Guatemala – A strange new world for one of us!

So you will have seen from a few years ago I wrote a blog about a trip to Guatemala, a trip that inspired me to swim bike and run the distance from Cayman to Guatemala a distance of 640 miles!

This time I took Kym on the adventure and what follows is her unique perspective on this wonderful place, people and a charity (Co-operative for Education) that helps some of its most in need children.

Comfort zones

When Chris asked me to write a guest blog on my first Guatemala experience I spent a while deciding what angle to approach the blog from. Do I talk about the great charitable work that Cooperative for Education (Coed), our tour organisers do towards working to break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala through education? Or about the school we spent time at and the amazing children we met? Or our visits to our sponsorship students? Or how beautiful and vibrant Antigua was?

So many options but I decided to bring it back to what I got out of my experience and the main thing for me personally was pushing outside my comfort zone.

It is no secret to those who know me well that I have a slight (healthy?) obsession with running. I run every day and training for races is always extremely important to me. I am currently part way through training for marathon number five, New York City, in November and normally any break in my running routine would fill me with panic. Will I loose fitness? How will I get back in to running in this humidity if I am in a different climate for a week? What happens to my diet and nutrition in a country where I can’t eat or drink what I normally do? Will I get enough sleep…blah, blah, blah! Ah! The neurosis of a runner!

Running aside just generally in my day-to-day life routine is very important to me and pushing myself out of these routines in to a week of travel involving painting a school, entertaining very young children, touring round with people I had never met, visiting places of extreme poverty all while trying not to eat and drink the wrong things and get sick I will sadly admit had me slightly panicked.

But Chris has been involved now with Coed and the work they do for several years and his passion for Guatemala and the work the charity does had me itching to share that part of his life. So off on the Helping Hands Tour we went!

We were staying in Antigua which is a small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala. It’s renowned for its Spanish colonial buildings and the architecture and cobbled streets make it a very pretty place.

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On our first day we met up with the rest of the people on our tour, all lovely folk from Cincinnati, Ohio and the wonderful Coed staff and drove the hour journey to the kindergarten school we would be helping at for the week. What hit me most aside from the basic structure of the school was how friendly and welcoming the staff and children were and despite speaking no English (and me virtually no Spanish) the language was of no issue. The children loved us being there and the fun games we introduced them to (Old British childhood game “What’s the Time Mr Wolf” or ¿Qué hora es, Sr. Lobo? With the gigantic Chris as Sr. Lobo was a firm favourite). Every day when the children finished school it was hugs all round with them hugging our knees (they were all that tiny) and saying “Hasta Mañana” (“Until tomorrow!) to us.guat1

We were told for some of them the snacks and drinks they get at school could be most they eat during the day so I was touched on the second day when a little boy gave me one of his treasured sweets. The final day at the school had the children performing various dances for us highlighting different aspects of their culture. The effort these tiny children went to was seriously impressive and something that will stick with me for ever (especially the soca number highlighting the Caribbean culture in Guatemala.. like Carnival but for kids.. very cute!)Guat 2

As well as painting the classrooms and exterior of the school and interacting with the children there Chris and I got to see the two scholarship students we support. Chris met Jonny 3 years ago on a visit to his school and saw a huge difference in him from the tiny 11-year-old boy saving his school lunch to take home for his sisters to the 14 year old he is now with dreams of becoming a mechanic.Guat 4

We then got to meet 13-year-old Zoila and her family who kindly welcomed us in to their home. She is a hard working student who wants to become a fashion designer. What struck me most was despite the extreme poverty in the community and the constant rumbling of the nearby volcano (Fuego which erupted only a few months ago) was the proudness her parents have for her being such a good student and wanting to embrace her opportunity to have an education. Her parents told us (via a translator) how they knew how important it was for her to continue with her studies in order to be able to break the cycle of poverty for herself and hopefully for them. Many hugs, tears and thank you’s were shared and I for one will never forget that visit.guat7

One of the other highlights of my trip was zip lining across a 1000m canyon surrounded by volcanoes and scenery which seemed straight out of Jurassic Park (seriously if a T-Rex had popped up in front of me I would not have been surprised!). Again talk about been pushed out of my comfort zone! I have never zip lined before but Chris said I would regret not doing it so with the motto “Do one thing every day that scares you” ringing in my ears plus the peer pressure from Ryan (aged 11) and Rosie (aged 10) who were on our tour who did the shorter zip lines with huge confidence, I did not only the various shorter lines but the 2 huge zip lines… It was amazing!!Guat 8

So in summary was missing a week of running due to lack of time, high altitude kicking my butt and Antigua’s non-runner friendly cobblestones detrimental to me? Sure I can’t run more than 4 miles back in Cayman right now without gasping for breath in the humidity but so what? When things get tough out there on the road in my next few months of marathon training I now have all these wonderful memories to think of.

