Catie Come Home

Our adoption journey to Guatemala

April 18, 2005

A Morning of Tourism

Catie had another solid night's sleep last night, so all of us were well-rested for a day on the road. Dad is feeling better each day, too, though I can tell the heat is beginning to wear on him. It wasn't supposed to be so hot and hazy in Guatemala; that's what Washington, D.C., is famous for!

We started the day with a relaxing breakfast at the hotel again and left for a nearby coffee plantation at 8:30. The retired Americans who own the place bought it in 1991 as a place where their grandchildren could see how "the other half" lives, but they ended up turning the land into what sounds like a profitable business. I'd say they're doing even better now than when we visited three years ago upon adopting Elli.

They do more than harvest and sell coffee now. They offer tours of the finca; they grow coffee trees to sell to other farmers here; they ship coffee directly to regular customers in the United states; and they just started raising "red wiggly worms" for use in their compost piles. (That is the owner's description, not mine, but they're different than nightcrawlers.) The owner even wrote and self-published a book last fall that tells his story of moving from the classrooms of America to a coffee plantation in Guatemala. The book, titled Detours, is available on We were going to buy a copy today but wanted to make sure we didn't run low on money, so we will order a copy when we get home.

Both Kimberly and I were impressed with the help that the owners of Finca Los Nietos, Al and Carolyn Thompson, have offered to Guatemalans. Not only do they hire them for work on the plantation, but they also offer incentives for locals to find customers for their coffee trees. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to the people who find clients for them, and the other 50 percent goes to the finca owners. They even hired the retired grandfather of the plantation's 24-year-old administrator so the grandfather could afford to buy medicine.

And best of all, the Thompsons are offering four scholarships per year as incentives for Guatemalan girls to stay in school through middle school. Carolyn said that by high school, 95 percent of students are boys because families want to make sure their sons, who need to earn money for their families, have the best education. So the Thompsons are doing their part to help a few girls also improve their knowledge. If I recall correctly, the families have to foot 50 percent of the tuition costs, but the scholarships cover the rest. The program has existed for three years, and all 12 original girls, four each in grades 7 through 9, are still in school.

Kimberly and I have been wanting to find a way to give back to the country that has given us so much, so we are very interested in the program ourselves now. Our friends and family may be hearing more about it from us in the future.

After leaving the coffee plantation, we visited a cooperative where Mayans are taught to weave and make other crafts. The highlight was when the women dressed Kimberly, Elli and Mom in traditional Mayan clothing. (Anthony said he was too embarrassed, and they apparently didn't have any pants big enough to fit me.) They didn't do that when we visited the coop in 2001. We snapped plenty of photos for everyone to see when we get home.

We cut short the final stop at the macadamia nut plantation because the tour guide there was an obnoxious, crude, foul-mouthed athiest and "tree hugger." At one time I had wanted to write a freelance story on the plantation because I love its mission: propagate carbon-dioxide-eating macadamia trees throughout Guatemala to help fight pollution and discourage the destruction of rain forests. But the tour guide -- I'm calling him "Lorenzo the Loon," a San Francisco transplant -- quickly offended all of us, as well as the Swiss family in our party (he made fun of Swiss chocolate in touting the macadamia plant's own version).

The guy also basically groped the young daughter of the Swiss family. Both Dad and I agreed that had he touched Elli in the way he touched that girl, he would have heard a few pointed words from us. I recoiled when he later approached Catie in Kimberly's arms -- and then he made a foul-mouthed comment about how he gets scared every time he is near a child that young because his are adults now. We left not long after that and did not pay the entrance fee or wait for macadamia pancakes. All of us were disgusted.

Thankfully, Kimberly pulled Anthony and Elli away early as Lorenzo was making his athiestic pitch and ridiculing the creation story. We're glad the kids' only interest was in getting dirty by picking up a few macadamia nuts from the ground.


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