm going to confess.  --There has not been one day of PAM that I have not cheated.  Yep.  There you have it--I suck at sticking to poverty foods. In my defense, I didn't want the lettuce to go to waste on day four (okay, and I have a salad almost everyday and was going through serious withdrawals).  Also I figured, I can call it an "ensalada" and I'm golden.  :/

If it were just the salad, I probably wouldn't feel the need to confess.  But it's the yogurt, cup of tea, Reese's PB cup in a pumpkin shape (the shapes are the best), peanut butter with my banana.... Everyday it's an internal struggle and every day I fail at least once. 

In all honesty, it doesn't help that Donnie is sending us pictures of his Guatemalan fare and it looks nothing like our meal packs (which one week into a daily pack and I have taken to bribery--finish your portion without complaint and you get a piece of your Halloween candy)! 

They call it "mamón chino" but it's called a Rambutan in the States.
He said it had the consistency of a peeled grape and was quite tasty.

The waiter gave two options when ordering steak: with or without fat. (I might not be too jealous of that!)
OK, this one I'm not jealous of at all, but I had to share the picture!

Moral of the story: while I'm constantly cheating and unable to stick with my own rules for some reason, doing this challenge has opened my eyes and amazed me by the countless blessings in my life, my family member's lives, and my friends lives.  I am so grateful that I am able to "cheat" by having a salad or a yogurt or a cup of tea--or allowing my kids to have a piece-of-candy bribe.  I know that I am jokingly complaining about stumbling through this month, but I still wouldn't change it and won't quit now.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It's in the bag

Guatemala Day Two.

Wow, I was so focused on getting through October that I didn't take time to really think through November. It makes sense that it is harder--instead of forcing yourself to live off of the items you've already purchased, you have to live off foods that you only eat if you cannot afford anything else. 

We're doing normal breakfasts--at least for now--so no complaining there.  And then lunch came around.  Today I made our first meal bag:
and it did not go as well as I was hoping.  It actually smelled good as it was cooking so I wasn't sure why the small ones were so nervous.  The kids kept popping in and out of the kitchen asking to see what it looked like, so they were all there when I started to dish it up.  The cooking directions said 6-10 cups of water so I elected to go with eight which was apparently too much because as I turned the cup over the bowl it made an ever so unappetizing slopping sound.  HA!  I could not stop laughing at the looks on the girls' faces. 
Our one cup serving sizes all dished up.  Yes, I used a kids bowl too.
We started with a prayer--which included asking for the kids to have wisdom beyond their years to understand the poverty issues we are studying and that they remember that food is meant to be fuel, not always a favorite taste.  I then told them about some of the research I had found and these meals are a way for people to help send food to families who have nothing to eat--or sometimes nothing more than tortillas like in Guatemala. 
To be honest, it wasn't bad at all.  I added a little salt and was pleasantly surprised by the flavor (I didn't necessarily have high hopes).  The kids started off eating without complaint so I took a second to snap a picture of each:
You can tell by the fake A-Okay sign in the bottom corner that the complaints were coming.  Actually, she was fairly sweet about it saying "It's not my favorite but I am grateful I have food and I will eat it."  (Sweetie)  Then the middle one piped in with "I would be grateful for only tortillas!"  (cue eye-roll)  The youngest had a problem getting it to stay on his spoon for some reason, but finally ate eat his entire serving.  As did the oldest.  The middle one sat there for an hour and ate 1/4-1/3 of her serving.  I finally released her explaining that if she wasn't hungry enough to eat this, she wasn't hungry enough for anything until dinner.  About three hours later, we were walking around the grocery store and she was holding her stomach, whimpering and asking how much longer until we went home. Ahhh, hunger pains. 
Dinner of mashed pinto beans and tortillas went over very well.  Absolutely no complaints.  I think we'll stick with the meal bag at lunch so they have satisfied tummies at bedtime.  I understand that many kids go to bed hungry, so I may change my mind so we get an extra dose of empathy, but--selfishly--I really want them to sleep, so I can.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Guatemala in a tortilla shell

1/1/32.  No, I'm not thinking it's New Years day in the future.  It means: Day One of Poverty Awareness/Day One of Guatemala Focus/Day Thirty-Two of challenge.

I woke up today realizing that it's no longer $0 month and my first instinct was "I can shop!!!" and then I realized--other than rice, beans, and some veggies--there is nothing I need.  What an amazing feeling.  I need nothing.  So blessed!


I'll confess, when I first started researching Guatemala with Donnie I wasn't 100% sure how to spell it.  (Don't judge, all things English class related were never my forte--which I'm assuming has become crystal clear by now.)   Now I can not only spell "Guatemala" I know quite a bit about the country's poverty issues. 

Quick Facts:
  • 50% of all children have chronic malnutrition; in some areas the rate is as high as 90%
  • Guatemala has the highest percentage of malnourished children in all of Latin America
  • 42% of Guatemalan citizens do NOT have access to clean water
  • 75% of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line (defined as an income that is insufficient to purchase a basic basket of goods and services)
  • 58% of the population have incomes below the extreme poverty line 
  • 45% of the population over the age of 15 is illiterate
  • The infant mortality rate is 55 per 1,000 live births
  • The maternal mortality rate is 110 per 100,000 live births
  • 16% of infants suffer from low birth weight
  • Whenever there is a financial crisis within Guatemala, the government cuts education and social sector expenditures (food subsidies, housing allowances, healthcare, etc.) first; showing a lack of willingness to invest in their citizens
Poverty Foods:
  • Tortillas (mostly corn but some flour)
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Bananas
  • Coffee (often times one of the first liquids given to infants there!)
Foods that are available to purchase but often not affordable:
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Chilies
  • Tropical fruits
  • Cocoa
  • Chicken
  • Some beef
  • Diary products (milks and cheeses)
  • Breads
What I found stated over and over again in my research is that for most of the underprivileged it's not that they don't eat, it's that they don't eat well.  Some families live solely on tortillas.  Others are "lucky" enough to add rice and/or beans to their meals.  (I tend to think of malnourished people not eating, not that they can fill tummies with nothing but starchy foods--essentially eating but yet starving their bodies.)   Regardless, the poor are severely lacking in proteins and vitamins. 

I'm not entirely sure what I plan to make and eat during these next nine days.   I know that I will keep my kids healthy and thriving because I am blessed enough to be able to provide the luxurious poverty foods.  An oxymoron--luxurious poverty.  What I haven't decided is if I will be sneaky with how I give them proteins, fruits and veggies (so that they think they're eating as the Guatemalans do) or if I will simply explain _____ items are normal Guatemalan fare and ______ are blessings we have to keep us healthy. 

In an effort to put my money where my mouth is, I will be preparing the family one package a day of a protein meal sent to various places--now including Guatemala.

This pouch offers a remarkable amount of vitamins and protein.  And SIX servings for $1.25!
Thank you Katie for your willingness to send us some!

I do know one thing, with each passing day of this family challenge I have never felt more blessed by my surroundings and possessions, nor have I felt more blessed to be an American.    

A startling video from World Focus on the poverty conditions in Guatemala.