Guatemala and it’s people have a piece of my heart now too and we will be back..

Hasta Mañana Guatemala.. you were epic!

 

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OMG I couldn’t believe this until I read to the end!

I’m sorry about the title but I love the way most FB posts get you to read an article by implying there is something earth shatteringly good in the text or video link. Alas I’m not sure if the below fits that category but I do hope you will read on…!

The last few months have been a bit of a blur!

I feel I have a mild case of anxiety and trying to figure out why!

Pretty sure my overreliance on coffee does not help this anxiety. So tried going without. Made it a week.

I learnt some pretty cool stuff over the past couple of months so lets give you, dear reader, a little recap. Maybe you can help answer the “what next” question.

January: Had Dad come and stay for a few weeks. He left in much better shape than when he arrived. We put him through Bailey boot camp in an attempt to try and improve his walking and overall wellbeing. Noticed him chocking on his food a few times. He entered his first running race the valentines mile, he did great! He’s not himself though and I’m worried about him. Sad when he left.

February: Some good work wins and Kym and I engineered a new service line to add to her personal training offering. My work constantly keeps me challenged, its exciting that there is so much opportunity but frustrating at the speed of which the market moves.

March: Headed back to the UK for a funeral, for my Grandmother who lived a very full life passing away at the age of 92. Her story is as epic as any person who has lived through the war years and raised a wonderful family. She was scared of being on her own more than she was of dying. Her husband of 60+ years passed away a few years before. I don’t think she ever recovered. Family was her life. She would have been proud to see how many people turned up to give her a good send off.

Travelled to LA for CoEd/Rotary to speak at various rotary clubs throughout the week, spent most of my time sat in traffic. Met some amazing people, did a 100mile bike ride with the LA wheelmen along the pacific coast highway, met a friend in Santa Monica who ticked a bucket list item for me by showing me round Beverley Hills in his 1956 Porsche speedster, people thought we were famous! He topped the week off by getting us courtside seats to the Lakers game! I’ve no idea how he managed it by Ryan Khan you are a star!

 

April: Raced in the Haines City Florida 70.3 Ironman – Achieved a PB even though I took the foot off the gas towards the end! Much to my coaches’ frustration, and mine!

IM finish
IM70.3 Florida Finish

Experienced the Boston Marathon first hand while supporting Kym. I was certainly more nervous than her. This was her biggest bucket list item. As a runner this is their mecca, after the bombings it became even more the marathon that everyone wanted to run. You have to qualify and Kym did. All she wanted to do now was have a great race. People told her she wouldn’t PB because of the hills. I had faith she would. She kept us guessing though and at the moment of the last split coming in on the app tracker we were following I knew she had done it! I was on the phone to her parents who were also tracking, we had a telephonic celebration when her final time came in. I couldn’t get close to the finish line to see her but I was there all the way! We had arranged a meeting spot outside the lingerie store “La Perla” – we thought it funny! I waited what seemed like ages for her to appear and when she did we both cried. The relief, the congrats, the overwhelming sense of achievement I had for her and simply the love. She talked about the race with such excitement and I loved hearing about it, I will also run this race but this time was hers. Everyone who has run a Boston Marathon has a “Boston” story behind it. We have ours and we have our ending. Until the next one.

 

May: Had my uncle come stay with us for 2 weeks, it was awesome to see him enjoy the island to its fullest and re kindle his love for diving. Got to know him better. Good times.

Delivered the largest HR Conference in the Caribbean, Released an Album (Now that’s what I call HR 1 available on ITunes) met some Hollywood stars, and came first in my category in the Grand Cayman May Classic cycle series.

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Delivered a 43 page client report and wrote 2, 80 page proposals in response to RFP’s. Helped the wife launch her new business line which has got off to a great start with her new clients.

Dad got diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

June:

So it’s June and the above was only a highlight of what a 6 months it has been. It’s been incredible, amazing highs and some earth shattering lows. But that’s life. We know the next six months already has a conference in New Orleans, A half Marathon in Chicago, A full Marathon in the UK combined with a special someone’s 70th, Rotary presentations in Idaho, and a full Ironman in Panama city. All whilst holding down a day job, trying to be a good President of the HR society and stressing about family. Its no wonder the speech by Grace Byers at our conference really resonated with me. She opened with “I am enough”. It’s an amazing story and mantra which helps you to ground and take a breath, you can see the speech on the CISHRP facebook page. I’m all for YOLO, but when you try to be all things to all people it can be completely exhausting. Therefore I am going to say “no” a little more, I am going to take a breath. This doesn’t mean I will work any less hard it just means I have to be smarter with my time, and apportion it to those that appreciate it.

So now lets tackles those next six months!

Sorry Ive been Grumpy – Your a rockstar!

I’ve been grumpy, it’s been a few weeks now I don’t know why. I have had wisdom teeth issues but had that pulled out which made me smile. teeth

This isn’t a sycophantic, gushy lovey dovy piece about love. It’s a statement of fact. My wife is rockstar.

For starters – she has followed me on our adventures offshore for nearly a decade putting her career on the back burner. She has reinvented herself in a 100 different guises. From running an art gallery to helping submit immigration applications. She has gotten herself a new set of qualifications; set up her own fitness consultancy and at the same time manages the household of me and a cat. Which is probably the hardest thing she does.

cat-on-kyms-legs

She helps people in her job, not just to reach their fitness goals but she listens to them, hears their thoughts, musing, problems she is not just a coach but a life councilor. Yet she asks me everyday how my day went. She runs because she enjoys it. She good at it, she ran 4 half marathons, a full marathon and various 5 & 10k races this year. Yet the next day she is back training other people. She wins some of these races.

kym-dg-pic-2

People think she has an easy job yet I see her popping the ibuprofen before she goes to sleep just so her legs don’t ache when she wakes up. She lives for her friends never wanting to let any of them down, always being available. She worries about her family but wont share her own worries with them in case they worry!

She says sometimes that other people get the best of me as I am always working and that makes my heart ache. I want her to have the best of me simply because she is my inspiration.

So the best way I could end @anythingoverice 2016, which has been an interesting year around the world, is to leave it with a positive piece about appreciation. I appreciate you my love and regardless of the sh!t show going on everywhere else you are the only thing that is important to me. You will have the best of me in 2017 & beyond.

Happy Christmas

Love

Grumpy @anythingoverice

Plus any wife willing to dress as Princess Leia is a rockstar xx

star-wars-kym-and-st

Cuba Libre – Havana Nov 2016

cuba-nationalI couldn’t write a typical vacation review, I couldn’t just type away merrily about the architecture steeped in a colorful history as little of what I write would match the vivid reality of Havana. Why such literary greats like Hemmingway and Victor Hugo resided in Cuba is apparent once your there. It moves you. Cuba is such a juxtaposition as I look down from our Havana rooftop terrace, in a refurbished apartment the mixture of new world money and the abject poverty is immense. You can smell the desire and ambition from a people who are desperate to make something of themselves. The way they go about daily life is better than any reality TV show. In the last 5 minutes I have watched men lay a Tarmac street in less than 30 minutes none them resting, I’ve watch a young girl giving salsa lessons to two young boys on a rooftop. I’ve seen 5 live goats carried out of a house and loaded on a truck. A fun run has just passed the apartment with close on 500 people taking part. The classic old cars tooting their horns and ferrying people about the city. The 8 children none of whom are over the age of 8 crammed into a little shack of a building all wearing rags. The tourist with the camera. The city is alive with change, life and although run down and possessive of the poor, there is a welcome a smile, even while walking the streets back from a restaurant last night at close to midnight gangs of people did not make us feel uneasy. You see in the UK, US or even Grand Cayman when you see a group of young people gathered speaking a different language you automatically go on the defensive. It’s unfamiliar so you don’t trust it. As a white 6ft+ gringo with a blond wife we stick out like a sore thumbs people look at you, but it is not with mal intent. It’s with a curiosity and wonderment.

cuba-solider

This country still has people leaving/fleeing poverty by makeshift boats searching for a better life. We are able to come and go which must be deeply upsetting for someone wanting to leave here. But instead of getting angry at those who come to visit they welcome them hoping that we will be the voice of change as the government opens up its boarders once again. Internet is not freely available this should be the first change allow freedom of expression through social media – allow closed minds to see the outside world has much to offer. But with all this said Cuba is a wonderment. The establishment of some fine eating establishments and the warm regard of it’s people mean the future is bright the future is Havana.

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